Ivory Coast defender Eric Bailly congratulated Nigeria World Cup defender Leon Balogun, on a fine debut performance for Brighton & Hove Albion last Sunday.
Despite having a torrid afternoon at the AMEX Stadium, AFCON 2015 winner Bailly found time to speak to Balogun and wish him well for the rest of the season. Bailly, starting his third season in the Premier League since his arrival from Villareal to Manchester United knows how important it is to start well.
“You played really well and had a good performance and I wish all the best for the rest of the season” were the words of the Ivorian. Balogun tells ACLSports exclusively after his Premier League debut in the 3-2 victory over Manchester United.
“I wished him well too saying I pray he stays also injury free because he can be an amazing defender when fully fit”.
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Balogun was a 20th minute substitute for the injured Lewis Dunk and went on to put on an assured performance. Even for an experienced defender there might have been nerves going into this debut, right?
“A little bit, but that was only at the time when I was not sure if I was coming on or not as Dunkie tried to play on. Also, it is not easy to come in to a game as a Centre-half when the game is not decided but I am experienced enough to handle it. I’m happy it went well in the end”.
Brighton under manager Chris Houghton have been roundly applauded as a team with a particular way of playing and Balogun was aware of this. “It was very important that I don’t get on and contribute in the team losing their shape or weaken the team. I was ready.”
Making a debut against Romelu Lukaku must be tough. “Yes. He has ability and great physique” says the former Mainz 05 defender. “Luckily I play for the Super Eagles where I have trained and played against a number of players with Lukaku’s type of physical attributes – the likes of (Emmanuel) Emenike, (Isaac) Success. So, this helped me”.
The 3-2 win kept up Brighton’s record of not having lost at home to Manchester United in the league since 1982 – at the old Goldstone Ground.
“It was a great atmosphere and I am very happy I contributed in the win in my own way.” For the big Nigerian defender it is a trip up north at the weekend to face one of the title favourites, Liverpool complete with Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane.
Masterful storytelling! I was expecting a story built from a Baily interview. I got the opposite.
Like Baily, I wish Balogun success in the premiership too. I have concerns about his injury record and his lanky frame, in a power league. But I have no doubt he will make up with his ability and intelligence. The next SE captain for me.