Rich Laverty takes a look at some of the weekend’s action across the country, which includes Oumar Niasse’s resurgence at Hull City, Fulham’s penalty trouble and the poetic justice served up in Tottenham Hotspur’s FA Cup quarter-final win over Millwall.
It’s almost like Oumar Niasse isn’t useless
I find it sad when a footballer comes to England (or any country) and is turned into a joke, or a meme or whatever it is these days. Oumar Niasse has been the latest to gain the ‘useless’ reputation, despite a more than solid reputation before arriving at Everton last year.
His goalscoring record in Senegal was quite remarkable (Ok, it’s Senegal) but it was also more than solid, 12 league goals in less than 30 appearances. Also, an important goal in the Russian Cup was enough for Ronald Koeman to splash out £13.5m on Niasse, but 152 minutes later he told Niasse he would have to find another club.
So he did, in January he joined Hull City and it might be one of the best bits of business of the season. He scored against Manchester United and Liverpool before two goals on Saturday earned Hull a vital three points against relegation rivals Swansea. Almost like he’s not completely useless after all, eh?
Middlesbrough’s one key strength is disappearing quickly
At one point this season it appeared Aitor Karanka should be able to keep his Middlesbrough side up based on several factors, one of which being that quite frankly the likes of Swansea and Hull were fairly awful under previous managers.
Middlesbrough were also fairly solid defensively, the likes of Ben Gibson stepped up to the top level better than expected and Boro were unbeaten in their first three games of the season. They found a way of stealing results, a 0-0 draw at the Emirates followed by home wins to nil against rivals Bournemouth, Hull and Swansea.
But since then it’s all disappeared, Boro haven’t won a game since that Swansea match in December and like Leicester pre-the-most-unpopular-sacking-ever, they’re very much in freefall. It was almost remarkable how Manchester City cut through them on Saturday and unless something changes quick, Middlesbrough are all set for the drop.
Is Slavisa Jokanovic now the least popular man in English football?
Quickly taking that position from Tim Ream of course. Poor Ryan Sessegnon, the 16-year-old left-back all set to make a real name for himself by becoming the youngest scorer of a hat-trick in football league history.
The fact he’d scored two goals at Newcastle at his age is remarkable, the fact he’s a full-back makes the feat even more staggering. He was even involved in the build-up that led to the last minute penalty, which surely Sessegnon would take?! Nope, up stepped Tim Ream seemingly at the order of manager Slavisa Jokanovic.
You could almost justify the bizarre decision had Ream scored, although many would’ve still found it odd given the game was wrapped up and a little bit of history was within touching distance. But he didn’t, the centre-back dragged his penalty wide and everyone was left thoroughly disappointed.
Whisper it quietly, but Aston Villa maybe onto something
They’re sat smack bang in the middle of the Championship, have an almost identical win/draw/loss record and even their goal difference is almost zero. You probably couldn’t have a more average season than Aston Villa, but on the sly it seems to just be coming together.
With Steve Bruce in charge and a number of seemingly impressive signings for this level, 2017 got off to a quite disastrous start with seven defeats in eight, yet somehow in recent weeks it’s clicked. Four wins from five and just one goal conceded including impressive wins over Derby County and Sheffield Wednesday.
While there is no chance of promotion or even the play-offs this season, it does at least give Villa fans some kind of hope going into next season, surely?
There does appear to be some poetic justice in the world
While the whole world and his dog was frothing over Barcelona’s quite remarkable comeback on Wednesday night, there was a slightly bitter taste in the mouth given Luis Suarez’s impact in ‘manufacturing’ the late penalty which preceded Sergi Roberto’s dramatic winner.
Without even taking into account Suarez had already been cautioned for an earlier dive, there was certainly no doubt over how far Barcelona would go to secure the victory. Then fast forward to Sunday and Millwall’s chants towards Tottenham’s Son Heung-Min, nobody can argue it wasn’t hugely satisfying to see the South Korean score a hat-trick in front of a group of fans (a minority, I accept) who were hurling certain racial slurs towards him.
Follow Rich on Twitter @RichJLaverty