Iheanacho inspires Leicester rout, renaissance for Onyekuru, Simon

Kelechi Iheanacho was in inspired form as Leicester City demolished Sheffield United 5-0 this weekend, while his Nigeria international teammates Moses Simon and Henry Onyekuru enjoyed returns to form at Nantes and Galatasarary respectively.

Iheanacho finds his feet in England

While the Foxes frontman has shown flashes of his excellence since arriving at the King Power Stadium, he has struggled to convince that he can be the long-term successor to Jamie Vardy or even to convince that he can be the East Midlanders' leading man.

Consistency has been an issue, with Iheanacho going 14 games in all competitions without finding the net between November and February. Since then, however, things have finally clicked, with the 24-year-old scoring seven in his last eight league performances.

While Lionel Messi may still be waiting for his first hat-trick of the 2020-21 season, Iheanacho bagged the first league hat-trick of his career with a triple that demonstrated his burgeoning confidence under Brendan Rodgers.

The Super Eagles striker netted three times to inspire Leicester to a thumping victory over doomed Sheffield United in the finest performance of his senior career.

He opened the scoring in the 39th minute to set the tone for ruthless Leicester, slotting home from close range after being picked out by Vardy's cross.

In the 69th minute, he added his second with a powerful finish after again meeting a Vardy cross, before completing his hat-trick nine minutes later when he slammed home from range.

"I'm delighted," Rodgers told journalists after the match. "I've always said you can see the improvements in him day on day, he trains so hard.

"He works well up there with Jamie, the combination is really good. The two finishes, the first one is a bit closer, but you've got to get there, and off his weaker foot it's a nice cushioned finish. It's the same with the second one a bit further out."

Iheanacho's triple makes him the fifth Nigerian to net a hat-trick in the Premier League, following in the footsteps of the likes of Nwankwo Kanu and Yakubu, and it's an intriguing footnote that Marcus Rashford -- a player so often compared with the Super Eagle in his youth -- is still awaiting his first top flight hat-trick.

It may appear a strange observation to make while lauding Iheanacho's finishing, but despite his form in front of goal, some of the most encouraging elements of his performance were his support work and he's yet to prove that he's a natural goalscorer.

After firing Leicester into the lead, he set up Vardy selflessly only for the latter to be denied by Chris Basham, and later threaded ball through to the ex-England striker to force a save from Aaron Ramsdale.

"I see his link-up play as one of the strongest parts of his game," former teammate Micah Richards told BBC Five Live. "I don't think he's an out-and-out goalscorer like Vardy, but he can link the play a bit better.

"He didn't give the ball away for about 20 minutes. This lad can really play."

For the first time in history, the last three hat-trick scorers in the Premier League are all African players, with Iheanacho's goals following on from Riyad Mahrez's treble against Burnley in November and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's masterclass against Leeds United last month.

Speaking of Aubameyang, the Gabon striker's future at Arsenal has again been plunged into doubt after the striker was cut from the Gunners line-up ahead of their 2-1 derby victory over Tottenham Hotspur.

The forward was benched after reportedly turning up late to a team meeting ahead of the match, and didn't take part in post-game warm-downs with the rest of the unused Arsenal substitutes.

Meanwhile, in continental Europe...

It was also a memorable weekend for Iheanacho's Nigeria teammates Onyekuru and Simon, both of whom enjoyed a return to form after receiving criticism in recent months.

Onyekuru enjoyed a strong start to life back at Galatasarary -- following a loan move from AS Monaco in January -- scoring three across his first two appearances with the club.

However, over the subsequent month, his impact was limited, and heading into this weekend's meeting with Kayserispor, he was without a goal or an assist in seven matches in all competitions.

That all changed on Sunday, as Onyekuru -- perhaps with a point to prove after being unexpectedly benched -- proved too much for the hosts' backline.

He netted twice during a sensational 22-minute cameo, with his incisive movement in behind proving too much for the tiring Kayserispor backline.

The winger's close relationship with Fatih Terim was influential in his return to Gala, and performances like this should again reaffirm the wideman's importance to the legendary Turkish coach as the veteran looks to get the best out of the 23-year-old.

He does appear to need to impress Nigeria boss Gernot Rohr, however, having been overlooked for the Super Eagles' original 23-man squad for the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.

However, with Bordeaux's Samuel Kalu absent due to injury, Onyekuru now has the opportunity to prove his worth to Rohr. As Onyekuru finds himself with a coach who has faith in him in Terim, so Simon appears to be thriving after Nantes' appointment of Antoine Kombouare to replace Raymond Domenech.

He netted the winner on Sunday as the Canaries stunned Mauricio Pochettino's Paris Saint-Germain 2-1 at the Parc des Princes, celebrating with a somersault as Nantes ended their 24-year wait for a win in the capital.

The winger needed to apply a straightforward finish after being played in by Franco-Congolese Randal Kolo Muani -- the game's outstanding individual -- who had earlier opened the scoring from the penalty spot.

Having scored just twice all term before Kombouare's appointment in mid-February, Simon now has three goals in his last five matches, with a shift to a more advanced role alongside Muani clearly helping his return to prominence.

Simon's challenge now is to help fire Nantes away from danger, with the Canaries' two points off safety with nine matches to play.

Also in France this weekend, Zimbabwe's Tino Kadewere scored a late winner for Olympique Lyonnais in their underwhelming 1-1 draw with Stade de Reims as he met Memphis Depay's cross to head home and salvage a point.

Elsewhere, Nigeria's Simy scored twice -- his second consecutive brace -- in Crotone's 3-2 defeat by Lazio, but was unable to prevent the Sharks from falling to another Serie A loss. They remain rooted to the foot of the Italian top flight, seven points from safety.

Musa Barrow and Hamed Traore were also among the goals in Italy - for Bologna and Sassuolo respectively - while in Spain, Youssef En-Nesyri scored a magnificent first-half winner to settle Sevilla's derby with Real Betis.