Damien Kayat looks back at the weekend’s football action as Barcelona snatched a Clasico win, Mitrovic’s meltdown cost Fulham and more from around Europe!
Last-Gasp Winner in Exciting ElClasico
Barcelona extended their recent domestic dominance over eternal rivals Real Madrid, coming back from behind to almost certainly secure the LaLiga title.
They are now 12 points clear of Los Blancos with 12 games to go. And to think, it all started so tentatively. Real Madrid created the early chances and eventually took the lead through an unfortunate Ronald Araujo OG.
But that seemed to activate a dormant Barca and Sergio Roberto made matters all square just before the break. The second half delivered the usual Clasico drama, with Real initially thinking they had retaken the lead through Marco Asensio. VAR chalked off the goal for one of those fractional offside calls that almost feels unfair.
And enter stage left: Franck Kessie. I can’t really think of a much better time to score your debut goal for FC Barcelona. His 92nd-minute side-foot finish all but secured LaLiga for Xavi’s resurgent Barca.
I can’t quite put my finger on what has been behind Real’s domestic woes this season. They generally look comfortable settling in and hitting teams on the counter (which they have mastered in European football). But Xavi’s brand of possession-based football has been a touch too intricate for Ancelotti to master.
🎥 FC Barcelona Goal— Barça Spaces (@BarcaSpaces) March 19, 2023
Mad Scenes at Old Trafford
Arsenal put their Europa League blues to bed with a resounding 4-1 victory over Palace this weekend. With title rivals City in FA Cup action, there isn’t too much more to say about the title race this week.
But I thought I would take a moment to examine the mad scenes that we witnessed at Old Trafford. Manchester United beat Fulham 3-1 in their FA Cup quarterfinal. Sounds simple, right? It was anything but.
Fulham pretty much dominated the first 50 minutes of the game, taking a deserved lead through the predatory instincts of Mitrovic. United looked leggy and there for the taking. But five minutes of utter madness completely altered the course of the match.
Willian was rightfully sent-off for a blatant handball that prevented the ball from going into the net. But Marco Silva reacted as if his side has conceded a penalty for some innocuous indiscretion.
Silva’s behaviour filtered through to the Fulham side and a sense of injustice took root. Mitrovic felt the need to manhandle the ref and was subsequently sent off.
United would go on to score the penalty and romp home to victory. I know Mitrovic is going to eat a lot of the heat for this one (and rightfully so). But I think it’s Silva who must shoulder the brunt of the blame. His delusional action essentially set the tempo for their implosion.
MITROVIC RED CARD! 🟥 #MUNFULpic.twitter.com/3929mXoNcs— The Premier League Club (@TPLCSports) March 19, 2023
Napoli March On
It was just a case of copy and paste for Luciano Spalletti’s Napoli this weekend. Bolstered by boisterous away support, Napoli produced one of their most empathic displays in a season full of emphatic displays.
I have been waxing lyrical about the nimble footwork of Georgian winger Khvicha Kvaratskhelia for weeks now (and he was once again excellent). But I feel this game was a showcase for Victor Osimhen.
The Nigerian showed why he is one of the most sought-after players in European football. He scored a brace but it was his incessant work rate that really caught the eye. The imminent Capocannoniere winner was at the vanguard of every Napoli press.
There’s something about the way this Napoli side presses that harkens back to vintage Klopp. Napoli’s Serie A lead is now a massive 19 points (Inter went down 1-0 to a European-chasing Juventus).
In other Italian football news, Zlatan Ibrahimovic became the oldest scorer in Serie A history. The 41-year-old slotted home a retaken penalty but couldn’t prevent Milan from losing at Udinese.
VICTOR OSIMHEN IS INEVITABLE! 🇳🇬🎭— SuperSport Football ⚽️ (@SSFootball) March 19, 2023
That's now 20 Serie A league goals for the Nigerian forward 🔥 pic.twitter.com/3PLAucUhIf
Seismic Week in German Football
This weekend’s Bundesliga results have set up one of the most exciting finishes to a German season in some time. Julian Nagelsmann’s Bayern Munich went down to Bayer Leverkusen 2-1.
One would have thought that the trip to the BayArena would have been a mere formality for Die Roten. But Nagelsmann was outmanoeuvred by former Bayern stalwart Xabi Alonso at every turn.
Nagelsmann acted far too quickly in dragging Muller out of the game. They were stuck with an abundance of runners out there but not enough nous to unlock a stoic Leverkusen side.
In stark contrast, Eden Terzic’s Dortmund were utterly rampant against a hapless Koln. The Blacks and Yellows won 6-1, with Raphael Guerreiro proving instrumental in the middle of the park.
There was some exquisite forward play for Dortmund, with Reus, Malan and Haller interchanging brilliantly. The result leaves Dortmund on top of the Bundesliga going into the international break. And what’s the first match after the brief hiatus?
Der Klassiker at the Allianz Arena. After ten years of Bayern hegemony, could we finally see the fall of the German behemoths.
Dortmund finish a Bundesliga matchday in first place for the first time since the 2019-20 season 😱— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) March 19, 2023
They're back. pic.twitter.com/LiuGfvAX8w
Player of the Week – Erling Haaland
The ‘Striking Viking’ loves to prove the naysayers wrong, doesn’t he? I lost count of the number of YouTube thumbnails questioning his impact on Guardiola’s side.
His FA Cup hat-trick against Burney took his goal tally for the season to 42. That’s insane. There is a very good chance that he is going to finish with somewhere in the vicinity of 60 goals this season.
He has scored eight goals in his last two matches. Guardiola seems to be harnessing him perfectly, allowing him to run into space as was his MO in Dortmund.
You tend to forget just how swift the massive Norwegian can be. Haaland’s goals could be the difference for City as they challenge for trophies on three fronts this year.
Hungrier than ever! 🍽️ 🔵 #mancity pic.twitter.com/pmwRnC2hTC— Erling Haaland (@ErlingHaaland) March 19, 2023