From a Manchester United – Arsenal derby to a Copa Libertadores final in Madrid, this past week offered plenty for football fans to enjoy.
The English Premier League players had extracurricular activities last week, with additional matches on Tuesday and Wednesday in preparation for the busy holiday season. Chelsea slipped up at Wolverhampton (1-2), but more than made up for it by delivering a heavyweight blow to undefeated reigning champions Manchester City (2-0). Since Liverpool took care of business on the road (twice) against Burnley (3-1) and Bournemouth (4-1) in large part thanks to Mohamed Salah, who scored a hat-trick over the weekend, The Reds are now Premier League’s new leaders, a point ahead of The Citizens.
In the meantime, Manchester United and Arsenal drew 2-2 on Wednesday and then both recorded victories. While Manchester’s was an easy one (4-1) over Fulham, The Gunners needed a late short-range scissor kick by new hero Lucas Torreira to beat Huddersfield. Tottenham Hotspur notched six points of their own, besting Southampton and Leicester to retain 3rd place.
The French were busy as well, with Ligue 1 hosting games on Tuesday and Wednesday. On Tuesday, Monaco grabbed their second win under Thierry Henry at Amiens, where two penalties converted by Radamel Falcao determined the winner. After a surprising draw with Bordeaux, PSG was held to a point once again by Strasbourg (1-1). That doesn’t jeopardize their top spot in the standings, but it does show their full focus is on making it through the Champions League group stage. A full slate of games was planned for the weekend, but half of the scheduled contests were postponed due to the ongoing mass protests taking place in France.
Cup games were played in Italy and Spain and went largely without surprises. Over the weekend, Barcelona demolished Espanyol in the Catalan derby. A great deal of the gratitude from Barca’s fans needs to go to Lionel Messi, as the Argentinian scored two wonderful free kicks in the 4-0 away win. Since Sevilla could only draw with Valencia on the road (1-1), La Blaugrana is now alone atop the LaLiga table. Atletico Madrid kept pace with a 3-0 victory versus Alaves, whereas a single goal by Gareth Bale got Real Madrid past Huesca.
Juventus opened Round 15 in Serie A with a minimal 1-0 win over rivals Inter Milan. The scorer of the goal was Mario Mandzukic. The Old Lady is yet to lose with Cristiano Ronaldo in the squad and has a single blemish (draw) in the season record (14-1-0). Meanwhile, Napoli won and widened the gap in the battle for 2nd place with Inter to six points. There were no shockers in Bundesliga, although Freiburg’s convincing 3-0 win over RB Leipzig was quite unexpected. Borussia Dortmund (2-1 at Schalke), Borussia Monchengladbach (3-0 vs. Stuttgart) and Bayern Munich (3-0 vs. Nurnberg) all won, keeping their league positions as they were.
Finally, we had a rare opportunity to witness South American football on the European continent when River Plate and Boca Juniors met in the second leg of the Copa Libertadores final. After a first leg 2-2 draw and plenty of controversy to follow, Boca took the lead early in the second half, but River returned the favour later on to secure extra time. There, a fabulous strike by Colombian Juan Quintero brought endless joy to Los Millionarios, who added an empty-netter at the end to put a cherry on top of a very sweet cake, thus becoming South American football champions for the 4th time in history.