Riyad Mahrez was Africa’s superstar all over Europe this weekend, putting together his impressive hat-trick in the FA Cup semi-finals for Manchester City en route to a final date with rivals Manchester United, while also writing some history for the competition in the process.
The Algerian became the first scorer in an FA Cup semi-final since former Preston North End champions Alex Dawson with United in 1958 – when he met Jack Grealish’s through ball with a powerful left-footed shot.
No player has ever scored in the English Wembley Cup semi-finals by scoring three goals, as City beat Sheffield United 3-0.
City boss Pep Guardiola offered a glimpse into the player’s situation when he hadn’t started for the club, which, for an Algerian player, was a relatively common occurrence during the Spaniard’s reign.
“He’s mad at me when he’s not playing, all the time,” Guardiola told reporters after the match. “It makes me notice when he’s angry.
“He’s not a man with a contract, he has to do his job, he thinks [about] How many hours do I have to train and do my job and come home, just the opposite.
“He likes to be in contact with the ball, and that’s why he’s upset [not] To play because he wants to play.”
There will be no complaint from player or coach at the conclusion of this match, as City overtook the Blades from Division Two and reached the final.
“[I’m] Very satisfied with Riyadh because he loves to play football, he has given a lot and a lot of things in these years and we hope for more to come,” continued Pep. Al-Riyad plays well in every match, also in crucial matches, he loves to play football. “
It wasn’t always the case, with Mahrez’s impressive displays against Paris Saint-Germain in the 2020-21 Champions League semi-finals preceded by his omission from Guardiola’s starting line-up in the fateful quarter-final defeat to Olympique Lyonnais the previous season.
Once again, Guardiola opted to bench the maestro earlier this season, but he has responded in style – with displays like this – City’s pursuit of the treble appears as healthy as ever when they reached their first FA Cup final since 2019.
While attention now turns to City’s Premier League success in midweek with Arsenal, don’t be surprised if Guardiola once again turns to Mahrez to work wonders. In the Premier League, Nigerian Kelechi Iheanacho – himself an FA Cup champion with Leicester – has scored in back-to-back First Division matches for the first time since February when the Foxes drew at home against Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Matheus Cunha had already given Old Gold an early lead – after Mario Lemina’s pass – when Iheanacho stepped up to convert from the penalty spot after Jose Sa had brought down Jamie Vardy.
Vardy played from the start, with Dean Smith looking to replace an injured James Maddison and an injured Harvey Barnes, and Iheanacho running the race as Leicester looked to make the most of their limited possession.
Timothy Castagne was the unlikely hero in the 75th minute, ending Leicester’s run of 10 matches without a win and taking the 2016 champions to 17th – ahead of Everton on goal difference – with six matches to go.
He may have been in Mahrez’s shadow this week, but Mohamed Salah nonetheless made his mark as Liverpool beat Nottingham Forest 3-2. Salah dodged his leg to flick home a stunning free kick from Trent Alexander-Arnold for his 136th Premier League goal, and 183rd in all competitions for Liverpool.
Following his goal against Arsenal and a brace against Leeds United, Salah has now scored in three consecutive matches for the first time since October 2021 – when he finally scored in seven consecutive PL matches.
As has been the case in 2021, Salah appears to be in a one-on-one battle to salvage something from Liverpool’s season – he’s now had a hand of 12 goals in the calendar year, trailed only by Erling Haaland and Olly Watkins.
For Senegalese Pape Sarr, it was a weekend to remember, enduring one of the toughest journeys of his fledgling career as Tottenham Hotspur battered Newcastle United.
In light of the stunning 6-1 scoreline, and the subsequent departure of Christian Stellini, Sarr’s disastrous cameo may be overlooked, but this was a display that highlighted Tottenham’s jitters and showed how CAF Young Player of the Year 2022 has slipped.
Gap and Jules stunned with Tottenham’s tactics against Newcastle
Jaap Marcotti and Julian Laurens discuss Tottenham’s disastrous 6-1 loss to Newcastle in the Premier League.
The 20-year-old lasted just 23 minutes before being substituted by Stellini as he sought to bolster defences, although Sarr’s own performance was unfocused and off the pace.
He made just one tackle when Newcastle were facing riots, and was particularly at fault on Newcastle’s third, where he failed to shut down Jacob Murphy and then followed up with a home run from long range.
For the Magpies’ fifth, he was also slow to respond to Alexander Isaacs’ threat, and Sarr left moments later – looking completely stunned as he walked to the dugout.
Surely Ryan Mason – or whoever else is in charge at Tottenham – will now have a job to rehabilitate Sarr and boost his confidence after a miserable spell – following his encouraging bow to Milan – and disastrous Newcastle setback. Finally to Germany, where a delightful compatriot, Sadio Mane, has moved to put the latest controversy behind him to get back in between Bayern Munich’s goals.
The Senegalese star was eventually fined more than £250,000 – a club record – after an incident in which he punched team-mate Leroy Sane in the face following a comment he later made.
Understandably, he seemed eager to let football do the talking in subsequent matches, finally ending his wait to score a Bundesliga goal against Mainz when he met Joao Cancelo’s cross and opened the scoring with a close-range header after 29 minutes.
The goal was Mane’s first in Ligue 1 since October – before injury curtailed his World Cup aspirations – and his fiery celebration of his team-mates hinted at few repercussions left from his altercation with Sane.
But for Bayern, not all was well under Thomas Tuchel, and their second-half collapse – they eventually lost 3-1 – leaves them a point clear of Borussia Dortmund, five games to go.