Weekend Review: Berahino, Batshuayi and Wu Lei among the goals

Posted by Christopher Atkins

Saido BerahinoPA PhotosWest Brom's Saido Berahino celebrates his goal against Manchester United.

The Scout's Notebook returns with its regular Monday review of standout performances from some of football's rising stars over the past weekend.

This week, we have three young goalscorers who have been attracting attention in recent times for their outstanding form for both club and country in West Brom's Saido Berahino, Standard Liege's Michy Batshuayi and Shanghai East Asia's Wu Lei.

Saido Berahino repaying West Brom faith

West Brom's victory at Old Trafford on Saturday was one of several big shocks to have already occurred in the Premier League this season, but what was even more impressive was the manner of their success. Despite the daunting nature of a visit to the league champions, they never really looked like conceding their 2-1 advantage in the late stages.

Among the standout performers for the Baggies was 20-year-old substitute Berahino, introduced as a 13th minute substitute in place of the injured Scott Sinclair. Berahino has received praise from manager Steve Clarke in recent weeks after goalscoring displays in the League Cup and on both his recent England Under-21 outings. The Burundi-born striker's performance on Saturday was his best so far.

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His sweetly-struck goal aside, Berahino's running was a constant menace for United right-back Phil Jones. The young forward won free-kicks, created shooting opportunities and opened up space for team-mates with his direct play and was a real thorn in the Red Devils' side. His left-footed strike for the goal, also, was impressively dispatched from the edge of the area for a naturally right-footed player.

Berahino had previously done well on loan spells away from the club, scoring at a good rate for both Northampton and Brentford in the 2011-12 season. A period at relegated Peterborough last campaign was less successful, but he has already begun to reward Baggies manager Steve Clarke for his faith in retaining him this campaign.

He has been helped by the goalless start of Nicolas Anelka in the Midlands, but Berahino won himself a place in the squad with his impressive showings in August. Described by Clarke as a "natural goalscorer", his contributions over the course of the campaign could prove vital to the Baggies' survival hopes.

Berahino is a talent and would appear to have won himself a new contract, but the hard work has only just begun. His performance on Saturday will have made rivals sit up and take notice of his abilities, meaning he will no longer be able to enter games quite so under the radar. All the signs thus far, though, suggest that he has the right temperament to make the most of his natural abilities.

Michy Batshuayi sends Standard top in Belgium

Michy Batshuayi tops the scoring charts.
GettyImagesMichy Batshuayi tops the scoring charts.

Eight goals in nine Jupiler Pro League games this season has seen Belgium Under-21 international Batshuayi fire himself to the top of the goalscoring charts, and his side to the top of the division. Just 19, Batshuayi is already in his third season as a regular starter for Standard and has proven himself a regular goalscorer throughout that period. His current form, though, is the best of his career thus far.

There was talk in the summer of a move to the Premier League for the young forward, but Swansea saw bids rejected and were unwilling to meet Standard's asking price for his services. Batshuayi has, in the past acquired a reputation for being a troublesome personality off the pitch and his coach only recently commented on how he still has to mature as a player. For now, then, he is better served remaining in familiar environs.

His present form and the injury to Christian Benteke, though, have prompted discussion of a call to the Belgium squad for upcoming fixtures and Batshuayi was not shy in commenting on the speculation this weekend. He has great pace and strength when running with the ball, as well as excellent technique when striking the ball, all of which would be of use to Marc Wilmots side -- but it may well be a question of whether the youngster is mentally ready for the step up.

Confidence will not be an issue -- Batshuayi exudes self-belief and is in sublime form. It is more a question of whether those in command feel that he has matured enough to handle the responsibilities that come with senior international football. It was only earlier this year that the player was sent home from an Under-21 squad for breaches of discipline and that will be fresh in the memory. Sometimes, though, a player is simply too good to overlook and Batshuayi may well fall into that category.

Wu Lei: Leading China's next generation

Wu Lei: 15 goals in 23 games.
GettyImagesWu Lei: 15 goals in 23 games.

To finish off our weekend wrap this week, we head to China where there are stirrings to suggest that the East Asian country may just be about to unleash a couple of players of real potential onto the wider footballing world for the first time in a decade.

Leading the way is 21-year-old Wu Lei -- one of a trio of young attacking midfielders to have greatly impressed in recent national team outings alongside Beijing Guoan's Zhang Xizhe and more orthodox right winger Sun Ke. Wu scored a hat-trick on Friday night, as Shanghai East Asia overcame relegation-threatened Qingdao Jonoon 6-1 in the Super League. His goals were taken with typical aplomb, with a smart left-foot shot on the turn the highlight of the three.

With his third hat-trick of the season, Wu moves to 15 goals in 23 appearances this season -- becoming the top-scoring Chinese player since 2010 in his first season in the top flight. His potential has been well known for some time, having made his way from the third tier of Chinese football, where he made his debut at the age of 14. Despite his tender age, though, he has consistently been a source of goals for his side over the past five seasons.

"If he moves to Molde, I think he can improve well enough to play for an English Premiership side in a year," was the view of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer when his side faced Wu in a pre-season friendly in January. The No. 10 has pace, excellent close control and intelligent movement to complement his finishing abilities. At times, he has shown a selfish streak that will need to be controlled in coming years but, as his side's best player, he can be afforded that privilege for the time being.

China needs players like Wu to succeed as the country looks to move past some recent footballing difficulties and, while it will be a long time before the national team are challenging the world's best, there are several talents in the country who could go on to enjoy successful careers in Europe. With Guangzhou Evergrande performing well in the Asian Champions League and a new vibrancy to the national team, Chinese football looks set to finish 2013 on a much-needed high.

For further discussion on any of the players featured in The Scout's Notebook, Christopher can be found on Twitter –@chris_elastico. More of his work profiling rising talents can also be found at TheElastico.com.


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