There is coverage a-plenty of the English Premier League, so it is time to shift the spotlight to the rest of Europe, where there are plenty of interesting happenings! Without further ado, here is this week’s European Football Roundup.
Barca Bite Back:
Barcelona secured immediate redemption when they won 1-0 away from home against Athletic Bilbao on Sunday. Luis Enrique’s side were able to exorcise Spanish Super Cup demons, defeating the side that put five past them in the week prior. Despite a troubling first half for Barcelona, which saw Lionel Messi have his penalty saved and Dani Alves withdrawn due to injury, they weathered the storm as Luis Suarez capitalised on poor Bilbao defending to score the winner in the second half. The unmarked Uruguayan volleyed from inside the box to launch the defending champions into the best possible start.
A goalless draw at Sporting Gijon cannot have been the start to his Real Madrid tenure that Rafael Benitez had in mind. In the absence of Karim Benzema through injury, Benitez lined up in a 4-2-3-1 with youngster Jese Rodriguez leading the line. Despite a plethora of talent in the attack, the natural goal scoring instinct of Benzema was missing, with Madrid looking relatively toothless as a result. Having been heavily linked with Arsenal throughout the transfer window, it is easy to see why
Los Blancos are so keen to keep hold of their French striker. Surprisingly it was the home side that came closest to taking the lead; they were denied only by the crossbar in the first half.
Cagey would be the appropriate term to describe the opening round of fixtures in La Liga. Aside from Real Madrid being held to a deadlock by Sporting Gijon, three other fixtures ended goalless. Atletico Madrid were one of five teams to begin their campaign with a win, Antoine Griezmann’s first half free kick ensuring they were victorious at home to newly promoted Las Palmas. Celta Vigo and Espanyol also picked up three points this weekend, winning 1-0 and 2-1 respectively.
Dortmund Run Riot Once Again:
Borussia Dortmund continued their rampant start under new boss Thomas Tuchel, hitting Bundesliga new boys FC Ingolstadt for four on their own turf. In six games under their new manager, Dortmund have scored 20 goals, producing goal scoring form and attacking play reminiscent of their heyday under Jurgen Klopp. It took 55 minutes for the opener to come; Marco Reus missed a good opportunity to open the scoring with a wild strike in the first half. Regardless, makeshift right-back Matthias Ginter opened the floodgates with a 55th minute goal, with Marco Reus converting from the penalty spot soon after. Shinji Kagawa and Pierre Emerick Aubameyang further added to Ingolstadt’s misery.
Bayern Munich’s visit to Hoffenheim saw one of the fastest goal in Bundesliga history, with Kevin Volland capitalising on a mix-up between David Alaba and Jerome Boateng within only 9 seconds. The Hoffenheim opener ties Karim Bellarabi’s goal against Borussia Dortmund last season for fastest in Bundesliga history. In spite of this and in spite of ending the game with 10-men following a Jerome Boateng red card, Guardiola’s team overcame the setbacks to leave with the three points thanks to a 90th minute winner from Robert Lewandowski.
Ex-Arsenal defender Johan Djourou netted an 89th minute match-winner for Hamburg as they defeated Stuttgart in dramatic fashion. On the topic of former Arsenal players scoring late goals, Nicklas Bendtner scored an 83rd minute equaliser to take home a point for Wolfsburg against Koln. Bayer Leverkusen joined Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund in having a perfect record thus far, with a 1-0 away success versus Hanover. Schalke were denied their perfect start, as promoted outfit Darmstadt provided an impressive performance to earn a draw at the Veltins Arena.
Top Teams Struggle in Opening Serie A Weekend:
Following the sale of Carlos Tevez earlier this summer, Juventus brought in the likes of Mario Mandzukic, Paulo Dybala and Simone Zaza to bolster their attacking options. Nevertheless it was finding the back of the net that caused Juventus problems on the opening Serie A weekend. Allegri’s side asked questions of the Udinese defence for over an hour with no luck. Fortunes were the opposite at the other end however as Udinese striker Cyril Thereau snuck in at the back post from a cross to score, providing the sucker punch the away side needed to earn three points against the champions. Albeit not an ideal start for Juve, there was not too much cause for concern for Allegri, as his team were unfortunate to be denied for the entire 90 minutes.
