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Salah, Aubameyang pure class in Premier League opening weekend

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Nicol: Salah could absolutely finish Prem top scorer (0:38)

Steve Nicol says he couldn't keep his eyes off Mohamed Salah in Liverpool's exciting 4-3 win vs. Leeds United. (0:38)

Africa's top players began the new Premier League season in style with a series of major contributions during the opening weekend of the 2020-21 campaign, with Mohamed Salah, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and Wilfried Zaha amongst the goals.

Salah's poignant treble

Salah, unsurprisingly, was the weekend's outstanding performer.

The Liverpool superstar netted a hat-trick as Liverpool defeated newly promoted Leeds United 4-3 in a thriller at Anfield, although the reigning champions looked unduly ruffled by Marcelo Bielsa's side.

Salah opened the scoring after just four minutes on Saturday, converting a penalty beyond Illan Meslier after Robin Koch was adjudged to have blocked an effort from the Egyptian with his arm.

The goal ensures that Salah became the first Liverpool player to net on the opening day of the season in four consecutive Premier League campaigns, having opened his account on his Reds league debut in Watford in 2017 before subsequent strikes against West Ham United and Norwich City.

This, however, was his best opening-day performance yet, as he would nab two more goals -- slamming home into the corner from range, before another penalty, two minutes from time, after Rodrigo had tripped Fabinho -- as Liverpool began their title defence with a win.

There was a poignancy to Salah's performance, as he celebrated his hat-trick with a goal celebration that paid tribute to his former international teammate Moamen Zakaria.

The Al-Ahly wideman, who featured alongside Salah in Egypt's successful qualifying campaign for the 2018 World Cup, was diagnosed with ALS -- also referred to as motor neurone disease or Lou Gehrig's disease -- last month.

After scoring his third, Salah emulated Zakaria's favoured celebration by covering his ears and sticking out his tongue in tribute to his international colleague.

Sadio Mane also impressed on Liverpool's left flank, although his delicious chipped effort over Meslier was ruled out after Andy Robertson was deemed to have strayed offside, while Naby Keita and Joel Matip were also involved.

Jurgen Klopp will hope that Salah's performance sets the tone for the Reds' campaign.

"He's a very special player, a very, very special player," the German coach told journalists per the Independent. "The numbers tell the story a little bit, but all the rest you probably don't know.

"Today's a very good example as he put three more goals on his score list, but the performance all-round was absolutely exceptional in a game like this.

"He deserved the goals, 100 per cent. Two were penalties, one was a sensational finish, but he deserved these goals because he was constantly present, causing the opponent massive problems."

No Liverpool player has scored a hat-trick on the opening day since John Aldridge against Charlton Athletic 32 years ago, although in the 1988-89 campaign.

Aubameyang starts as he means to go on

The Gunners haven't been talked about as potential champions during the pre-season build-up, but there was much to admire about the way they dispatched Fulham 3-0 away in their season opener on Saturday.

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Aubameyang is still to sign a new deal at the Emirates Stadium, but appears increasingly likely to remain at the club, and netted the visitors' third just before the hour mark when he sent a fine effort into the far corner after being played in by debutant Willian.

The former Chelsea man was arguably Arsenal's star performer on the day, and there's already chemistry with Aubameyang. It represents yet another weapon for this increasingly captivating Gunners side.

Auba, like Salah, has an impressive record on the opening day of the season, having scored the winner away at Newcastle on matchday one of the 2019-20 campaign, and only Robert Pires has previously managed to score on consecutive opening gameweeks for the North Londoners.

Mohamed Elneny, following on from his impressive display against Liverpool in the Community Shield, was handed a start alongside Granit Xhaka in the centre of the midfield, with Dani Ceballos on the bench.

The Egyptian, making his first league start for the club since playing in the 3-1 victory at Burnley in May 2019, was a solid presence in the heart of the park, completing 95.4 percent of his passes and making more interceptions (five) than any other player on the pitch.

It remains to be seen if this is the beginning of a new start for the 28-year-old at the club, but expect him to be given further opportunities to prove his worth.

Nicolas Pepe and Eddie Nketiah were introduced from the bench with the game already won, and the latter's most noteworthy contribution to the day was his scuffle with Ceballos during the warm-up.

For Fulham, Neeskens Kebano and Josh Onomah started, as they get a second bite of the cherry as far as the Premier League is concerned; both will need to improve if they're to demonstrate they're top flight players.

Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa -- loaned to Villarreal and linked to Real Madrid last season -- played the final half an hour and demonstrated some of the ball-carrying qualities and tenacity that underpinned his successful season in Spain.

Zaha finds the net as exit rumours linger

Zaha was the third African player to find the net during the opening weekend of the season, when he scored the 13th-minute winner in Crystal Palace's 1-0 victory over Southampton.

Last season, the wideman endured a sluggish start to the campaign in the aftermath of his failed move to Arsenal, but here he started strongly, finishing from close range at the back post after being set up by Andros Townsend.

He only scored four in the entirety of the 2019-20 season, and could have come close to matching that tally against an embattled Saints side.

One effort was skewered wide, despite finding himself through on goal, while the Ivorian forward also had another strike ruled out for offside by VAR during an afternoon in which he served a reminder of his enduring quality.

"[Zaha] thinks it would be nice if a club did come in and pay that market price," Palace coach Roy Hodgson told journalists after the match per BBC Sport. "Let's see what transpires, hopefully nothing.

"I'm enjoying working with Wilf and I'm expecting him to know that we can't let him go until someone comes in and wants to buy him."

Beyond his missed chances, the 27-year-old also mis-controlled the ball on five occasions, behind only Jordan Ayew, and it's clear to see the reasons why -- considering the Eagles' asking price -- he remains at Selhurst Park.

Zaha's potential successor, 22-year-old Eberechi Eze, made his Premier League debut following his arrival from Queens Park Rangers. The young Nigerian completed two successful dribbles during his 10-minute cameo, having come on for Ghana's Jeffrey Schlupp.