• Monday, 28 September 2009

    Marseille lose touch: Ligue 1 reviews

    Auxerre 2-0 Grenoble
    Lorient 1-1 PSG
    Valenciennes 3-2 Marseille
    Monaco 1-2 St Etienne
    Montpellier 1-0 Boulogne
    Nancy 2-1 Sochaux
    Lyon 2-1 Toulouse
    Lille 1-1 Nice
    Le Mans 3-0 Lens
    Bordeaux 1-0 Rennes

    Valenciennes shocked Marseille at Stade Nungesser as they came from behind to inflict OM's first league defeat. The sides were locked at 2-2 after half an hour following a frantic start to the game. Fernando Morientes gave Marseille the lead before three goals in seven minutes - Milan Bisevac and David Ducourtioux for VA either side of Mamadou Niang's fifth of the season - left it level. Chances flowed throughout, but Rafael Schmitz was the only one to breach either defence with a late winner. That leaves just Lyon and Bordeaux yet to taste defeat and both were winners at the weekend. Lyon came from behind at Stade Gerland, Yannis Tafer and Bafetimbi Gomis with second half goals to overhaul Toulouse for whom Moussa Sissoko had opened the scoring early on. Bordeaux just needed a single goal against Rennes, the Brazilian Wendel heading home midway through the first half.

    That leaves the top two with a bit of a buffer zone to the next group which includes Marseille and Rennes. Also in there are Montpellier who won yet again to maintain their great start, Nenad Dzodic with the only goal of the game. PSG came from behind to draw with Lorient, Guillaume Hoarau off the mark for the season when he equalised Arnold Mvuemba's opener. Monaco, though, lost touch a little after defeat at home to lowly St Etienne. Boubacar Sanogo got Les Verts in front and though Sebastien Puygrenier equalised, Gonzalo Bergessio won it in stoppage time.

    Fun and games in Auxerre where Ireneusz Jelen and David Jemmali were both sent off on 21 minutes. Grenoble's Jemmali went through Jelen from behind and the Pole's angry reaction sparked a brawl. Once the referee calmed it down, he had little option but to dismiss both players. Auxerre reacted better to the reduction to ten-a-side and second half goals from Benoit Pedretti and Cedric Hengbart left Greonble still seeking their first points of the season. Lille and Nice are both down at the wrong end of the table after a draw, Pierre-Alain Frau equalising late on to Loic Remy's opener. Le Mans pulled themselves away from immediate danger with a comfortable win over Lens. Frédéric Thomas scored twice in the first half and Anthony Le Tallec wrapped it up just after the hour mark. Sochaux are also at the wrong end after defeat in Nancy for whom Youssouf Hadji scored twice - one from the penalty spot. Sochaux could only muster a late consolation from Marvin Martin in reply.

    Hamburg beat Bayern to stay top: Bundesliga reviews

    Nurnberg 0-1 Bochum
    Dortmund 0-1 Schalke
    Cologne 0-1 Leverkusen
    Wolfsburg 4-2 Hannover
    Bremen 3-0 Mainz
    Eintracht 0-3 Stuttgart
    Hamburg 1-0 Bayern
    Freiburg 3-0 Monchengladbach
    Hoffenheim 5-1 Hertha

    Ze Roberto punished his former team-mates when Bayern paid a visit to Hamburg this weekend by setting up Mladen Petric for the only goal of the game. Bruno Labbadia had seen his side dumped out of the cup in midweek by third division Osnabruck while Bayern had Franck Ribéry and Arjen Robben starting together for the first time. It mattered little. Despite a couple of early scares with Robben prominent, Hamburg dominated and when Ze Roberto got to the bye-line to square for Petric to side-foot home, it was fully deserved.

    Hertha are in real bother now as Vedad Ibisevic's hat-trick inside the first quarter of the game had them reeling at the Rhein-Neckar. The Bosnian was brilliant a year ago as Hoffenheim topped the standings at christmas, but their season tailed off after he was badly injured. He's back now and no mistaking, scoring in the first, fourth and twentieth minutes to all but seal the game there and then. Raffael got one back in the stroke of half-time, but Chinedu Obasi and Carlos Eduardo, from the penalty spot, eased the Villagers to a big win. Leverkusen keep pace with Hamburg thanks to a 1-0 win over Cologne for whom Maniche was sent off. The Portuguese received his marching orders shortly after Simon Rolfes had put Bayer ahead. Wolfsburg won a hugely entertaining tussle with Hannover with Zvjezdan Misimovic's early free-kick getting it all started. Hanno Baltisch equalised, but Christian Gentner sent the Wolves in at half-time ahead. Japanese international Makoto Hasebe scored just after the break to give the champions a two-goal advantage, but hapless defender Alexander Madlung put through his own net to give Hannover a sniff. Edin Dzeko popped up with a crucial fourth for his side to win it.

    Bremen and Schalke both won to keep pace at the top, over Mainz and Dortmund respectively. It wasn't as fiery a Ruhr derby in Dortmund as you normally expect, Jefferson Farfan with the only goal, sliding between two defenders to get to Halil Altintop's centre. Aaron Hunt gave Bremen the lead over Mainz and two Claudio Pizarro goals in the second half inflicted a big defeat on the promoted side. Stuttering Stuttgart saw off ten-man Eintracht who had Marco Russ sent off. Julian Scheiber had already scored twice by then and Tomas Hitzlsperger wrapped it up after the interval.

