Africans Abroad: Mbwana Samatta makes history on Aston Villa debut
English Premier League
Aston Villa new boy Mbwana Samatta secured his place in the history books when he netted on his English Premier League debut against Bournemouth on Saturday, while African players were at the heart of intrigue -- for good and bad reasons -- across Europe's other major leagues last weekend.
Samatta was one of several notable Villa acquisitions during the January transfer window as the Midlanders look to bolster their options at both ends of the pitch and boost their prospects of beating the drop.
Their situation doesn't look any rosier following the weekend's 2-1 defeat by the Cherries, but the Villans can at least feel a little more confident that, in new recruit Samatta, they have a player who can replace the goal threat of injury Wesley to fire Dean Smith's side away from the bottom three.
He opened his EPL account after 70 minutes, heading home past Aaron Ramsdale after a deflected shot from substitute Keinan Davis looped into his path. The goal wasn't enough to prompt a comeback from the visitors, who had trailed 2-0 following goals from Danish-Nigerian midfielder Philip Billing and Nathan Ake, but Villa can take some encouragement at the ease with which Samatta settled into life in England following his £10 million switch from Genk.
Even before he scored, Samatta had made history in becoming the first Tanzanian to play in the Premier League, with the East African nation the 117th different country to have been represented in the competition. Tanzania is also the 32nd FIFA-affiliated African nation to be featured in the top flight, and the third Cecafa member after Burundi and Kenya.
In scoring, Samatta became the first Villa debutant to score on his league bow since Benin's Rudy Gestede four-and-a-half years ago -- and his was the Midlanders' first headed goal in the top flight since April 2016.
While Odion Ighalo's move to boyhood club Manchester United stole the headlines -- and the imagination Samatta's debut impact for Villa, albeit in defeat, represented a similar fairytale story for a player who was playing in the Democratic Republic of Congo until as recently as 2016.
"That was my dream, always when I was a kid, until today," Samatta told Villa's official website.
"It's a dream come true, and for everybody in Tanzania it was a dream to see a Tanzanian player play in the Premier League.
"I came here two weeks ago and everybody is looking forward to seeing me score goals, but when you lose a game you cannot be happy because, as a group, we have to win together and lose together.
"I scored but I'm disappointed because of the result."
Also in the Premier League, Mohamed Salah scored twice as Liverpool extended their lead at the top of the table to a record 22 points, with a 4-0 thumping of beleaguered Southampton.
The double took the his tally at home for the season to 12 -- more than any other player in the division -- and Lionel Messi alone has more goals at home than Salah's 44 since the since Egyptian superstar's arrival on Merseyside.
At St James' Park, Algeria's Nabil Bentaleb made his debut for Newcastle United, in his first Premier League appearance since Tottenham Hotspur's 3-1 victory over Crystal Palace in January 2016.
The Schalke 04 loanee made a good impression -- creating four goal-scoring opportunities -- but he was unable to help the Magpies take all three points as they drew 0-0.
Italo-Moroccan left-back Adam Masina scored his first Watford league goal to open the scoring in their 3-2 home defeat by Everton, while Issa Diop netted his third for West Ham United before Brighton & Hove Albion secured a 3-3 draw with a sterling second-half comeback at the London Stadium.
There was an intriguing subplot to the Bundesliga action this weekend, with two African stars airing their grievances publicly after being substituted.
Cameroon's Pierre Kunde was withdrawn 32 minutes into Mainz 05's 3-1 defeat by Bayern Munich -- with the hosts 3-0 down after 26 minutes -- and duly refused to shake the hand of coach Achim Beierlorzer after trudging to the bench.
"The one who replaced due to a poor performance and then misbehaved must put his foot on the gas," the coach said. "He's a good boy, 100%."
Similarly, Achraf Hakimi couldn't hide his displeasure when he was being taken off after 64 minutes as Borussia Dortmund thumped Union Berlin 5-0, with the Morocco wideman kicking over a water bottle in disgust as he was replaced.
"The boys want to play as much as possible," BVB legend and head of the licensed player division Sebastian Kehl said.
"Everyone is fighting for their place and the competition is intense, we have a strong bench and you have to accept it." On a more positive note, Nigerian right-back Kingsley Ehizibue, who was born in Germany to Nigerian parents but has represented the Netherlands at youth level, scored his first Bundesliga goal as FC Koln thumped Freiburg 4-0.
In Italy, it was a weekend to remember for another Nigerian youngster, as 20-year-old Bobby Adekanye opened his account for Lazio by adding their fifth in a 5-1 demolition of SPAL.
The Ibadan-born attacker, who has passed through the academies of Ajax, Barcelona and Liverpool, netted nine minutes after being introduced from the bench.
"What a special day at the office today for us," he wrote on Instagram.
"Thank you so much to all the fans for the support."
The win takes Antonio Conte's side to 51 points, three behind leaders Juventus, but Moses urged his Nerazzurri teammates to put the win behind them and focus on this coming Sunday's derby against AC Milan.
"We need to immediately forget about tonight's win and concentrate on the match against Milan," Moses told the club's website.
"It's a really important fixture and we have the quality to win, both on an individual and team level."
Jeremie Boga continued his fine run of form with Sassuolo's fourth in their 4-2 victory over AS Roma, while Sofyan Amrabat, who will move to Fiorentina on a permanent basis in the summer, was sent off in the 68th minute of Hellas Verona's 1-1 draw at AC Milan.
Having scored on his Olympique Lyonnais debut against Toulouse on Jan. 26, Karl Toko Ekambi made it two in two with a 45th-minute equaliser against OGC Nice on Sunday.
However, it wasn't enough to prevent OL, who were reduced to 10 men with the 22nd-minute dismissal of Marcal, falling to a 2-1 defeat that leaves them two points off the top four.
After the match, the Cameroon international -- a new arrival from Villarreal -- blamed fatigue for the loss.
"We should have mastered our subject and left here with something," Ekambii said.
"We came back in the second half, [but] we had less juice, and it showed."
There were mixed performances for Nice's North African widemen, as Adam Ounas, on the left, concluded a dire first half with a second yellow before the break; Hichem Boudaoui, meanwhile, capped a vibrant display with the decisive assist for Kasper Dolberg's winner.
Victor Osimhen added his 11th goal of the season -- an 80th-minute penalty -- as LOSC Lille won 2-1 away at Strasbourg to move up to fourth, 21 points off leaders Paris Saint-Germain.
Kenneth Omeruo scored his first league goal since netting for Kasimpasa, in the Turkish Super Lig, as he equalised for Leganes at home against Real Sociedad.
Oscar Rodriguez's 94th-minute winner took Javier Aguirre's Lega up to 18 points, and their recent upturn in fortunes bodes well in their battle to beat the drop even though they remain in the relegation zone.
Ansu Fati's double for Barcelona against Levante made him the youngest player in the league's history to score twice in one match, while a 73-minute showing from Thomas Partey couldn't help Atletico Madrid avoid a 1-0 derby defeat away at league leaders Real Madrid.