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13 Aug 2007 11:12
Nigerian striker Obafemi Martins scored a vital brace, including a spectacular overhead kick, as Newcastle United opened their English Premier League campaign with a 3-1 win at Bolton Wanderers.
Martins’s athletic strike was the eye-catching highlight of a busy and successful weekend for African players as the leading European soccer leagues began their seasons.
The striker’s first goal was sublime. He controlled James Milner’s cross on his chest with his back towards goal, before spinning and executing a perfect overhead kick high into the net to make it 2-0 after 21 minutes.
The former Inter Milan frontman scored his second six minutes later with a deflected long-range strike and Bolton could manage only a solitary consolation from French striker Nicolas Anelka.
Elsewhere in the English league, it was an excellent day for Portsmouth’s African duo Benjani Mwaruwari and John Utaka.
Both were on the score-sheet as Pompey began the season with a 2-2 draw at newly-promoted Derby County.
After 27 minutes Zimbabwean Benjani latched onto a pass from England’s David Nugent to equalise Matt Oakley’s early opener.
Then Utaka, an impressive new arrival, appeared to win the game for Portsmouth when the Nigerian drove home powerfully with just seven minutes remaining.
But Derby struck back immediately to snatch a point through an Andy Todd diving header.
Ghana’s Michael Essien started the new season with Chelsea’s winning goal in a 3-2 win over promoted Birmingham City in an entertaining game at Stamford Bridge.
Young Nigerian striker Victor Anichebe scored a vital goal for Everton as they started their season with a 2-1 win at home to Wigan Athletic.
The 19-year-old from Lagos calmly converted from an Andrew Johnson through-ball with 15 minutes remaining.
The German Bundesliga got under way on Friday night, but the first major African contribution came the following day when VfL Bochum hosted Werder Bremen.
Bremen were without eight first-team players but they will still be disappointed to have surrendered a two-goal lead in a 2-2 draw.
Brazilian playmaker Diego scored Bremen’s first from the penalty spot before Ivorian striker Boubacar Sanogo doubled the advantage with a curling free-kick in first half stoppage time.
Manasseh Isiaku was on target twice for MSV Duisburg as they won 3-1 at Borussia Dortmund.
The Nigerian struck either side of Mihai Tararache’s 62nd minute penalty to make sure promoted Duisburg kicked off their season in style with their first win at Dortmund for 35 years.
In France, a double from Algerian striker Rafih Saifi helped FC Lorient to a 2-1 win over Monaco in the second round of Ligue 1 fixtures on Saturday.
Also on Saturday, St Etienne’s all-African strikeforce powered them to a victory over Valenciennes.
A goal from Batefimbi Gomis of Senegal and two from Guinea’s Pascal Feindouno shot Les Verts to their first win of the season.
On Sunday, a late goal from Senegal striker Momar N’Diaye was not enough to save Metz from a home defeat against Lille.
N’Diaye looked to have earned a share of the points when his deflected effort made it 1-1 in the 84th minute but there was still time for Croatian midfielder Marko Maric to steal the win for the visitors.
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