In our Africans Abroad review this week, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting went from hero to villain on Sunday as he missed a sitter to prevent Paris Saint-Germain from wrapping up the Ligue 1 title in front of their own fans, while Mohamed Salah and Naby Keita both found the net as Liverpool downed Southampton on Friday.
PSG win Ligue… oh, no, never mind
With second-placed Lille having been held at Reims earlier in the day, PSG knew that a win at home against mid-table Strasbourg would have sealed the title on Sunday.
Cameroon international Choupo-Moting has struggled to make his mark at Thomas Tuchel’s PSG this season, but he was handed a rare opportunity when Strasbourg travelled to the capital. He had started only five league games all term before being handed an unlikely start ahead of Kylian Mbappe.
The former Stoke City man’s evening started perfectly, as he opened the scoring in the 13th minute with a straightforward tap-in. However, Strasbourg equalised through Cape Verde’s Nuno da Costa, before Choupo-Moting managed to miss a remarkable opportunity to restore the lead.
Advancing towards goal, the 30-year-old inexplicably stopped Christopher Nkunku‘s goalbound effort on the goal line with his left foot, touching the ball onto the post before watching aghast as Strasbourg cleared the danger.
“Shame about the title tonight, we tried to do what we could,” Mbappe wrote on Instagram. “Big up to Choupo-Moting, I have missed many more than you this season, we remain a united group and will support you until the end.”
However, it was a miss that overshadows similar unforgettable shockers from Nwankwo Kanu and Aiyegbeni Yakubu, and surely must go down as one of the most bizarre in recent history.
For his part, Choupo-Moting was philosophical about missing the opportunity to launch PSG’s eighth title success in such spectacular fashion.
“Even for me it’s difficult to explain,” he told journalists after the match. “I saw the images, I’m sorry because Nkunku’s ball was going in, it would have been a goal.
“At first, I thought that he was maybe passing to me. It all happened very quickly. It’s maybe not easy to understand, but it all happened very quickly.”
All hail the King of Egypt
Meanwhile, in the Premier League, Mo Salah ended his eight-game goal drought with Liverpool’s second as they came from behind to defeat Southampton 3-1 at St. Mary’s Stadium on Friday.
The strike was the Egyptian’s first since Liverpool’s 3-0 victory over Bournemouth on Feb. 9, and it brought to an end his longest run without a goal since returning to England from Roma.
The win took the Reds to 82 points, two head of City but having played a game more, although they were made to work for their victory after Shane Long had put the Saints into a ninth-minute lead.
Salah added the second after Keita’s equaliser, as he completed a half-century of Liverpool goals in just 69 appearances for the Merseysiders.
Only two players — Ruud van Nistelrooy and Alan Shearer — have reached 50 Premier League goals for a single club in fewer appearances, which is testament to the remarkable impact Salah has had since moving to Anfield in June 2017.
“Obviously he didn’t score for a couple of games, but I think the pressure or the talk only came from the press and the media,” Virgil van Dijk told journalists.
“He was playing well, he was very important for us and he’s still having a fantastic season.”
Additionally, Keita’s goal was his first for Jurgen Klopp’s side, and he becomes the third Guinean — after Kamil Zayatte (Hull City) and Titi Camara (Liverpool) – to score in the Premier League.
Dakonam in the shop window?
In La Liga, Djene Dakonam was Africa’s star performer of the weekend. The Togo defender has been the subject of intensifying transfer speculation in recent weeks, with Arsenal understood to be monitoring his progress.
His sturdy defensive showing against Athletic Club on Sunday, as Getafe remain on course for an unlikely Champions League qualification, came in stark contrast to Arsenal’s own struggles at the back as they were defeated 1-0 by Everton.
While the Gunners are yet to keep a clean sheet away from home this season, Getafe have conceded just 27 in 31 matches, the third-best defensive record in La Liga, and four goals fewer than leaders Barcelona.
Against Athletic, Djene was imperious, deftly carrying the ball out of defence on several occasions as Getafe sought to launch attacks, while repelling Athletic on several occasions. He completed three successful dribbles during the course of the match — no one managed more — a remarkable return for a centre-back.
Eins zwei drei!
Finally, in the Bundesliga, Algeria’s Ishak Belfodil bagged his first career hat-trick for Hoffenheim as they dispatched Augsburg 4-0 away to remain in the hunt for European qualification.
The 27-year-old has struggled to meet the expectations that accompanied him as a France youth player at Olympique Lyonnais, or upon his signing for Inter Milan in 2013, but he showcased his breadth of offensive qualities as he took his tally up to 13 for the season.
Belfodil bagged his first Bundesliga double against Augsburg last season while on the books of Werder Bremen, and netted twice last weekend as Hoffenheim thumped Bayer Leverkusen 4-1.
On that occasion, the Algerian was denied a third goal when teammate Andrej Kramaric nipped in to touch his goalbound effort over the line in the 79th minute, denying Belfodil his first career hat-trick.
He’d wait only nine days before belatedly chalking off that landmark — in 21 second-half minutes — and is currently in the form of his career.