Africans Abroad: Ademola Lookman answers critics, Riyad Mahrez unplayable

play
Why Nigeria's Awoniyi is ready to leave Liverpool (1:37)

Nigeria forward Taiwo Awoniyi says he's ready to find a permanent move, after five years and seven loans. (1:37)

After receiving more than his fair share of criticism in recent weeks, Ademola Lookman answered the doubters in style as Fulham defeated Leicester City in the Premier League on Monday. Riyad Mahrez, meanwhile, was Africa's star performer of the weekend as he breathed life into Manchester City's title aspirations.

Lookman has had a rollercoaster time of things at Fulham since returning to English football from RB Leipzig on a season-long loan.

The Anglo-Nigerian youngster was hailed for his goal against Sheffield United in October but then pilloried for letting a valuable point slip through the Cottagers' grip with his hapless panenka penalty fail against West Ham United three weeks ago.

Even his manager -- the usually mild-mannered Scott Parker -- seethed after Lookman's misguided spot-kick attempt proved costly, but the former England midfielder was visibly joyous on the touchline as the ex-Everton wideman opened the scoring away against Leicester on Monday.

Fulham neutralised the Foxes' threat effectively during the early stages then hit on the counterattack when Cameroon's Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa capitalised on Youri Tielemans' error and carried the ball forward before sending a sensational angled pass through to Lookman.

The attacker, advancing towards Kasper Schmeichel, appeared undaunted by the ridicule that's been aimed at him in recent weeks, and finished calmly to give the Londoners the lead.

Lookman's maturity and self-awareness has been questioned in the past, but he opted to acknowledge former Fulham and Senegal midfielder Papa Bouba Diop -- who passed away on Sunday at the age of 42 -- with his celebration, lifting up a Teranga Lions shirt adorned with the late international's No. 19.

Lookman deserves the plaudits and attention for the opening goal but it was made by Zambo Anguissa, who showed again why he was linked with a move to Real Madrid earlier in the year.

Ivan Cavaleiro retained the penalty duties, even though he, too, had missed from the spot, vs. Everton, having claimed responsibility from Lookman, and he added Fulham's second goal from the spot eight minutes later, and the Cottagers held on for only their second win of the season after Harvey Barnes pulled one goal back for Leicester City late on.

"Fantastic performance from the boys," Lookman wrote on Instagram handle.

"Massive three points.

"We go again on Saturday now."

The win takes Fulham out of the relegation zone ahead of their trip to Manchester City at the weekend, when they must find a way to silence Mahrez.

Pep Guardiola's side have lacked their typical offensive cutting edge in recent weeks, not helped by the absence of Sergio Aguero and the apparent lethargy enveloping Kevin De Bruyne, but Mahrez delivered an outstanding display -- netting a hat-trick -- as breathed life into their title aspirations with a 5-0 victory vs. Burnley.

This was the performance that supporters and pundits alike had come to expect from Guardiola's City on their best day, with De Bruyne feeding Mahrez for the opener -- a cool left-footed finish -- and the Algerian adding a second after being picked out by a cheeky Kyle Walker throw-in.

The Algerian then scored a rare headed goal -- the fruit of further excellent interplay with Phil Foden -- to complete his first hat-trick since his time with Leicester City.

The challenge for Mahrez, who had scored just once in his previous 12 appearances before this weekend, is to build on this performance, and ensure there's a consistent end product to his eye-catching individuality.

Édouard Mendy has featured in just six of Chelsea's 10 Premier League appearances this term, so it is testament to his class and ability that he nevertheless boasts more clean sheets than any other keeper in the top flight this season.

Mendy has conceded just once in his six Premier League appearances since arriving at Stamford Bridge from Stade Rennais -- in the 4-1 thumping of Sheffield United -- and he registered his fifth clean sheet against Tottenham Hotspur as the London rivals drew 0-0 on Sunday.

