European Leagues review
There was a lesson for the likes of Barcelona, AC Milan, Manchester United, Lyon and Schalke this weekend as the prestigious quintet were shown that a fearsome reputation, transfer-market muscle and a glittering array of talent all count for nothing if players’ minds begin to wander.
In contrast, Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid managed to secure wins by remaining focused on domestic duties despite the looming shadow of European tests later this week. FIFA.com sifts back through the highlights of the last few days of action across the continent's top leagues.
Premier League: United let it slip
Manchester United must still be kicking themselves after letting two points slip through their fingers in their 3-3 draw away against Everton. With Wayne Rooney left out against his former side, the Red Devils conceded goals to both Tim Cahill and Mikel Arteta in added time and already find themselves four points shy of pacesetters Chelsea. Still in imperious form, the Blues extended their 100 per cent record by prevailing 3-1 at West Ham, thanks in part to a double from a superb Michael Essien. Scott Parker’s fine lobbed volley may have been a mere consolation for the hosts, but it was also the first goal his former employers have conceded this term.
Despite missing injured trio Theo Walcott, Robin van Persie and Nicklas Bendtner, Arsenal were still able to stay in touch with Chelsea thanks to a 4-1 win at home to Bolton, while Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City and Liverpool all experienced frustration. Spurs could only draw 1-1 at West Bromwich Albion, City were held 1-1 at home by Blackburn and the Reds played out a goalless stalemate away against Birmingham City.
Top three: Chelsea (12 points), Arsenal (10), Manchester United (8)
Bottom three: Everton (2 points), Stoke City, West Ham (both 0)
Top scorers: Andrew Carroll, Didier Drogba, Florent Malouda, Theo Walcott (all 4 goals)
Weekend stat: 0 – With four games played, West Ham have still failed to collect a single point. The Londoners have conceded 14 goals during that time and scored just twice.
Ligue 1: European distractions prove costly
Lyon and Auxerre must have imagined themselves on the road to victory after taking the lead against Valenciennes and Caen respectively, but if thoughts began turning to their midweek UEFA Champions League outings they were made to pay by way of late equalisers. Champions Marseille are hardly in inspirational form either, with just one win to their names this term and having had to come back twice to claim a 2-2 draw with Monaco.
Toulouse’s perfect start was brought to an end by a 1-0 loss to an impressive Saint-Etienne side, but Alain Casanova’s men remain leaders thanks to their opening four triumphs. Their conquerors now lie third, while Rennes are a solitary point off the pace in second thanks to a last-gasp decider in their 2-1 success against Sochaux. Lastly, Paris Saint-Germain romped to a 4-0 victory against promoted side Arles-Avignon, who have yet to clinch their first point.
Top three: Toulouse (12 points), Rennes (11), Saint-Etienne (10)
Bottom three: Bordeaux, Lens (both 4 points), Arles-Avignon (0)
Top scorers: Dimitri Payet (4 goals), Guillaume Hoarau, Daniel Braaten, Benoit Pedretti, Youssef El-Arabi, Nene (all 3)
Weekend stat: 2 – After an impressive four consecutive clean sheets, Montpellier shipped two goals against Nancy in their first defeat of the season.
La Liga: Hercules too strong for Barcelona
Spain found life difficult against Paraguay in the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ quarter-finals, so the likes of Xavi, Pedro, Andres Iniesta, David Villa and Victor Valdes ought to have known all about striker Nelson Valdez when Barcelona tackled Hercules on Saturday. The Paraguayan international was nonetheless able to plunder a pair of goals at the Camp Nou as the newcomers caused the sensation of the season so far to win 2-0. Real Madrid were only marginally more impressive than their Catalan rivals but, importantly, claimed maximum points against Osasuna at the Santiago Bernabeu, defender Ricardo Carvalho hitting the only goal to help extend coach Jose Mourinho’s record of not having lost a home league game in eight years.