    Freiburg continue their good form with a 3-0 win over Gladbach who a plummeting down the table. All the goals came in the second half, Mohamadou Idrissou, Yacine Abdessadki and Julian Schuster with them. New Bochum coach Frank Heinemann got his first win thanks to an early strike from Diego Klimowicz which was enough to see off Nurnberg.

    AZ lose again: Eredivisie reviews

    Utrecht 1-0 AZ
    PSV 3-1 Willem II
    Waalwijk 4-1 Roda
    Twente 2-1 VVV Venlo
    Ajax 3-0 Den Haag
    Groningen 1-0 Vitesse
    Sparta 0-2 Heerenveen
    NAC 0-2 Feyenoord
    NEC 0-2 Heracles

    It's safe to say that AZ's defence of their title isn't going particularly well. They've already lost as many games this season as they did last time and lie eight points adrift of the pace set by PSV and Twente. Sander Keller gave Utrecht the lead on 14 minutes, heading in a free-kick as Utrecht dominated proceedings, pressing high up the field and stifling the Alkmaarders. Just to make matters worse, AZ midfielder Simon Poulsen picked up a second yellow in the last few minutes as Utrecht keep up the pressure at the top. They play NEC on Wednesday with the Nijmegen side going into that one on the back of a defeat at home to Heracles. Everton and Bas Dost gave Heracles a two-goal lead and even the dismissal of Olivier ter Horst didn't help, Youssef El Akchaoui missing the penalty that came as a result. Win that midweek game and Utrecht will go level with Ajax.

    They're likely to end the week behind the Amsterdammers who are enjoying the best goal difference in the league - it's already up to 20 thanks to another three against Den Haag. With ADO fans banned from travelling to the Amsterdam ArenA, they didn't have to witness their side's worst display of an otherwise satisfactory season to date. Demy de Zeeuw gave Ajax the lead half way through the first half and late goals from Marko Pantelic - his first for the club following his switch from Hertha - and Siem de Jong wrapped it up. On Saturday, PSV and Twente both won and it's they that sit atop the standings. PSV recorded a routine 3-1 victory over Willem II, Otman Bakkal, Danko Lazovic and Ibrahim Afellay making it safe in the first half with just a late consolation from Frank Demouge coming back the other way. Twente came from behind at home to VVV Venlo after the visitors took a third minute lead through Achmed Ahahaoui. The reply came from the South American duo Bryan Ruiz, the Costa Rican with an improvised overhead effort, and Douglas, the big Brazilian centre back lashing home from six yards as VVV failed to deal with a corner. Twente dominated throughout. Feyenoord won as well despite being reduced to ten men when Denny Landzaat was sent off. Andwele Slory got the opener just after the hour and though Landzaat saw red a minute from time, Leroy Fer still had time to add a second.

    Waalwijk finally got a win and it was worth waiting for. Willem Janssen gave Roda an early lead, but two goals late in the first half put Waalwijk ahead. Fouad Idabdelhay and Charlison Benshop got those and further strikes after the break from Derk Boerrigter and Fred Benson finally saw RKC get off the mark. They're still bottom though, and Heerenveen won at Sparta to maintain the distance to the foot of the table. Paulo Henriques and a Viktor Elm penalty were enough for the Friesians. Groningen beat Vitesse by a single Danny Holla goal to join a clutch of clubs on eight points in the bottom half of the table.

    Friday, 25 September 2009

    Ligue 1 round 7

    Auxerre v Grenoble
    Lorient v PSG
    Valenciennes v Marseille
    Monaco v St Etienne
    Montpellier v Boulogne
    Nancy v Sochaux
    Lyon v Toulouse
    Lille v Nice
    Le Mans v Lens
    Bordeaux v Stade Rennes

    Top game this week in La République is in Lyon where Toulouse are the visitors. €70m was spent on players at Stade Gerland, although half of that came from the sale of just one player, and they've hit it off quickly and are beginning to look like a team refreshed. No longer do they rely on just one or two players (Juninho and Karim Benzema), rather the goals are coming from all across the field. Toulouse haven't been great so far this season, but they're still capable of getting goals, although André-Pierre Gignac seems to be suffering from second-season syndrome.

    Bordeaux are at home to Rennes with the Marouane Chamakh thing still not resolved, president Jean-Louis Triaud entering into a war of words with Arsene Wenger over the Moroccan's future. But Les Girondins march serenely on. Rennes are in fourth, but this looks like a home win. Marseille are back up to third and also have a winnable fixture, away at Valenciennes. Monaco have surged into the top half dozen and are at home to struggling St Etienne this week while Montpellier and Boulogne face off in a battle of promoted clubs, both of whom started the season well. PSG face Lorient with both sides in danger of just falling away a bit.

    Grenoble still remain rock bottom, pointless in so many ways, and Auxerre will fancy this is a chance to kick start a so-far miserable campaign. There's a mid-table clash between Nancy and Sochaux, Lens go to Le Mans and Nice make the long trip north to Lille.

