• Nigerian Kids On The Prowl In Europe
Wonderkid, Gift Orban, struck four goals during 40 second-half minutes in the Belgium top flight last weekend, in a remarkable showing that proved Victor Osimhen is not the only Nigerian hotshot giving defenders sleepless nights this season, writes ESPN.
Elsewhere, another potential Super Eagles forward, Folarin Balogun, made true his claim that he’s among Ligue 1’s best attackers with yet another goal in the French top tier, although Mohamed Salah and his team was defeated by Burnley only a week after he’d torn Manchester United to shreds at Anfield.
Napoli’s Osimhen has been the undisputed African goal king of the season, having netted a whopping 19 goals in 22 Serie A outings so far this campaign.
However, even he couldn’t claim to have achieved compatriot Orban’s sensational feat this weekend, as the 20-year-old registered four goals in the second half as Gent demolished Zulte Waregem 6-2 in the Belgian Pro League.
Visiting Gent were leading 2-1 when Orban’s goal rush began in the 53rd minute, with the young attacker — who only arrived in Belgium earlier this year — proceeding to score four goals before the 83rd minute, including a thumping free kick.
He could have even had a fifth, only for another effort to be ruled out for offside.
Orban took seven shots during the course of the match, with five attempts on target and, ultimately, four of them beating beleaguered Sammy Bossut, testament to his immense efficiency in front of goal.
Raised in Togo, the youngster won the Norwegian second-tier Golden Boot and Young Player of the Year award last season, before quitting Stabaek for Gent on transfer deadline day.
After 19 goals in 24 outings for his previous club in all competitions not to mention promotion to the top flight, Orban followed in Osimhen’s footsteps by moving to Belgium.
He now already has seven goals in five Pro League outings since arriving at Gent sending them to the brink of the Championship playoffs, a far better goals-to-games ratio than Osimhen managed during his season-long loan at Sporting Charleroi in 2018-19.
Since making his debut on February 11, Orban has averaged a goal every 61 minutes of league action with only Haris Tabakovic of Austria Vienna and Paris Saint-Germain superstar Kylian Mbappe scoring more regularly during that period of all players in the top 10 European leagues.
Not since 2000, and Mouscron’s Nenad Jestrovic, has a player scored seven goals in his first five matches in the Belgian league, and while Orban is already developing something of a reputation for individualism, his head coach, Hein Vanhaezebrouck is still focusing on the upside of the in-form goal-getter.
“I didn’t see him the first half, but he doesn’t have to be in the match to score out of the blue each time,” he said, as per Sporza. “He saved us from a difficult game.
“Things can always improve, he still has some conditioning work ahead of him…and has to learn to celebrate with the team.”
Orban is quickly taking the mantle of Paul Onuachu, another Nigerian who scored relentlessly in Belgium before moving to Southampton in January, and may yet replace him in the Super Eagles squad when Jose Peseiro announces his choices to face Guinea-Bissau in the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations qualifying double-header.
One player, who definitely will be included in the squad is Osimhen himself, even though the forward has now gone two games without scoring for the first time since September after failing to net in Napoli’s 2-0 victory over Atalanta on Saturday.
Despite not scoring, he was responsible for opening the scoring, setting up his fellow ‘goal twin’ Khvicha Kvaratskhelia with a sumptuous defence-splitting pass just before the hour mark.
It’s no secret these days that Osimhen has become a tremendously consistent goal scorer, but the technique, vision and composure required to thread Kvaratskhelia through set him apart as a truly multi-dimensional frontman.
There was some fighting talk from Arsenal loanee Balogun ahead of Stade de Reims’ trip to AS Monaco on Sunday, particularly considering he’d scored just once in his previous six games for the club of the Champagne region.
However, ahead of the match, Balogun insisted that he wasn’t surprised to be ranking among the top goal scorers in Ligue 1.
“(This season) is not a surprise,” he told canal+, “because I have a lot of belief in myself, I know the level I’m capable of and I like to prove it.
“The numbers I’ve been putting up might surprise people, but not me. I’ve always been one of the top scorers.
“It’s just a case of showing people around the world what I’m capable of.”
People are noticing, not least ex-Gunners striker, Olivier Giroud, who sent a video message to the young striker to encourage him ahead of the Monaco game.
“I remember you when you played for the youth teams in Arsenal,” the AC Milan forward said. “I’m very happy for you and you deserve to be there.”
Balogun seems to have taken the encouragement to heart when he settled Sunday’s fixture after meeting Alexis Flips’ through ball before firing beyond Alexander Nubel, ending his mini goal drought in some style.
Reims are now unbeaten in 19 matches, while Balogun’s 16th goal of the season takes him up to joint third in the goal scoring charts.
Only Jonathan David and Mbappe both on 19 goals are ahead of the 21-year-old in the race for the Golden Boot.