City neighbours Atletico Madrid are slowly emerging as a potential force this season after recording a second win in two matches. FIFA Ballon D’or candidate Diego Forlan fired the opener as Los Colchoneros triumphed 2-1 at Athletic Bilbao to maintain their unblemished record. Also on six points are Valencia, who had a Hedwiges Maduro strike to thank for their 1-0 victory over Racing Santander, while Sevilla failed to join them after drawing 0-0 with Deportivo La Coruna.
Top three: Atletico Madrid, Valencia (both 6 points), Sevilla (4)
Bottom three: Mallorca, Racing Santander, Levante (all 0 points)
Top scorers: Diego Forlan (3 goals), Fernando, Joaquin, Juanmi, Abdoulay Konko, Fernando Llorente, Pablo Osvaldo, Giuseppe Rossi, Nelson Valdez (all 2)
Weekend stat: 1 – Barcelona’s loss to Hercules was their first home reverse in La Liga since Osasuna consigned them to a 1-0 defeat on 23 May 2009.
Bundesliga: Favourites flailing
There is an unfamiliar look to the Bundesliga table as the expected title pretenders have yet to find their feet. For Bayern Munich and Werder Bremen, that meant a goalless draw when the two clubs met on Saturday, neither team able to find the net despite their reputations for attacking football.
Meanwhile, the situation is even worse for Wolfsburg, Stuttgart and Schalke, who all remain stuck on zero points. Champions in 2008/09, Wolfsburg lost 2-0 to an eye-catching Borussia Dortmund side, Stuttgart succumbed 2-1 to Freiburg despite having recruited Mauro Camoranesi, and last season’s runners-up Schalke were undone 2-0 by Hoffenheim, who have won all their games. The only other team on nine points are Mainz, who edged Kaiserslautern 2-1.
Top three: Hoffenheim, Mainz (both 9 points), Hamburg (7)
Bottom three: Wolfsburg, Schalke, Stuttgart (all 0 points)
Top scorers: Papiss Cisse, Srdjan Lakic (both 4 goals), Edin Dzeko, Ruud van Nistelrooy (both 3)
Weekend stat: 3 – For the first time in their history, Stuttgart have lost their opening three games of the Bundesliga season.
Serie A: Much ado about nothing
The whole of Italy seemed to be engrossed by the prospect of watching Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Robinho make their AC Milan debuts and, with promoted side Cesena next up for the Rossoneri, goals appeared to be in the offing. As it happened, the Swedish international missed a penalty and his Brazilian team-mate only came on at the end as Milan slumped to a 2-0 defeat that showed they still have work to do to catch Inter Milan. For their part, the Nerazzurri were made to sweat during their 2-1 win over Udinese.
That was made to look an even better result by some of the outcomes elsewhere, with Juventus held to a 3-3 home draw by Sampdoria and Roma routed 5-1 at Cagliari after losing Nicolas Burdisso to a red card. With two games played, only Chievo still boast a perfect record, having run out 3-1 winners at Genoa on Sunday.
Top three: Chievo (6 points), Cagliari, Sampdoria (4)
Bottom three: Bologna, Roma (both 1 point), Udinese (0)
Top scorers: Nicola Pozzi, Alessandro Matri, Alexandre Pato, Antonio Cassano, Davide Moscardelli, Sergio Pellissier (all 2 goals)
Weekend stat: 9 – Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s annual salary of €9m is higher than the entire wage bill of Cesena (€8.3m), who defeated Milan 2-0 on Saturday.
It may have lost some of its prestige in recent years, but the Budapest derby is still eagerly anticipated by football fans in Hungary. Saturday’s edition is likely to live long in the memory too after seventh-placed Ujpest swept aside Ferencvaros 6-0 to move within a point of their eternal rivals and four behind frontrunners Kaposvar, who prevailed at fifth-placed Vasas.
There was also derby joy for Lokomotiv Moscow against CSKA Moscow in Russia, with eighth-placed Lokomotiv beating the team four spots higher than them 1-0. Elsewhere in the capital, Spartak overcame neighbours Saturn by the same margin in a 2-1 success. The team at the summit are Zenit St. Petersburg, however, and they lead the way by six points after beating mid-table Tom Tomsk 2-0.