Balde wreaks havoc in five minutes

Senegalese Keita Balde stole the show among African footballers in Europe at the weekend by scoring a five-minute hat-trick for Rome club Lazio.

His treble helped Lazio cruise to a 6-2 home victory over Palermo and boost chances of Europa League football next season.

Balde has scored 11 Serie A goals during this league campaign, making him the joint leading African scorer with Egyptian Mohamed Salah from arch rivals Roma.

ENGLAND

VICTOR WANYAMA (Tottenham Hotspur)

Tottenham and Kenya midfield enforcer Wanyama kept Chelsea quiet for much of an engrossing FA Cup semifinal at Wembley. He was so dominant that N’Golo Kante – much slighter of frame – didn’t get a look in. His substitution in the second half arguably handed the midfield initiative back to Chelsea, who emerged 4-2 winners.

BENIK AFOBE (Bournemouth)

While he is an England under-21 international, Afobe also qualifies for the Democratic Republic of Congo. The 24-year-old striker rattled in Bournemouth’s second in their vibrant opening 20 minutes of a 4-0 victory over all-but-doomed Middlesbrough. His gamble in pulling out of the DR Congo Africa Cup of Nations squad this year to establish himself in the Bournemouth first team appears to have paid dividends.

YAYA TOURE (Manchester City)

The veteran Ivorian produced one of his most eye-catching performances for City for ages and deserved a happier ending than he got in a 2-1 FA Cup semifinal loss to Arsenal. His sublime pass set up Sergio Aguero for City’s goal and but for the fingertips of Petr Cech touching his volley onto the post, Toure, who turns 34 next month, would probably have grabbed City the winner. His powerful running and visionary passing had the Gunners defenders in disarray.

ERIC BAILLY (Manchester United)

With United defenders falling by the wayside, the young Ivorian has shown maturity beyond his callow years. No wonder Jose Mourinho hopes either Phil Jones or Chris Smalling returns soon so the west African can have a well-earned rest. Bailly was phenomenal against a Burnley side admittedly short on attacking flair and ideas but, nevertheless, he did not let his concentration waiver and stuck to his task to the final whistle. The 23-year-old has been one of the signings of the season.

SPAIN

CEDRIC BAKAMBU (Villarreal)

Democratic Republic of Congo striker Bakambu faced stinging criticism despite scoring twice in Villarreal’s 2-1 win over Leganes. Bakambu scored the winner in injury time by punching the ball home to deny lowly Leganes a vital point in their battle to avoid relegation. That goal took his tally for the season to eight after opening the scoring with a fine finish into the far corner early in the second half.

KEVIN-PRINCE BOATENG (Las Palmas)

Boateng struck his 10th goal of a highly impressive first season in Spain as Las Palmas were held 1-1 at home by Alaves. The Ghanaian opened the scoring with a classy lob over the onrushing Alaves goalkeeper just before halftime.

ITALY

KEITA BALDE (Lazio)

A five-minute hat-trick from Senegalese Balde in a 6-2 romp over Palermo boosted Lazio’s Europa League hopes. A Ciro Immobile brace had Lazio up 2-0 inside 10 minutes and a Balde hat-trick, including a penalty, secured the points well before halftime.

OMAR EL KADDOURI (Empoli)

El Kaddouri has hit three goals in 11 appearances for Empoli since joining the Serie A strugglers, and had a hand in their first on their way to a shock 2-1 win over AC Milan at the San Siro that boosted their survival hopes. The Moroccan was directly involved when Levan Mchedlidze pounced with a 40th-minute opener, before Senegalese Mame Baba Thiam doubled Empoli’s lead on 67 minutes. Gianluca Lapadula hit a late consolation for Milan as Empoli held on for a seventh win of the season that keeps them five points above Crotone, and the drop zone.

KWADWO ASAMOAH (Juventus)

After their midweek endeavours at Barcelona that secured a place in the semifinals of the Champions League, Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri gave Asamoah a rare start, and the Ghanaian capitalised in a confident, one-sided performance by the champions to see a late drive ping off the far post – one of three occasions Juve hit the woodwork in a 4-0 romp over Genoa. It took Juve’s lead over Roma at the top of Serie A to 11 points.

FRANCE

BENJAMIN MOUKANDJO (Lorient)

The 28-year-old Cameroon targetman Moukandjo is Lorient’s top marksman in Ligue 1 this season and after four league wins from five his 13th goal of the season rounded off the Brittany outfit’s 5-1 win over Metz, which saw the club climb clear of the relegation zone at a crucial point of the campaign. His two goals last week had already been key in the 4-1 away win at Lyon, making Moukandjo the man of the moment at Lorient.

SERGE AURIER (Paris Saint-Germain)

The Ivory Coast full-back with the hot-tempered reputation showed just how cool he can be under pressure when scooping the ball from the PSG goalline to deny Montpellier a lifeline and his was an all-round slick performance as the champions prevailed 2-0 to maintain the pressure on Monaco in the French title race.

GERMANY

PIERRE-EMERICK AUBAMEYANG (Borussia Dortmund)

Gabon hot-shot Aubameyang crept ahead of Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski in the race to be the league’s top scorer when he netted Dortmund’s equaliser just 108 seconds after coming off the bench in their 3-2 comeback win at Borussia Moenchengladbach. Aubameyang smacked home his 27th league goal after converting Ousmane Dembele’s dream pass to make it 2-2 on 59 minutes before Raphael Guerreiro headed Dortmund’s winner.

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