Setback for Nakamba, history for Kadewere!
Senior Sports Reporter
MIDFIELDER Marvelous Nakamba suffered a fresh blow in his quest to reignite his career in England’s second tier football after he was hauled out injured in Luton Town’s 1-0 defeat to runaway Sky Bet Championship log leaders Burnley on Saturday.
Compatriot Tino Kadewere, playing several miles away in Spain, was making history the same weekend when he became the first Zimbabwean player to score in the Spanish La Liga after helping Mallorca beat rivals Villarreal 4-2 in his first start for the side.
Both players found themselves on loan elsewhere and seeking to get back to the top after they were deemed excess to requirements by their parent clubs on the back of struggles with injuries and the subsequent loss of form.
But Kadewere, who was loaned out to Mallorca by French Ligue 1 side Olympique Lyon last August, set a new benchmark on Saturday when he became the first Zimbabwean to score in the Spanish topflight league. No other Zimbabwean had ever played in the La Liga before him.
After encountering an injury setback on arrival, the 27-year-old forward is now back to serious business and on Saturday he repaid the faith shown in him by his coach Javier Aguirre when he opened the scoring for Mallorca.
Kadewere was making his first La Liga start in six months, having played some cameos on five previous occasions. The forward has been gradually introduced into the team after recovering from an injury that kept him out for three months.
The Highfield-born striker made the most of the opportunity on Saturday and gave Mallorca the lead in the 20th minute after directing a low shot into the bottom corner of the opposition goal from a perfect pass by teammate Vedat Muriqi.
“I am very happy and I feel very proud,” he said after the game.
“It was a good game and it was a great goal. I was waiting for this a long time. It came at a good time also because we got the three points,” he said. Mexican coach Aguirre also believes he has found the right formula for Kadewere, who has been working hard to switch from the French Ligue 1 style to the intensity of the La Liga. Kadewere featured for 78 minutes on Saturday, operating from the wings. Aguirre told reporters in the post-match press conference that he believes the Zimbabwean has made headway in adapting both to his team’s philosophy and to the demands of the Spanish league. “At a competitive level in Spain, football is something harder and more contact than he was used to. Based on training and insisting on putting videos, we have found that improvement in Kadewere,” he said.
The other goals came from double scorer Dani Rodriguez and Vedat Muriqi as Mallorca extended their impressive home record by grabbing a fifth consecutive victory in front of home fans. Villarreal finished the game with 10 men after Manu Trigueros was shown a direct red card soon after Kadwere’s goal.
With the win, Mallorca move into eighth place, up two spots on the La Liga table with nine wins, nine losses and four draws for so far this season for 31 points.
They are still fancying chances of playing in Europe, for the first time in almost 20 years, as they landed just two points behind Rayo Vallecano in sixth place, the threshold for European football next season.
In La Liga, the sixth-place finisher gets to play in the Europa Conference League qualifiers. The team that finishes fifth get to play in the Europa League and the top four teams in the UEFA Champions League.
Mallorca have performed fairly well this season as they look to improve from the 16th place finish they achieved last year in the 20-team league. Their 31 points in 22 games is almost double the tally they had compared to the last two seasons. There are still 16 more games to play this season. Kadewere’s teammate Nakamba, who had been enjoying the game since he downgraded to the English second tier, had a sad ending to his first home start for Luton on Saturday.
Nakamba limped off the pitch on the 68th minute after having put on a commendable shift for Luton Town, who are pushing for an English Premiership promotion play-off.
The club had not commented on the extent of the injury by yesterday and The Hatters are hoping that the injury will not confine their loan signing to a lengthy layoff.
Nakamba has impressed at Luton since his arrival from Villa. His presence in protecting the back-four has helped the Hatters become a more solid defensive unit and the team had not conceded a goal from open play in the last three matches he had started, apart from the penalties conceded in each of the fixtures against Coventry City, Preston North End and Burnley.
The Hatters conceded a penalty just 10 minutes after Nakamba was taken off on Saturday and had to finish with 10 men after their skipper Tom Lockyer was shown a red card straight for protesting the referee’s decision to award Burnley a penalty, which was converted by Ashley Barnes. Luton Town managed to stay fourth on the log with 50 points but they now face stiff competition for a play-off place as they are just now a point above the threshold.
They have to finish six to secure a playoff berth for a chance of playing in the English Premier League next season. Burnley lead the race and are on course for automatic promotion as they have opened an 11-point gap on top of the log standings with 72 points.