Expectations defied as fortresses crumble
© AFP

FIFA.com’s latest statistical review reflects on the shedding of invincibility at Stamford Bridge and the San Siro, the continuation of Muscovite woes, landmarks for Carles Puyol and Lionel Messi, and the tightest Ligue 1 season in memory.

916

minutes without conceding a league goal at Stamford Bridge was the run that Sunderland brought to a spectacular end on Sunday. Chelsea’s previously impenetrable goal – last dented by Aston Villa’s John Carew almost eight months ago – was breached three times without reply as the visitors coasted to a victory as unlikely as it was emphatic. Sunderland manager Steve Bruce had, after all, failed to win any of his previous 23 top-flight matches in London, while Chelsea stood on the brink of a Premier League record for consecutive wins against a single opponent, having won all 11 of the sides’ most recent meetings. By half-time, however, Bruce’s side had already registered more shots on target than any of Chelsea’s opponents last season managed over 90 minutes, and by the end they had become the first team to win at Stamford Bridge by a three-goal margin since Manchester United in 2002. Chelsea, who failed to score at home for the first time in two years, remain top, but this is the first time the Blues have lost three games at this stage of a season since 2000/01, when they went on to finish sixth.

500

Barcelona appearances was the milestone reached by Carles Puyol in Saturday’s 3-1 win over Villarreal. The Barça captain, who joked afterwards that he is “only halfway through” his glittering career, is just the third player to reach this landmark, following Migueli (549) and team-mate Xavi (541). Once again, however, the Camp Nou stage was stolen by Lionel Messi, whose decisive double took his Barcelona tally for 2010 to an incredible 48 in 45 competitive appearances. The Argentinian, who has scored at least once in the Catalans’ last seven matches, needs only one more La Liga strike to reach 96 and draw level with Mariano Martin in fourth position in the club’s all-time standings.

4

years have now passed since the Russian title last went to Moscow, with recent seasons having witnessed the relinquishing of the capital clubs’ stranglehold. A 5-0 win over Rostov on Sunday doubled Zenit’s tally of Premier League championships, adding to their first in 2007 and continuing a miserable run for Muscovites that persisted in 2008 and 2009 with Rubin Kazan’s back-to-back triumphs. No-one could have envisaged this situation just a few short years ago, at which stage the capital’s dominant trio had laid claim to 14 of the first 15 titles of the post-Soviet era, with Spartak alone accounting for nine.

4

points is all that currently separates the top 12 teams in Ligue 1 after another unpredictable round of results in France’s volatile top flight. Just as remarkably, only eight points stand between leaders Brest and second-from-bottom Lens, who have slipped into the relegation zone after after holding top spot themselves at one stage. The latest in a string of eye-catching results was Lille’s 5-2 win away to Caen on Saturday, an incident-packed encounter that ended as the highest-scoring match of the season thus far. Les Dogues’ five-goal haul helped establish them as the league’s top scorers on 22, and the game also showcased the league’s two leading marksmen, hat-trick hero Moussa Sow and Caen's Youssef El-Arabi, both of whom have nine.

2

years, eight months and 46 Serie A games without a home defeat was the streak that came to an end for Inter Milan on Sunday. AC Milan’s 1-0 win in a tense Derby della Madonnina made them the first ‘visiting’ team to inflict a reverse on I Nerazzurri since Juventus on 22 March 2008. It was also the first time that Inter had lost a ‘home’ Milan derby in the league in over five years, since a 1-0 victory for their old rivals in February 2005. Adding insult to injury was the fact that the decisive goal, Milan’s 200th in derby combat, provided a triumphant return to the fixture for Zlatan Ibrahimovic, this time in the colours of I Rossoneri. The Swede’s telling contribution left Inter six points off the top, their worst position at this stage of a domestic campaign since 2005.