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There has always been a lot of publicity about Josh Maja. It’s just that he left these shores a few years ago, so he had to return to England to remember what all the fuss was about.
On Sunday night, he showed everyone what the buzz is about, scoring two goals in Fulham’s crucial 2-0 win at Everton. But it’s been a long route to the top for Sunderland star ‘Til I Die.
In the second season of that show, Maja appeared quite a bit. It was mainly his contractual situation with the club that was publicly shown, although his performances in Liga One more than attracted attention.
During the 2018/19 season, Maja scored 15 league goals in 25 appearances, being the team’s main goal threat, as the Black Cats aimed to return to the second division of English football. However, Maja declined a contract extension while the clubs circulated, and in January 2019 she signed a four-and-a-half-year contract with Ligue 1 Bordeaux.
It would take him until April to score his first league goal in France during the 2-1 loss in Nimes, as he ended the 2018/19 season with seven league appearances for his new team.
His second season in Gironde was more fruitful. He collected just 21 Ligue 1 appearances, but returned a decent loot of six goals, as well as another pair of goals in cup competition.
But this season, the opportunities became harder to come by.
Maja’s only goals in the league came against Angers in August and Marseille in October, and Hwang Ui-jo was given the role of forward more often than not. Maja’s performance levels fell and she was soon deemed to have exceeded requirements.
That’s where Fulham comes in.
Scott Parker’s team remains in trouble despite their brilliant victory at Goodison Park. One of their main problems has been turning their strong performances into wins, with the recent streak of encouraging draws but results that could come back to haunt them in the later stages of the season.
Maja made a deadline loan to Fulham, the team he played for as a youth, and came off the bench against West Ham for his Premier League debut. Eight days later, he had his first appearance in the Everton competition.
It was his move in the last third that was the most impressive.
The 22-year-old went unmarked on his first of the night, sliding to touch the center of Ola Aina, before he scooted into the box to hit the rebound after Harrison Reed hit the post.
His goals were crucial in securing victory for Parker and Fulham. It might even make the loan worthwhile on its own. However, the Cottagers are still seven points behind 17th-ranked Newcastle, so Maja’s job is not done yet.
Of the three teams currently in the relegation zone, Fulham appears to be the most likely to avoid relegation, but even then it’s not exactly likely. More interesting performances are needed, and more shots like Maja’s poacher could prove critical.