Goalkeeping defiance, goalscoring brilliance
© AFP

This week, we look at how goalkeepers Steeve Elana and Edwin van der Sar are defying the odds and the years, pay tribute to the prolific Cristiano Ronaldo and Samuel Eto'o, and highlight a triumphant return for FBK Kaunas. 

791

minutes without conceding is the remarkable run that has underpinned Brest’s shock rise to the summit of Ligue 1 for the first time since August 1986. It is now two months and 13 days since Lyon’s Jean Makoun became the last player to breach Steeve Elana’s goal in the top flight, with the subsequent shutouts leading to six wins and two 0-0 draws. Unsurprisingly, the newly-promoted Brittany outfit top Ligue 1’s defensive standings with an average of 0.36 goals conceded per match – a record second only in Europe’s top leagues to Chelsea, who boast an average of 0.3. Elana, meanwhile, is steadily closing in on the top four Ligue 1 clean sheet sequences of all time, with Bruno Martini of Auxerre, Monaco’s Jean-Luc Ettori and Saint-Etienne stalwart Joseph-Antoine Bell (all nine) within touching distance, and Bordeaux’s Gaetan Huard (12) his ultimate target.

81

points from an available 81 is the record with which Lithuania’s record champions, FBK Kaunas, have won promotion back to the top flight. The fallen giants, who were demoted to the country’s third tier shortly before the 2009 season, completed a speedy return by winning all 27 matches in this season’s second tier, 1 Lyga. In Kaunas’s sights for next season are the team that has emerged as Lithuania’s dominant force during their absence. Ekranas Panevezys will be bidding for a fourth successive title, having clinched their third on Sunday with a 2-1 win over KFK Siauliai, leaving them eight points clear of Zalgiris Vilnius with just two rounds of matches remaining. Ekranas now have five national titles overall to the eight of their returning rivals.

38

games, 38 goals. That is how Cristiano Ronaldo’s La Liga record currently stands after the seemingly unstoppable Real Madrid star struck for the tenth time in his last four domestic fixtures. Even the equally irresistible Lionel Messi cannot match his star rival in this respect, although with 41 goals from his last 42 La Liga appearances and an average of 0.98 per game, Barcelona’s talisman could hardly be any closer. With the personal duel between two of the game’s greatest players providing an intriguing subplot to this season’s title race, Real remained on top of the pile after extending their unbeaten league run to 16 games. Despite conceding in the opening half of a top-flight match for the first time under Jose Mourinho, Real maintained their record of having scored more (25) and conceded fewer (5) than any of their domestic rivals. Intriguingly, and thanks largely to Ronaldo, another new record has been set in recent weeks, with every one of the Spanish giants' last 28 goals coming from a foreigner.

9

players over the age of 40 have now turned out in the English Premier League after Edwin van der Sar became the latest member of this exclusive group of veterans. The Manchester United keeper is, in fact, the first non-Brit to reach this milestone, and the first 40-something of any nationality to grace England’s top flight since Watford’s Alec Chamberlain over three years ago. Just two of the nine, Teddy Sheringham and Gordon Strachan, were outfield players, while veteran keeper John Burridge remains the Premier League’s oldest-ever player, having turned out for Manchester City in 1995 at the age of 43 years and 162 days. It proved to be a weekend of landmarks for Manchester United players past and present, with Nemanja Vidic scoring Old Trafford’s 1,000th Premier League goal and Everton's Phil Neville making his 600th career appearance just a week after brother Gary had reached the same milestone.

7

goals have been scored by Samuel Eto’o in his first four UEFA Champions League matches this season. In the history of the competition, only two players had previously managed this feat: Ruud van Nistelrooy, with seven for Manchester United in season 2004/05, and Filippo Inzaghi, who managed eight for AC Milan in 2002/03. Despite Eto’o’s continued success, it was a disappointing night for Inter Milan at White Hart Lane, where Tottenham Hotspur’s 3-1 win – added to a 4-3 defeat in the San Siro – saw the Londoners become the first club to score six goals against I Nerazzurri in a single Champions League season. With 12 goals already to their name, Spurs are the second-highest scorers in this season’s competition behind north London rivals Arsenal, who have 14. Rafael van der Vaart also continued his proud record of having scored in every one of his five appearances at White Hart Lane since arriving from Real Madrid.