For context, Mendy's two rivals for the No. 1 shirt at Chelsea -- Kepa Arrizabalaga and Willy Caballero -- have conceded nine goals between them in four appearances for Frank Lampard's side this season.

- Ogden: Premier League season so far
- Marcotti: Did United record a breakthrough win?

The Senegal stopper may have been one of Chelsea's less-heralded arrivals this year -- when contrasted with the likes of Timo Werner, Hakim Ziyech, Ben Chilwell and Kai Havertz -- but he has arguably been the most impactful.

Mendy's defensive unit successfully silenced Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min at Stamford Bridge -- the first side to keep both quiet since Newcastle United in September -- and the goalkeeper's unassuming confidence, and the quiet authority he exerts over his backline, are proving to be valuable assets for the title hopefuls.

While Lookman appears to have been stood down from penalty duties following his woe against West Ham, AC Milan's Franck Kessie has vowed to step up to take another -- should the opportunity arise -- despite missing one against Fiorentina in the Italian Serie A on Sunday.

It probably helps his confidence that he also buried a spotkick during the victory, which restored Milan's five-point lead in Serie A.

"That's how it is with penalties," he said on DAZN after Milan's 2-0 victory.

"You can score and you can make mistakes, but I'll still take the next one."

Kessie had already contributed the assist for Alessio Romagnoli's 17th-minute opener before he stepped up in the absence of injured Zlatan Ibrahimovic to take Milan's first spot-kick after German Pezzella had fouled Alexis Saelemaekers.

The Ivory Coast midfielder paused momentarily before striking the ball, prompting goalkeeper Bartlomiej Dragowski to commit, before calmly finishing to the opposite side of the goal.

He again tried the same strategy for his second penalty -- to send Milan 3-0 up -- but Dragowski this time kept his cool and denied the West African.

Despite not adding his second goal on the day, Kessie has now had a hand in five goals this term -- which is more than he managed in the entirety of last season.

Indeed, even without injured midfield partner Ismael Bennacer, he's proving to be a valuable all-round contributor for a Milan team that may yet mount a sustained title challenge.

"We started strongly," Kessie said.

"Fiorentina are a team who must be attacked, and we scored twice straight away.

"We don't have any [guaranteed] starters, this is a large squad, and those who take to the field [must] prove they can play."

During the second half of 2019, Cameroon's national team were quietly cultivating a reputation as one of the least exciting of Africa's heavyweights.

Excluding their Africa Cup of Nations elimination at the hands of Nigeria, they scored just one goal in their final five matches of the year -- a 1-0 victory over Rwanda.

The October international break saw them held 0-0 by Japan, meaning five of their past seven fixtures had been goalless draws, but a 6-1 aggregate scoreline against Mozambique during the November fixtures offered hope of an improvement, and the form of the country's key strikers at the weekend suggests that the Indomitable Lions have the goal-getters available to them.

Vincent Aboubakar, an Africa Cup of Nations winner in 2017, was the star man, netting twice as Bestikas defeated fierce Istanbul rivals Fenerbahce 4-3 in a Turkish Super Lig thriller.

The 28-year-old was dropped from Clarence Seedorf's squad for the Nations Cup in Egypt last year, as injuries took their toll, but he appears to be returning to his best.

He has now scored six goals in his past four games for club and country after netting twice in the opening 20 minutes of a tempestuous contest that saw 11 cards issued to the playing staff and technical teams.

There were also goals in the French Ligue 1 this weekend for Aboubakar's international colleagues Stephane Bahoken, who scored for Angers as they defeated Lens 3-1 in the French Ligue 1, and Karl Toko Ekambi, who opened the scoring as Lyon dispatched Reims 3-0.

With Jean-Pierre Nsame also scoring in Young Boys' triumph at Lausanne Sport in the Swiss Super League on Sunday, there aren't too many African heavyweights who boast as many in-form goalscorers across Europe's bigger leagues right now.