Euro Football Weekend Rundown
What a fantastic derby-weekend in European football this was with some major fixtures taking place in La Liga and the Serie A. The most important being the much anticipated ‘El Clasico’ between Barcelona and Real Madrid, followed by the Derby della Madonnina where the two Milan giants, AC Milan and Inter FC, battled it out in a fiery and controversial affair (not a surprise in Serie A), and finally the up- and-coming so-called derby between first and second in Ligue 1 between Marseille and Paris Saint-Germain. In addition to these key match-ups, Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City continue to lead the way in a tight threesome at the top of the EPL while Juve and Napoli are joint top in the Italian top flight.
5) French derby ends in a draw between Marseille and PSG
In the first half, both sides plunged for the win as it was very open and flowing. Marseille opened the scoring with Andre-Pierre Gignac on 17 minutes in spectacular fashion as he took on PSG defender Christophe Jallet, unleashing a laser beam that nutmeged past the defender into the bottom-left corner of the net.
Gignac’s opener triggered a PSG comeback lead by the capital club’s leading goal-scorer, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who unleashed a superb volley from a Maxwell corner on 23 minutes. He wasn’t done yet though. Just minutes after the equalizer, the Swede doubled his tally to give his side the lead after he fired home a free-kick into the bottom corner.
Marseille would not go down without a fight, pushing back against the Parisian giants. On 32 minutes, Gignac bagged a brace by directing a powerful header home from a corner to equalize for the home side. This would effectively end the excitement early in Marseille as the second half was very cagey with both sides content with the point. Marseille continue to lead Ligue 1 with 19 points, three in front of PSG with 16.
4) Juventus and Napoli top Serie A and await ‘derby’ after International break
The Old Lady engaged in a tussle with Siena on Sunday and was able to obtain three essential points which allow her to stay on top for another weekend. The Bianconeri struggled to implement their game plan in the first half and required Andrea Pirlo to work his magic from a free-kick just outside the penalty area. The Italian playmaker is well known for his over-the-wall curlers. However lately, it seems that Pirlo has changed his strategy to blasting the ball low, fooling his counterparts, which he accomplished against AS Roma and again versus Siena.
The Tuscan side went very close to the equalizer on several attempts but couldn’t pop it in until first-half stoppages as the unmarked Emanuele Calaio drove home a header past Gianluigi Buffon on the stroke of half time.
Juventus opened the second half firing on all cylinders with Arturo Vidal, Mirko Vucinic and Giovinco going extremely close to the go-ahead. It looked hopeless for the Turin giants to grab the victory until 85 minutes when Claudio Marchisio rifled home a volley to restore the lead and hand Juve the three points.
Napoli also won their crucial match against Udinese Calcio Sunday 2-1 with goals from newly-promoted captain Marek Hamsik and a magnificent Goran Pandev winner after the visitors temporarily drew level.
Juventus and Napoli are joint leaders with 19 points each, four points in front of Lazio and Inter who are tied with 15. The next match day will be the battle for top spot as Napoli travel to Turin to take on the reigning Italian champions. It is expected to be a fiery affair as this a growing rivalry especially after last season’s Napoli-triumph in the Coppa Italia final, but more recently after Juve’s controversial victory in the Italian Super Cup where there were three expulsions. What a derby this is becoming! Forza Juve!
3) Chelsea, Man City and Man U collect important wins
At Stamford Bridge on Saturday, Chelsea very easily disposed of Norwich 4-1. It was never a difficult match-up for the Blues although Grant Holt gave the Canaries a shock 1-0 lead which didn’t last long at all. Rather it looked like a scrimmage between ranks. Fernando Torres headed home the equalizer on 14 minutes, followed by Chelsea hero Frank Lampard who rebounded in the second after Torres attempted an overhead kick. Then, from a Norwich corner, John Terry cleared the ball to Juan Mata who ran unchallenged until the penalty area before threading a through ball for Eden Hazard to place a low curler in the bottom left corner. Chelsea dominated and effectively ended the encounter with Branislav Ivanovic who smashed in an excellent volley from a Mata assist. The Blues are on fire. Chelsea remains in first with 19 points.
