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What Nigeria’s Maja requires to step up a level at Stoke City after debut goal - O’Neill

3:17 PM WAT 06/02/2022
Josh Maja of Stoke City and Nigeria.
The 23-year-old Super Eagle opened his goal account for the Potters before Jacob Brown rounded off the result with his first touch

Stoke City manager Michael O’Neill has revealed what new signing Josh Maja needs to do to improve his game despite scoring in the 2-0 FA Cup win against Wigan Athletic on Saturday.

The 23-year-old Nigeria international signed for the Potters on loan from Ligue 1 club Bordeaux on transfer deadline day and he was thrown straight into the starting XI as they took on the visitors in the fifth round fixture at Britannia Stadium.

Maja then took only 14 minutes to open his goal account after receiving a cross from Tyrese Campbell. He coolly slotted the ball past Wigan goalkeeper Jamie Jones with a fierce effort from outside the box before substitute Jacob Brown sealed victory in the 62nd minute.

Maja, who featured for 78 minutes before he was replaced by Steven Fletcher, has already caught the eye of O’Neill, who feels the Super Eagle took his goal extremely well.

“Josh took his goal extremely well and I think he linked the play up well,” O’Neill told the club’s official website. “He’s not played a lot of football in the first half of the season so he’ll benefit from the 70-odd minutes he had today [Saturday].

“That’s what he needs. For him to show what he showed today was a real positive but we still have to build his fitness and get him as many minutes as we can. He’ll improve with that as well.”

On the team’s overall display, O’Neill said: “I wasn’t that pleased with the way we started the game. We wasted opportunities and I think we gave the ball away a bit cheaply in the first half which broke up our rhythm a wee bit but second half we were a lot, lot better.

“We should have added to the two goals that we had to be honest because we had opportunities but we got the job done which is the main thing.”

Before joining Stoke on loan, Maja started his first-team career with Sunderland, where he managed to score 16 goals in 41 league appearances.

It is during his spell with the Black Cats when his display attracted Bordeaux, whom he signed for in January 2019 and he went ahead to score 12 goals in 52 appearances.

Maja will hope to keep his starting role when 14th placed Stoke host 16th placed Swansea in an EFL Championship fixture at Britannia Stadium on Tuesday.