    Bundesliga round 7

    Nurnberg Bochum
    Cologne v Leverkusen
    Wolfsburg v Hannover
    Bremen v Mainz
    Eintracht v Stuttgart
    Dortmund v Schalke
    Hamburg v Bayern
    Freiburg v Monchengladbach
    Hoffenheim v Hertha

    It goes from bad to worse for Hertha. Bottom of the league, they were dumped out of the cup in midweek by second division 1860 Munich on penalties. Lucien Favre is planning on sticking it out saying "some of the fans still like me" which sounds like the last shred of hope for the Swiss. Defeat in Hoffenheim will see that number of Favre fans diminish further and the Villagers arrive in some sort of form.

    Top game, however, is in Hamburg where the visitors are Bayern. Hamburg stumbled last week, but are in free-scoring mood, as were Bayern up until last week. Defensive frailties still plague the Bavarian behemoth, so this one promises goals aplenty. Off-season signing Mario Gomez is unhappy with his lot at Bayern having gone from main man at Stuttgart to bit-part player in Munich. Could it be that Bayern will become their own worst enemies? Leverkusen are still right up there and go to Cologne for a match they should win pretty comfortably. Wolfsburg got back into something like a week ago and a home tie with Hannover will hold few fears.

    Elsewhere, Bremen v Mainz promises entertainment. Both sides are in decent form, aren't great at the back, but like to score goals. Nurnberg and Bochum looks a tale of two strugglers, Eintracht against Stuttgart doesn't promise anything, Freiburg are going well and should do well against Gladbach and Schalke's in-fighting and teetering challenge goes to Dortmund.

    Eredivisie round 8

    Utrecht v AZ
    PSV v Willem II
    Waalwijk v Roda
    Twente v VVV Venlo
    Ajax v Den Haag
    Groningen v Vitesse
    Sparta v Heerenveen
    NAC v Feyenoord
    NEC v Heracles

    NEC v Utrecht

    It's a big week for Utrecht this week as they take on the champions at home before playing their catch-up game against NEC in midweek. Having lost just once so far this season, they sit four points off the league lead. A maximum haul from these two games and they're right back in the thick of it. And it's a distinct possibility. AZ aren't pulling up the trees and NEC just aren't particularly special. There's more chance of the Nijmegeners getting something from Sunday's game against Heracles then there is against Utrecht.

    Feyenoord should get back to winning ways at Breda, Ajax can add yet more goals against the obdurate Den Haag, PSV are big favourites at home to Willem II and Twente will fancy themselves at home to entertainers VVV Venlo. VVV are just coming into some tough fixtures in a row after that flamboyant start, but these next few weeks will see whether they're in it doe the long haul.

    Waalwijk still can't buy a win and Roda will look to take advantage and there are two contenders for dullest game of the season where Sparta take on Heerenveen and Vitesse go to Groningen. Four poor sides there and it's difficult to even see a goal in either match.

    Monday, 21 September 2009

    Trouble mars Saturday action: Ligue 1 reviews

    St Etienne 1-1 Auxerre
    Boulogne 0-2 Bordeaux
    Nice 1-3 Monaco
    Lorient 3-1 Nancy
    Sochaux 2-5 Valenciennes
    Grenoble 0-4 Rennes
    Marseille 4-2 Montpellier
    Toulouse 2-0 Le Mans
    Lens 1-1 Lille
    PSG 1-1 Lyon

    Grenoble remain rooted to the foot of the table after a 4-0 drubbing from Rennes in a game twice interrupted by flares and fireworks being launched into the pitch. Asamoah Gyan scored twice amid the referee's interventions, one in the first minute and a penalty on the hour with Sylvain Marveaux and Kader Mangane also on target. Down on the Riviera, things were much worse as fights broke out on the stands prompting the police to wade in with their usual Gallic charm. Monaco won again as the game continued despite the bother off the field, Nené with an early penalty and two goals from Alejandro Alonso sealing the deal, Loic Remy with Nice's only score.

    Bordeaux remain on top with a 2-0 win at Boulogne, Yoan Gouffran and Yoann Lachor's penalty doing enough for the champions. They're out in front on their own as Lyon could only draw, 1-1 at PSG. Ludovic Giuly put the Parisians in front on the half hour before Bafetimbi Gomis levelled it five minutes from the end. Marseille got back on track with an impressive win over Montpellier who had been going well. Three goals around the half hour blew René Girard's side away, Lucho Gonzalez, Mamadou Niang and Edouard Cissé with the goals which came in an eight-minute burst. Souleymane Diawara made it four just after the break and that was that, the cue going back on the rack at that point. Younes Belhanda and a penalty from Souleymane Camara were consolation for a well beaten Montpellier.

    St Etienne and Auxerre both remain at the wrong end of the table after their 1-1 draw. Gonzalo Bergessio put Les Verts in front with Kevin Lejeune equalising twenty minutes from time. Performance of the day was from Valenciennes, 5-2 winners away at Sochaux who ended with ten men following the late dismissal of Vaclav Sverkos. Jeremie Bréchet put Sochaux ahead on three minutes, but Carlos Sanchez levelled it half way through the opening period. Ryad Boudebouz sent Sochaux into the break in front, but the second half was all VA. Gregory Pujol scored twice, either side Johan Audel and Fahid Ben Khalfallah goals and the red card for Sverkos. Lorient beat Nancy quite comfortably, Sigamary Diarra and Kevin Gameiro putting Les Merlus into a comfort zone before some late excitement with Paul Efoulou grabbing one back in the last minute before Olivier Monterubbio's penalty deep into stoppage time restored the two-goal lead.

