Africans Abroad: Osimhen makes Serie A bow, Zaha haunts United

Napoli fans got the proper glimpse of Victor Osimhen in competitive action as Africa's most expensive signing of the transfer window made his Serie A bow on Sunday, while Wilfried Zaha enjoyed a weekend to remember as he returned to Old Trafford to haunt former club Manchester United in Premier League action.

Osimhen starts as he means to go on

Having arrived in Naples from LOSC Lille for $70 million, there was clearly going to be considerable expectation on Osimhen's shoulders when he finally made his Serie A debut for new employers Napoli.

Upping the ante even further, Nigeria Football Federation president Amaju Pinnick vowed that Osimhen would look to emulate -- or even surpass -- the legendary Diego Maradona's impact in Southern Italy, while the young striker's performances in pre-season fuelled optimism that he could spearhead a renaissance after Napoli's poor 2019-20 campaign.

In light of the hype, there was some surprise when Gennaro Gattuso -- who has sought to temper expectations -- opted to leave the 21-year-old out of the starting line-up for Sunday's meeting with Parma.

He was introduced just after the hour mark, with Napoli unable to break down the hosts, and required just two minutes to make an impact as he immediately brightened up the Partenopei's attack.

Moments later they were ahead after Dries Mertens scored when Simone Iacoponi floundered in the face of Osimhen pressure, and Lorenzo Insigne could have had another after being played in by the Nigerian's flick, only to fire against the post.

The Italy forward did add a second 13 minutes from time to round off a strong start to the campaign, with Osimhen ending the match having created four goalscoring opportunities -- more than any other player on the pitch -- in his half-hour cameo.

Considering he only took 10 touches during the contest, his four key passes pay testament to his efficiency and invention in the final third.

Perhaps he didn't score, and perhaps the 'Prince of Naples' plaudits that headed Osimhen's way on social media after his showing are premature, but this was a seriously impressive debut, with the forward dovetailing superbly with those players around him.

"I was struck by Osimhen's serious attitude," said Gattuso after the match, as per Reuters. "He hasn't forgotten where he came from and the sacrifices he made.

"He built himself up on his own and I congratulate him for his will and desire," the coach added.

"He is a young lad with the head of a 40-year-old. I hope he doesn't make mistakes and doesn't change his attitude."

Goalscorer Insigne also praised his new teammate for his eye-catching Serie A bow.

"Osimhen's arrival also helped us, and we found a way to score a few minutes later," he told Napoli's official website. "Victor has great speed, and has complementary and different characteristics to Dries and I.

"He can represent a different solution for the attack. In some areas, he reminds me of [Edinson] Cavani; for his ability to attack the goal and his strength."

While Parma's veteran Ivory Coast wideman Gervinho missed the contest due to injury, rumoured Manchester City target Kalidou Koulibaly was a commanding presence in defence for Napoli, suggesting that he's put a difficult 2019-20 campaign behind him.

Simy finds the going tough

Also in the Italian top flight this weekend, Osimhen's compatriot Simy Nwankwo returned to Serie A with newly promoted Crotone, but found the going much tougher than his Nigerian counterpart.

The 6'6 striker was a star performer for the Sharks in Serie B last term - netting 20 goals as they returned to the big time - but he must prove now that he can trouble top flight defences as he did those in the second tier.

On the evidence of Sunday's showing, a 4-1 thumping at Genoa, both Simy and his teammates have a lot of work ahead of them.

While the 28-year-old did hit the woodwork with one attempt, he was wasteful in front of goal; hitting the target with only one of his three attempts.

Considering the ease with which Crotone's defence were undone, they'll surely need a sizeable contribution from their towering frontman if they're to evade relegation. On the evidence of Sunday's showing, he must do better.

Zaha returns to haunt United

Old Trafford hasn't been a happy hunting ground for Crystal Palace's Wilfried Zaha since he was sold permanently by the Red Devils in 2015, having failed to make the grade at the Theatre of Dreams.

Before this weekend, he'd played against United nine times in the Premier League without finding the net, but was irrepressible on Saturday, netting twice as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his team began their season with a 3-1 defeat.

Jeffrey Schlupp's seventh-minute opener for Palace gave the visitors a lead which was rarely troubled by the hosts before the game's incident of genuine controversy, as the Eagles were awarded a dubious penalty for a Victor Lindelof handball following extensive VAR consultation.

Jordan Ayew casually struck the resulting spotkick weakly to David de Gea's right and his effort was saved, but after the keeper was deemed to have stepped off his line - albeit by inches - before the ball was touched, the penalty was retaken.

Zaha stepped in for Jordan and duly slammed home, before adding another 11 minutes later after Donny van de Beek had scored to threaten a late United comeback.

His second was a goal of genuine class, as the forward rolled the hapless Lindelof before spinning and sending a right-footed effort in at de Gea's near post.

Last term, Zaha's season started slowly as his attitude dipped in the aftermath of a failed move to Arsenal.

He remains at Palace for now, but there's no sign of any drop in application, with Zaha having also scored the winner as the Londoners downed Southampton in gameweek one.

At Old Trafford, where the venue undoubtedly played a part, he was hungry, tenacious, inventive, and displaying all of the qualities that prompted United to sign him all those years ago.

"He has the same level of importance to us as all the star and very dangerous players who make and score goals for other teams," Roy Hodgson told journalists, as per The Guardian, after the match.

It was the first time since November that Zaha has netted in consecutive league games, and Hodgson will hope that run continues when they face fellow high-fliers Everton next weekend.

Elsewhere in the Premier League this weekend, Sadio Mane scored twice as Liverpool downed Chelsea 2-0 at Stamford Bridge, Yves Bissouma was dismissed for dangerous play - after VAR consultation - as Brighton & Hove Albion won 2-0 at Newcastle United, while Eddie Nketiah netted Arsenal's winner in their 2-1 victory over West Ham United.

Harit, Diawara in action as the Bundesliga returns

Two of the African players tipped to make a big impact in the German top flight this season enjoyed mixed fortunes on the opening weekend of the new campaign.

Schalke 04 are in desperate need of a turnaround this term after going without a win for the final 17 matches of 2019-20, and an 8-0 demolition by Bayern Munich in their opening match back has sounded a stark note of alarm.

That was a run that left them perilously close to the relegation zone, and clearly unless there's an imminent turnaround, a drop to the second tier appears inevitable under David Wagner.

With Weston McKennie departed, the stage appears set for Morocco maestro Amine Harit to take centre-stage, although he was impotent on Friday as Schalke were crushed by the champions.

Featuring on the left flank alongside Algeria's Nabil Bentaleb, Harit provided little cover for left-back Bastian Oczipka as the Royal Blues were overran.

Harit and co must begin to play with the aggression and commitment that Schalke sides have shown in the past - beginning with their home match against Werder Bremen on Saturday - if they're to turn this miserable run around.

Beginning the season on a better note was Mali international Amadou Haidara, who was one of RasenBallsport Leipzig's star performers as they downed Mainz 3-1.

Playing on the right side of Julian Nagelsmann's 3-4-2-1 formation, replacing Nordi Mukiele and working in tandem with Lukas Klostermann, Haidara was exemplary.

He created three goalscoring chances, was successful with 93.3 percent of his passes, and made more interceptions (three) than any other Leipzig player.

The highlight, of course, was his goal - the West African's second in the Bundesliga - when he fired home after being set up by Emil Forsberg in front of a smattering of supporters at the Red Bull Arena.

The 22-year-old has been a peripheral figure at Leipzig since arriving from sister club Red Bull Salzburg - he made just five league starts last term - but perhaps this can be the season when he kicks on in Germany.