Fine form and favoured targets
© AFP

In FIFA.com’s latest statistical review, we reflect on a week that brought landmarks for two Barcelona legends, joy for Santos, despair for Matias Almeyda and goalscoring success against familiar prey for Messrs Defoe and Niang.

100

matches in the Barcelona hot-seat was the milestone reached by Pep Guardiola on Saturday, and it was marked in predictable fashion: with a win. In the process of completing his century, Guardiola has established a record that would leave most coaches salivating, racking up 71 victories, 19 draws and just ten defeats. And he wasn’t the only Barça hero celebrating a landmark against Racing Santander. The 4-0 success was also Andres Iniesta’s 300th competitive appearance for the Catalans and, fittingly, he celebrated the occasion by scoring his first goal of the season. At 25 years and 285 days old, Iniesta became the second-youngest-ever Barcelona player to reach the 300-mark after midfield colleague Xavi, who was 21 days younger when he reached the same figure.

18

years after making his professional debut for River Plate, Matias Almeyda marked his latest appearance for Los Millonarios on Sunday in headline-grabbing style: by earning a red card. This ill-timed dismissal, which helped visitors Arsenal avoid defeat at the Monumental in the league for the first time in their history, merely added another dramatic chapter to the 36-year-old’s colourful career story. A veteran of the 1998 and 2002 FIFA World Cups™, Almeyda has twice announced his retirement - most recently in 2006 - and it was after three years out of the professional game that he pulled on his boots again with little-known Argentinian minnows Fenix. Remarkably, though, after making just three appearances for the fourth-tier outfit – two of which ended in his dismissal – Almeyda returned to River Plate in August of last year, becoming one the team’s most influential players and, until Sunday, managing to avoid picking up a single red card.

7

straight wins have taken Santos to the summit of the Campeonato Paulista and replicated a feat last achieved 42 years ago. It was in 1968, during the club’s glorious zenith, and with the likes of Pele, Carlos Alberto and Clodoaldo all playing their part, that O Peixe last strung together seven straight victories. That era may be the stuff of distant legend now, but this current Santos team does have a superstar of its own, of course, in the prodigal Robinho. The on-loan Manchester City forward has impressed along with rising stars Neymar and Paulo Henrique and, although the latter pair missed the club’s most recent match through suspension, Dorival Junior’s side still inflicted a 2-1 defeat on Mirassol to establish a four-point gap over their nearest challengers.

6

goals against one team in a single Premier League season had only been managed by four players until Jermain Defoe became the fifth on Sunday. The England striker scored five times in Tottenham Hotspur’s 9-1 win over Wigan Athletic earlier in the season, and by hitting the net against the same opponents at the weekend, he joined Andy Cole, Alan Shearer, Thierry Henry and Emmanuel Adebayor, who put six past Ipswich Town, Sheffield Wednesday, Leeds United and Derby County respectively. It was not such an enjoyable weekend for the player Defoe hopes to partner in South Africa. Wayne Rooney had scored 14 goals in 13 league matches since Everton kept him at bay at Old Trafford back in November, yet was defied again by his old club, who recorded a memorable 3-1 win. Having lost 13 times at Goodison Park to United during the Premier League era, the Toffees went into the match with the division’s worst-ever record in a home fixture, but they rewrote history and, in doing so, became the first side this season to come from behind and beat the Red Devils.

0.7

goals per game is the impressive and unmatched Ligue 1 scoring average of Marseille’s Mamadou Niang’s this season. The Senegal international continued his prolific recent form with a hat-trick in Sunday’s 3-1 win over Nancy, extending a run that has encompassed seven goals in OM’s last five matches. The second of his treble was Niang’s 100th French top-flight strike, and the fact that this season’s tally of 14 has been achieved over just 20 games leaves Ligue 1’s leading marksman with a scoring average that compares favourably to his nearest challengers, Nene of Monaco (0.57) and Lille’s Gervinho (0.5). Nancy will certainly be glad that they don’t need to face Niang every week, with the former Strasbourg striker having now scored eight goals in just seven leagues outings against the north-eastern team.