Thursday май 19, 2022

April was a lean month for Nigerian players in Europe, especially strikers, who found goals hard to come by, scoring in measly patches rather than the flowing rivers of previous months.

But when they did score, they changed the fortunes of their teams, especially in European competition.

Moses Simon was the pick of the bunch, as the Nantes man continues to excel in Ligue 1 and found himself deservedly named on the shortlist for the Marc Vivien-Foe award.

Following closely was the unknown Francis Ezeh, whose haul of five goals in the Turkish second tier was by far the most of any Nigerian forward this period.

1. Moses Simon, Nantes/FRA

It is a credit to the quality and performances of Simon this season that he has been shortlisted for the Marc Vivien Foe award in France. The award goes to the best player of African origin in Ligue 1, and the Nigerian has been nothing if not one of the best.

In April, he continued to prove that his position on that shortlist was well deserved, helping himself to three goals and one assist as Nantes’ yo-yo season continued.

Against Girondins Bordeaux, Simon was particularly unplayable. With Bordeaux 2-1, up, he forced Ricardo Mangas to put through his own goal with a delicious low cross, then stood up another cross for Kalifa Coulibaly to head in for 3-3.

The Nigerian then extended the lead to 4-3 with a silky finish inside the box before Osman Bakari completed the come from behind 5-3 win.

Simon has been one of Nigeria‘s standout players all season long, and April was once again belonged to the 26-year-old.

2. Francis Ezeh, Tuzlaspor/TUR

On loan from Demirspor in the Turkish Super Lig, not many people would have heard of Francis Ezeh, after just two goals and one assist in his previous eight games. But the 24-year-old made sure all of that would change as he exploded in April.

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He scored in each of the four games he featured, including a brace a 4-0 victory over giants Genclerbirligi for a total of five goals in four games. The tally makes Ezeh the hottest Nigerian forward in Europe this past month.

3. Cyriel Dessers, Feyenoord/NED

Dessers is proving to be the king of the UEFA Europa Conference League. The 27-year-old Nigeria forward has scored in seven of his last eight games in the competition, dating all the way back to the group phase in November.

Four of those goals, plus one assist, came in April where Dessers helped Feyenoord get past Slavia Prague with an assist in the first leg of then quarterfinal and bagging a brace in the second leg.

He added two more in the first leg of the semifinal against Olympic Marseille to shoot to the top of the Conference League goalscorers chart on 10 goals, two ahead of AS Roma‘s Tammy Abraham. And on his current hot streak, should be odds on to add to that tally and help his team to the Final.

4. Paul Onuachu, Genk/BEL

It was a quiet month for the 2m tall forward, who had tallied 16 league goals for the season entering the month of April, failing to score in the last two games of March.

But he appeared to be putting all that behind him with an explosive start to April, hanging a hattrick in a 3-0- win over KAS Eupen.

But that was to be all for the beanpole Nigerian, as he went the next three games with neither goal nor assist. Those goals and the three points, however, proved crucial to keep Genk in the Playoff round for a place in UEFA competitions.

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5. Taiwo Awoniyi, Union Berlin/GER

Awoniyi and Union Berlin finished March poorly, with two losses and one draw from three games. They turned that around in April, going five games unbeaten, including four straight wins. That streak began with Awoniyi scoring the lone goal in a big win over FC Cologne to open the month.

He may have finished with just two goals from five games in April, but those goals proved to be not only important to securing two wins but also guaranteed a personal landmark for the Nigerian striker.

They took his tally to 17 Bundesliga goals for Union Berlin, overtaking Max Kruse as the club’s all-time leading Bundesliga goal-scorer.

6. Samuel Chukwueze, Villareal/ESP

Sometimes it only takes one, and Chukwueze’s ‘one’ was as big as it gets.

The Nigeria winger came on as a late substitute in the second leg of Villareal’s UEFA Champions League tie against Bayern Munich, with the German side leading 1-0 and aggregate scores tied at 1-1.

Samu sneaked in at the back post on a searing counter attack to latch on to Gerard Moreno‘s sweeping ball and lift home for 1-1. That goal proved enough to send Villarreal to the Champions league semifinal.

7. Odion Ighalo, Al Hilal/KSA

Ighalo is making this goalscoring lark look easy. At least in the Gulf.

Having ripped up the league with 19 goals from 24 appearances, the veteran Nigeria striker has turned his marksmanship attentions to the Kings Cup and AFC Champions League.

Ighalo scored twice in four games in the Champions League, as his club claimed two wins and one draw wins from the four he was selected for, losing just once.

8. Zaidu Sanusi, FC Porto/POR

Runaway log leaders FC Porto suffered their first league defeat of the season in April. But that was the only blot on their five-game copybook for the month as they continues their sizzling campaign, winning the other four games.

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They racked up a 15-3 goal difference, including three straight clean sheets, and Nigeria left back Sanusi was a major part of that, starting every single one of those games.

Zaidu even had time to go upfront to weigh in with a goal against in the 3-0 win over his former club Sporting Braga.

9. Chidera Ejuke, CSKA/RUS

It has been a while since we saw Ejuke on these rankings, but the CSKA forward has only been missing out by fine margins. This time, he forced his way in.

Ejuke was monstrous against city rivals Dynamo Moscow, scoring the winning goal as CSKA beat the team above them on the table.

But it was more than the goal. The Nigerian tormented the Dynamo constantly, his pace and trickery dropping like little bombs all over the park, until even they must have been relieved when he scored the goal. It was no surprised when he walked away with the Man of the Match award.

10. Aaron Olanare, BB Erzurumspor/TUR

Aaron Samuel may be one of the forgotten men of the Super Eagles, but the former international striker is still pulling up trees in Europe, even if that is in the Turkish second tier.

Samuel opened the month of April with a hattrick in a 5-1 road win against Balikesirspor, followed by an assist in the very next league game, before finding the net again to take his tally for the month to four goals and one assist for the month, and eight goals and three assists for the season.

It is unlikely the 27-year-old will be pulling green and white shirt any time soon, but if he keeps up this form and the club secure promotion, anything is possible.

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