Akpoguma shines as Belfodil and Bebou lead Hoffenheim past Gent

Kevin Akpoguma Hoffenheim
The African stars made significant contributions for the Kraichgauer in their victory at Ghelamco Arena

Kevin Akpoguma, Ishak Belfodil and Ihlas Bebou delivered impressive performances as Hoffenheim secured a 4-1 win over Gent in Thursday’s Europa League game.

Akpoguma was afforded his second start in the competition this season and shone in his defensive role. Belfodil found the back of the net while Bebou grabbed an assist in the encounter.

The Nigeria international formed a five-man defence for the Kraichgauer along with Ryan Sessegnon, Kevin Vogt, Stefan Posch and Robert Skov.

Belfodil led the attack along with Togo international Bebou and they played key roles to ensure Hoffenheim clinched their second win on the bounce in the European tournament.

Gent dominated the opening 15 minutes as they aimed to end their recent unimpressive run of form, having lost their last three games.

Hoffenheim’s defence rose to the challenge and kept the Buffalos’ attackers at bay as the opening 30 minutes ended without a goal, with Roman Yaremchuk missing a glorious chance to put Gent in front from the penalty spot.

In the 36th minute, Belfodil opened the scoring for the Kraichgauer when he fired home his penalty past goalkeeper Davy Roef.

Florian Grillitsch doubled the lead in the 52nd minute after receiving a timely pass from Bebou, Mijat Gacinovic made it three before Munas Dabbur sealed the victory to render Tim Kleindienst’s late effort a mere consolation.

Akpoguma had 62 touches on the ball, made two key passes, three tackles and had a 96% successful pass rate to ensure his side secured all three points.

The defender featured for the duration of the game along with Bebou while Belfodil played for 77 minutes before he was replaced by Joao Klauss.

The victory ensured Hoffenheim continued their lead at the top of Group L with six points from two games. The group also has FK Crvena Zvezda and Slovan Liberec.

Akpoguma has now featured eight times for Sebastian Hoeneb’s men across all competitions in the current campaign while Bebou has made seven appearances and Belfodil has played five times.

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The African stars will hope to help Hoffenheim extend their unbeaten run when they take on Slovan Liberec in their next game in the tournament on November 5.

Before then, the Kraichgauer will square off against Union Berlin in a Bundesliga game and Akpoguma, Belfodil and Bebou could play a part in the game.

Akpoguma will be expected to replicate his solid defensive club performances for Nigeria in their Africa Cup of Nations qualifying game against Sierra Leone in November, having been handed a call-up for the outing.