Kuala Lumpur: Asian players outside the continent just can’t stop scoring, and goals are the order of the day in this week’s search for the AFC International Player of the Week.
In matches from March 10 to 16, this week’s 10 nominees piled on 16 goals between them with Sam Kerr and Shahrom Samiev both bagging hat-tricks, a pair of Japanese teammates starring in Germany, and last week’s winner and runner-up – Gulzhigit Alykulov and Sardar Azmoun – both continuing their scoring form.
But who deserves the title as the week’s outstanding player? Study our goal-laden list of contenders and don’t forget to cast your vote.
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Gulzhigit Alykulov (Kairat Almaty, Kyrgyz Republic)
80 minutes, 1 goal, 1 assist, 84% pass accuracy (2-0 v Zhetysu)
Last week’s winner returns, and it’s only right that he kicks off this week’s list of contenders after another standout display for Kairat. The Kyrgyz Republic youngster set up his side’s first goal, then scored their second, cutting inside a defender before picking out the bottom corner of the net.
Sam Kerr (Chelsea, Australia)
90 minutes, 70% accuracy, 4 shot assists (1-1 v Atlético Madrid)
60 minutes, 3 goals, 1 assist, 3 shot assists (6-0 v Bristol City)
An utterly sensational FA Women’s League Cup Final performance means Sam Kerr earns yet another nomination for this award. The Australian star netted a commanding hat-trick, becoming the first player to achieve such a feat in the League Cup decider, and created a goal for her equally brilliant teammate Fran Kirby.
Masaya Okugawa (Arminia Bielefeld, Japan)
81 minutes, 1 goal, 19 duels won (2-1 v Bayer Leverkusen)
In only his second start on loan at Arminia Bielefeld, Japanese midfielder Masaya Okugawa put his name up in the Bundesliga lights, scoring a tremendous, and crucial goal against Bayer Leverkusen to lift his new side out of the relegation zone.
Ritsu Doan (Arminia Bielefeld, Japan)
90 minutes, 7 shots at goal, 3 shot assists (0-2 v Werder Bremen)
88 minutes, 1 goal, 4 shots at goal (2-1 v Bayer Leverkusen)
Okugawa wasn’t the only Japanese player to get on the scoresheet in Arminia’s win, with Ritsu Doan opening the scoring in the 17th minute. Once the AFC Youth Player of the Year, Doan has now scored four Bundesliga goals this season.
Sardar Azmoun (Zenit, IR Iran)
78 minutes, 1 goal, 80% pass accuracy, 63% duels won (4-0 v Akhmat)
Another goal for Sardar Azmoun, who stands at the top of the Russian Premier League scoring charts with 13 - one more than teammate Artem Dzyuba. Azmoun’s latest addition came from the penalty spot, but he could easily have found himself with a hat-trick if not for some fine saves from Akhmat’s Giorgi Shelia.
Hwang Ui-jo (Bordeaux, Korea Republic)
74 minutes, 2 goals, 80% pass accuracy (3-1 v Dijon)
A commanding centre-forward performance from Bordeaux’s Korean forntman, who netted a first-half brace to help the Ligue 1 outfit to a 3-1 victory over Dijon. Formerly a prolific scorer in Asian club football, Hwang has tallied eight league goals in France this season.
Mary Fowler (Montpellier, Australia)
90 minutes, 1 goal, 7 successful dribbles, 15 duels won (4-1 v Le Havre)
She’s only just turned 18, but Australia’s Mary Fowler continues to impress in the top division of the French women’s game, netting a superb 20-yard goal as Montpellier eased past Le Havre. Already a four-time senior international, Fowler has scored in successive matches for her club.
Shahrom Samiev (Dinamo-Auto Tiraspol, Tajikistan)
83 minutes, 3 goals, 3 shots, 2 shot assists (3-0 v Zimbru)
An AFC Cup goal scorer at 18, Tajikistan’s Shahrom Samiev, now 20, well and truly announced himself in Europe on Friday with a superb hat-trick. From thumping long-range drives to deft headers, the promising forward did it all, and now has four goals in his last four league matches for Moldova’s Dinamo-Auto Tiraspol.
Valeriy Kichin (Yenisey Krasnoyarsk, Kygryz Republic)
90 minutes, 2 goals, 77 passes completed, 17 duels won (6-0 v Shinnik)
90 minutes, 11 duels won, 7 interceptions (1-0 v Torpedo Moscow)
Kyrgyz Republic captain Valeriy Kichin isn’t a prolific goal scorer, but it’s always worth watching when he does find the back of the net. The Yenisey defender slammed home two brilliant long-range efforts in his side’s 6-0 thrashing of Shinnik in the Russian National League, following up with a standout defensive display four days later.
Mahmoud Wadi (Pyramids FC, Palestine)
34 minutes, 1 goal, 3 shot at goal (3-0 v Nkana)
This week’s contenders list concludes with Mahmoud Wadi, who continued his tremendous run in Egypt with the opening goal in a CAF Confederation Cup match against Zambian side Nkana. Unfortunately, the Palestinian striker was injured after an all-action 34-minute spell, with fans of both club and country hoping for a quick recovery.
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