Mendy, Mane clash in tense AFCON 'teaser', Mahrez downs Arsenal

In Africans Abroad this week, Senegal teammates Edouard Mendy and Sadio Mane collided in an Africa Cup of Nations teaser as Chelsea and Liverpool drew at Stamford Bridge, while Riyad Mahrez headed to the tournament in Cameroon with a goal as Manchester City dispatched Arsenal.

The blockbuster meeting between Chelsea and Liverpool on Sunday afternoon was an early 2022 thriller, and an early glimpse at some of the players set to be key protagonists at the AFCON.

Both Mane and Mohamed Salah -- talismans for Senegal and Egypt respectively -- got on the scoresheet, with the former opening the scoring in the ninth minute when he capitalised on an error by Trevor Chalobah and found himself face to face with international teammate Mendy.

Demonstrating unerring calm for a player who hadn't previously scored in nine matches, Mane rounded his compatriot and finished beyond the flailing Cesar Azpilicueta in the goalmouth.

Thomas Tuchel had earlier reacted furiously on the touchline when Mane evaded punishment for an elbow on Azpilicueta, and indeed, the Senegal superstar was potentially fortunate to be on the pitch after both the officials and VAR missed a raised arm that could have been deemed violent conduct.

"I hate to say it because I love Mane and he is a nice guy and a top player, but it is a red card," Tuchel told Sky Sports after the match.

"The elbow is in the face," he added. "It doesn't matter if you do this after 20 seconds or 20 minutes."

Yet Mane remained on the pitch, and helped Liverpool draw first blood -- the highlight of a particularly lively showing from the forward.

Next, it was Salah's turn. The North African had already gone close in the sixth minute following fine interplay with Mane -- who again capitalised on a Trevor Chalobah error -- but 20 minutes later, there was no stopping him.

He collected and killed a forward ball from Trent Alexander-Arnold with a magnificent touch, then flummoxed Marcos Alonso with a scintillating shimmy, before firing home at Mendy's near post. Salah clearly enjoys playing against Chelsea.

This was his fourth goal against his former employers, with only Kevin De Bruyne matching Salah's haul having once been on the books of the Stamford Bridge heavyweights.

The Egyptian appears to relish being back in the capital; he's had a hand in 14 goals in his last 14 matches in London - and his effort here means he overtakes Steven Gerrard as Liverpool's all-time top PL scorer in the capital.

Mendy had earlier saved well from Salah, but he had Chalobah to thank before half time when the Anglo-Sierra Leonean stopper denied the North African - clearly in the mood for more goals - from breaking through.

All three looked sharp ahead of their international challenges -- and potentially career-shaping fixtures -- to come, while Naby Keita was also introduced for the final 20 minutes as Liverpool looked to restore some control of the midfield.

His Guinea side will come up against Mane, Mendy and Senegal in their second AFCON group game on January 14.

Hakim Ziyech, who has not been called up by Morocco after his discipline and attitude were questioned by head coach Vahid Halilhodzic, was an unused substitute for the Blues, who remain in second place, 10 points behind Manchester City.

City may be sitting pretty at the top of the table, but they will lose Mahrez to AFCON, and rarely would his loss be more keenly felt. Pep Guardiola has a wealth of options at his disposal, but it's the Algerian who has netted in each of his last five appearances for the reigning champions.

It's the best scoring run of his career since arriving in English football, and even though his effort against Arsenal was 'just' a penalty -- finishing from the spot after Granit Xhaka had pulled Bernardo Silva's shirt in the box -- it's testament to the influence that the 30-year-old is having for the champions elect.

He's City's top scorer this season [12] and has been more valuable than anyone as critics of the club's inability to sign an out-and-out striker during the summer have been silenced.

While Rodri bagged a late winner for City, there were encouraging signs from Arsenal's performance, not least Thomas Partey in the centre of midfield.

He was clearly comfortable and enjoying himself at the Emirates Stadium, taking more touches than any other home player, creating one goalscoring opportunity and completing five successful dribbles -- more than any other player on the pitch.

Defensively, he was also influential, registering four successful tackles -- more than any other Arsenal player -- and Ghana will be desperate for *this* Partey to show up and run the show for the Black Stars in Cameroon.

Also in the Prem, Maxwel Cornet signed off the Nations Cup with a goal in Burnley's 3-1 defeat at Leeds United, while Yoane Wissa, who won't be going to the tournament, netted Brentford's equaliser in their 2-1 victory over Aston Villa.

Michael Olise came off the bench to register in Crystal Palace's 3-2 defeat by West Ham United, as the Eagles failed in their valiant comeback attempt, with the youngster becoming the first player from the Londoners to score and assist from the bench in a Prem game.

In Spain, Senegal's Boulaye Dia opened the scoring for Villarreal in their 5-0 thumping of Levante to extend their winning run to four matches.

It's the longest such run in La Liga, and Dia also followed up on his eighth-minute opener by setting up Manu Trigueros for the Yellow Submarine's fourth in the 74th minute.

The West African took his time to get started in the Spanish top flight after signing from Stade de Reims -- failing to net until late October -- but has now had a hand in five goals in his last two matches as he sharpens up before the AFCON.