There was friction within African football’s most beloved double act this weekend, as Sadio Mane’s frustrations with Mohamed Salah boiled over, although there’s been plenty of success for the continent’s stars in Europe’s major leagues this past week.
Mane’s displeasure with his teammate came within the context of another resounding Liverpool victory, with the Senegal forward netting the Reds’ second in a 3-0 win at Burnley.
Mane played a key role in another fine Reds performance, as they maintained their 100 percent start to the new campaign and secured a club-record 13th successive league win in the process.
The 27-year-old’s second goal of the season came via a Roberto Firmino assist, as the Brazilian exposed space in the Burnley half, dribbled to the edge of the box and played in Mane, who snapped his shot beyond Nick Pope.
Earlier, the attacker had played in Salah for a fine chance, only for the Egyptian to strike the woodwork, although the latter didn’t return the favour late on when he opted to go for goal himself, rather than tee up Mane.
The West African reacted emotively after being replaced, gesticulating furiously to teammates and not hiding his anguish at perceived selfish play on the part of Salah.
In another context, this act would be perceived as a gross display of dissent, but in this Liverpool machine, it’s being read as a testament to the side’s hunger and single-mindedness under Jurgen Klopp.
Certainly, the coach opted to play down Mane’s frustrations post-match.
“I could describe five or six situations where everyone thought, ‘pass it, pass it, pass it’,” Klopp told journalists, as per the Metro. “That is the freedom of the player.
“The boys have to make these decisions: pass the ball, don’t pass the ball,” he added. “We can make this mistakes. You can lose the ball and mis-kick the ball, or sometimes you cannot see your teammate.
“It is not that you ignore him. Sometimes to us it looks like you must see him but you don’t. It’s not a big challenge, but of course with a striker always you can have this.
“What you do depends on the situation,” the German coach concluded. “We will leave it 100 percent because we won 3-0, and everyone goes away in different directions. In one week, I don’t think I will talk about it again.”
Credit must also go to Joel Matip, one of the unsung heroes of this Liverpool side, who cleared an Ashley Barnes effort off the line with the scores level, ensuring the contest didn’t turn against the visitors.
Also in the Premier League, Alex Iwobi scored his second goal in a week for Everton as they defeated Wolverhampton Wanderers 3-2, with new Ivory Coast call-up Willy Boly seeing red in stoppage time.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang continued his fine goalscoring form with a 71st-minute Arsenal equaliser in their 2-2 North London derby draw with Tottenham Hotspur.
Anglo-Nigerian striker Tammy Abraham continued to prove that he can be Chelsea’s leading man with another double in their 2-2 draw with Sheffield United, while Jordan Ayew struck the only goal of the game as Crystal Palace downed Aston Villa 1-0. The newly promoted Midlanders were reduced to 10 men following the second-half dismissal of new signing Trezeguet.
To the mainland…
In Serie A, there were mixed fortunes for Africa’s stars, with Kalidou Koulibaly-the reigning Italian defender of the season-scoring a 92nd-minute own goal to hand Juventus victory in their early title showdown with Napoli.
The error capped off a miserable outing for the Senegal international, who struggled to contain Juve’s front three of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gonzalo Higuain and the irrepressible Douglas Costa.
By contrast, Ismael Bennacer made an excellent first impression on AC Milan fans when he took to the field for his maiden league start with his new club following an offseason move from Empoli.
The Africa Cup of Nations 2019 winner demonstrated his influence in the heart of Milan’s 4-3-2-1 formation, creating one goalscoring opportunity and putting in a strong shift defensively as Brescia were defeated 1-0.
His progress alongside Franck Kessie in Milan’s engine room ought to be closely monitored by fans of the African game this term.
Hamed Junior Traore and Christian Kouame also found the net in victories for Sassuolo and Genoa respectively.
Over in France, Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting continues to be the unlikely star of Paris Saint-Germain’s season so far.
After being introduced against Toulouse last weekend as a replacement for Edinson Cavani, the Cameroon captain netted twice in a 4-0 victory, and was rewarded with a starting berth for the trip to Metz.
With Kylian Mbappe also out injured, and Neymar not available for selection, the former Stoke City man led the line, and netted PSG’s second before half time following Angel Di Maria’s opener.
Islam Slimani continues to enjoy a new lease of life at AS Monaco, netting twice in their 2-2 draw at Strasbourg, with Racine Coly, Moussa Doubia and Zinedine Ferhat all also on the scoresheet for OGC Nice, Stade de Reims and Nimes.
Democratic Republic of Congo international Glody Ngonda Muzinga, however, making his second Ligue 1 appearance after a summer move from AS Vita Club, endured a weekend to forget, as his own goal set Angers on their way to a 2-0 triumph over Dijon.
There were two notable African contributions in La Liga this weekend, with one familiar star and one new face getting on the scoresheet for Atletico Madrid and Barcelona respectively.
At the Wanda Metropolitano, Thomas Partey continued his fine start to the season with a 90th-minute winner for Atletico Madrid as they battled back from two goals down to win 3-2 at home against Eibar.
An unconvincing showing from Atleti, no doubt, but Partey once again demonstrated — as he has done before under Diego Simeone — that he is on hand to bail the Rojiblancos out when they’re at their lowest ebb.
In Catalonia, Anssumane Fati is fast becoming the darling of the Barcelona supporters. Last weekend, the Bissau-Guinean wonderkid became the club’s second youngest debutant, and on Saturday, he became the club’s youngest scorer when he netted a 51st-minute equaliser to level against Osasuna.
Barca could only take a point in the contest — a disappointing 2-2 draw — but Fati has already shown that he’s primed to bring the talent that made him such an enticing prospect at youth level to the senior stage. Finally, in Germany, Tunisia’s Ellyes Skhiri was the continent’s outstanding individual this weekend.
The central midfielder, a summer signing from Montpellier, has taken seamlessly to life in the Bundesliga, and made his biggest input yet when he struck a 91st-minute winner for FC Koln away at Eintracht Frankfurt.
Despite a mammoth defensive contribution — four tackles, four interceptions and two clearances — it was in the opponents’ final third where Skhiri truly demonstrated his worth, assisting Anthony Modeste for Koln’s first before winning the ball in the heart of the park, darting the length of the home side’s half and then powering home a left-footed effort at the near post.
Koln’s official Twitter handle claimed that the goal was ‘like Messi’ in the aftermath of the North African’s strike, and few of the visiting fans would disagree.