Saints, strikers and a first touch
Scoring records evaporating in Naples, Paris and Prague feature in FIFA.com’slatest stats review, along with an unlikely outfit’s relentless improvement and a fairytale start to a professional career.
years: that is how long Gunnar Nordahl’s record for goals in a Serie A season had stood until Gonzalo Higuain extinguished it at the weekend. The France-born Argentina striker netted a second-half hat-trick in Napoli’s 4-0 victory over relegated Frosinone to finish 2015/16 on 36 goals from 35 games – one more goal in one fewer game than the Swede managed for AC Milan in 1949/50. Higuain also became the first player to score in 25 matches within a Serie A campaign, while Marek Hamsik’s 81st league goal for the took him level with Diego Maradona as Napoli’s third-leading marksman in the competition.
goals in 31 games is what Zlatan Ibrahimovic finished 2015/16 with to move third on Ligue 1’s list of highest scorers in a season. The 34-year-old Swede bagged a brace in Paris Saint-Germain’s 4-0 win over Nantes – in what was his last game for them at the Parc des Princes – to surpass Carlos Bianchi’s 37-goal club record, which he set in 1977/78. Only Josip Skoblar (44 for Marseille) and Salif Keita (42 for Saint-Etienne) – both in 1970/71 – registered more. PSG ended up with 96 points and only 19 goals against – both records – while they became only the fourth team in history and first in 56 years to score over 100 goals in a Ligue 1 campaign.
successive seasons have now passed with Southampton finishing higher up the English football pyramid. The Saints came seventh in the third tier in 2009/10, won promotion from it the following campaign, and went up from the Championship at the first time of asking. After finishing 14th then eighth in the Premier League, they sold several first-team regulars including Luke Shaw, Calum Chambers, Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert, but somehow managed to come seventh in 2014/15. A 4-1 win over Crystal Palace on the final day on Sunday – aided by Sadio Mane’s eighth goal in as many appearances – elevated Southampton above West Ham United and into sixth. It was Southampton’s best top-fight placing since Peter Shilton, Mick Mills, Mark Wright and Steve Moran helped them seize fifth 31 years ago.
goals in a Czech First League game was what David Lafata became the first player in history to bag – an achievement completed with a near-40-metre lob. After emulating Mihails Miholaps and Lionel Messi and becoming just the third man to net five times in a UEFA Champions League match (including qualifiers) in 2014, the Sparta Prague striker said: “It’s a special feeling. I doubt I’ll ever score five goals in a game again.” But the 34-year-old did just that on Saturday, netting all Sparta Prague’s goals in a 5-0 victory over Vysocina Jihlava – a feat which saw him leapfrog Viktoria Plzen’s Michal Duris and, incredibly, finish as the Czech top tier’s leading marksman for the fifth time in six seasons (he also came second in 2009/10 and 2013/14). The haul catapulted Lafata past Oldrich Nejedly – the leading marksman at the 1934 FIFA World Cup™ – and into fourth place on the Czechoslovak First League/Czech First League all-time top scorers’ chart. With 184 goals, Lafata trails only Josef Bican (447), Vlastimil Kopecky (252) and Antonin Hajek (191).
touches: that is what Jack Aitchison had had as a professional footballer until his first sealed Celtic’s 7-0 thrashing of Motherwell on the final day of a Scottish Premiership they had already won. The forward was scheduled to be representing the club’s U-16/17 side in front of a handful of supporters, but following Leigh Griffiths’ suspension, he was on the bench before 49,000-plus at Parkhead later on Sunday. At the age of 16 years and 71 days, Aitchison came on to eclipse Mark Fotheringham as Celtic’s youngest-ever player, and little over two minutes later the No99 became their youngest-ever scorer, breaking the record David McLean set against Rangers 109 years ago.
Quick hits 573 Premier League starts is what Gareth Barry moved on to by beginning Everton’s meetings with Sunderland and Norwich City, surpassing the previous record held by former goalkeeper David James.
3 goals is the deficit Aris Limassol overcame – in the last half hour of their final game of the season – to beat Doxa and stave off the threat of relegation.
1.4 goals per game is what gave the Campeonato Brasileiro its lowest-scoring opening round since the adoption of its straight-league format in 2003. Its highest-scoring opening round delivered a 3.9 ratio in 2007.