Thrilling turnarounds, hat-trick heroes and shock home defeats were all on offer in a heady mix of action in Europe at the weekend. Star billing went to Manchester City for a stunning derby win away to United, but German champions Borussia Dortmund, Spanish giants Real Madrid and resurgent AC Milan were also on the goal trail.
There were significant movements in position too, as the lead in the table changed hands in Spain and Italy, and Bundesliga front-runners Bayern Munich lost for the first time in nine games. In its new-look five-point review, FIFA.com rounds up the latest events in Europe’s major leagues.
Manchester United-Manchester City, Matchday 9 in England
The 161st Manchester derby at Old Trafford more than lived up to its billing, but in a way even the most diehard Blues fan could hardly have expected beforehand. Champions United met leaders City at the self-styled Theatre of Dreams, a clash which ended with the visitors posting a historic 6-1 triumph, sending them five points clear of their bitter rivals.
Mario Balotelli struck a brace either side of half-time, before Sergio Aguero effectively put his side out of reach with more than 20 minutes to play. Darren Fletcher pulled one back nine minutes from time, but substitute Edin Dzeko netted a brace and David Silva scored another in an astonishing climax to the match. The turning point just a minute after the restart was a red card for United centre-half Jonny Evans.
Once the dust settled, the Red Devils were left staring at their worst ever home defeat in the Premier League, and their heaviest home defeat to the Blues in more than 80 years. It was also United’s first reverse at Old Trafford in fully 37 matches. As for City, the triumph was only their second away to United since 1974 – the previous success was a 2-1 win on 10 February 2008. And way, way back on 23 January 1926, City also beat the Red Devils 6-1 on their home patch.
Strange goings-on in La Liga, where the likes of Barcelona, Madrid, Villarreal and Sevilla are currently forced to play second fiddle to Levante, who knocked no less a team than Barça off top spot at the weekend. The Valencia-based outfit, who the meanest defence in the league with just three goals against in eight games, leapfrogged their rivals to claim first place with a comfortable 3-0 win over UEFA Champions League hopefuls Villarreal.
Crossing the Mediterranean to the east, Udinese went top of Italy’s Serie A for the first time in almost exactly three years. Back on 26 October 2008, the men from Udine seized first place on Matchday 8 with a 3-1 victory over Roma, in a campaign which ultimately brought a seventh-placed finish. At the present time, a total of 15 points from four wins and three draws after seven games sees I Bianconeri leading the way from Lazio (14), Juventus (13) and Cagliari (12).
Ghana international Kevin-Prince Boateng played the super-sub role to perfection for AC Milan, coming on at half-time against Lecce with his side 3-0 adrift and heading for defeat. Just 18 minutes after the restart, Boateng had smashed a hat-trick and hauled his side back into it at 3-3. Colombia hitman Mario Yepes would go on to strike a late winner for the champions.
In England, Heidar Helguson was responsible for another shock result, as promoted Queens Park Rangers beat last season’s runners-up Chelsea courtesy of the Iceland star’s 10th-minute penalty.
After an eight-week lay-off with injury, Vedad Ibisevic made a first start of the season for Bundesliga outfit Hoffenheim. The Bosnian goal-getter celebrated his return with the only goal of the afternoon after 56 minutes of the home encounter with Borussia Monchengladbach.
1 – after five defeats and five draws in Ligue 1 so far, Nancy finally got a win on Matchday 11 and moved off the bottom of the table for the first time in four weeks. Romanian schemer Daniel Niculae scored the winner, 54 minutes into the meeting with Nice
65 – The clock showed just 65 seconds played at the HSV Arena in Hamburg when Mario Mandzukic handed visiting Wolfsburg the lead with the fastest goal in the 2011/12 Bundesliga campaign so far. Die Wölfe were unable to defend their lead over the full 90 minutes, however, and had to be content with a 1-1 draw.
98 – Cristiano Ronaldo is now up to 98 La Liga goals after contributing yet another hat-trick to Real Madrid’s 4-0 victory over Malaga. Following his 11th three-goal haul for Real, Ronaldo declined the offer of a match ball, the customary keepsake for a player scoring a hat-trick: "I’ve run out of space," the superstar politely explained.
770 – Bayern keeper Manuel Neuer finally conceded in the Bundesliga after fully 770 minutes of play without a goal against. Hannover striker Mohammed Abdellaoue beat the Germany keeper from the spot on 23 minutes to end Neuer’s pursuit of a new goalkeeping record. In the all-time chart, Neuer is now third behind Timo Hildebrand (VfB Stuttgart, 884 minutes) and Oliver Kahn (Bayern, 802 minutes).
5. Memorable moments
One that got away: The match was almost 95 minutes old when 2010 FIFA Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi stepped up to take a penalty for Barcelona against Sevilla. There was still no score at Camp Nou, so a converted penalty was all but certain to settle the outcome. The Argentine took his kick, but keeper Javi Varas beat it away to seal a famous point for his side.
PSG march on: Expensively-assembled Paris St. Germain are blazing an early trail in France. The leaders are now unbeaten in ten, and have won their last five league fixtures, including comfortable victories over direct rivals Montpellier and Lyon. Promoted Dijon fought bravely against PSG on Matchday 11 but were ultimately defeated by a Nene brace.
Winning goal to mark milestone: Jefferson Farfan of Schalke marked his 100th Bundesliga appearance with a superb goal which also sealed maximum points for his side. The meeting with Bayer Leverkusen was still goalless with eight minutes to play when the Peru star gathered the ball on the edge of his own penalty area, before sprinting the length of the field and slipping the ball past home keeper Bernd Leno to settle the outcome.
Double joy in Milan: AC and Inter Milan staged a two-horse race for the Scudetto last term, but the pair have struggled for any kind of form so far this season. The weekend brought a certain amount of relief, as the 16th-placed Nerazzurri registered a second win of the campaign, a 1-0 success against Chievo, matching Milan’s thrilling 4-3 triumph in Lecce.
It's all over: The top leagues are just emerging from the early-season phase, but the campaign is coming to an end in the chillier parts of the continent. Helsingborg wrapped up the Swedish championship some weeks ago, but the curtain finally came down on the 2011 Allsvenskan at the weekend. The newly-crowned champions signed off for the winter with a 1-1 draw against runners-up AIK Solna.