Africans Abroad: Odion Ighalo and Nicolas Pepe take centre stage in FA Cup quarters

Odion Ighalo and Nicolas Pepe made decisive interventions in the FA Cup quarterfinals this weekend, playing crucial roles as Manchester United and Arsenal advanced past Norwich City and Sheffield United respectively.

In Serie A, Victor Moses came off the bench with a critical assist as Internazionale came from behind to defeat Parma, while Achraf Hakimi's time at Borussia Dortmund ended in humiliation as they were routed 4-0 by Hoffenheim.

Ighalo equals near-century-long United record

Since signing for United on loan at the end of the January transfer window, Ighalo has struggled to make his mark in the Premier League, playing just 83 minutes across six substitute appearances and failing to find the net for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side.

However, there's no doubting his impact for the Red Devils in cup competitions, where he extended his scoring run to five goals in four starts on Saturday with the opener in United's FA Cup quarter-final victory over Norwich City.

Todd Cantwell equalised for the Canaries with an effort from range to take the tie to extra time, but Harry Maguire's late effort as Norwich failed to clear their lines saved United from the anguish of a penalty shootout and sent them to the semis.

Ighalo's goal was a pure poacher's effort, as he found space between the defenders, reacted quickest as Juan Mata's pass deflected off Max Aarons, and swivelled to dupe Tim Krul with a delicious flicked finish with the outside of his foot.

There are parallels with the great Henrik Larsson's late-career cameo at United and Shanghai Shenhua loanee Ighalo's recent impact at the same club.

In scoring against Norwich, he became the first United player in 95 years to score in each of his first four starts with the club, equalling the record set by Jimmy Hanson in 1925.

Even Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who scored in his first three competitive starts for United, didn't emulate Hanson's record, but the former Nigeria frontman has now netted five across showings against Club Brugge, Derby County, LASK and now Norwich.

"Odion gives me a chance to rotate," Solskjaer told BBC Sport in the immediate aftermath of the 2-1 victory. "He's a proven goalscorer and played his part in both goals.

"He's a great person to have around the dressing room too."

Few would begrudge Ighalo success at United after the feel-good story of his arrival -- when the player revealed his boyhood desire to represent the club -- the coronavirus outbreak in China delaying his arrival, and the global COVID-19 pandemic raising concerns that his time at the club would be cut short.

His ambition now must surely be to translate his goalscoring form in cup competitions to the Premier League, and United's quest for Champions League qualification, when they face Brighton & Hove Albion on Tuesday.

Pepe proves shining light for Arsenal... again

It's been a testing return to action for the Gunners following the pandemic-enforced suspension, with Mikel Arteta's side losing the first two of their opening fixtures back.

However, they've begun to turn things around in their last two matches, defeating Southampton 2-0 away on Thursday before downing Sheffield United 2-1 to set up an FA Cup semi-final showdown with Manchester City.

While Dani Ceballos was the hero with a late winner to deny the Blades, it was Pepe who had fired the Londoners ahead when he struck a 25th-minute penalty after Alex Lacazette had been brought down by Chris Basham.

With regular penalty-taker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on the bench, wideman Pepe didn't break a sweat as he dispatched the spotkick beyond Dean Henderson, maintaining his goalscoring form after opening the scoring in the recent defeat by Brighton.

Pepe has converted both of the penalties he's taken this season, and intriguingly, both the wideman and Arsenal have now scored 12 of their last 13 penalties in all competitions. The £72 million man's showing prompted praise from Arteta.

"The performance was good and I like what Nicolas Pepe did," he told journalists after the match. "He's a player with incredible potential."

The Spanish coach will also be encouraged by what he saw from youngsters Eddie Nketiah and Bukayo Saka who, undaunted by David McGoldrick's late equaliser, swept up the field before setting up Ceballos for the late winner.

Also in the FA Cup, Riyad Mahrez played 64 minutes as Manchester City eliminated Newcastle United away, while a commanding midfield performance by Wilfred Ndidi wasn't enough to prevent Leicester City tumbling out of the cup at the hands of Chelsea.

Moses keeps Inter's title hopes alive

With six minutes remaining of Internazionale's away game at Parma on Sunday evening, Antonio Conte's side were beginning to come to terms with the end of their faint title aspirations.

Trailing 1-0 after Gervinho's fine solo opener, and slowly unravelling -- as demonstrated by reserve keeper Tommaso Berni being dismissed from the bench for dissent -- the Nerazzurri were set to be 11 points off leaders Juventus with 10 games to play.

However, with only a few minutes minutes left on the clock, Stefan de Vrij headed beyond Luigi Sepe from a corner, before substitutes Moses and Alessandro Bastoni combined for an 89th-minute winner, as the former Nigeria wideman delivered an excellent cross for his teammate to secure all three points.

It's the kind of late turnaround that could spur Inter on to end the season strongly, particularly if they can overcome the fragility that has threatened to entirely derail their promising title campaign.

They remain in third, eight points behind the leaders, but will be aware that the reigning champions have some tough fixtures ahead of them during the title run-in.

Elsewhere in Italy, Jeremie Boga scored twice for Sassuolo as they secured a 3-3 draw with Hellas Verona in a topsy-turvy encounter, while Musa Barrow converted a second-half penalty in Bologna's 2-1 win at Sampdoria.

Hakimi bows out with a whimper

Until recently, Morocco's Hakimi would surely have been dreaming that his loan spell at Borussia Dortmund would end with a Bundesliga winner's medal.

He could have never have imagined that BVB, their title challenge long since over, would end the campaign with a 4-0 drubbing by Andrej Kramaric-inspired Hoffeheim at the Westfalenstadion.

After his 2018-19 campaign at the club -- his first after signing on loan from Real Madrid -- was curtailed due to injury, it was another tough ending for the wideman, who has nonetheless been one of the league's best players this term.

Hakimi was introduced at half-time, with Dortmund already two goals down, but as transfer rumours of an impending move to Inter swirl, he failed to breathe life into BVB's season finale.

The Moroccan ends the campaign with 10 assists -- sixth highest in the division -- and has certainly left his mark on the German game, even if he departs empty-handed.

Nigerian duo Anthony Ujah and Suleiman Abdullahi scored as Union Berlin won 3-0 to condemn Fortuna Dusseldorf to relegation, while Tunisia's Mohamed Drager scored for already relegated Paderborn as they bowed out of the Bundesliga with a 3-2 loss at Eintracht Frankfurt.