Replacing the prolific Wilfried Bony at AC Sparta Praha is no easy task for Leony Kweuke, but seven goals in his last six Czech First League games suggest the Cameroon striker – a relative of Samuel Eto'o – has overcome a difficult introduction to life at Stadion Letná.
Kweuke arrived at Sparta in the summer on loan from Slovakian side DAC 1904 Dunajská Streda, yet endured an inauspicious start. Given an early chance when Bony was suspended for the home first leg of Sparta's UEFA Champions League play-off tie against MŠK Žilina, Kweuke had a nightmare in front of goal in a 2-0 defeat that prefigured the club's elimination.
"I was not in good shape," said the 23-year-old, who had spent 2009/10 on loan with German team FC Energie Cottbus. "
I lost a lot of time last summer when I had to sort out my passport and visa at home in Africa. I then had to train on my own to make up for the lost match fitness."
While Bony retained his place and scored at will, Kweuke kicked his heels on the Sparta bench until late October – when he finally opened his account at FC Slovan Liberec. Coach Jozef Chovanec rewarded Kweuke with a start five days later against Bohemians 1905 and he promptly got the winner. Cue a scoring sequence lasting six games, including the goal that put Sparta ahead in their 3-1 win at FC Lausanne-Sport which effectively took them through the UEFA Europa League group stage.
That run ended last Thursday at Liverpool FC but, with Bony now gone to Dutch club Vitesse, Sparta have signed Kweuke permanently on a three-and-a-half-year deal. He repaid them on Monday night with a double in the 2-0 victory at FC Baník Ostrava that resumed Sparta's league campaign after the winter break and kept them within four points of leaders FC Viktoria Plzeň.
His timely strikes also gave Sparta hope in the absence of Bony, who managed 17 goals in all competitions in the autumn. "Bony still misses me, we had an understanding without looking at each other, and he helped me with the language, too," Kweuke said. "But I hope we will get used to playing without him. There are a lot of good attacking players here."
Martin Hašek, who coached Sparta on Monday because Chovanec was suspended, added of Kweuke: "He is not yet in top shape but he has great potential.
If he avoids injury, he could be even better than Bony. He could be the main contender for the top scorer's award."
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