Football: Mixed fortunes for Nigerian strikers in Europe

Nigerian strikers had mixed luck across Europe on a weekend when the Super Eagles stunned Ivory Coast 2-1 to reach the Africa Cup of Nations semi-finals.

Victor Anichebe scored midway through the first half for Everton in a 3-3 English Premier League thriller with Aston Villa and Odion Ighalo helped Granada upset defending champions Real Madrid 1-0 in the Spanish La Liga.

Obafemi Martins, who just missed out on selection for the Cup of Nations in South Africa, was not at his best in a lone-striker role as Levante slumped 3-2 against Espanyol.



Nigerian striker Anichebe netted his fifth league goal of the season in Everton's thrilling 3-3 draw at home to Aston Villa. The burly centre-forward struck in the 21st minute to cancel out Christian Benteke's early opener for Villa, rolling centre-back Ciaran Clark and driving a shot past Brad Guzan.

JIMMY KEBE (Reading)

One-time Mali international Kebe scored at either end of the game to give relegation-threatened Reading an important 2-1 win at home to Sunderland. The 29-year-old winger broke the deadlock in the fifth minute and then headed in a close-range winner with five minutes to play.

ADEL TAARABT (Queens Park Rangers)

Taarabt failed from the penalty spot as bottom club QPR slipped to six points from safety following a 0-0 draw at home to Norwich City. Mark Bunn's foul on Jamie Mackie gave the Morocco midfielder an opportunity to break the deadlock in the 56th minute, but the Norwich goalkeeper redeemed himself by saving Taarabt's spot-kick.

CHRISTOPHER SAMBA (Queens Park Rangers)

A club-record £12.5 million ($19.7 million, 14.6 million euros) signing from Anzhi Makhachkala last week, Congo centre-back Samba made an assured debut against Norwich. He might even have scored had Grant Holt not cleared his goal-bound header off the line in the second half, and QPR manager Harry Redknapp described his performance as "outstanding".

DEMBA BA (Chelsea)

Senegal striker Ba endured a wretched return to Newcastle United as European champions Chelsea went down 3-2 at St James' Park. Booed by the fans of his former club, Ba had to go off injured in the 43rd minute after a kick in the face from Newcastle defender Fabricio Coloccini left him with a broken nose.



The Gabon striker netted his 10th league goal of the season in his side's 2-1 win at Sochaux. The 23-year-old scored the visitors' opener on 23 minutes as he collected a Francois Clerc pass on the edge of the Sochaux box before rifling a powerful shot into the top corner for his second goal in as many matches.


The Morocco international marked his return to the domestic scene following his country's failed Africa Cup of Nations campaign by scoring the third goal for Rene Girard's men in a 3-1 victory at home to Reims. Belhanda, 22, fired home his seventh of the season on 71 minutes after Johnny Placide palmed away Nigerian John Utaka's initial attempt.


Belghazouani notched the equalising goal for Ajaccio on 57 minutes in their surprise 3-1 win over title-hopefuls Lyon. The forward struck what appeared a relatively tame placed effort from the left side of the penalty area that eluded an unsighted Remy Vercoutre. The goal -- his fifth of the season -- was his first since he grabbed a brace against Toulouse in November.


ABDUL RAHMAN BABA (Greuther Fuerth)

Having joined from Ghana's Dreamz FC in July 2012, the left-back made his sixth Bundesliga appearance as bottom side Fuerth pulled off a shock 2-1 win at Champions League side Schalke 04. With Baba solid at the back, Serbia striker Nikola Djurdjic scored the winner in the 92nd minute to break Fuerth's 17-match winless streak in the German league, but they remain 11 points from safety at the foot of the table.

ASSANI LUKIMYA (Werder Bremen)

The Democratic Republic of Congo centre-back was in solid form to deny Hanover's strikers Mame Diouf and Mohammed Abdellaoue from scoring as Werder Bremen ran out 2-0 winners. Lukimya, who scored against Hamburg the previous week, defended well and is forming a good partnership alongside Greek centre-back Sokratis.



Constant put in another solid performance for Milan as the Rossoneri moved up to fourth place after a 2-1 win over Udinese. Both goals came from new signing Mario Balotelli, the second from a penalty that pictures later showed was non-existent. With every game, Guinean international Constant is showing why he is deserving of a place in Massimiliano Allegri's side.


Belfodil has become a thorn in the side of many Serie A teams, but the Algerian failed to find the net as Fiorentina won 2-0 at home. Belfodil was substituted later in the game as Parma went on the defensive.



The Nigerian striker has been a key player for Levante this season as the target man for their counter-attacking style but they showed against Espanyol an over-dependency on him in a 3-2 loss. They constantly sought Martins in attack but he was tightly marked and not at his best.


The Nigerian worked hard in attack for Granada as they produced a surprise 1-0 victory over Real Madrid. While Ighalo isn't the most gifted player, he is physically strong and battled with the Madrid defence as he looked to connect with crosses. He went close to extending Granada's lead before the break and in the second half tried a clever flick which almost caught out goalkeeper Diego Lopez.