Iwobi scorned, Osimhen swamped as club football breaks for Qatar

Nigeria may not be heading to Qatar this month, but Super Eagles players were still generating headlines in Europe's biggest leagues as club football signed off for the World Cup.

While Victor Osimhen -- arguably Africa's outstanding performer in Europe so far this season -- was swamped by adoring Napoli fans as he attempted to leave the stadium following yet another decisive contribution.

Osimhen ensured that Napoli headed into the World Cup break with an eight-point lead at the top of Italy's Serie A after setting them up for a 3-2 victory against Udinese.

The Nigeria forward found a gap between the visiting centre-backs to head home from inside the six-yard box after being picked out by Eljif Elmas in the 15th minute.

He was a menace, playing a part in the build-up to Napoli's second goal -- a superb curling effort from Piotr Zielinski -- as he turned one defender, held off another, and laid the ball off to Hirving Lozano to set up the Poland international as the hosts doubled their lead.

Osimhen's decoy run also helped Elmas find some space for Napoli's third, with the Macedonian midfielder being picked out by Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa.

"I think this game was really intense, especially the second half," Osimhen told DAZN. "We played as a team to get the three points, the most important thing is to keep going and remember no game is easy, so we did great.

"I'm happy to contribute and we want to keep the momentum going."

Last weekend, Osimhen became Nigeria's all-time record scorer in Serie A, and his latest goal has taken him up to 33 top flight strikes -- two beyond Simy Nwankwo.

The 23-year-old Osimhen lasted the full 90 minutes, only for the Nigeria Football Federation to confirm on Monday that the striker has picked up an injury that has ruled him out of the Super Eagles' friendly against Portugal on Thursday.

He'll be replaced in the squad by Cremonese striker Cyriel Dessers, who has yet another opportunity to impress and get his stuttering international career off the ground.

There were few indications that Osimhen was hurt when footage caught him leaving the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona, with fans flooding the striker with selfie and interview requests.

The striker politely responded to the Napoli public, who in Osimhen, have found a talisman to give them genuine belief that a Scudetto could be on the horizon. They are without an Italian title since 1990, when Diego Maradona inspired the Partenopei to their second Serie A crown.

Osimhen has now moved up to nine league goals for the season, and while he won't be starring at the World Cup, expect the forward to be one of the most sought-after stars in the world game during 2023.

While Osimhen was being revered by his adoring Naples public, the same cannot be said for Iwobi this weekend, despite the good will the ex-Arsenal man has built with Everton fans this season.

A revelation under Frank Lampard, Iwobi actually wasn't one of the Toffees' poorer performers as the Merseysiders were utterly outclassed by Bournemouth on Saturday. With Dominic Solanke lively and inventive in attack, the Cherries ran out 3-0 winners, handing Everton their third consecutive defeat.

Iwobi and some of his teammates attempted to console the visiting supporters at the end of the contest, although the gesture appeared to be -- quite literally -- thrown back in his face as the fans seemed to reject the Nigerian's offer of his jersey and hurled it back at him.

Lampard and Jordan Pickford attempted to intervene to calm the situation, but the Everton fans had already made their feelings known.

It was a sorry way for the first part of Iwobi's season to end considering the immense progress he's made under Lampard, where the 26-year-old has become an integral part of a (largely) functioning side having previously struggled to find his place at Goodison Park.

Also in the Premier League, it was a frustrating sign-off for Mohamed Salah, Wilfried Zaha and Riyad Mahrez, all of whom will be watching the World Cup on TV over the next month after Egypt, the Ivory Coast, and Algeria's failure to qualify.

Liverpool appear to be returning to something approaching top form, following up their victory over Tottenham Hotspur by defeating Southampton, although Salah struggled to hit the heights of his teammates as the troubled Saints were dispatched.

He missed several key chances in the Reds' 3-1 triumph, only hitting the target with two of his four efforts, and is struggling to rediscover the venom he demonstrated against Spurs, Napoli and Ajax in recent fixtures.

Over at the City Ground, Zaha had an even better opportunity than Salah to sign off with a goal when he stepped up to convert from the penalty spot after he was fouled by Nottingham Forest skipper Joe Worrall.

Despite sending Dean Henderson the wrong way, Zaha missed the target entirely with his spot kick, with Crystal Palace failing to capitalise on an opportunity to take a first half lead.

It was the second consecutive penalty the 30-year-old has missed -- and the fifth of his last eight -- with only Manchester City and Manchester United missing more spot kicks than Palace since the start of 2013.

As has been the case on too many occasions over the last year, Zaha's lack of composure and precision at a critical moment let him down, although while other managers would take him off penalty duties, Patrick Vieira appears inclined to keep faith with his skipper.

Finally, to Mahrez, who didn't even get on the pitch as Manchester City sought a winner -- and then an equaliser -- at home against Brentford.

It's not the first time that Pep Guardiola has opted not to use his full complement of substitutions, despite having last year's top scorer Mahrez on the bench, with the Algerian similarly watching on, unused, in August as City used only one substitute in their 3-3 draw at Newcastle.

The 31-year-old hasn't got off the City bench since October 22, and the 3-1 victory over Brighton, with Guardiola not turning to Mahrez in any of the last three league games. It's a situation that is unlikely to be sustainable for the winger should it persist when the Premier League resumes.