Mixed fortunes for Nigerian stars on Boxing Day


• Akpom hits hat-trick
• Onyeka missing, Ndidi, Iheanacho play as sub

It was a tale of mixed fortunes for Nigerian players in Europe who were involved in league actions on Boxing Day in England, Johnny Edward writes

Chuba Akpom (Middlesbrough):

Akpom scored a second-half hat-trick for Middlesbrough who defeated Wigan 4-1 at the Riverside on Monday.

The treble took his tally to 12 in the English Championship this season. The win also saw Middlesbrough complete a league double over the Latics and also extended Kolo Toure’s winless start to life as Wigan boss.

Boro took full control in the second half as the understanding between Ryan Giles and Akpom exposed the Latics’ defensive frailties.

Hayden Hackney opened up the visitors’ defence to send Giles down the left, and Akpom was on the end of his cross to make it 2-0 in 49 minutes.

The former England U-21 international again finished well after Giles’ strong run had created problems for the defence.

Wigan gave themselves some hope as Thelo Aasgaard gave a quick reply, volleying in from Max Power’s cross, but Boro saw out the game.

Akpom claimed the match-ball from yet another Giles pass to secure Boro’s first league double over Wigan.

The in-form former Arsenal has now been involved in 33 per cent of Middlesbrough goals so far this season. The former Hull City striker also became the first Middlesbrough player to score a treble for the club since 2018.

Troost-Ekong, Okoye, Kalu, Dele-Bashiru (Watford)

Tom Dele-Bashiru made his third consecutive start for Watford who suffered a setback –a 2-0 defeat at home to Millwall in their fight for a Championship play-off place.

Andreas Voglsammer scored his first goal in English football to set Millwall on the road to a vital victory before Zian Flemming’s bagged his 10th of the campaign after the Hornets were reduced to 10 men by Hassane Kamara’s red card in the 38th minute.

The defeat was Slaven Bilic’s second in nine games, denting their own push for promotion to the Premier League.

Williams Troost-Ekong replaced Bacuna at the start of the second half while Samuel Kalu came on for Kabasele with 19 minutes left to play. The game was Troost-Ekong’s 12th league game of the season. For Kalu, it was his sixth of the campaign.

Again, Maduka Okoye was not listed in the matchday squad. He is yet to make a league appearance since he joined in the summer.

Semi Ajayi (West Brom)

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Ajayi was an unused substitute for West Bromwich Albion who made it six wins in eight games under boss Carlos Corberan as they scored a goal in each half to beat Bristol City at Ashton Gate.

Matt Phillips was sent clear down the left to fire in a ninth-minute opener. Substitute Brandon Thomas-Asante then came off the bench to score the second with a sublime left-foot chip on the run, just 11 minutes after coming on for Daryl Dike. Albion, who were in the Championship relegation zone when Corberan came in, moved up to 12th. Ajayi has made seven appearances this term.

Iheanacho, Ndidi (Leicester City)

Kelechi Iheanacho and Wilfred Ndidi both made substitute appearances for Leicester City who suffered a 3-0 defeat to Newcastle United.

It was the 10th substitute appearance of the season for Iheanacho who came on for Harvey Barnes in the 71st minute for his 11th league game while Ndidi replaced Boubakary Soumare a minute later.

The win was Newcastle’s sixth consecutive Premier League win of the season and they move up to second in the table.

Alex Iwobi (Everton)

Iwobi kept his place in Everton’s starting line up on Boxing Day but failed to help the Toffees record a victory over Wolves as they slumped to a 2-1 defeat following Rayan Ait-Nouri dramatic stoppage-time winner.

The game was Iwobi’s 15th EPL game of the season while he has scored once providing five assists.

Aribo, Edozie (Southampton)

Sam Edozie made his first EPL start of the season for Southampton who were booed off by their own supporters at half-time following a 3-1 defeat.

A header from Adam Lallana and an own goal by left-back Romain Perraud heaped more misery on Jones’ relegation-threatened side.

Solly March then added a third for the Seagulls in the second half, thumping a shot into the top corner from 20 yards out that Saints goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu had no chance of saving.

A penalty was awarded to Southampton in the 73rd minute after Edozie ran into Pascal Gross inside the area, and while Sanchez saved James Ward-Prowse’s initial effort, he could not keep out the headed rebound by the home skipper.

Joe Aribo came on for Moussa Djenepo at half time in the defeat. Saints are now bottom of the table after Wolves grabbed a late winner against Everton.

Frank Onyeka (Brentford)

Onyeka failed to make the matchday squad of Brentford who were held to a 2-2 draw by Tottenham Hotspur.  The Nigerian midfielder has made 12 appearances this term.

Spurs found themselves 2-0 down after goals from Vitaly Janelt and Ivan Toney before Kane pulled one back with a powerful header, with Hojbjerg equalising six minutes later. ,

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