    Toulouse won for just the second time this season, seeing off Le Mans with goals either side of the break from Etienne Didot and the highly rated Moussa Sissoko and there was more fun and games in the northern derby in Lens where Lille were indebted to Adil Rami for rescuing a point after they were reduced to ten men, Yohan Cabaye managing to get sent off a minute after coming off the bench after going through Abdoulrazak Boukari, who had earlier put Lens in front, with a shocking challenge. Lens had much the better chances, but paid for failure to capitalise when Rami met Rio Mavuba's cross and head home.

    Lehmann boozing, Hertha losing: Bundesliga reviews

    Schalke 1-2 Wolfsburg
    Bayern 2-1 Nurnberg
    Bochum 2-3 Mainz
    Stuttgart 0-2 Cologne
    Hannover 1-1 Dortmund
    Monchengladbach 2-4 Hoffenheim
    Eintracht 1-1 Hamburg
    Leverkusen 0-0 Bremen
    Hertha 0-4 Freiburg

    Oktoberfest attracts visitors from all over the world and one particularly high-profile attendee this week was Jens Lehmann. The problem was that he was there just hours before Stuttgart were due to play Cologne, he didn't have permission from the club to be there and he was subsequently dropped. Stuttgart then went and lost, handing Cologne their first win of the season. Sebastien Freis gave Cologne a lead midway through the first half and Wilfried Sanou wrapped it up late on. Hertha assume the position in Cologne's place, going down 4-0 at home to Freiburg, piling the pressure on Lucien Favre. Three first half goals from the Breisgau-Brasilianer set them on their way, Ivica Banovic, Cedric Makiadi and Mohammed Idrissou the scorers. Banovic's second half way through the second period condemned Hertha to bottom spot.

    Bochum remain one place above Hertha after a home defeat to Mainz and they compounded Marcel Koller's misery at getting hoofed out of the managerial role by announcing it on the club website before the board had seen fit to inform Koller of their decision. Mimoun Azaouagh put Bochum ahead and they remained in front at the break after Andreas Ivanschitz had equalised and Diego Klimowicz restored the lead. After the break, it was all Mainz and Andre Schurrle bagged a brace to win it.

    Up at the top, Wolfsburg got back into winning ways on Friday night with a win over Schalke, and their former boss. Edin Dzeko was back in the groove and swept home the opener half way through the first half. Ten minutes from time, Benedict Howedes headed in under no pressure to level it up, but the celebrations were short-lived as Dzeko put the Wolves back on front within thirty seconds. Bayern scrambled to a win over Nurnberg. A goalless first half disappointed, but Ivica Olic put the Bavarians ahead ten minutes after the break. Eric Choupo-Moting equalised twenty minutes later, but Daniel van Buyten - in the habit of scoring important club goals - nodded in the winner eight minutes from time. Hoffenheim are going well and came from two down against Gladbach to win. They left it late though, three goals going in in the last four minutes. Gladbach led through Juan Arango and Robert Colautti inside twenty minutes and though Sejad Salihovic pulled one back quickly, it looked like they'd hang on. Late goals from Maicosuel, Chinedu Obasi and Demba Ba turned the game on it's head and propelled TSG into fourth place.

    Top two Hamburg and Leverkusen were both held to draws, the latter to a dull 0-0 by Bremen, the former 1-1 with Eintracht, Marco Russ equalising Ze Roberto's early strike. Hannover and Dortmund also finished 1-1, Nuri Sahin and Didier Yo Konan getting the goals within a couple of minutes of each other.

    PSV take Classic honours: Eredivisie reviews

    Willem II 2-1 Groningen
    Heracles 1-1 Sparta
    Roda 2-0 NAC
    Vitesse 3-1 Waalwijk
    AZ 0-1 NEC
    Den Haag 0-1 Utrecht
    Feyenoord 1-3 PSV
    VVV Venlo 0-4 Ajax
    Heerenveen 0-2 Twente

    The last time PSV took on one of their big rivals, they edged a seven-goal thriller against Ajax on home soil. On Sunday lunchtime, they went to Rotterdam to face Feyenoord and again came out with an impressive win. Four first half goals promised much and though the second half saw no further addition to the score, there was no lack of entertainment. A rejuvenated Danny Koevermans led the line for PSV and he put his side two up in 20 minutes, only for Andwele Slory to pull one back three minutes later. Otman Bakkal restored the two-goal lead before the break and that broke the back of the Rotterdam resistance and the second period all went a bit Jackie Chan as they strived to get back in it. Somehow, it remained eleven-a-side as PSV closed out a 3-1 win.

    Twente keep pace with leaders PSV thanks to a brace from Miroslav Stoch, the Slovakian winger on loan in Enschede from Chelsea. Having lost wide men Eljero Elia and Marko Arnautovic in the off season, Stoch provides the width Twente had been missing for the early part of the season and Heerenveen's miserable season continues. Luis Suarez grabbed another four - that's ten in seven games - as Ajax belted VVV Venlo who were overrun. The first came just three minutes in and three more in the second half completed Venlo's first defeat. AZ were surprisingly beaten, Lorenzo Davids getting the only goal for NEC three minutes from time, AZ failing to clear and Davids curling it in from 25 yards.

