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UEL/UECL: Five Nigerian stars on target as Barcelona stumble

NIGERIAN players were in goals mood on Thursday night to hand their clubs important first-leg home wins in the UEFA Europa League and the Europa Conference League.

Centre-back Leon Balogun struck Rangers’ third goal in their 3-0 win over Red Star Belgrade in the Europa League round of 16, while Kelechi Iheanacho came off the bench to score a last-minute goal in Leicester’s 2-0 win over Rennes in the UEFA Europa Conference League.

Making his 25th appearance in all competitions in a season that has been disrupted by injuries, Balogun powered home Rangers’ third goal to give them a healthy first-leg edge after James Tavernier and Alfredo Morelos had struck the first two goals.

Balogun’s compatriots and Super Eagles teammates, Joe Aribo and Calvin Bassey, also started for Rangers, with Aribo getting substituted off late in the game.

At the King Power Stadium, Iheanacho replaced Zambia striker Patson Daka in the 62nd minute before scoring with virtually the last kick of the match three minutes into added time. It was the Nigeria international’s first European goal this season and his sixth in all competitions in 29 appearances.

Wilfred Ndidi played the full game against the French side, while new Super Eagles invitee Ademola Lookman was a late substitute as Leicester City chased a second goal.

In other Europa League first-leg matches on Thursday night, in-form Barcelona slipped up at home to Galatasaray in a 0-0 draw, Sevilla edged out West Ham 1-0 in Spain and Atalanta came from behind at home to defeat Bayer Leverkusen 3-2.

In the Conference League, Nigerian forward Cyril Dessers scored one of the goals and assisted another to help Feyernoord beat Partizan Belgrade 5-2 away, as two of his compatriots struck in Slavia Prague’s victory over LASK.

New Nigerian sensation Colin Sor scored the Czech side’s first two goals in the 4-1 home win, while Super Eagles forward Peter Olayinka netted the third.

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Naija Times