Stevan Jovetic provided injury time heroics at the San Siro to gain Inter three points against Atalanta. The match appeared to be heading to a 0-0 draw before Manchester City loanee Stevan Jovetic finessed a curling effort from the edge of the penalty area into the top right corner, marking a perfect Inter debut for the City outcast. Re-united with Roberto Mancini in a team full of new signings, Jovetic could prove to be a real coup for the Milan side, with the Montenegro forward scoring 35 goals in his previous Serie A spell with Fiorentina.
Fortunes were not quite as romantic for the red and black half of Milan, as AC Milan suffered a 2-0 defeat in Florence to Fiorentina. Milan’s new coach Sinisa Mihajlović, who managed Sampdoria in the 2014/15 season, took a risk with his starting eleven. Huge pressure was placed on the inexperienced shoulders of both centre-backs; 20-year old Alessio Romagnoli and 21-year old Rodrigo Ely. The home team’s attack would prove to be too much for the young partnership to handle, as Rodrigo Ely picked up two yellow cards within the first half, a nightmare debut to forget. Milan’s situation only worsened, the resulting free kick from the second yellow leading to Milan keeper Diego Lopez picking the ball from the back of the net, a spectacular strike from Marcos Alonso doing the damage. A second half penalty from Josip Ilicic, who performed impressively, put the game out of reach for the 10-man Rossoneri.
Other major teams that struggled at the weekend included Napoli, who were defeated 2-1 by Sassuolo, and AS Roma, who drew one a-piece with Hellas Verona. The opening weekend in Serie A was certainly a learning experience for the newly promoted sides also, with all three beating defeated. Last season’s Serie B champions Carpi found themselves 5-0 down within only 37 minutes against Sampdoria, before bringing it back to a slightly more respectable 5-2. As for the other two promoted sides, Bologna lost 2-1 at the Stadio Olimpico to last season’s third placed team Lazio, whilst Frosinone were defeated at home by Torino in their first ever Serie A game.
Best of the Rest:
- After a nightmare start to their Ligue 1 campaign following the resignation of former manager Marcelo Bielsa, Marseille picked up their first points of the campaign in the form of a 6-0 home win, a dream home start for Bielsa’s successor, Michel.
- It appears Paris Saint-Germain have set the pace already in Ligue 1, with direct competitors Marseille, Olympique Lyonnais and AS Monaco all having dropped points within the first three match days. PSG, conversely, have maintained a perfect record, which they continued this week with an away win over 2011/12 champions Montpellier.
- Iker Casillas conceded his first goal as FC Porto goalkeeper, as his new side drew 1-1 at Maritimo. Having only lost two games throughout the whole of their 2014/15 league journey and still finishing second, FC Porto know the importance of not dropping points in this league. Luckily for Lopetegui’s Porto, reigning champions Benfica went one further than them at the weekend, losing on the road to Arouca.
- Following a two-year absence from the Greek Super League as a result of troubles at the club and a ‘self-relegation’, AEK Athens made their top-flight return in convincing fashion, with a 3-0 home victory over Platanias.
Coming up in European Football…
- Perhaps the tastiest clash in La Liga next week sees Sevilla host Atletico Madrid. Unai Emery has constructed a dangerous and well-drilled Sevilla team, as evidenced by back to back Europa League crowns and a 5th place finish last season, only a point away from the top four.
- Elsewhere in Spain, Real Madrid look to truly get their season underway when they welcome Real Betis to the Bernabeu. Rafael Benitez needs his team to fire on all cylinders up front in order to impress a notoriously hard to please fan-base.
- The Bundesliga provides us with two games featuring top teams colliding. Wolfsburg play host to Schalke, whilst Bayern Munich will play Bayer Leverkusen. Regardless of these fixtures being played early in the season, these results will have an impact on the final standings of these four direct competitors.
- Juventus look to rebound from their opening day disappointment, but tough circumstances await them as they travel to the Stadio Olimpico to face Roma.
- The two wealthiest teams in France will clash next weekend as PSG look to further widen the gap between them and AS Monaco when the two sides meet at the St. Louis II Stadium.
- In one of the biggest games of the Eredivisie calendar, PSV host Feyenoord, with the Eindhoven-based champions looking to close a four point gap at the top.
- The Turkish Super League will kick off at the weekend, possibly featuring the league debuts of Robin van Persie and Nani for Fenerbahce.
Until next week, thank you for reading and take care, Adios!