European soccer news: Real Madrid falter, Spurs hold Arsenal

European soccer news: Real Madrid falter, Spurs hold Arsenal

The calendars have officially turned to autumn this weekend in Europe, and we're starting to get a better sense of how clubs are looking this season in the Premier League, LaLiga, Bundesliga, Ligue 1 and Serie A. 

Manchester City looked like a team in need of a challenge as they cruised past Nottingham Forest despite being down to 10 men. Bayern Munich looked more like their old selves with a big 7-0 win over Bochum. Meanwhile, Barcelona just barely scraped past Celta Vigo in a comeback thriller. 

U.S. men's national team players in Europe haven't had the best weekend either. Folarin Balogun had two penalties saved against Nice. Meanwhile, Juventus suffered a harsh loss to Sassuolo as Weston McKennie played just 60 minutes (replaced by USMNT teammate Timothy Weah). At least AC Milan won as Christian Pulisic started and played 80 minutes.

Sunday had even more fun in store with the North London derby between Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal providing an evenly matched contest and Newcastle United putting eight past Sheffield United. And in Spain, the Madrid derby saw Atletico seal a comfortable 3-1 win over rivals Real Madrid, who now sit in third place in the table. 

Here's a look back at an eventful weekend in European football.


The Sunday lead: Worrying trend continues in Real Madrid's derby defeat

Atletico Madrid went ahead in the 4th minute at the Metropolitano, Álvaro Morata meeting Samuel Lino's cross with an expertly placed header. But here was the novelty: 14 minutes later, Real were 2-0 down, Antoine Griezmann with another header, this time from Saul Niguez's delivery.

There was the promise of a nascent comeback when Toni Kroos made it 2-1 with a precision rocket into the bottom corner. And then just 34 seconds into the second half, it vanished. Morata scored again, all three Atletico goals coming from crosses from the left-hand side, and headers from players granted far too much space.

Real kept pushing, but they were hindered by a lack of attacking firepower on the bench. At 3-1 down and with half an hour remaining, coach Carlo Ancelotti's triple substitution introduced Aurélien Tchouaméni, Ferland Mendy and Nacho Fernandez, not a forward among them.

For Atletico, a 3-1 derby win is significant both emotionally and practically, keeping their season alive. As for Real, it leaves them a point behind rivals Barcelona at the top of the LaLiga table. -- Alex Kirkland

Sunday talking points around the leagues

Tottenham tackling task of 'minding the gap'

Arsenal finished 24 points ahead of Tottenham last season but there was nothing to separate the sides in Sunday's dramatic 2-2 draw at Emirates Stadium. The fact there are early signs of Spurs closing that gap is testament to the work new head coach Ange Postecoglou is doing, especially given the departure of talismanic forward Harry Kane to Bayern Munich on the eve of the Premier League's opening weekend.

Postecoglou challenged his team to stay true to his attacking, expansive mantra and they did just that, twice coming from behind in a typically hostile atmosphere courtesy of Heung-Min Son's brace either side of half-time. They were unlucky with both goals conceded. Bukayo Saka's 26th-minute strike deflected in off centre-back Cristian Romero, who was later adjudged to have handled in the box with the scores at 1-1. Saka converted the resulting 54th-minute penalty. Jorginho's error gifted James Maddison and Son the chance to combine again for Tottenham's second equaliser, securing the point they deserved even if Arsenal missed presentable first-half chances to extend their early lead.

Liverpool wrap up a simple win (for once)

Sunday's Premier League chaos was dominated by another defeat for Chelsea (should Mauricio Pochettino be worried?) and one of the most enthralling and evenly matched north London derbies in some time, as Arsenal and Spurs grappled their way to a 2-2 draw. While both were taking place, Liverpool were wrapping up a quiet 3-1 win over West Ham that, while far from assured, keeps them firmly in the pack at the top of the table.

In a rare sight, Liverpool actually scored an early opening goal instead of conceding one, which they'd done in four of their first seven games (all competitions) this season. Mohamed Salah continued his strong start to the season with his third league goal, calmly converting a penalty after being clearly upended in the box by Nayef Aguerd. The Hammers had the better of the game's early chances, with Michail Antonio and Jarrod Bowen both misplacing wide-open headers from close range, and got a deserved equalizer on the cusp of half time when Bowen snuck in beyond Virgil van Djik and stooped to head home Vladimír Coufal's probing cross.

The Reds wouldn't be cowed, having one disallowed before half-time when Jones drifted free of Aguerd to tap home Szoboszlai's pass, only to be judged offside. They continued to press in the second half, and after Nunez missed a customary wide-open effort, he scored minutes later, volleying home a clever ball over the top from Mac Allister. Diogo Jota made it three five minutes from time, stabbing home after Van Dijk's cushioned header across the six-yard box.

