United, Bayern shine as Barça stumble
After the much-awaited kick-off in Italy, European football’s all-star cast is now complete for this season. As if to celebrate this fact, the continent’s big guns put on some free-scoring displays, assisted in the most part by strikers in rich veins of form.
This was certainly the case in England, where Wayne Rooney and Sergio Aguero both registered hat-tricks for their respective high-flying Manchester clubs. In Germany, Mario Gomez hit four for leaders Bayern Munich, while two goals from Karim Benzema enabled Real Madrid to snatch top spot in La Liga.
FIFA.com pores over the weekend action in the major European leagues.
Premier League: Manchester rivals maintain form
Manchester United and Manchester City both recorded their fourth league wins of the season, holding on to their respective 100 per cent records in the process. Wayne Rooney scored another hat-trick and Javier Hernandez struck twice in United’s 5-0 success at Bolton Wanderers. This latest rout maintains the lead that Alex Ferguson’s men currently enjoy on goal difference over their neighbours. For their part, City disposed of Wigan Athletic 3-0, and had a hat-trick hero of their own to laud. Sergio Aguero’s treble was his first for his new club.
Chelsea secured a 2-1 win at Sunderland, and stayed in touch with the two Manchester clubs in the process. After their historic 8-2 defeat at Old Trafford last week, Arsenal took a small step along the road to recovery with a 1-0 victory over Swansea City. Tottenham Hotspur will also hope to have turned the page, their 2-0 win at Wolves moving them out of the lower reaches of the table. Liverpool, despite winning their two previous league matches, lost 1-0 at Stoke City. Queens Park Rangers and Newcastle United meet on Monday.
Top three: Manchester United, Manchester City (both 12 points), Chelsea (10)
Bottom three: Fulham, Swansea City (both 2), Blackburn Rovers (1)
Top scorers: Wayne Rooney (8 goals), Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko (both 6)
Weekend stat: 2 – The average number of goals scored per match by Wayne Rooney so far this season. Following on from his hat-trick last week against Arsenal, the Manchester United front man replicated that feat versus Bolton on Saturday. In doing so, the England international became the first Red Devils player since Alex Dawson in 1960 to notch consecutive hat-tricks.
Bundesliga: Bayern have a ball
Bayern Munich kept up their fine start to the season by demolishing Freiburg 7-0, with four goals from Mario Gomez and a double from Franck Ribery doing the majority of the damage. The win propelled the Bavarians back into first place in the Bundesliga, a position provisionally occupied overnight by Bayer Leverkusen following their 4-1 triumph away to Augsburg on Friday. Werder Bremen have also impressed in the early stages of this campaign, and their Claudio Pizarro-inspired 2-0 victory over Hamburg saw them keep pace with the leaders. Borussia Monchengladbach, meanwhile, saw off Kaiserslautern 1-0.
Defending champions Borussia Dortmund did not experience the same winning feeling, going down 2-1 at home to Hertha Berlin, newly promoted from the second division. Schalke’s run of success came to an end at Wolfsburg, meanwhile, as Mario Mandzukic’s double overcame Raul’s fine volleyed opener.
Top three: Bayern Munich, Werder Bremen (12 points), Borussia Monchengladbach (10)
Bottom three: Augsburg, Kaiserslautern (both 2), Hamburg (1)
Top scorers: Mario Gomez (8 goals), Papiss Cisse, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (both 4)
Weekend stat: 4 – The number of goals scored by Mario Gomez against Freiburg on Saturday, a first quadruple in Bayern Munich colours for the striker. The Germany forward achieved a staggering total of six hat-tricks last season, and this campaign has seen him pick up where he left off.
La Liga: Barça cede early ground
Real Madrid and Barcelona came into this weekend on the back of impressive performances, countless goals, and clean sheets. Early strikes from Xavi and Cesc Fabregas put the Catalans were well on their way to another victory away at Real Sociedad, but the home side stepped up a gear in the second half, drawing level through goals from Imanol Agirretxe and Antoine Griezmann.
Real Madrid took advantage of their rivals’ slip-up to consolidate their place at the top of the table, beating Getafe 4-2 at the Santiago Bernabeu, a match which featured a brace from Karim Benzema. Valencia moved into second with a 1-0 win over Atletico Madrid, the solitary goal coming courtesy of in-form Roberto Soldado. Elsewhere, newly-promoted Real Betis beat Mallorca 1-0 to go third.
