Draws, delight and a Brazilian beat
The opening batch of UEFA Champions League matches provide some intriguing figures on penalties and Europe’s Brazilian contingent for this week’s statistical review. ASEC Mimosas’ Ivorian title win comes under the microscope too, while attention is also given to Fulham’s penchant for stalemates and the struggle for goals in Argentina and Madrid.
league titles was the landmark reached by Côte d’Ivoire’s ASEC Mimosas on Saturday as they retained the championship with two games to spare. The Abidjan outfit, who crossed the finishing line despite losing 2-1 at struggling Denguele, can now claim to be the joint-third most dominant domestic force on the African continent. Locked together with Ethiopia’s Saint George on 24 national titles, ASEC only trail Al Hilal of Sudan, with 25, and Egyptian giants Al Ahly, who lead the way with a staggering 35.
goals – an average of 0.65 per team – made the ninth round of matches of the Argentinian Apertura the lowest-scoring of this season’s competition so far. Half of those involved failed to score, while only two away sides, Quilmes and Godoy Cruz, managed to find the net, registering 1-1 draws with River Plate and Huracan respectively. This contrasted starkly with the situation in Brazil, where 67 goals – an average of 3.35 per game - made the Brasileiro the world’s highest-scoring top flight over the past week.
Brazilian players started Shakhtar Donetsk’s 3-0 UEFA Champions League win over Sporting Braga last night. Never before have so many players from a nation other than those of the clubs involved lined up for a Champions League match, with yesterday’s encounter beating the previous record of nine, set when nine Brazilians took to the field for Borussia Dortmund-Boavista in 2001. Nor was this the only one of last night’s Champions League encounters to have a strong Brazilian flavour, with Ibson and Ari responsible for all three goals in Spartak Moscow’s 3-0 win over MSK Zilina. The latter’s double, the first by a Brazilian in the Champions League since Alexandre Pato’s at the Bernabeu in October 2009, helped Spartak become the first Russian side in 12 years to win their opening two matches in Europe’s elite competition.
draws in six Premier League games have given Fulham an unusual start to the season. Only once in the history of the Premier League has a team opened their campaign with so many draws, with Ipswich setting the precedent in 1992/93, the first season of the rebranded top flight. Stalemates have become something of a speciality of the Londoners’ manager, Mark Hughes, who has now drawn 13 of his last 17 league matches. Nonetheless, Hughes can proudly boast of being in charge of one of only two teams – the other being Manchester United - still unbeaten in this season’s Premier League. This group became all the more exclusive after Arsenal and Chelsea lost for the first time at the weekend, with Manchester City’s Carlos Tevez sinking the Blues with his sixth goal in five Premier League appearances against the Stamford Bridge outfit.
penalties were awarded in last night’s UEFA Champions League match between Arsenal and Partizan Belgrade – only the third time this has happened in the tournament’s history. Not since the 2001 final between Bayern Munich and Valencia have so many spot kicks been awarded in a single match, with Real Madrid’s 2-1 win over Dynamo Kiev in March 2000 the only other previous example. The trio of penalties in Belgrade contributed to an overall tally of six in last night’s Champions League action, the highest since a record seven were awarded in September 2000.
0-0 draws in five matches under Jose Mourinho have equalled the number of goalless stalemates Real Madrid endured in the previous three seasons combined. Wayward shooting has been a major reason behind Los Merengues’ unconvincing start to the season, with Mourinho’s men sending 46 efforts off target – more than any other club in La Liga. However, with just one goal conceded thus far, it’s no surprise that Real Madrid boast the division’s best defensive record. They have also begun their Champions League campaign with two successive clean sheets for only the second time in the club’s history, and last night’s shutout against Auxerre helped improve a poor record of just two wins from their previous nine matches against French opposition.