The Portuguese 2020/21 Liga NOS season ended Thursday with Boavista dramatically escaping relegation in a terrific comeback victory, thanks to Gambian international striker Yusupha Njie and his two goals (56′, 88’p). Although he came as a substitute, Yusupha Njie was the hero of the day for Boavista.
This season Boavista’s squad took in previously unachievable names like Angel Gomes and Adil Rami to the playing staff. By comparison, Gambian striker Yusupha Njie is something of a veteran at the club. Having arrived back in 2018, the 27-year-old signed from the obscurity of FUS Rabat in Morocco after he played in his native Gambia.
2020/21 has been a difficult campaign for Njie, reflecting his team’s struggles. After starting the season’s opening game against Nacional, the striker was subbed off with only 13 minutes played with injury to miss the following three matches.
Upon his return, Njie soon found himself restricted to substitute appearances under then-manager Vasco Seabra, who in turn was later axed at the helm as Boavista occupied the relegation places amid a series of poor results on the pitch.
The hugely experienced Jesualdo Ferreira replaced Seabra in December. Still, Yusupha Njie’s fortunes didn’t fare too much better in the limited opportunities he was given, as well as the Gambian being struck down with another injury for March.
However, upon his return to fitness, Yusupha Njie scored three goals in two games to help his side to a vital four points against Rio Ave and Paços Ferreira.
Still, his manager did not appear suitably convinced despite Njie’s obvious goal threat, as he has been limited to a bench role once more during the run-in as the team has desperately battled relegation from Primeira Liga.
This didn’t stop Njie from grabbing the headlines on the final day of the league season. However, arriving when his team needed him most.
In Wednesday’s trip to Gil Vicente, Boavista found themselves a goal down and needed a result to stay up and to make matters worse. They lost arguably their best player in Angel Gomes to injury just before the break.
Yusupha Njie came into the field during the second half, and the Gambian turned the game to his advantage.
In the 56th minute, Honduran winger Alberth Elis brilliantly won the ball high up the pitch. They delivered a dangerous cross into the penalty area, where Njie was lurking to power a fine diving header past Gil Vicente goalkeeper Denis to level the scores. (Watch video)
Boavista looked much more fluid and dangerous as Njie provided the team with a genuine focal point in attack. He began to link very effectively with Elis in particular. The pair combined similarly to the goal in the 67th minute, Njie again rising to power a header, but this time, it was too close to Denis.
Another slick attacking move was almost finished off for his second by Njie with 12 minutes remaining, his shot from Reggie Cannon’s cut-back flying just wide of the post.
It felt like Njie’s destiny to score, and he would do just that with minutes of the match remaining.
Paulinho’s run into the box was halted by a foul, and Njie stepped up to take the pressure penalty. His strike wasn’t the cleanest, stumbling after taking it, but the ball snuck into the net off the post for the winning goal. (Watch video)
In many ways, the Wednesday game summed up Njie’s season in that he did not have the opportunity to play enough games. But once his chances arrived, he was decisive to his team’s fortunes.
It says a lot that standout players like Elis and Gomes only were ahead of Njie’s goal tally for the year by three and one, respectively, despite the pair seeing significantly more time on the pitch than the Gambian forward.
Yusupha Njie is this week’s PortuGOAL Figure of the Week.
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