Africans Abroad: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang confirms big-match impact

African players were among the key performers in the weekend's FA Cup semifinals, as Arsenal's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang served a reminder of his ability to make an impact in the big games, while Nigeria duo Kenneth Omeruo and Chidozie Awaziem were resigned to La Liga relegation with Leganes.

The Gunners were rank outsiders to reach the FA Cup final when they faced Manchester City at Wembley on Saturday, having been swatted away with ease by Pep Guardiola's side only one month previously; but Mikel Arteta's Londoners pulled off a smash-and-grab masterclass, securing a 2-0 victory despite registering only 29% of the possession.

Aubameyang was the star performer, quelling doubts about his ability to shape the biggest matches with a fine brace as he became only the fourth Arsenal player -- and the first since Alexis Sanchez at the same stage five years ago -- to score twice in a competitive bout at Wembley.

Only minutes after missing a fine effort, despite being picked out, unmarked and bearing down on goal, Auba opened the scoring after being found by Nicolas Pepe's deep cross from the right flank.

It was a delicious finish, almost matched by his second goal -- inside the final 20 minutes -- when he met a left-sided cross from the dangerous Kieran Tierney and calmly finished between the legs of a helpless Ederson.

The double prompted comparisons with another Arsenal great.

"He reminds you a bit of Thierry [Henry] when he's bearing down on goal like that," former Manchester United and England defender Rio Ferdinand said on BT Sport. "He just opens himself up and places it through the keeper's legs. Fantastic finish."

While Henry amassed silverware aplenty in North London, Aubameyang still awaits his first honour with the Gunners, although the FA Cup draws one step closer after ousting the holders.

Auba will also be hoping that his two-goal showing silences some of the criticisms about his ability to shape the truly big games; his first years at Arsenal were characterised by anonymous showings in many of the high-profile fixtures, and defeats by Manchester City, Liverpool, Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur this season have largely passed him by.

If his performance against City is to herald a change, it is perhaps not a consequence of any change on the part of Aubameyang but a seismic shift in the mentality, mood and energy at Arsenal, who appear a much more vibrant bunch under Arteta.

Similarly, there is genuine quality and burgeoning cohesion in the front three of Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and Pepe, whose assist was his 17th goal involvement in all competitions this term; only the Gabon striker has been involved in more for the capital club.

On this occasion, Pepe's speed, movement and direct running unsettled City at key moments, and his brooding danger on the right flank made it that bit easier for Auba to get the better of Eric Garcia and Aymeric Laporte.

For City, Pep Guardiola will surely have expected more from Riyad Mahrez, among several underperformers, with the Algerian offering precious little on the right flank against the inexperienced duo of Tierney and Ainsley Maitland-Niles.

The midfield three of Kevin De Bruyne, Ilkay Gundogan and David Silva controlled the ball, but where was the incisive movement and the penetrative dribbling that Mahrez has offered for much of the campaign? Where was that touch of brilliance to unpick a massed defence? Mahrez failed to complete a single dribble during the contest, didn't create a single goalscoring opportunity, and managed just one shot for the duration.

Chelsea defeated Manchester United 3-1 In the second FA Cup semifinal, played on Sunday, when David de Gea's error-strewn display dominated the headlines; but it was an outing to forget, also, for Ivory Coast centre-back Eric Bailly.

Handed a rare start by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer -- only his sixth of the calendar year -- Bailly was given a berth on the right side of a back three, and a chance to stake a claim for increased playing time next term.

However, the defender has had miserable luck with injuries since arriving at Old Trafford, and his Wembley outing lasted fewer than 45 minutes before he was stretchered off, receiving oxygen, after a clash of heads with Harry Maguire.

The defender attempted to stand up after receiving initial treatment, but returned to the turf, and was duly replaced, after looking wobbly on his feet.

"I am OK, it was just a scare," Bailly reassured supporters on his social media handles on Monday. "I feel the pain of [Sunday's] defeat even more, but we have to get back up and refocus on the two big games we have this week."

No lasting damage there, but it remains to be seen how much longer United will persist with a player whose erratic performances and patchy injury record are increasingly obscuring his redeeming qualities.

In a match in which United's recently discovered buccaneering qualities appeared to desert them, Solskjaer only belatedly turned to Odion Ighalo, giving the Nigeria international an 11-minute run-out with the Red Devils already 3-0 down.

The on-loan frontman, who broke the deadlock with a fine poacher's goal in the quarterfinal against Norwich City, unsettled Chelsea's defence with his bullish running on Sunday, and Solskjaer may regret not turning to him sooner.

La Liga in Spain came to a conclusion on Sunday, with outstanding issues decided at the top and bottom of the table.

Real Madrid were confirmed as champions in midweek, but, beneath them, Thomas Partey's Atletico Madrid got the point they needed in a 1-1 draw with Real Sociedad to clinch third place ahead of Sevilla and Youssef En-Nesyri, who defeated Valencia 1-0 on the final day.

Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa opened the scoring for Villarreal as they thumped Eibar 4-0 to wrap up fifth place, with Nigeria's Samuel Chukwueze playing for an hour as the Yellow Submarine rounded off the season in style.

At the foot of the table, Chukwueze's Super Eagles colleagues Kenneth Omeruo and Awaziem were not involved as Leganes fell just short in their bid to beat the drop.

Leganes' form in recent weeks had been exceptional to give themselves a fighting chance of pulling off a great escape under former Egypt boss Javier Aguirre, but their heroic 2-2 draw with champions Real wasn't enough for them to leapfrog Celta Vigo into 17th.

The writing had appeared to be on the wall, when Legaes claimed just two points from their first six matches after returning to action post-lockdown, but three wins and a draw from their next four matches -- including last week's away victory over Athletic Bilbao -- fuelled hope of a marvellous turnaround.

Omeruo and Awaziem were both unused substitutes against Real as Lega twice equalised after falling behind.

Their second equaliser -- a 78th-minute goal by substitute Roger Assale -- set up a grandstand finish, but the Ivory Coast international was unable to guarantee hero status in the Madrid suburbs.

Assale now returns to his parent club, Young Boys of Switzerland, while Awaziem too will likely go back to FC Porto.

Omeruo, by contrast, signed a five-year deal at the club when he signed from Chelsea last summer -- ending his seven-year stay at Stamford Bridge -- and it remains to be seen whether he will stay with the Cucumber Growers as they drop into the second division.