Thursday, October 21, 2021

Lionel Messi subbed but PSG find a way, Juventus stumble, Dortmund roll: What you missed this weekend

Lionel Messi made his home debut for Paris Saint-Germain, although it was a different Argentine who made the decisive contribution. Elsewhere, Juventus still seek their first Serie A win, while Borussia Dortmund impressed and a legendary figure was mourned in England.

Here are Mark Ogden, Tom Hamilton and Sam Marsden to discuss the big stuff you need to know from the soccer weekend around Europe.

Paris Saint-Germain lined up with Neymar, Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe in attack for the second time in a week, but it was Mauro Icardi who saved their 100% winning record in Ligue 1 against Lyon, heading a 93rd-minute winner to make it six from six for Mauricio Pochettino’s side.

The win will disguise another disappointing night for PSG’s front three, following on from their debut in a 1-1 Champions League draw against Club Brugge. Messi was the pick in the first half, twice drawing saves from Lyon’s Anthony Lopes and hitting the woodwork with a free kick. Mbappe, perhaps rushed back from a knock picked up in Belgium, was more subdued, while Neymar won and converted a penalty.

Bayern Munich, RB Leipzig, Borussia Dortmund, Eintracht Frankfurt, Wolfsburg and Borussia Monchengladbach are all under new management, and some of the new coaches have settled quicker than others.

Marco Rose and Borussia Dortmund made it four wins from five in the league with a 4-2 victory over Union Berlin. Erling Haaland grabbed two goals — the first a brilliant header and the second an audacious lob — but more ominous for their rivals is how quickly BVB’s new signings have slotted in. Jadon Sancho’s replacement, Donyell Malen, has started well, while €15m signing Gregor Kobel is proving a bargain. Thomas Meunier is revitalised at right back and with incredible youngsters like Jude Bellingham and Gio Reyna, you have potential title challengers.

Prior to the season, it looked as if three teams would contend and that is how things are playing out, albeit with Wolfsburg — rather than Leipzig — leading the charge alongside Bayern and Dortmund.

After last season’s injury-littered campaign, Jurgen Klopp last week found himself in the unfamiliar situation of being able to rotate Liverpool’s squad on his terms, and wins over Milan and Crystal Palace should concern other silverware-chasing hopefuls.

After a winning start in the Champions League, Saturday saw James Milner at right-back and Kostas Tsimikas at left-back, with regulars Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson given a break. The ageless Milner was superb — he covered the most distance of any player and put in the highest number of sprints — while Tsimikas was one of several who showed he can be a viable option when others need to be rested.

Naby Keita’s late goal was wondrous and Thiago looks more at home than he did last season. New signing Ibrahim Konate’s Liverpool career is at the early stages, but he looked assured alongside Virgil van Dijk; such options at centre-back — including Joel Matip and Joe Gomez — mean Jordan Henderson and Fabinho can be restored to midfield.

play 1:34 Just how important is Sadio Mane for Liverpool? Shaka Hislop speaks after Sadio Mane scored his 100th goal for Liverpool in a 3-0 win over Crystal Palace.

The goal-scoring feats of Jimmy Greaves are largely unknown to a generation of modern fans, but the death of the former Tottenham, Chelsea, West Ham, AC Milan and England forward at the age of 81 on Sunday offered a timely reminder of his greatness and the folly of measuring all achievements solely within too narrow a context.

Alan Shearer’s tally of 260 Premier League goals is a record, but only in the sense that it dates back to the restructuring of English football in 1992; Greaves remains the country’s all-time leading topflight scorer with 357 goals. Harry Kane, meanwhile, needs another 47 goals for Spurs to take the club record from Greaves, who hit 266 in 379 games (Kane is in second spot, with 223 from 342).

No player has scored more goals in a season for Spurs than Greaves’ 37 in 1962-63 and he also holds that record for Chelsea, with 41 goals in 1960-61. In total, he scored 132 goals in 169 games for the Stamford Bridge club in the space of four years.

Alvaro Morata’s fourth-minute goal completed a fine team move, but it was not enough to earn Juventus their first win of the Serie A season.

Milan committed everyone forward and paid the price when Juve won back possession. Paulo Dybala fed Morata and the Spanish striker did the rest; his first touch was in his own half and he needed only three more, holding off Theo Hernandez and then showing precision to lift the ball over Mike Maignan.

Leon Bailey was one of the biggest transfers of the summer window, moving from Bayer Leverkusen to Aston Villa in a deal worth up to £30m, but the Jamaica international perhaps slipped under the radar because of the focus at Villa Park on Jack Grealish’s departure to Manchester City.

Bailey’s stunning goal in Saturday’s 3-0 win against Everton, though, was one of those that made everyone sit up and take notice. A long pass by Danny Ings found Bailey in the Everton half and, without breaking stride, the winger headed the ball down before sending a left-foot shot past goalkeeper Asmir Begovic from 20 yards.

Naby Keita’s volley against Crystal Palace was a great effort, but then Raphael Guerreiro stepped up for Borussia Dortmund.

It was 10 minutes into BVB’s eventual 4-2 win over Union Berlin when the ball bobbled on the edge of the box between Jude Bellingham and Guerreiro, who had a chance to chest it down before firing a half volley from the left side of the box, across goal and into Union keeper Andreas Luthe’s top corner.

Celta opened the LaLiga season with defeat to champions Atletico Madrid and lost to Real Madrid last weekend, but each passing week weakens the argument that their slow start is down to a difficult early schedule. Because outside reverses against the two aforementioned giants, drawing at Osasuna and a home defeat to Athletic Bilbao were compounded by a 2-1 defeat to Cadiz — winless themselves heading into the game — at Balaidos on Friday.

Eduardo Coudet did a good job last season, steadying the ship and clinching an eighth-place finish, and Celta should be too good to go down, but a start of one point from 15 will worry supporters, especially with a dispute rumbling in the background.

Greuther Furth and VfL Bochum took their place at Germany’s top table this season, but the gulf was apparent this weekend for the latter as they were hammered 7-0 at Bayern Munich thanks to a mix of shots from distance, scrappy close-range efforts and a comical own goal.

Inter Milan needed to find a proven goal scorer to fill the huge void left by Romelu Lukaku’s £97.5m summer transfer to Chelsea, and Edin Dzeko is already showing that he is up to the challenge.

Lukaku hit 64 goals in 95 games for Inter and his 24 Serie strikes last season were crucial as Antonio Conte’s side won the Scudetto. The exit of both men during the summer meant Inter needed certainty and reliability up front and the free transfer signing of Dzeko from Roma proved a masterstroke.

The 35-year-old scored twice as a substitute during Saturday’s 6-1 home win against Bologna — a victory which left the reigning champions at the top of the table — and has three goals in four league games for Inter; while he may not prove as prolific as Lukaku for the Nerrazzurri, his experience and ability to deliver consistently will be key for Simone Inzaghi’s team.

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