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Chukwueze ends nine-game goal drought for Villarreal, Pepe lifts Nice in Europa Conference League

22:44 GMT+3 27/10/2022
Samu Chukwueze Villarreal
Samuel Chukwueze scored his first goal in nine games for Villarreal while Nicolas Pepe found the target in back-to-back games for Nice.
  • Chukwueze back in the goals since early September
  • Pepe finding his best form for struggling Ligue 1 side
  • Villarreal secure top spot as Nice keep hopes alive

WHAT HAPPENED? Nigeria winger Chukwueze got the ball on the edge of the box and fired in a first-time shot without any hesitation, to end his goal drought for Villarreal in their 2-2 draw with Israeli side Hapoel Be’er Sheva while Pepe opened the scoring for Nice as they beat Partizan Belgrade of Serbia 2-1.

Chukwueze found the target in the 57th minute after Tomer Hemed had given the visitors the lead via a 48th minute penalty before Arnaut Danjuma extended the lead for the Yellow Submarine 20 minutes from time but Be’er Sheva responded again, this time through Sagiv Shalom Yehezke nine minutes later.

Meanwhile in France, Pepe broke the deadlock after 29 minutes and Nice held on until the 74th minute when Ricardo Gomes levelled the scores but the home side had the final say through Gabon midfielder Mario Lemina three minutes later.

THE BIGGER PICTURE: It was the third goal of the season for Chukwueze, whose strikes have all come in the Conference League, starting with matchday one’s 4-2 victory against Hajduk Split of Croatia on August 18 before finding the target again in the 4-3 win over Lech Poznan of Ukraine on September 9.

Villareal had already qualified for the next round before Thursday’s contest after winning all their first four games, the draw leaves them top of the group with 13 points.

Meanwhile, Pepe made it two goals in as many games after finding the target in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Nantes in Ligue 1.

The winger, on loan at Nice from Arsenal, has now scored five goals for the French side while Thursday’s strike was his first in the coemption. Victory leaves Group D finely poised with Nice and Partizan on eight points while FC Koln and Slovacko, who faced off later on Thursday, have three points each.

ALL EYES ON: Focus was on Pepe after his goal at the weekend and he delivered another one for the struggling French side.

THE VERDICT: While Pepe is turning into Nice’s go-to man, Chukwueze is still far from finding his best form despite enjoying an extended run in the team.

WHAT’S NEXT? Pepe’s Nice have a tough assignment away to third-placed Lorient on Sunday while Villarreal visit Athletic Bilbao in La Liga on the same day.