Goalless glory, stars and strangleholds
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This week, title celebrations in Manchester, Amsterdam and Glasgow feature alongside a Javier Zanetti milestone and the most unusual of Russian Cup runs.

1000

competitive appearances was the landmark reached by Javier Zanetti in Inter Milan’s Coppa Italia semi-final against Roma last Wednesday. This remarkable tally, which rose to 1,001 at Napoli on Sunday, is made up of 750 games for Inter, 33 for Talleres, his first club, 66 with Banfield, 12 for Argentina’s U-23 side and a record 140 with the Albiceleste seniors. The veteran utility man, who turns 38 in August, has now played 535 league matches without picking up a single red card, and is steadily closing in on Giuseppe Bergomi’s Inter appearance record of 758. He has also joined an exclusive club by hitting the 1,000-mark, with Tommy Hutchison (1,000), Roberto Carlos (1,010), Paolo Maldini (1,032) and Alan Ball (1,084) the only outfield players on a list topped comfortably by goalkeeping legend Peter Shilton (1,390).

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national league titles have now been won by Rangers, strengthening the Scottish giants’ hold on the world record. This latest championship, the Ibrox club’s third in succession, leaves them four clear of Linfield of Northern Ireland, their closest challengers, with Uruguay’s Penarol another two behind on 48. For outgoing manager Walter Smith, this was his tenth league title and 21st major trophy over two separate and hugely successful spells in charge. As for old foes Celtic, they had the small consolation of breaking the Scottish Premier League’s clean sheet record with their 23rd shutout of the season in the 4-0 win over Motherwell. Between them, these Glasgow rivals have now won the Scottish title in each of the last 26 seasons, a run that dates back to Sir Alex Ferguson’s Aberdeen’s second straight championship in 1985/86.

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domestic championships is a landmark that, before Sunday, only seven teams in continental Europe had reached. In pipping Twente to the Eredivisie title, Ajax became the eighth to join this elite club, following in the footsteps of Anderlecht, Benfica, CSKA Sofia, Olympiacos, Rapid Vienna, Real Madrid and Sparta Prague. It was the Amsterdam outfit’s first championship in seven years, ending their longest drought in over half a century, since they went a decade without a league title between 1947 and 1957. Another team rewriting history this week were Porto, who became only the third team to complete a Portuguese top-flight season without defeat, a feat managed by Benfica in 1972/73 and 1977/78, and set a new points record of 84 in the process.

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top-flight titles is the tally that has established Manchester United as the most successful team in English league history. This latest, landmark championship, secured with a 1-1 draw at Blackburn Rovers on Saturday, took the Red Devils beyond the long-coveted tally of old rivals Liverpool. Since the Premier League was formed in 1992, United have finished on top in 12 of the division’s 19 seasons, and Saturday also witnessed Ryan Giggs break David James’s Premier League appearance record by turning out for the 573rd time. Yet Sir Alex Ferguson’s 16th league title as a manager was secured despite his side boasting the worst away record of any Premier League champions, having won just five of their 19 fixtures on the road. Nor were United the only Manchester club celebrating, with City toasting their first major trophy in 35 years, a 1-0 final win over Stoke City having extended their run of over seven hours without conceding in the FA Cup.

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goals have been scored by Alania Vladikavkaz en route to reaching the Russian Cup final for the first time in their history. This seemingly impossible statistic has come about thanks to a remarkable run that has taken the second tier outfit to within 90 minutes of silverware – or, more likely, to within 120 minutes and beyond. After all, Alania have advanced to the final on the back of three goalless draws, three penalty shoot-out wins and another fortuitous twist of fate, when quarter-final opponents FC Saturn went bankrupt. Only CSKA Moscow, who have scored eight times en route to the final and boast three previous cup wins, can now prevent Alania completing their unusual journey to the trophy. And regardless of the outcome in the 22 May showpiece, this goalless campaign has ensured that team from the foothills of the Caucasus mountains will be playing in Europe next season, with CSKA’s UEFA Champions League participation guaranteeing their opponents a place in the UEFA Europa League.