Kudus pays tribute to Atsu; Osimhen and Choupo-Moting score again

Laurens likes Ajax appointment of Heitinga (0:59)

Julien Laurens is a fan of Ajax announcing former player John Heitinga will remain in charge of the club for the rest of the season. (0:59)

Mohammed Kudus scored a wonderful free kick for Ajax Amsterdam in the Dutch Eredivisie on Sunday, but the strike was eclipsed by his moving tribute to Christian Atsu, whose death in the Turkey earthquakes was confirmed on Saturday.

Elsewhere, the relentless Victor Osimhen continued his remarkable goal-scoring run in spectacular fashion in Italy and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting boosted his hopes of securing a new contract with Bayern Munich.

The football world united in tribute to Atsu after his death was confirmed on Saturday morning. His former clubs acknowledged his passing before their fixtures, and Ghana's Kudus -- whose international career began five months after Atsu's last Black Stars outing -- paid personal tribute to his compatriot.

Kudus netted Ajax's fourth goal in their 4-0 thumping of Sparta Rotterdam, scoring with a magnificent left-footed free kick six minutes from full-time having earlier hit the woodwork with a fine effort.

Kudus, 22, celebrated by revealing a shirt with 'RIP Atsu' emblazoned on the front before dropping to his knees and raising his arms to the sky. The act of raising his shirt should have earned Kudus a booking but referee Pol van Boekel opted not to penalise the player given the reason behind his tribute.

"We have football rules but this is beyond football, this is about life and death," Kudus told ESPN after the match. "The referee told me [shirt removal] is not allowed but he understands because this is a bigger situation than football. Respect from me to the referee for that."

The young attacker also revealed how Atsu, who played in the Eredivisie for Vitesse Arnhem, had been a role model for him earlier in his career.

"That one was for Christian," he said. "Everyone knows what happened in Turkey, and I chose [to do] this because he is dear to me. It's naturally for all those families who are affected.

"I learned a lot from watching him; he also regularly gave me advice. Everything I gave today was for him. If I hadn't have scored, I would have shown the shirt after the game."

Poignantly, Kudus's late free kick mirrored Atsu's stoppage-time strike for Hatayspor in his final match; he, too, scored with a set piece to secure all three points for his team only hours before the 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit southern Turkey and Syria.

Atsu's former teammate Andre Ayew also paid an emotional tribute to the wideman, describing him as a "good and genuine guy, a selfless individual who put smiles on our faces and the many people who encountered him."

Atsu and Ayew were defeated Africa Cup of Nations finalists when Ghana lost the 2015 decider to Ivory Coast in a penalty shootout in Bata, Equatorial Guinea.

In Italy, Osimhen scored again as Napoli continued their march towards the Serie A title with a 2-0 triumph at Sassuolo.

His fellow 'goal twin', Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, opened the scoring for the Partenopei following a sensational dribble in the 12th minute, before Osimhen hit the woodwork with a low effort after cutting in from the right flank and attempting to beat the keeper with a left-footed shot in the 26th minute.

The striker was undeterred, however, and there was a sense of inevitability about his goal given he scored a hat-trick in the previous fixture between the clubs.

He secured all three points in the 33rd minute in spectacular fashion, picking up a long ball from Amir Rrahmani, forcing his way between two defenders, and slamming home at the goalkeeper's near post from a wide angle.

Questions can be asked of the Andrea Consigli, but in fairness the Sassuolo stopper could hardly have imagined that Osimhen would have attempted such an ambitious shot from such an acute angle, let alone react quickly enough to block it.

The audacious effort took Osimhen's tally to nine goals in his past seven league games -- a feat never before achieved by a Napoli player -- and his tally of 18 goals is five clear of Lautaro Martinez in the race for the Golden Boot.

With 15 matches to play, and Napoli seemingly facing little resistance in their bid to end a 33-year wait for the Scudetto, Osimhen still has some way to go to equal last season's top scorer, Ciro Immobile, who netted 27 goals for Lazio.

Three players -- Torino's Gino Rossetti, Immobile and ex-Napoli frontman Gonzalo Higuain -- share the record for most goals in a single Serie A season with 36.

Expect transfer talk linking Osimhen to Manchester United or Chelsea to intensify with each goal he scores, with Tuesday's UEFA Champions League fixture against Eintracht Frankfurt representing yet another opportunity for the Nigeria striker to demonstrate his class at the highest level.

In Germany, Choupo-Moting returned among the goals when he cancelled out Lars Stindl's opener as Bayern Munich travelled to Borussia Monchengladbach.

Choupo-Moting gave the German Bundesliga champions them hope of salvaging something from the match, after Dayot Upamecano received a controversial eighth-minute red card, but it wasn't to be for the Bavarians; goals from Jonas Hofmann and Marcus Thuram put the contest beyond Bayern before Mathys Tel pulled a goal back in a 3-2 defeat.

Choupo-Moting's close-range finish, following Alphonso Davies' cross, vindicated Julian Nagelsmann's decision to withdraw World Cup winner Thomas Muller in response to Upamecano's red card rather than take off the aging Cameroon frontman.

The goal was yet further indication of the high esteem in which 33-year-old Choupo-Moting is held at Bayern, where his league haul of eight goals this season is already his best return in a campaign since 2014-15 with Schalke 04.

Choupo-Moting will hope his form can secure him a contract extension -- his current deal ends in June -- with talks understood to be ongoing since last year.

In France, the Ligue 1 Golden Boot race is hotting up with nine players having scored between 12 and 15 goals with 14 rounds of fixtures to play.

Folarin Balogun, on loan at Stade de Reims from Arsenal, is the joint-pacesetter with 15 goals in 23 outings during his first season in France.

He had the opportunity to add to that tally on France, when he stepped up to take a penalty at Nice after having been brought down by Jean-Clair Todibo.

Nice goalkeeper Kasper Schmeiche denied him from the spot, but Balogun's speed and dribbling ability to win the penalty was further evidence of how he can wreak havoc in an opposition backline.

The ball rebounded to Balogun, but his teammate Myziane Maolida also sped to shoot at goal and he got in the young Anglo-Nigerian forward's way.

"Disappointed to not get the win but a performance we can be proud of!" Balogun wrote on Instagram following the 0-0 draw. "Sixteen games unbeaten."

Balogun is tied on 15 goals with Jonathan David of Lille and Paris Saint-Germain 's Kylian Mbappe, although all three may be watching out for Senegal international Habib Diallo.

The Strasbourg man struck twice this weekend -- once in each half -- as Racing dispatched Angers 2-1 to move out of the bottom three.

Diallo now has 12 goals in 24 outings, level with Nice's Nigerian new boy, Terem Moffi, and one ahead of Lionel Messi. Once rumoured to be a target of Chelsea, the ex-Metz frontman has scored four goals in his past three matches, and requires just one more goal to register his best ever Ligue 1 haul.