    Waalwijk look down already after heavy defeat in the Gelredome in Arnhem. Lasse Nilsson put Vitesse ahead, but Waalwijk were back in it through Fouad Idabdelhay before Gijs Luirink spurned a chance to put RKC ahead from 12 yards. Piet Velthuizen saved and Vitesse didn't look back. Santi Kolk succeeded where Luirink had failed to put Vitesse back in front and Paul Verhaegh made it safe early in the second half. Groningen remain in the bottom three after another defeat, this one after going ahead against Willem II who move above them. Groningen were ahead in seven minutes through Koen van der Laak, but two goals late in the first half - Sergio Zijler and a penalty from Christophe Gregoire - gave the Tilburgers the win. Heracles and Sparta battled to a 1-1 draw Ayodele Adeleye put Sparta in front only for Darl Douglas to square it up. Sparta had Emmanuel Boakye dismissed with quarter of an hour to go, but they held on. Mads Junker struck twice in three second half minutes for Roda as they saw off NAC and Utrecht remain in touch at the sharp end with a 1-0 win over Den Haag, Dries Mertens bagging the winner.

    Friday, 18 September 2009

    Ligue 1 round 6

    Nice v Monaco
    Lorient v Nancy
    Sochaux v Valenciennes
    Grenoble v Rennes
    St Etienne v Auxerre
    Boulogne v Bordeaux
    Marseille v Montpellier
    Toulouse v Le Mans
    Lens v Lille
    PSG v Lyon

    Top game this week is at the bottom of the bill. Having lost 'their' title, Lyon have gone away, regrouped and come back better for it. All the new signings are going well and one of those, Miralem Pjanic, got the winner against Fiorentina in midweek. PSG don't have European distractions and they were defeated by Monaco last time out, but they remain a decent side. Bordeaux are ahead of Lyon only by two goals and face promoted Boulogne. Before a ball was kicked this season, you'd have this down as an away win, but Boulogne have started really well. This will be their biggest test to date. Montpellier are in an unlikely third place and face Marseille in a south coast derby this week. Marseille are in fourth, two goals behind MHSC, and this is a huge game for both sides, even at this early stage of the season.

    St Etienne may have fancied their chances of getting something from Auxerre in a relegation battle this week, but the Ireneusz Jelen comes back in to the AJA side and they are transformed. You could almost hear Alain Perrin's heart sink a week ago and it's the impish Pole that Les Verts will have to cope with to get something here. They've not coped with players worse than him, so their chances don't look great. Grenoble are bottom and face mid-table Rennes this week, there's a derby of sorts when Monaco go to Nice, Lorient and Nancy go head-to-head level on points in mid-table, Sochaux and Valenciennes both need points, there's a northern derby at Lens where Lille are the visitors and Le Mans make the long trip to Toulouse to face the misfiring Violets.

    Bundesliga round 6

    Schalke v Wolfsburg
    Bochum v Mainz
    Stuttgart v Cologne
    Hannover v Dortmund
    Monchengladbach v Hoffenheim
    Bayern v Nurnberg
    Eintracht v Hamburg
    Hertha v Freiburg
    Leverkusen v Bremen

    Difficult to pick a game of the week in round six, but if it's goals you want, try Bayern against Nurnberg. The Bavarians are running hot at the moment and come into this one the back of eight goals in two games, three in the Champions League. Nurnberg won't have faced up to a twin threat suck as Franck Ribéry and Arjen Robben many times before and they look like lambs to the slaughter. Gladbach against Hoffenheim could be a contender with two sides that want to play and the Friday offering sees Felix Magath line up against the side he took to Bundesliga glory last season. Suspect league results were brushed aside as Wolfsburg recorded a win in their first ever Champions League game, 3-1 against CSKA, while the full financial situation in Gelsenkirchen is yet to emerge. It looks grim.

    Leverkusen and Bremen are both going well and face off against one another this weekend, Hertha host Freiburg with the visitors above them in the table, Dortmund look to put last week's drubbing behind them when they go to Hannover, Stuttgart's poor showing in Europe can be properly assuaged with a win over rock bottom Cologne and Mainz's decent start shouldn't be tested too much by Bochum.

    Eredivisie round 7

    Willem II v Groningen
    Heracles v Sparta
    Roda v NAC
    Vitesse v Waalwijk
    AZ v NEC
    Den Haag v Utrecht
    Feyenoord v PSV
    VVV Venlo v Ajax
    Heerenveen v Twente

    No prizes for guessing game of the week in round seven. It's another Classic at De Kuip with first against second. PSV are in Rotterdam sitting top of the pile by one goal from this week's opponents Feyenoord. Chelsea's transfer ban is the best thing that could have happened to Feyenoord as the West Londoners were sniffing round playmaker Jonathan de Guzman. Now it looks like Mario Been will have him around for at least the rest of this season. He's been good, as has veteran striker Jon Dahl Tomasson. PSV though are a vibrant young side and can run the legs off any team, especially one not blessed with pace at the back.