With five straight wins after their opening day draw at Chelsea, Liverpool do look most poised to challenge Manchester City this season. Next weekend's trip to Tottenham will speak volumes of how serious that challenge will be. -- James Tyler

PSG run riot in classic Classique

Achraf Hakimi scored a sumptuous free-kick and the Ligue 1 champions were on their way to an emphatic victory. They had 80 per cent of the ball in the first half, 77 per cent in total, over 700 successful passes and many touches in the opposition box. After the second goal from Randal Kolo Muani at the half hour, the game was over.

It finished 4-0 in an incandescent Parc des Princes. The evening was almost perfect: a demolition of their enemies, a first goal for the club for Kolo Muani and Goncalo Ramos (who scored a brace) and another strong collective performance in a different tactical system (3-3-4).

News of the day

  • United States men's team manager Greg Berhalter and midfielder Giovanni Reyna are ready to move forward after holding talks. Speaking at a roundtable with reporters, U.S. Soccer sporting director Matt Crocker said "I think both Greg and Gio are in a good place to move forward." Berhalter and Reyna hadn't spoken since a feud involving the two families spilled into public view last December, but the two have now communicated, clearing the way for them to work together again.
  • Ajax's home match against rivals Feyenoord was suspended 11 minutes into the second half after fans threw flares into the pitch, with the visitors leading 3-0. "One of the most important games in the Netherlands is discontinued," interim Ajax chief executive Jan van Halst said. "That's serious. Everyone is angry and sad because of this." Ajax currently sit 13th in the 18-team league after a poor start to the campaign. 
  • U.S. women's national team midfielder Megan Rapinoe said that her off-field accomplishments will have a deeper impact than what she achieved on the pitch. Rapinoe will retire after playing her last game for the USWNT in a friendly against South Africa on Sunday, and will finish with 203 international appearances and at least 63 goals. Rapinoe has also been a staunch advocate of LGBTQIA+ rights and racial equality. And she was at the forefront of the ultimately successful push to achieve equal pay with the team's U.S. male counterparts at the international level. She said: "I think we've been a big part of pushing, talking about whether it's gay rights or racial justice or trans rights, more into every conversation around sports, in particular around women's sports. We've been such a driver of that and have made that just as important as what we are doing on the field. I think we really believe it is just as important."

Missed the action on Saturday? Keep reading for all the talking points.


The Saturday lead: Man City go down to 10-men and beat Forest without breaking a sweat

If you didn't know any better, you might think manager Pep Guardiola told Manchester City to go down to 10 men against Nottingham Forest in order to give his team a challenge. Man City won 2-0 anyway.

City were in complete control at halftime, having scored two wonderfully worked goals but then less than a minute into the second half, Rodri decided it was a good idea to put both hands round the neck of Morgan Gibbs-White.

Gibbs-White made the most of it, falling dramatically to the ground, but a red card was still the right decision and City were left to battle it out for more than 40 minutes. Guardiola managed the game well with 10 men, immediately bringing on Kalvin Phillips and Nathan Aké and switching to a back five, and it helped City defend well enough that goalkeeper Éderson didn't have to make a save until the 95th minute.

It was a day when City showed their superiority, even when they were a man down. They've started their title defence with six wins out of six and it looks ominous for the rest of the league.

Saturday talking points around the leagues

Man United's winless streak finally halted in Evans return

Jonny Evans produced a match-winning performance for Manchester United in his first start for the club since 2015 as a goal from Bruno Fernandes sealed a 1-0 win against Burnley at Turf Moor.

Evans, who left Man United for West Bromwich Albion eight years ago, returned to Old Trafford this summer as a free agent after being released by relegated Leicester City at the end of last season.

The signing of the 35-year-old has been seen as a sign of the dysfunctional nature of United's recent player recruitment, but with Erik ten Hag's team hit by a defensive injury crisis due to Harry Maguire, Lisandro Martínez, Luke Shaw and Aaron Wan-Bissaka all ruled out, Northern Ireland international Evans was selected to shore up the back four.

But despite doubts over his ability to still perform at a top level, Evans was outstanding for United, with his experience adding crucial calm and knowledge to a defence that had conceded 10 goals in three defeats against Arsenal, Brighton and Bayern Munich.

And Evans also made a vital contribution at the other end of the pitch by setting up Fernandes to score with a 40-yard pass that was volleyed into the net by the United captain.

Balogun's pain is Nice's gain

The Mediterranean Derby between Nice and hosts Monaco this weekend didn't disappoint. There was plenty of drama at the Stade Louis II with Nice's 1-0 win serving as the first big upset of the weekend. The Eaglets moved to second in the Ligue 1 table and perhaps more importantly, Nice have now beaten PSG in Paris (3-2) and Monaco (1-0) in the Principality in the space of a week.

It was a Marcin Bulka masterclass that won them the game as the Polish goalkeeper saved two Folarin Balogun penalties, one in each half. It was a remarkable feat, which kept Nice in the game before they found a winner in the 90th minute thanks to Jeremie Boga.

Balogun, for his part, took to social media on Saturday to express his regret about his failed spot kicks, writing: "It is difficult to turn the page on last night's defeat. I know how much this game meant to the fans and us a team. I take responsibility but failed on this occasion." Balogun joined Monaco last month on a five-year deal.

