With Victor Osimhen sidelined by injury, one of his Super Eagles teammates -- Samuel Chukwueze -- starred as Africa's top performer of the weekend, netting a double in a remarkable display as Villarreal defeated Real Madrid.
In the Premier League, Bertrand Traore and Jordan Ayew continued their revival for Aston Villa and Crystal Palace respectively, while Mohamed Salah went from zero to hero as Liverpool held Arsenal at Anfield.
Chukwueze drew criticism from Nigeria fans for his iffy performances for the Super Eagles against Guinea-Bissau during the recent international break, the winger's profligate showing prompting some supporters to question whether he's regressing. But there are no such complaints at Villarreal, as the 22-23 campaign draws to a close, with his performances in recent weeks setting him apart as one of Europe's most dangerous widemen.
He produced his latest star turn against Real Madrid, no less, with two goals -- including the breathtaking 80th-minute winner -- as the Yellow Submarine stunned Carlo Ancelotti's side 3-2 away.
It is rare indeed that a visiting player scores twice at the Santiago Bernabeu, let alone two goals in a display so overflowing with individual class and elegance, as well the decisiveness that was completely absent from his game during the international break.
Beyond his goals, he won 10 duels, having set the tone for a magnificent performance by stretching poor Nacho down the outside during the early stages.
Remarkably, he eclipsed Vinicius Junior and completed a game-high seven successful dribbles -- denied only once; in fact, he became the first visiting player to beat his man seven times at the Bernabeu since Lionel Messi in April 2017, when the then-Barcelona superstar also scored twice to inspire his side to a 3-2 victory.
Much as Chukwueze's dribbling was reminiscent of Messi, there was also something of Arjen Robben about his winner -- as the 23-year-old cut in from the right flank, parallel to the goal, and slammed home a curling left-footed effort into the far corner of Thibaut Courtois' net.
This was a sensational showing, but, in truth, we've seen scintillating one-off performances from Chukwueze before; this outing came almost four years to the day the winger scored once and registered another assist as Villarreal drew 4-4 with Barcelona.
Such occasions have been too few and far between in the intervening years, with outstanding showings or purple patches often followed by fallow spells. You wouldn't know it witnessing his control and insouciance against Real, although this season he has had a hand in 24 goals in 40 games in all competitions; it's already more than his combined goals-assists tally from the past two seasons combined.
Working with former Barcelona head coach Quique Setien appears to be helping Chukwueze thrive on a more consistent basis, and the manager is delighted with the winger's recent performances.
"For a few weeks he's been giving us a lot, he's a permanent threat," Setien said. "Not just in goals, but in passes, chances. He's an extraordinary player who is giving us a lot. He pulled two golazos out from his sleeve, and did everything else as well."
With Chukwueze in such form, Villarreal remain firmly in the hunt for UEFA Champions League qualification: they're four points behind fourth-placed Real Sociedad with 10 matches to play, having won five and drawn one of their past six games in LaLiga.
Osimhen is set to be at the heart of the transfer talk this summer, but don't be surprised if his international teammate is also courted by some of Europe's biggest clubs -- once again -- in the months ahead.
Steve Nicol gives his take on the title race after Arsenal dropped points in a 2-2 draw with Liverpool at Anfield.
In the English Premier League, all eyes were on Anfield as Liverpool aimed to put a roadblock on Arsenal's route to the title; and it was a pulsating encounter -- one of the best games of the season -- with Salah at the heart of the hosts' comeback from two goals down.
Liverpool were a shambles defensively during the first half, but the initiative shifted away from Arsenal, and Salah struck at the far post, giving the Reds a 42nd-minute lifeline when he met Jordan Henderson's cross after Gabriel had failed to clear his lines.
Salah clearly enjoys facing the Gunners; this goal was his ninth against Arsenal, and he has scored more goals only against Manchester United in the top flight.
The second half belonged to Liverpool, and Salah was the Reds' most likely source of an equaliser albeit his killer touch deserted him with the Gunners rattled.
Salah missed a penalty early in the second half, after Rob Holding had brought down Diogo Jota in the box, firing wide of Aaron Ramsdale's right-hand post as he sought to direct his spotkick just inside the woodwork.
Having missed his previous penalty, Salah could be forgiven for over-thinking this one, although it was an uncomfortable change from the unswerving instincts that have led to him to become Africa's all-time top scorer in the Premier League. Certainly, something has changed: Salah missed just two of his first 20 Premier League penalties, but he has missed his past two efforts -- shooting wide with both attempts.
Nonetheless, he had opportunities to make amends -- volleying over from close range before having a swerving, deflected effort saved sublimely by Ramsdale.
In total, Salah had 10 shots -- the first time he's hit double figures for attempts this season -- but he tested Ramsdale on only three occasions.
Gab Marcotti and Don Hutchison compare Erling Haaland's goal scoring record with Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo's.
Traore and Ayew are two players enjoying a final furlong to their season that had hardly seemed possible a week or two ago, and both were among the goals again at the weekend.
Former Chelsea wideman Traore has hardly set the world alight since joining Aston Villa from Lyon, failing to build on the seven goals he scored in his first season back in England before being deemed surplus to requirements under Steven Gerrard.
However, he was recalled in January, following an injury on loan at Istanbul Basaksehir, and has subsequently made four substitute appearances after being registered in Aston Villa's Premier League squad by Unai Emery.
He came off the bench to score the winner against Leicester City the week before, and he was on target against Nottingham Forest on Saturday -- opening the scoring in the 48th minute have been introduced early on for the injured Leon Bailey.
"My last two seasons have been hell," Traore said. "I picked up many injuries and had lots of problems with Gerrard. There were no personal issues, he's a good coach; it's just I was injured a lot, and despite that, I still went away to the Africa Cup of Nations in 2022, where I sustained another injury. He took it badly and made me train with the reserves before sending me out on loan."
Ayew has been another unlikely Premier League hero in recent weeks, the 31-year-old revitalised by the arrival of Roy Hodgson in the stead of Patrick Vieira. Having registered an assist against Leicester on April 1, he scored twice as Crystal Palace eviscerated Leeds United 5-1 away on Sunday.
The Eagles produced a magnificent display, building on their immense chance creation against the Foxes to bury five of the openings they fashioned at Elland Road to move six points clear of the dropzone.
Ayew's four attempts on goal represented the most he's registered in the league this season, while he had never before scored twice in a Premier League match.
Eberechi Eze also starred -- registering nine completed dribbles -- but Michael Olise was the pick of the players with a hat-trick of assists as he ensured the injured Wilfried Zaha wasn't missed. He the youngest player to register three assists from open play in a single match in Premier League history, while Bukayo Saka, since the beginning of last season, is the only player aged 21 or under with more assists than Olise's 12.
"In the second half [Olise] got it all right in both defence and attack, and he showed what a wonderful player he is... he has got a great possibility to have a wonderful career and a wonderful future," Hodgson told the club's official website. "We can only hope we at Crystal Palace can give him that platform."