Nigerian stars Awoniyi, Osimhen, Iwobi shine on big stages

Are there any excuses for Liverpool's poor form? (1:50)

Gab Marcotti and Don Hutchison discuss Liverpool's form after their loss to Nottingham Forest. (1:50)

Nigeria strikers let their goals do the talking last weekend, with Taiwo Awoniyi and Victor Osimhen silencing Liverpool and Jose Mourinho respectively, and clearly no African nation boasts the firepower of the Super Eagles at the moment.

Elsewhere, Baba Rahman made an encouraging return to action for Reading in the English League Championship, while Brian Brobbey starred as Ajax Amsterdam extended their lead atop the Dutch Eredivise table.

Awoniyi has not enjoyed an easy start to life at Nottingham Forest after his £17 million move from Union Berlin, for whom he scored 15 goals in the German Bundesliga last term. He had not previously played in the English Premier League, nor demonstrated that he could maintain fine goalscoring form beyond a single season, and he had largely struggled to convince for a Forest team in transition after a raft of summer signings.

His goal against Liverpool this weekend -- firing home from close range after his initial effort had cannoned back off the post -- was only his third in nine Premier League outings, yet there was enough about his performance, and Forest's unlikely victory, to fuel optimism that the Midlanders could beat the drop.

Awoniyi was a menace for Liverpool's defenders throughout the contest, and he excelled with his awkward and physical -- if a little clumsy -- forward play. He halted Joe Gomez's recent renaissance with his directness and intensity of motion, the England defender ultimately receiving a booking as he crossed the line of legality in attempting to deny his former teammate.

Awoniyi's frustrated, forgettable history at Liverpool made his 55th-minute winner all the more sweet.

The striker arrived on Merseyside directly from the Imperial Soccer Academy in Nigeria, having been scouted by ex-Super Eagles midfielder Seyi Olofinjana.

It was a dream move for the teenager, but he failed to make a senior appearance in six years at the club. Instead, he found his gametime on loan in Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium before he was sold permanently in 2021, with the explanation that he'd struggle to get a work permit in the U.K. rather generously overshadowing the relative mediocrity of his development over in Europe.

The goal and the final whistle were overpoweringly emotional moments for Awoniyi, who celebrated as though Forest had already secured their safety before explaining what it meant for him to score against the club that had given him his big break.

"To score against Liverpool is a day I will never forget," the striker said.

"I will always to be grateful to Liverpool for scouting me from Nigeria and scoring against them is amazing.

"This kind of game we have to look back on it and build on it. The game is over and now we concentrate on the next one.

"For me I'm happy but the most important thing is the three points. Now we have to build on it."

For Jurgen Klopp, not always magnanimous in defeat, there was recognition of the road Awoniyi has travelled.

"He had a sensational development," Klopp said. "He has arrived where he belongs and I am happy for him... but not today so much."

Forest remain bottom of the Premier League table, but their triumph against an out-of-sorts Liverpool side leaves them only two points behind neighbours Leicester City in 17th.

Head coach Steve Cooper will also be delighted with the performances of two of his other African recruits, with Serge Aurier and Cheikhou Kouyate both excelling.

No player in the Premier League registered more tackles than Aurier at the weekend, with the Ivory Coast captain making seven successful retrievals during the course of the contest.

This was a mature, controlled and disciplined display from Aurier -- a far cry from some of his rash outings while serving Tottenham Hotspur.

Kouyate, operating in a midfield three, was similarly effective; he created a match-high three goalscoring opportunities and produced several vital defensive contributions.

Forest will hope to build on this performance, with the prospect of greater opportunity to work together on the training ground during the World Cup break.

Liverpool, and a jaded Mohamed Salah, perhaps might enjoy the pause and a chance to refresh during the World Cup break.

The Egypt attacker forced two saves from Dean Henderson in the Forest goal, but largely continued his recent run of anonymous and exasperating form.

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In Italy's Serie A, Osimhen and Mourinho came up against one another in Rome for the first time since October 2021, when the Portuguese coach had the last laugh in congratulating himself for having successfully neutralised the Napoli man.

"The game had a lot of transitions in it," Mourinho said after the goalless draw. "They tried to play directly with Osimhen and then bring others into play around him.

"I liked the organisation and the way we controlled Osimhen's attempts to get into space because controlling him is far from easy."

Faint praise for the Nigerian, one year ago, but ultimately the old master got the better of the Super Eagles frontman on that occasion.

Fast-forward one year, and it's a very different story -- not least because Napoli are a different force, having headed into the Derby del Sole on a 10-game winning streak.

Osimhen, fit again, scored the goal that made it 11 straight victories when he evaded the attentions of Chris Smalling and, unfazed by the tight angle, slammed home a thunderous half-volley as the contest appeared to be heading towards another goalless draw.

Mourinho lost his cool during a fractious finale before recovering his composure in time to praise Osimhen for getting the better of his side.

"I look at the half-opportunities, and you have to transform those into opportunities -- as Osimhen did," Mourinho said. "We have to be more decisive, it's the players who make the difference. I expected more, I expected that we could have scored as Osimhen did, but in those few situations, we weren't able to exploit them."

Slightly overshadowed by the aforementioned duo, Alex Iwobi maintained his excellent recent form with two more assists as Everton dispatched Crystal Palace 3-0 at Goodison Park. Iwobi, a player reborn under Frank Lampard, has set up five goals this term; only Kevin De Bruyne has more in the top flight.

Ola Aina also ended his wait for a Serie A goal when he bagged the winner for Torino against Udinese -- he last previously scored for Torino coincidentally in a victory against the same opponents in February 2019 -- but Cyriel Dessers' penalty miss hurt Cremonese, who lost 1-0 at home to Sampdoria.

Ghana's stars in Europe's major leagues largely enjoyed a successful weekend, with Alexander Djiku's injury for Strasbourg against Toulouse the only low point of a strong collective showing.

Baba Rahman gave the Black Stars a boost as he returned to Reading's starting XI for the first time since September 23, proving influential in the Royals' attacking build-up as they won 2-0 against Bristol City.

Daniel Amartey -- still deputising for Jonny Evans -- featured for Leicester as they demolished Wolves 4-0, while Joseph Aidoo met Iago Aspas's delightful cross with an 89th-minute header as Celta Vigo held Getafe 1-1. It was the defender's first goal in Spain's LaLiga, and his first league goal since netting for Hammarby in 2016.

In the Netherlands, there was a Ghanaian hero for Ajax not named Mohammed Kudus.

With the 22-year-old still resigned to the bench, Brobbey lead the line for the Amsterdam heavyweights, representing a more conventional centre-forward option for Alfred Schreuder.

RKC Waalwijk had no answer to his swashbuckling display, as Brobbey scored two second-half goals to take the clash beyond the hosts and ensure a confident 4-2 victory for Ajax.

Ajax sit four points clear after 11 matches, and how the Ghana Football Association surely wish star man Brobbey -- a Netherlands youth international -- had already thrown his hat into the ring for the Black Stars.