PARIS, March 1 – It was a magical weekend for Kenyan midfielder McDonald Mariga who made his first start for Italian league leaders Inter Milan and a strong performance saw him complete the full 90 minutes.
The Kenya midfielder made his first start in an Inter shirt since his transfer deadline switch from Parma. With Esteban Cambiasso and Ghana’s Muntari Sulley suspended and Javier Zanetti and Thiago Motta forced to play at the back due to a defensive crisis, Mariga played the holding role in midfield.
Mariga brought a powerful physical presence to the Inter midfield, showing exactly why coach Jose Mourinho had wanted to sign him, and even completed the full 90 minutes.
Among other African players in action for European clubs, Didier Drogba and Steven Pienaar went goalless for Chelsea and Everton while Asamoah Gyan was red-carded for Rennes
DIDIER DROGBA (Chelsea)
The Ivory Coast striker went goalless and missed several chances as the Premier League leaders’ suffered a shock 4-2 defeat at home to Manchester City. Drogba should have done better with a 25th minute header and then saw a tame shot deflected over of the leg of Nigel De Jong. But his clearest chance came in the 36th minute when Frank Lampard’s miscued shot presented the forward with a close range volley that he fired wastefully over.
ALEX SONG (Arsenal)
The Cameroon midfielder was partly responsible for Stoke’s goal at the Britannia Stadium. He put the ball out for a throw rather than a corner, allowing long throw expert Rory Delap to hurl it into the box where Danny Pugh headed in. He was also harshly booked for a foul on Delap which means he will miss the next two games.
STEVEN PIENAAR (Everton)
South Africa midfielder Pienaar had a chance to rescue a point late on for the Toffees in their 2-1 defeat away to Champions League place chasers Tottenham Hotspur. After Wilson Palacios gave the ball away, he sprinted on only to be denied by Spurs keeper Heurelho Gomes. It was his rare error though that led to Spurs’s opening goal when his pass was intercepted by Sebastien Bassong. Was also one of four Everton players booked.
AIYEGBENI YAKUBU (Everton)
Led the Toffees attack in the absence of Louis Saha. After an ineffectual first half the Nigeria striker got Everton, 2-0 down at the break, back into the match early in the second period at White Hart Lane when, following a crner, he capitalised on hesistancy between Gomes and Verdran Corluka to poke the ball in.
PIERRE WEBO (Real Mallorca
Cameroon striker Pierre Webo came off the substitutes bench to set up Real Mallorca’s winning goal in a 2-1 at Valladolid as they climbed above Deportivo La Coruna into fifth.
Webo, 28, came on as a 78th minute substitute and took just five minutes to have an impact setting up Julio Alvarez for the 83rd minute winner as Mallorca recorded only their second away win of the season.
KOFFI ROMARIC (Sevilla)
Ivory Coast international Romaric had a night to forget as he picked up a straight red card in Sevilla’s 0-0 home draw with Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.
Midfielder Romaric, 26, was last man when he lost possession close to the penalty area and decided to haul down Ander Iturraspe just outside the box and was rightly given his marching orders.
SAMUEL ETO’O (Inter Milan)
The Cameroon forward was dropped to the bench to give him a rest after his athletic exploits in recent matches. Eto’o came on 18 minutes from time for Macedonian Goran Pandev but had little time to impress as Inter held on to a 3-2 victory that kept them four points clear at the top of Serie A.
MOHAMED SISSOKO (Jventus)
The Mali midfielder was his typical robust self in the Juventus midfield but couldn’t prevent the Turin giants from falling to a 2-0 home defeat to Palermo and dropping out of the Champions League places. Sissoko was busy in midfield as Juve controlled the first half and after the break, as Palermo came into the match he had to be alert to end an attacking foray from Edison Cavani when Juve were caught on the break. He ended the game with a yellow card, though, having been booked 15 minutes from time for a foul.
ASAMOAH GYAN (Rennes)
The Ghana striker had a night to forget on Saturday as he was sent off after the final whistle following his side’s 3-1 defeat at Montpellier. Gyan was shown a straight red card for aiming a headbutt at the shoulder of Montpellier’s Argentine playmaker Alberto Costa. The 24-year-old former Udinese star had played a part in Rennes’ only goal of the evening, flicking on a high ball with his head for Jimmy Briand to score in the 70th minute.
SIGAMARY DIARRA (Lorient)
Malian forward Diarra scored the only goal of the game as Lorient defeated his former club Sochaux on Saturday to secure their third league win of 2010 and bounce back from a 1-0 defeat at struggling Nice. Diarra’s decisive contribution arrived in the 34th minute when he met Morgan Amalfitano’s right-wing cross with a powerful header. It was the 26-year-old’s third league goal of the season and his first since mid-October.
STEPHANE MBIA (Marseille)
Cameroon international defensive midfielder was outstanding in the ‘clasico’ clash on Sunday between ailing Paris Saint Germain and Marseille. Admittedly he had little to deal with from the PSG duo up front but he nevertheless displayed coolheadedness and a commanding performance in the centre of defence which belies his 23 years.
SOULEYMAN CAMARA (Montpellier)
The Senegalese striker grabbed his second goal of the month’s action in the 3-1 victory over Rennes. His goal proved to be decisive in killing off Rennes’ hopes of even a point as he produced a sublime lob to beat the goalkeeper eight minutes from time and place Montpellier alongside Bordeaux at the top of the table on 51 points, although they have played two more games.