For Monaco and manager Adi Hutter, it's another late goal conceded and more points dropped, like last weekend at Lorient. The Austrian manager made a big call by starting Balogun ahead of the captain Wissam Ben Yedder. The young American was devastated when he came off for Ben Yedder just after the hour mark. It's not his fault if Monaco lost the derby but his misses certainly didn't help.

Barcelona stay unbeaten after thrilling comeback win

Barcelona produced a stunning late comeback from two goals down to beat Celta Vigo 3-2 in a remarkable game at the Olympic Stadium. Striker Robert Lewandowski scored twice in the final 10 minutes to draw Barça level, setting the stage for João Cancelo to score an 89th-minute winner as Xavi Hernandez's side temporarily returned to the top of the table, level on points with Girona, ahead of Real Madrid's game on Sunday.

Jörgen Strand Larsen and Anastasios Douvikas had scored in each half for a Celta side that deserved a two-goal lead. Celta Vigo manager Rafael Benitez's game plan had been executed perfectly, with Barça unable to break down a stubborn backline and Celta breaking impressively with pace and bodies. A first defeat of the season loomed for Barça, who had come into the fixture with a buzz after back-to-back 5-0 wins.

Those victories, against Real Betis and Royal Antwerp, had led Xavi, who signed a new contract Friday, to say his team was playing their best football since he took over. That was certainly not the case for large parts of the game in Montjuic on Saturday, but he will be just as pleased with the resolve and battling spirit shown by his improving side.

The Barça coach emptied his bench in an attempt to get back into the game. With the ball, at times, Barça were almost playing a 3-3-4 formation, with Raphinha, Lamine Yamal and João Félix off Lewandowski, who dragged his side back into the game. The Polish striker produced a brilliant lobbed finish after a good pass from Felix in the 81st minute and then added his second four minutes later after good work from Raphinha and Cancelo.

Bundesliga put on notice with Kane's first hat trick for Bayern Munich

Is the Bundesliga broken? While we do still have a title race given the amount of points still up for grabs this season, fans of other teams should be concerned at how Bayern Munich are shifting through the gears domestically after a turgid start.

Kane's acclimatisation period in Munich appears complete, with the No. 9 meshing well with his teammates in a frenetic, from-all-angles attack. After Coman squared for Choupo-Moting in the fourth minute to open the scoring, Kane seized control, smashing home his first from close range before teeing up Sane for Bayern's fourth of the afternoon, with a sumptuous angled through-ball, seven minutes before half-time.

After the break, Kane calmly slotted his second from the penalty spot after Ivan Ordets handled inside the box, laid it off for Mathys Tel to add Bayern's sixth, and then slipped in at the near post to flick home Mazraoui's low cross from close range.

If Kane and Bayern maintain this kind of form, it's hard to see much stopping them in the league. That said, next weekend's clash with RB Leipzig will be a genuine test of their progress. -- Tyler

Girona's high-flying start in LaLiga continues

Girona's incredible start to the season continued with an enthralling 5-3 win over Mallorca at Montilivi, which took them joint top of LaLiga with Barcelona for at least 24 hours.

News of the day

  • Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has said Rodri apologised to his teammates following his red card against Nottingham Forest and the coach admitted he was "angry" with the midfielder. "Yes," Guardiola said when asked if he was angry. "I don't like to play with 10 for our faults. I said at halftime, be careful guys. The game has been in a position where we are comfortable. Relax, control your emotions. Unfortunately Rodri didn't do it."

  • Juventus' unbeaten start to the season ended with a 4-2 loss at Sassuolo after Wojciech Szczesny's goalkeeping errors contributed to their defeat in Serie A on Saturday. The defeat leaves Juventus in fourth place on 10 points from five games, two points behind leaders Inter Milan, who visit Empoli on Sunday, and second-placed AC Milan, who beat Hellas Verona 1-0. Sassuolo are 11th on six points.

  • AC Milan returned to winning ways when Rafael Leao scored in a 1-0 home win over Hellas Verona in Saturday's Serie A game that was delayed by 25 minutes due to a hailstorm. Milan forward Christian Pulisic got away from his marker in the 72nd minute but his curling shot was pushed away by Verona goalkeeper Lorenzo Montipo.

  • In their first match since falling to Spain in the Women's World Cup final, the Lionesses opened their 2024 Olympics qualifying campaign with a 2-1 win over Scotland. England manager Sarina Wiegman isn't in much of a position to experiment during their inaugural UEFA Nation's League campaign, but first-half goals from Lucy Bronze and Lauren Hemp at Sunderland's Stadium of Light made the difference.

And finally ...

Wrexham's League Two campaign could be going better.

"It's as bad a first half as I can remember," Wrexham manager Phil Parkinson said afterward about his team conceding three times in the first half alone. "We gave the ball away so cheaply in the back third and middle third, which put us under pressure."

Despite the leaky defense, Wrexham sit seventh on the League Two table out of 24 teams. Losing a few games by wide margins certainly beats losing more games by smaller gaps.

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