Top three: Real Madrid, Valencia, Real Betis (all 6 points)
Bottom three: Malaga, Grenada, Sporting Gijon (all 0)
Top scorers: Cristiano Ronaldo, Roberto Soldado (both 4 goals), Alvaro Sanchez Negredo (3)
Weekend stat: 411 – The number of official matches played by Victor Valdes for Barcelona. This weekend, the Spanish goalkeeper eclipsed the record of his illustrious predecessor, Andoni Zubizarreta, who wore the No1 shirt for the Catalan side 410 times, and who now fulfils the role of sporting director at the club.
Serie A: Juventus’ new home inspires win
Juventus have undergone somewhat of a transformation this season, bringing in players and a new coach, as well as opening a stadium. La Vecchia Signora’s fresh approach appears to suit them, as demonstrated by their impressive opening-day result. Fans at the club’s new arena witnessed an excellent attacking display from the Turin side, whose 4-1 table-topping win over Parma featured two assists from the influential Andrea Pirlo. Roma, who also made major changes over the summer, did not enjoy the same success, losing 2-1 at home to Cagliari despite dominating the match.
Napoli also kicked off the season with three points, defeating Cesena 3-1 to go second, while Fiorentina overcame Bologna 2-0. In Friday’s game, AC Milan found themselves 2-0 down at home to Lazio after just 20 minutes of play, debutants Miroslav Klose and Djibril Cisse having built up the lead for the visitors. The champions nevertheless came back well to claim a share of the points from an entertaining 2-2 draw. Inter Milan were also involved in a suspenseful match, finally losing 4-3 at Palermo in a match where they twice had their noses ahead. Fabrizio Miccoli scored twice for the Sicilian outfit.
Top three: Juventus, Napoli, Fiorentina (all 3 points)
Bottom three: Lecce, Parma (both 0), Atalanta (-5)
Top scorers: Maximiliano Moralez, Diego Milito, Fabrizzio Miccoli (all 2 goals)
Weekend stat: 1 – When Swiss defender Stephan Lichtsteiner got on the end of Andrea Pirlo’s fine through ball in the 17th minute to open the scoring against Parma on Sunday, not only was it his first for the club, but it was also the first-ever goal scored at Juventus’ brand new stadium in a competitive match.
Ligue 1: Montpellier continue to surprise
Montpellier remain at the top of the French league after a 1-0 win over Nice, Souleymane Camara scoring the winner 15 minutes from time. Lyon and Lille are one and two points back respectively in the standings, and go into their midweek UEFA Champions League fixtures full of confidence following two solid victories away from home. In the absence of the injured Lisandro Lopez, Lyon turned to Bafetimbi Gomis, who promptly notched the winning goal against promoted outfit Dijon. Trailing 1-0 to Saint-Etienne, reigning champions Lille turned the match around through a stunning double from Eden Hazard and a strike from Ludovic Obraniak, who was set up by a great run and cross from English debutant Joe Cole.
Paris Saint-Germain’s competent start continues; their 1-0 triumph over Brest saw them rise to fourth in the table. Star signing Javier Pastore got the only goal of the game, finishing in style after good work by fellow new arrival Jeremy Menez. Marseille, meanwhile, lost by the same scoreline at home to Rennes, and consequently find themselves occupying a surprising 17th spot in the league table.
Top three: Montpellier (12 points), Lyon (11), Lille (10)
Bottom three: Nancy (2), Nice (2), Valenciennes (1)
Top scorers: Alain Traore (5 goals), Frederic Sammaritano (4), Bafetimbi Gomis (3)
Weekend stat: 19 – The number of years that have passed since Chris Waddle found the net against Le Havre – on 28 March 1992 – during his final season with Marseille. That was the last time an English player got on the scoresheet in the French top flight. Joe Cole made his much-anticipated debut for Lille this weekend, and while he could not manage a goal, he did set one up for a team-mate.
The fourth matchday of the Liga Zon Sagres in Portugal saw last season’s top two continue in the same vein, with champions Porto consolidating top spot in a 3-0 win over Vitoria Setubal and runners-up Benfica beating Vitoria Guimaraes 2-1. Just two points separate the sides.
In Russia, the 23rd round of fixtures was notable for some high-profile encounters whose outcomes put the brakes on the teams placed first and second. Leaders Zenit St. Petersburg lost away to Lokomotiv Moscow, while closest challengers CSKA Moscow were trounced 4-0 at home by local rivals Dinamo, a result that brings the latter side within two points of the leading pair.