    VVV Venlo face the toughest assignment of their as yet unbeaten season when Ajax visit De Koel. It'll take more than just Keisuke Honda and Sandro Calabro to fire to see off the rampant Amsterdammers who are banging goals in from all over the place at the moment. They were poor in Europe in midweek, though, only managing a goalless draw at home to Politechnica Timisoara. AZ lost their first ever Champions League game in midweek, against Olympiakos, but can get back on the horse with a home game against NEC and Twente - they won away against Fenerbahce on Thursday - look like compounding Heerenveen's misery. They were also in European action, losing at home to Sporting CP.

    Waalwijk at Vitesse looks a real six-pointer already. Lose this one and Waalwijk look all set to finish rock bottom. Sparta have just pulled away and go to inconsistent Heracles, Roda and NAC has mid-table mediocrity written all over it and Den Haag v Utrecht could be a sleeper option for game of the week. Both sides like to get it down and play it and this promises some good football. The weekend gets underway with Willem II at home to Groningen and if it was on in the back garden, I'd pull the curtains.

    Monday, 14 September 2009

    A weekend short on goals: Ligue 1 reviews

    Montpellier 1-0 Lens
    Valenciennes 1-1 Boulogne
    Le Mans 1-2 Marseille
    Lille 1-0 Sochaux
    Lyon 1-0 Lorient
    Nancy 0-0 Toulouse
    Bordeaux 1-0 Grenoble
    Auxerre 2-0 Nice
    Rennes 1-0 St Etienne
    Monaco 2-0 PSG

    Goals at a premium in Ligue 1 this week with just two of the ten games decided by more than a single goal. One of those two was in the Principality where all the action was condensed into the last five minutes. Park Chu-Young struck the first goal with five minutes remaining, latching onto a neat through ball and sticking it under Gregory Coupet. Nene added a second a couple of minutes later to seal the win, though there was still time for Stéphane Sessegnon to pick up a second yellow for the visitors. The other two-goal margin came from Auxerre, previously without a win or a goal all season long. He wasn't on the scoresheet, but Ireneusz Jelen was back and massively influential as Cedric Hengbart put them ahead. He was withdrawn for Daniel Niculae and it was his replacement that made it two and secured the victory. One man team.

    Bordeaux weren't exactly convincing in beating bottom club Grenoble 1-0. Yoan Gouffran's 18th minute strike was enough for Les Girondins who welcomed Fernando Cavenaghi back to the side in time for their Champions League campaign. Lyon stay right on their heels thanks to another 1-0 win, Michel Bastos striking half way through the second half to see off Lorient. Another 1-0 sent Montpellier into third with Alberto Costa's penalty deciding this clash of promoted clubs, Lens coming off second best. Marseille are fourth after beating Le Mans, Brandao with the winner after Modibo Maiga equalised Mamadou Niang's opener.

    Lille won their first in five, 1-0 again, Pierre-Alain Frau getting the only goal against Sochaux and the same scoreline was enough for Rennes to end a run of three straight draws with victory over St Etienne. Sylvain Marveaux got the goal just on the hour. Nancy and Toulouse failed to come up with any goals, just the last-minute dismissal of Nancy's Andre Luiz making the game noteworthy. The other draw came at the Nungesser in Valenciennes where the hosts took the lead fifteen minutes from time through Gregory Pujol only to be pegged back seven minutes later by Daniel Moreira.

    Hamburg remain in control: Bundesliga reviews

    Nurnberg 1-0 Monchengladbach
    Wolfsburg 2-3 Leverkusen
    Mainz 2-1 Hertha
    Hoffenheim 3-0 Bochum
    Freiburg 0-2 Eintracht
    Dortmund 1-5 Bayern
    Hamburg 3-1 Stuttgart
    Bremen 0-0 Hannover
    Cologne 1-2 Schalke

    The worst thing Dortmund could have done at home to Bayern was score early. And that's what Mats Hummel did, heading a well-weighted free kick through Hans-Jorg Butt's legs. Revenge did not come quickly, but when it did it was ruthless. Mario Gomez headed in an equaliser, Ivica Olic flicking on Bastian Schweinsteiger's free-kick before a second half dominated by the Bavarians. Schweinsteiger put them in front before another free-kick, this time from Franck Ribéry put them ahead. Pick that out. 20-year old Thomas Muller added a late double in his first start for the first team. The first came after some more Ribéry magic and Dortmund's inability to clear, the second an absolute screamer again involving that man Ribéry.

    Wolfsburg almost completed a remarkable comeback at home to Leverkusen before succumbing to defeat. Diego Benaglio was sent off after 32 minutes and Simon Rolfes put Leverkusen ahead six minutes later. Rolfes added a penalty early in the second half and Stefan Kiessling made it three six minutes later. Between the second and third goals, Leverkusen were reduced to ten themselves, Eren Derdiyok seeing red and Armin Veh reacted by bringing on Edin Dzeko, left out of the starting eleven with the Champions League campaign starting in midweek. Zvjezdan Misimovic fired in a sumptuous free kick before Dzeko won a penalty which Grafite dispatched with customary ease. The champions couldn't engineer an equaliser and go down to their third straight loss.

