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African players in Europe: Elneny’s special goal for Arsenal

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The 28-year-old midfielder needed only six minutes at St James Park to end his barren run and Gabon captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang doubled the lead midway through the second half.   

The victory snapped a three-game winless streak by Arsenal ahead of a Europa League semi-final second leg against Villarreal at the Emirates on Thursday.

Here, AFP Sport rounds up the performances of Africans in the major European leagues:

MOHAMED ELNENY (Arsenal)

Elneny, who joined the Gunners from Swiss club Basel in 2016, said he had been thinking a lot recently about scoring in the Premier League. “I had scored in the Champions League and Europa League, but not in the Premier League,” he told the club website. When Aubameyang missed his kick from Hector Bellerin’s cross, the ball rolled to Elneny on the edge of the area and he drilled a low strike past Martin Dubravka.

PIERRE-EMERICK AUBAMEYANG (Arsenal)

He scored for the first time in seven games as his spectacular strike wrapped up a comfortable win. The Arsenal captain had recently been hospitalised by malaria picked up on international duty with Gabon in March. That was the latest in a series of setbacks for Aubameyang this season, but he gave a glimpse of his class in the 66th minute. Gabriel Martinelli curled over a cross from the left for his strike partner to leap off his feet for an agile volley that crashed past Dubravka from close range. It was the 31-year-old’s 15th goal this season.

VICTOR OSIMHEN (Napoli)

Nigeria forward Osimhen scored for the third consecutive game, connecting with a hall over the top from Lorenzo Insigne, after 13 minutes in Naples. It was his fifth goal in six games and eighth this season. Cagliari scored with the last kick of the game to snatch a 1-1 draw but fifth-place Napoli remain in the running for the Champions League.

JEREMIE BOGA/HAMED TRAORE(Sassuolo)

Atalanta goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollini was sent off for a reckless challenge on Ivorian forward Boga after 22 minutes. Another foul, on fellow Ivorian midfielder Hamed Traore, saw Sassuolo awarded a penalty seven minutes after the break, which they converted in a 1-1 draw.

AMADOU HAIDARA (RB Leipzig)

The Malian midfielder was replaced at half-time by Christopher Nkunku on the right wing before Emil Forsberg’s 121st-minute volley eventually sealed Leipzig’s 2-1 win at Werder Bremen as a tense German Cup semi-final went to extra time. Leipzig face Borussia Dortmund on May 13 in the final.

KALIFA COULIBALY (NANTES)

The giant Malian striker’s penalty wrapped up a 4-1 win for Nantes at Brest that kept alive their hopes of avoiding relegation. Coulibaly needed the goal — he had not scored in his previous 20 Ligue 1 appearances since his last goal which came against… Brest in November 2019. Nigerian winger Simon also scored for Nantes.

LAMINE GUEYE (METZ)

Metz have a track record of bringing through young Senegalese players, from Sadio Mane to Papiss Cisse and Ismaila Sarr in recent years. It is the fruit of their partnership with the Generation Foot academy in Dakar, and their latest crop from the west African country includes 23-year-old winger Gueye, who scored the opener in his side’s 5-1 win at Dijon. Another Senegalese prospect, 18-year-old Pape Matar Sarr, netted their second, with Cape Verde’s Vagner Dias Goncalves and Tunisia’s Dylan Bronn scoring as well.

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Australia and New Zealand withdraw from Rugby League World Cup over safety concerns

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Australia and New Zealand have officially withdrawn from this year’s Rugby League World Cup, citing player welfare and safety concerns.

They have requested the International Rugby League postpones the tournament until 2022 to “minimize the risk of players contracting COVID-19 and ensure the best outcome for player wellbeing”.

The event is due to be held in England this October and this latest news is a major blow to the tournament’s hopes of going ahead.

The ARL and NZRL made the decision after considering the risk of COVID-19 infection in the United Kingdom, the worsening environment in Australia, and the time a majority of NRL players would have to spend away from home under strict biosecurity conditions prior to the World Cup.

“They would then be required to remain under protocols and away from home for the duration of the tournament before again quarantining on return to Australia. This is too much to ask our players and officials to do.

“We have again requested the IRL and Rugby League World Cup consider postponing the event until 2022 to enable all players to participate.”

Peters said: ”There are stark differences between how the pandemic is being managed in the UK compared to Australasia and recent developments have highlighted how quickly things can change.

“The tournament organizers have moved heaven and earth to make this work, so it is not an easy decision, but the COVID-19 situation in the UK shows no sign of improving, and it’s simply too unsafe to send teams and staff over.

“We understand how disappointing this is for fans and those involved, however, player and staff safety remains paramount.”

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Jordan Henderson contract issue may make sense on paper – but Jurgen Klopp won’t think so

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Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson has come under fire following a report by Alan Nixon in the Guardian which claims that the player has a contract with the club that runs out next summer. This has led to suggestions that Liverpool could face a court case over breach of contract as well as an immigration issue should Henderson choose to move abroad.

This transfer window has presented itself as one of the most challenging in recent memory. Both parties have been in need of a deal; Liverpool in particular has been looking to offload a player’s and/or cash sum in order to bring in new blood into the team. Lo and behold, Daniel Sturridge has been brought in on a free transfer from Chelsea – and it looks as though he will be the one receiving the bulk of the transfer fee along with a hefty chunk of change from his new club. Perhaps most interestingly of all, however, is Klopp’s reported admiration for Jordan Henderson at Anfield.

This transfer window has presented itself as one of the most challenging in recent memory. Both parties have been in need of a deal; Liverpool in particular have been looking to offload a playership and/or cash sum in order to bring in new blood into the team.

Lo and behold, Daniel Sturridge has been brought in on a free transfer from Chelsea – and it looks as though he will be the one receiving the bulk of the transfer fee along with a hefty chunk of change from his new club. Perhaps most interestingly of all, however, is Klopp’s reported admiration for Jordan Henderson at Anfield

The circumstances surrounding the enforced loan are as much about money as it is about reputation. The fine with which Liverpool are engaging with the Football Association over the issue is likely to do little to improve their standing in the minds of their fans, or even increase their reputation at Anfield. They may even do the opposite. More than a decade has passed since the last player to be refused a January move back to his home country went public with his criticism of the then-manager, Sven-Göran Eriksson. Perhaps it is time for someone else to take up the banner.

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer sends Premier League title message after first Man Utd friendly

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We have to start better than last season. We didn’t get off to a decent start at all,” Solskjaer told MUTV after Sunday’s friendly win over Derby.

“I think the Premier League is more competitive. We had maybe one competitor every season when I was playing, so the first six or seven games, very important.

“You don’t win the league, but you can lose the chance of winning the league in the first six or seven games.”

Solskjaer has pressure on him in the upcoming campaign to win his first title in charge of the club after collecting no trophies since taking over in 2018.

Last season he came close as his team lost on penalties to Villarreal in the Europa League final.

The boss, who used a lot of young players in Sunday’s match, was pleased with his side’s performance against Derby.

He added: “The first game is always difficult, it’s the first test of 45 minutes, big pitch, took a bit of time to get going, loads of young players getting their chance to play with some of the first-team ones.

“Tom [Heaton] was very positive, he’s here to give the other ones a little bit of a challenge as well. He’s conducted himself so well throughout his career. I was just at the end of my career when he was coming up, so I’m so happy to have him.

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