Jean-Philippe Gbamin's injury nightmare ends, Simy Nwankwo eclipses Victor Osimhen

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Jean-Philippe Gbamin returned to action for the first time in 597 days on Monday, when he took to the field for Everton in their 1-1 draw with Crystal Palace, while Simy Nwankwo's double against Victor Osimhen's Napoli was another highlight from Africa's stars around Europe last weekend.

Gbamin finally makes his Toffees return

Eleven minutes, 15 touches, nine passes, one tackle.

As far as Gbamin's performance against Crystal Palace goes, there wasn't too much of note; but for the Ivory Coast utility player, it may well have been the most momentous outing of his career.

The versatile defender last previously took to the field for Everton on Aug. 17, 2019, since when he's endured a litany of injury setbacks and fitness issues to extend and extend his time on the sidelines.

He was set for a two-month absence when he was injured at the start of the 2019-20 season, but subsequent surgery necessitated a spell in the treatment room until January 2020 due to thigh trouble.

When his return date rolled around, it was decided that more surgery was required -- meaning his comeback was further delayed.

It appeared initially as though the coronavirus pandemic and the suspension of football last season might allow him to return before the end of the campaign, but a ruptured Achilles tendon in May put paid to any hopes of making a comeback during Project Restart.

That was the defender's biggest setback, and he ultimately missed the entirety of 2020 -- and the first year of Carlo Ancelotti's time as Toffees boss.

Gbamin finally returned to action on Monday, when he was introduced for James Rodriguez a full 19 months, two weeks and four days after he had last played a professional game. Indeed, he has played just three times since featuring for Ivory Coast in their 2019 Africa Cup of Nations penalty shootout elimination by Algeria and signing for Everton for £25 million.

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"I understand how difficult the process was for J.P. so far, physically and in the head, because I had the same thing in my playing career," Ancelotti told the club website ahead of the match.

"When we talk about difficulties in football it is always being aware of more serious things in the world. All of us in the game are really lucky this is our job, but when you are a footballer and you cannot play for a long time it is a hard period in your life.

"J.P., I'm sure, can return a stronger character and better player -- but we will not hurry him. The most important thing is he has the best chance to play for many years with no more serious problems."

Gbamin, still only 25, will be aware that his return to action represents merely one more step on the road to rebuilding his career.

He will also need to play his part as Everton look to end the season strongly, as they ceded two points on Monday as Palace snatched a draw when Michy Batshuayi's late equaliser cancelled out James' opener.

For now, however, it's clear that Gbamin is just glad to be back in action.

"597 days later," he wrote on his Instagram handle after the match, "happy to be back at home.

"Not the final score we wanted, but we keep going.

"Thank you to all the support and all the fans behind us and behind me...more hard work to come."

Elsewhere in the Premier League last weekend, two of the division's less-heralded African players -- Mbaye Diagne and Trezeguet -- starred in memorable victories.

Senegal striker Diagne ended his five-game goal drought for West Bromwich Albion when he beat Edouard Mendy with a fine finish in the Baggies' stunning 5-2 victory against Chelsea that breathed life into Albion's hopes of beating the drop.

West Brom manager Sam Allardyce doubtless will be delighted with Diagne's performances against the big boys -- his previous WBA goal came against Manchester United -- but the veteran coach will surely want to see his hitman maintain his form in upcoming games against Southampton and Leicester City.

Trezeguet, similarly, has not been in prolific form of late, having failed to net in 19 appearances before hitting two in quick succession off the bench against Fulham on Sunday.

Delight for the Egyptian was contrasted with heartbreak for the Cottagers' Africans, as Fulham had been leading 1-0 with 12 minutes to play before the North African's inspiration sent Villa on their way to a 3-1 win.

In the battle of the Premier League's biggest African stars on Saturday, Trezeguet's compatriot Mohamed Salah scored his 18th goal of the season as Liverpool dispatched Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's Arsenal 3-0 away.

Simy eclipses Osimhen in Super Eagles showdown

There was plenty of Nigerian interest in Serie A as Simy Nwankwo's Crotone squared off with Osimhen and Napoli.

The two Super Eagles forwards each needed a big performance for different reasons -- with Simy needing an inspired display to help boost Crotone's hopes of survival, and Osimhen requiring a strong showing to end his unimpressive run in front of goal.

Simy who stole their personal show with a brace to eclipse Osimhen's strike, but Napoli had the last laugh as they ran out 4-3 winners to boost their hopes of Champions League qualification.

Simy's double takes his tally for the season to 15 goals; he's the joint fourth-highest scorer in the Italian top flight, and only one African striker -- Salah -- has scored more goals than him in Europe's big five leagues this season.

Crotone have won just four games all season, however, and the towering hitman can do nothing about a defence that has shipped 74 goals in 29 matches. Crotone are nine points from safety with nine games to play, and even Simy's outstanding goal return -- he has eight in his past five league games -- appears unlikely to save the Sharks now.

Osimhen's goal was only his second since November, yet Napoli's win took them to 56 points -- level with reigning champions Juventus ahead of the pair's meeting on Wednesday.

The young Nigerian striker may yet end a troubled first season in Naples in style.

Also in Serie A, Franck Kessie was unable to prevent Internazionale from pulling further away from his AC Milan side as the Ivorian midfielder struck the woodwork at the death in a 1-1 home draw with Sampdoria.

The Rossoneri are eight points behind their city rivals having played one game more than their eternal rivals.

Daka writes history

Patson Daka may have endured Africa Cup of Nations heartbreak with Zambia during the international break, but the Chipolopolo striker bounced back in style with a historic display for FC Salzburg on Sunday.

The frontman scored an eight-minute hat-trick as the Austrian heavyweights saw off Sturm Graz 3-1 to give themselves an ideal start to their playoff campaign.

Daka's treble gave him two all-time records -- the earliest hat-trick scorer in a game, and the fastest hat-trick scorer - in the 109-year history of the Austrian Bundesliga, feats that will surely catch the attention of reported suitors Liverpool, Everton and Arsenal.

The frontman has now scored 28 goals in his past 26 outings for club and country since late October, and Salzburg appear firmly on course for a 15th Austrian title.