It was a wild weekend back from the international break, with clubs all over the world getting back to business in their respective leagues. Here are six of the best stories from around the globe.
After saying publicly that joining Liverpool was “the worst decision of my life”, Mario Balotelli found some remnants of past form as his new club, Nice, defeated a quality Marseille side in Ligue 1 play. The final score was 3-2, with Balotelli first putting his side in front from the penalty spot in the seventh minute, before Marseille scored twice to regain the lead. A close range finish from Mr. Why Always Me tied the score in the 78th minute before young Wylan Cyprien put home the winner three minutes from time.
Nice are now second in Ligue 1, trailing only Monaco on goal difference. Balotelli was also recently quoted as saying he “could still win the Ballon d’Or”. Riding the fine line between confidence and delusion, Super Mario certainly looks poised to do damage in France, and make the headlines for all the right reasons.
City top United as Pep beats Jose, again
Manchester City went into Old Trafford and came out with a well deserved 2-1 victory in the first Manchester Derby of the season, and the first of what so many are calling a “new era” in the Northwest of England. Kevin De Bruyne and Kelechi Iheanacho scored the goals that gave City the win (despite Claudio Bravo doing everything in his power to screw it all up). Zlatan Ibrahimovic continued his stellar start to his Premier League tenure, scoring his fourth goal in four games just before the halftime break, cutting the deficit in half after some comical goalkeeping from Bravo that must have had Joe Hart cringing in Turin.
City were blazing in the first half, and easily controlled the match in the second forty-five, easing off the accelerator just a bit and showing that they can win with versatility. The match was pumped up as a showdown between two rival managers, and at the end of the day it was a familiar victor in this particular match-up. With the result in their first head-to-head match-up in the Premier League, Guardiola is now 8-3-6 all-time against Mourinho. Barring a cup draw, Mourinho won’t get a chance at revenge until the two teams meet at the Etihad on February 25th.
Cruz Azul choke away Clasico Joven
While they’ve made an unfortunate habit of blowing leads in recent seasons, Saturday’s Liga MX loss for Cruz Azul may take the cake as their biggest collapse in recent memory. Leading 3-0 in the 54th minute against rivals America in the Clasico Joven, playing at home at Estadio Azul in Mexico City, Cruz Azul watched Las Aguilas score four straight goals, including two in added time to storm back and win 4-3.
After the ageless Christian “El Chaco” Gimenez netted a brace inside 22 minutes fro Cruz Azul, Francisco Silva made it 3-0 from the penalty spot. It was all going so well for the home side, until an inexplicable, achilles/ankle scraping challenge in the 52nd minute from Aldo Leao Ramirez who was shown a straight red. The game turned immediately, with America getting a goal back just two minutes later from Oribe Peralta. Silvio Romero hit the back of the net in the 74th minute to set up a barnstorming finish, Paul Aguilar tieing the score just past the 90th minute before Romero fired home again in the 92nd minute to give the visitors the most improbable of wins.
The result could be a massive boost for an America side that is desperate for a reassertion of swagger, especially after their 3-0 loss to Chivas in the Clasico Nacional two weeks ago. They now sit in fifth place, tied on 14 points with Chivas after eight matches. Cruz Azul sit in 15th, struggling mightily with just one win to their names.
The Return of Landon
It’s official. This is really happening. Landon Donovan came on in the 83rd minute of the Los Angeles Galaxy’s 4-2 victory over Orlando City on Sunday, marking his first appearance since announcing his return from retirement earlier this week. With the Galaxy leading 4-1, Donovan replaced Raul Mendiola, the StubHub Center going bonkers at the sight of arguably the greatest American soccer player of all-time. Donovan was a tad critical of his own performance.
“I came into a game where both teams were exhausted,” he said. “And I was the slowest player on the field.”
With under two months left in the regular season, Donovan will be anxious to pick up his fitness level as he tries to help the Galaxy win their record sixth MLS Cup.
Basque Bliss in Barcelona
Barcelona suffered a shock defeat at the hands of newly promoted Alaves, the Basque club winning 2-1 in front of nearly 100,000 spectators at the Camp Nou. Barcelona Manager Luis Enrique has taken some heat for his squad selection for the match, leaving both Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez out of the lineup, seemingly thinking they were surplus to requirements on the night.
It was the first league win at the Camp Nou for Alaves since 2000, and the victory has them in seventh place in the La Liga table, five points from three matches. Barcelona are in fourth on six points, this loss the first of what the Catalan giants are hoping to be a microscopic amount of blips on the campaign. Real Madrid stayed perfect on the season, sitting pretty at the top of the table after a 5-2 thrashing of Osasuna.
Welcome back the Old Firm Derby
After a four year absence from the football world, one of the game’s greatest rivalries returned on Saturday in Scotland. Celtic and Rangers is a match-up that transcends soccer, drawing political and religious lines through the city of Glasgow and often the British Isles as a whole. With Rangers nearly going into extinction after some of the worst financial mismanagement in modern football history, the club made their long anticipated return to the top flight here in 2016, and Saturday’s clash with the green and white hoops had fans around the world buzzing for kickoff.
It was sadly a harsh return for Rangers, getting thrashed to the tune of 5-1 by their bitter rivals at Celtic Park. It was a dream debut in the Old Firm Derby for Celtic Manager Brendan Rodgers, who will lead Celtic into Champions League play during the midweek, the club traveling to Spain to take on none other than Barcelona.