PortuGOAL Figure of the Week: Yusupha Njie's brilliant Boavista form continues

Time is almost up on the 2022/23 Liga Bwin season after the weekend’s penultimate round of matches. Benfica inched within title glory after a dramatic derby draw at Sporting, while Arouca and Vitória Guimarães sealed European qualifications.

Paços Ferreira and Santa Clara’s mathematical relegation was confirmed via Marítimo’s late win over Vizela, the Madeira-based side beating the drop for now at least, their victory not enough to prevent a place in the forthcoming relegation playoff.

One side to leave such matters behind them in plenty of time is Boavista, who have had their resolute home form to thank for swimming in more serene waters. Another key reason for this is the goalscoring prowess of their striker and PortuGOAL Figure of the Week Yusupha Njie, and both of these records were bolstered in their last gasp draw with Champions League qualifiers Braga.

Gambian international forward Yusupha Njie has become a stalwart at Boavista, the 29 year old about to complete his sixth season with the club following his move from Moroccan side FUS Rabat, which was turned permanent in 2018 after an initial year long loan in Portugal with As Panteras the campaign prior.

The son of Gambia legend Biri Biri, Njie’s game has only matured over the years with Boavista, and arguably this year has represented his best in black and white, certainly in front of goal. His fourteen scored in all competitions doubles his previous best from 2021/22, and this form has quite rightly seen his stock rise and with it the list of potential suitors after his signature.

His lithe 6ft 1in frame and excellent movement means Njie is comfortable across the front three positions, but this season has proven that it is leading the line in which the Boavista hitman is most effective, showing fine poachers instincts throughout what has been a solid team campaign.

One particular area of strength for Boavista in 2022/23 has been their home form. Indeed, going into Saturday afternoon’s contest with Braga at Estádio do Bessa, their final hosting of the campaign, Boavista had only tasted defeat on home soil three times previously, two of which were to the division’s titans in title contenders Benfica and Porto.

Like the latter pair, Boavista’s opponents Braga too have been enjoying a highly successful year, but as stated this was no easy fixture for the Champions League contenders, and true to form the hosts made life very difficult for the away side in a compellingly competitive encounter.

After resting for previous Jornada’s defeat against Gil Vicente, Njie was restored to the starting XI in place of the suspended Róbert Boženík, flanked by Ricardo Mangas and Salvador Agra. Following a goalless first period, Agra and Njie combined effectively as Boavista thought they’d opened the scoring in the 51st minute, the Gambian striker finishing well from the Portuguese winger’s cross, only for VAR to correctly intervene in judging the action as offside.

An unfortunate Reggie Cannon own goal gave Braga the lead thereafter but Boavista continued to stay in the game, pushing their more esteemed opponents and coming so close to an equaliser in the 83rd minute. Njie appeared destined to score following a neat team move that saw Mangas lift the ball into the awaiting striker, but somehow Braga defender Sikou Niakaté made a miraculous goal-line block to deny a deserved leveller.

Njie and Boavista’s persistence paid off into stoppage time however, ensuring the team signed off with a hugely creditable point. The finish was emphatic too, the unlikely figure of big centre-half Rodrigo Abascal supplying a fantastic cross into the danger area before Njie unleashed an unorthodox yet powerful low volley past Braga keeper Matheus.

An unconventional but still stylish effort from the ever impressive Njie taking him to thirteen Liga Bwin strikes for the season, a total bettered only by five players, most of whom plying their trade amongst the league’s traditional “big three”. The point was enough to move into tenth place in the division, and leave a top half finish as a very real possibility going into next week’s final round of matches.

As already mentioned, Njie’s exceptional form means he is a man in demand this summer, and Boavista will do well to keep hold of the striker amid increasingly gathering interest. Whoever the Gambian is playing his football for next season, said club will have a forward at the very peak of his powers. 

By Jamie Farr