    Wins for both the Frankfurt clubs sees them consolidate good starts. Mainz left it late to get past Hertha for whom Max Nicu scored five minutes after half time. Andreas Ivanschitz struck a penalty ten minutes from time and Aristide Bancé won it with five left. Eintracht eased past lowly Freiburg with Maik Franz and Alexander Meier the goalscorers. Nurnberg won their first game of the season at home to inconsistent Gladbach. Peer Kluge got the only goal just five minutes in. Cologne remain bottom despite Lukas Podolski finally getting a goal for them. It came in the sixth minute, but Cologne were already one down by then, Jefferson Farfan scoring in 100 seconds. Within the same time span after the half time break, Levan Kobiashvili gave Schalke the win. Bremen and Hannover couldn't muster a goal between them in a disappointing game.

    Hoffenheim are going in the right direction and got another win at home to Bochum. Demba Ba gave the Villagers an early lead with Chinedu Obasa and Marvin Compper finishing Bochum off. Hamburg remain top and Stuttgart were the latest to feel the pain which leaves them still languishing rather. Mladen Petric and Eljero Elia put the leaders in control, though Pavel Pogrebnyak pulled one back immediately after Elia's strike. Ze Roberto made it safe in stoppage time leaving his new side top of the pile in what looks a strung out table already.

    VVV for victory: Eredivisie reviews

    PSV 3-0 Roda
    Twente 3-2 Utrecht
    Heerenveen 0-1 Groningen
    Den Haag 2-1 AZ
    Willem II 2-3 Feyenoord
    Ajax 6-0 NAC
    VVV Venlo 1-0 Heracles
    Sparta 1-0 Waalwijk
    Vitesse 2-2 NEC

    Honda Calabro may sound like the forthcoming superbike from Japan's premier motorcycle manufacturers, but it is the combination which has seen lowly VVV Venlo remain unbeaten six games into the new Eredivisie season. After five straight draws, they managed their first win and yet again it was Keisuke Honda and Sandro Calabro that combined for the only goal of the game. Honda's free-kick in the eighth minute came back off the crossbar and, with the keeper stranded, Calabro followed it in and scored. Slack defending from Heracles, but VVV continue to entertain in the best possible way.

    Waalwijk came up with VVV, but the contrast couldn't be starker. They've yet to win and this week may have been their best chance. Sparta are not a good side, but they had a comfortable time of it. The only goal came early, Romano Denneboom just about keeping the ball in and digging out a cross which was headed over the goalkeeper by a defender and onto the head of Rydell Poepon who nodded it into an empty net. Vitesse are struggling too and chucked away a two-goal lead at home to NEC. Santi Kolk scored in first half stoppage time to put the Arnhemers ahead and Claudemir Domingues made it two with ten minutes to go. Two late, late goals would rescue a point for NEC, Ramon Zomer with the first and then in the 94th minute, Arek Radomski's shot was turned past his own keeper by Kevin van Diermen. Heerenveen's poor start continues, Morten Nordstrand with Groningen's winner and Michael Dinsdag sent off in the last minute.

    Which leaves the big five as we must now call them all up at the top end and separated by just two points. Ajax were most impressive of the five with a six-goal thumping of NAC who were just rubbish. A hat-trick from Dario Cvitanich grabbed the headlines, Luis Suarez tormented the visitors all afternoon and bagged one, as did Jan Vertonghen (a thunderblot of a free kick) and Kennedy Bakircioglu. Lax defending contributed to most of the goals and Leonardo, back at Breda following an unhappy spell at Ajax, had the most miserable debut, coming on at 6-0 down. Den Haag upset AZ by taking a 2-0 lead through Wesley Verhoek in the fourth minute and Lex Immers just after the break. There followed a siege on the Den Haag goal, but only Jeremain Lens's effort four minutes from the end got through as Ronald Koeman's side warmed up for their first Champions League encounter in the worst possible way.

    Fun and games in Enschede on Saturday where Twente came from behind, conceded an equaliser, missed a penalty, had a man sent off and still beat Utrecht. Ricky van Wolfswinkel is in form and put Utrecht ahead early on, only for Blaise N'Kufo to level before half-time. Nicky Kuiper put Twente ahead shortly after the interval, only for van Wolfswinkel to level it up again within ten minutes. Then it all went mental in the dying moments, Kenneth Perez missed from 12 yards, but Bryan Ruiz saved his blushes with a fine goal in the first minute of stoppage time, taking a looping ball down on his chest while going away from goal and somehow wrapping his left peg round it and firing home. And there was still time for Chiek Tioté to pick up a second yellow and get sent off.

    Feyenoord overcame stiff resistance from Willem II before emerging victorious. Three goals in the first twenty minutes saw Feyenoord emerge in front after Said Boutahar had put the Tilburgers ahead inside two minutes. Jon Dahl Tomasson struck twice to put Mario Been's side ahead, though Bart Biemans ensured it would be level at half-time. After the frenetic first half, the second just had Jonathan de Guzman's winner to show for it. It's PSV that end the round on top after a routine 3-0 win over Roda. Balazs Dzsudzsak's early strike set them on their way and second half goals from Stanislav Manolev and Otman Bakkal wrapped up a dominant performance.

