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Sports News of Saturday, 7 January 2023


Against Chelsea, he was really good - Cooper satisfied with Super Eagles striker's performance

Taiwo Awoniyi Taiwo Awoniyi

The Nigeria international has enjoyed a splendid last few weeks for the Tricky Trees to the admiration of his manager

Nottingham Forest manager Steve Cooper has hailed Super Eagles forward Taiwo Awoniyi for his brilliant performances for the Reds in December and January.

Awoniyi has been superb for Forest since the end of the World Cup break. The Nigeria international scored in the 4-1 defeat of Blackburn Rovers in the League Cup and was not to blame for the 3-0 loss at Old Trafford.

Awoniyi was back to his best against Chelsea on New Year’s Day, claiming his first Premier League man-of-the-match award in the Reds’ 1-1 draw with the Blues.

The former Union Berlin star won his second MOTM award against Southampton as he fired the only goal that powered Steve Cooper’s men to their first away win of the season and out of the relegation zone.

What has been said? 
And head coach Cooper has been singing Awoniyi’s praises on the back of this string of excellent displays.

“He has always been focused and works really hard, but T has come back from the break with a spring in his step,” said head coach Steve Cooper, as per Nottingham Post.

“Training has been excellent, and he showed that during the winter break games.

“It was important for him to get the goal, and the type of goal it was, against Blackburn (in the Carabao Cup). Him and Brennan were excellent that night.

“I thought he played well against Man United, to be honest, even though it wasn’t a particularly happy night. I actually said to him, I brought him off a bit early (in the 62nd minute) because I’m always open to questions about stuff like that.

“Against Chelsea he was really good, and against Southampton as well. He’s definitely got a spring in his step.

“It was good he got a goal on Wednesday night. It was a brilliant assist from Brennan; how he made the chance for T, and how T got himself into that position – which looks easier than what it was – it was great to see them linking up.

“Let’s hope they can really build on that while getting pushed by the other guys and not taking anything for granted. That will be a help, for sure.”

Awoniyi has been one of the most decisive players in the Premier League this season, with all his four goals opening the scoring for Nottingham. Only Erling Haaland and Harry Kane (with five each) have scored first in more different Premier League games this season.

All four of Nottingham Forest’s Premier League wins so far this season have been 1-0, with Taiwo Awoniyi netting the winner in three of those.

And Cooper is aware of how vital Awoniyi has been to edging matches with such fine margins.

“We haven’t had the luxury of being a couple of goals up,” the Welshman said ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup tie at Blackpool. “The one time we did that in the league, we lost, against Bournemouth!

“You want your attacking players to deliver. What’s been good with T, including against Southampton, is that he is playing well, as well as scoring. Sometimes with goalscorers, they maybe don’t contribute that much but then they score.

“But he is really having an impact on the opponents’ defence. No one is enjoying playing against him at the moment, and that’s what we want.

“If he can get goals at the same time, then that’s going to be important for us. We have to push him now, to keep going. He’s been really good since he’s come back, but it doesn’t mean anything unless he can keep going.”