Manchester City got past lowly Sunderland with a sound 3-0 result at a packed Etihad Stadium. The Citizens looked very comfortable Saturday against their opponents and never seemed at risk as they dominated the encounter. Aleksandar Kolarov blasted home a free-kick five minutes in. After the restart, second half-sub Sergio Aguero added to the lead after he turned in a fierce Kolarov low cross from six yards. James Milner nailed in the third when he whipped in a free-kick which took a slight deflection off the head of a defender. Man City is in second with 15 points.
Manchester United got the better of a somewhat tough battle with Newcastle United on Sunday with a 3-0 win. Jonathan Evans, Patrice Evra and Tom Cleverley bagged the goals for the Red Devils. They can thank the Magpies’ makeshift defence who leaked goals that established defences would usually clear. Newcastle did put up a fight, crossing in several dangerous balls but were very unlucky that they would rarely find a teammate’s head. It looked as if Newcastle were back in the game five minutes into the second half when the ball may have crossed the line from a Papiss Cisse effort that was batted away from ‘keeper David de Gea. It is very difficult to tell but replays suggest that the ball did not fully cross the line. It was very close and worth another look. Manchester United jump to second with 15 points.
2) Internazionale FC win controversial Milan Derby
Inter came out 1-0 victors in the Milan derby as some debatable decisions from the ref rendered this a fiery affair. The Nerazzurri scored early on after the ref whistled for a soft foul by the boundary lines. Esteban Cambiasso swung in a fierce curler that landed to Walter Samuel who headed home the game-winner three minutes in. Diego Milito almost doubled the lead when Milan `keeper Abbiati coughed up the ball in the box to Diego Milito who had two chances parried away.
The Rossoneri began to pour the pressure and got some help when Yuto Nagatomo was expelled following his second yellow card offence.
Milan thought that they drew level when Urby Emanuelson was sent in to the area from a clever chip over the defence. The Dutchman continued his run towards the ball until he saw Inter ‘keeper Samir Handanovic come flying out to bat away the ball which Riccardo Montolivo volleyed into the net from distance but the ref had already blown for an infringement on Emanuelson. Replays show that Emanuelson ducked to get out of the Handanovic’s way although there still was a slight touch. Somewhat controversial.
It was not to be for the Diavoli as Bojan, Boateng, Pazzini, and Montolivo all had efforts denied. Milan continue to slip and are currently in 11th with seven points whereas Inter remain in third with 15 points.
1) ‘El Clasico’ result: Lionel Messi 2-2 Cristiano Ronaldo
There is no better time for Cristiano Ronaldo to prove to the world that he is just as good as Lionel Messi than in ‘El Clasico’. Arguably the two best players and clubs in world football today went head-to-head in a spectacular showing Sunday at the Camp Nou. Ronaldo and Messi went shot for shot in this affair as they were the only two to score for their respective clubs.
CR7 opened the scoring in the 23rd minute after a good Madrid spell. Karim Benzema fed in a perfect pass from the edge of the box for the Portuguese international who beamed it in at the near post.
Messi wouldn’t have it though and drew the home side level eight minutes later. Los Blancos failed to clear their lines when Pedro crossed in the box that fell perfectly to Messi to convert from close range.
This time, it was Messi who put his side up after Xabi Alonso fouled the tiny Argentine. The Ballon d’Or nominee stepped up to take the free-kick, brilliantly curling the shot over the wall and into the net. Spectacular finish! It was Messi’s 8th goal of the season.
With Real down 2-1 at the Camp Nou, Ronaldo had something to prove and did just that as he bagged his personal 8th of the season as well, thus equalizing and guaranteeing the visitors a point. Mesut Ozil slotted in a precise through ball to CR7 who easily got it past Valdes; 2-2 was the final.
Fantastic display from both clubs who played in an open end-to-end style, but this derby was stolen from the stars this time. This match was proof that Messi and Ronaldo are no doubt the world’s best players as they provided lots of entertainment for viewers. Ronaldo’s depressed? I think not. He has scored an astonishing eight goals in the last three games in all competitions! Unbelievable numbers. Barcelona continue to lead the way with 19 points on level with Atletico Madrid while Real Madrid are lagging by 8 points with 11 and currently lie in fifth.
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