Sakala and Onyekuru, Al Fayha's dynamic duo with RSL history in their sights

Fashion Sakala and Henry Onyekuru have proved an inspired partnership at Al Fayha this season.

They share many similarities. Both hail from Africa: Sakala representing Zambia; Onyekuru, Nigeria. They were each signed last summer, choosing to trade European football for the revamped Roshn Saudi League.

Convinced to join the ambitious Al Majma’ah side seeking to build upon last season’s eighth-placed finish, the duo have settled superbly.

Sakala, 27, arrived following two seasons in the Scottish Premiership with Rangers, a time in which he helped the Glasgow club deliver the 2021-22 Scottish FA Cup and successive runner-up finishes in the league.

The forward was part of the Rangers side who wowed in their run to the UEFA Europa League final two years ago, while he took another silver medal last season in the Scottish League Cup. After falling out of favour somewhat at Ibrox, and at times hinting of his unhappiness, Sakala finally made the move to Al Fayha.

The RSL club have not been disappointed. Armed with searing pace, a willingness to run in behind, the ability to go by players, and a determination to never allow opponents settle on the ball, Sakala has been an ever-present for Vuk Rasovic’s team, appearing in all 24 top-flight matches this campaign. In that time, he has plundered 10 goals and registered four assists.

The goal tally includes a strike on debut last August in the 3-1 home win against Al Khaleej, and notably, the opener in the 1-1 draw at Al Hilal in the following matchweek.

There were, also, the winners against Al Okhdood, Abha and Al Raed, securing precious victories for his side in their bid to improve on their eighth place at present in the standings. Crucially, as the season enters its closing stretch and league targets morph ever more into realisation, the latter two were scored in the past month.

And if Sakala doesn’t find the net, such as in Matchweek 24 against Al Riyadh, Al Fayha can typically rely on Onyekuru instead. The Nigerian, a few months Sakala’s junior, came to the RSL just as his teammate did: off the back of a stint in Europe spent competing for, and collecting, silverware.

Nominally deployed out wide, Onyekuru thrived in Turkey in the 2018-19 season when on loan from English Premier League club Everton. He was an integral part of Galatasaray’s Super Lig success, contributing 14 goals - it included a hat-trick against Ankaragucu - as the Istanbul side sealed the title.

Only five players netted more in the league that season. Onyekuru went on to pick up a double, with Galatasaray clinching the Turkish Cup, too.

While a transfer to AS Monaco in 2019 did not yield as much of an impact - Onyekuru spent almost the entire spell out on loan – he went on to collect a Greek top-tier winner’s medal with Olympiacos. Last season, when back in Turkey, Onyekuru scored eight times in 28 Super Lig appearances as Adana Demirspor surprisingly finished fourth.

It prompted Al Fayha to bring him to the Kingdom. And he has not disappointed. Easily identifiable because of his cropped, bleach-blonde hair, Onyekuru had failed to find the net in his opening eight RSL outings, but thereafter evidently found his feet.

He has 10 goals in 16 appearances since, often scoring in bunches in games. Onyekuru grabbed a double against Damac in December, then again last month away to Al Hazem. He shone as well in Matchweek 23, scoring the first two goals in a memorable victory at Al Shabab.

The opener last time out, in the 1-1 home draw with Al Riyadh, meant Onyekuru went into the international break on a high.

When he returns, he will again be linked to Sakala, both in collective goals with Al Fayha and individual objectives. A friendly rivalry has inadvertently developed between teammates, as they chase the club record for goals in a single RSL campaign. Currently, that mark stands at 13, set by Chilean Ronnie Fernandez during the 2017-18 season.

It connects further a dynamic duo whose careers have intertwined to considerable effect in Saudi Arabia. Sakala and Onyekuru: Al Fayha’s prolific African pair, each with RSL history in their sights.