    Friday, 11 September 2009

    Ligue 1 round 5

    Valenciennes v Boulogne
    Le Mans v Marseille
    Lille v Sochaux
    Lyon v Lorient
    Nancy v Toulouse
    Montpellier v Lens
    Bordeaux v Grenoble
    Rennes v St Etienne
    Auxerre v Nice
    Monaco v PSG

    The misery of the national side, and the apparent mutiny which has seen Thierry Henry calling all the shots, can be put aside for another four weeks as we get back to league action. Top of the bill is the capital clash in Monte Carlo where Monaco, with added Eidur Gudjohnsen, take on PSG. The Parisians lost Jérome Rothen to Rangers in the transfer window, which leaves them short on wide options, and they managed to farm out Mateja Kezman on loan to Zenit which should improve dressing room harmony. Having missed out on Steve Savidan - retired once his move from Caen fell down when a congenital heart defect was uncovered - Gudjohnsen ought to be exactly the signing Monaco need. It looks a good move for a vastly underrated player as well.

    Bordeaux host Grenoble, in-form Lyon host Lorient without Jean-Alain Boumsong and Marseille go north to Le Mans. All three should win comfortably. Montpellier are riding high after a flying start and host Lens who have been in the news for non-footballing reasons over the last few weeks. The Gael Kakuta affair resulted in a transfer ban for Chelsea, pleasing the Lens board no end. They're in sixth place and playing well and the Montpellier game promises to be among the best of the round.

    Toulouse, Lille and Auxerre have all started badly - the latter two have yet to win - and all have tough games this week. Nice aren't breaking any pots and they go to Auxerre this week while Lille are at home to Sochaux who have added USA international Charlie Davies to take the goal-scoring burden from Vaclav Sverkos. Toulouse go to Nancy, a difficult prospect with the Lorraine side starting well. Valenciennes and St Etienne both play mid-table sides, the former at home to Boulogne, impressive on their return to Ligue 1, and the latter away at Rennes.

    Bundesliga round 5

    Mainz v Hertha
    Hoffenheim v Bochum
    Freiburg v Eintracht
    Dortmund v Bayern
    Nurnberg v Monchengladbach
    Wolfsburg v Leverkusen
    Hamburg v Stuttgart
    Bremen v Hannover
    Cologne v Schalke

    Top game in the Bundesliga this week sees Stuttgart travel to league leaders Hamburg where goals are likely to flow in abundance. Bruno Labbadia will have to do without Paolo Guerrero, the Peruvian injured in World Cup qualifying in midweek and likely to miss most, if not all, of the rest of the season. Markus Babbel added Serbian midfielder Zdravko Kuzmanovic on deadline day to add options in the central areas and with a Champions League campaign starting next week, they need to find form quickly.

    The champions have skipper Josué back for the visit of Leverkusen who have started the season well. Two defeats already this season have seen Wolfsburg drop off the pace and the Brazilian schemer has missed both. With him back, they can get their season back up and running, freeing Zvezjdan Misimovic to do less of the donkey work and bring Edin Dzeko, Grafite and Obafemi Martins more into the game which simply didn't happen against Bayern two weeks ago. Bayern looked revitalised with Arjen Robben in the side and Dortmund will have to cope with the twin threat of the Dutchman and his partner in crime Franck Ribéry. Hertha have not started well and face Mainz who are still flying high from their win over Bayern and things are not well at Schalke. Reports of divisions in the squad and the autocratic ways of Felix Magath were being papered over with reasonable results. This basket case club is on the brink of falling apart like only they can. Again. The game against Cologne is very winnable - Cologne don't look like winning a one-ticket raffle at the moment - but there may be trouble ahead.

    Hoffenheim midfielder Sejad Salihovic had a superb international break for Bosnia and his side go into the game against Bochum - not a good football team - in decent form. Gladbach sit sixth and can consolidate the position away at Nurnberg. Freiburg can build on their win last time out at home to Eintracht and Bremen will be short odds to see off Hannover.

    Eredivisie round 6

    PSV v Roda
    Twente v Utrecht
    Heerenveen v Groningen
    Den Haag v AZ
    Willem II v Feyenoord
    Ajax v NAC
    VVV Venlo v Heracles
    Sparta v Waalwijk
    Vitesse v NEC

    Back to domestic action after the Oranje's stroll to South Africa was completed in midweek and top billing goes to the game in Enschede where Utrecht travel to take on Twente. There'll be no Steve McClaren on the bench for Twente as he picked up a one-match ban before the international break for going onto the field to remonstrate with the officials in the game against Feyenoord. Michel Vorm was the Oranje star on Wednesday, the Utrecht keeper coming up with a string of saves of the very highest quality and he'll be in goal for unbeaten Utrecht. Twente aren't getting the goals and that's a worry. Score draw.

    Ajax and PSV are both at home and are short odds to register wins against NAC and Roda respectively. Feyenoord are in Tilburg, taking on the unpredictable Willem II. AZ go to the governmental capital to take on Den Haag. All should come away with the points.

    The Abe Lenstra in Heerenveen sees the two biggest underachievers so far face off for ultimate underachieving anti-glory when Groningen come to town and can the entertaining VVV Venlo register a win at home to Heracles? Star man Keisuke Honda has already spoken of how he'd love to play for PSV - the fabled come and get me plea - and if he goes, VVV are sunk. For now though, they have him and they're bloody lucky. NEC go to Arnhem to take on Vitesse and Sparta go to pointless - as in they have no points - Waalwijk. Both of these look like early relegation battles.

    What's on this week

    A look ahead to what's on this week for our UK readers.

    Saturday19:00La LigaRCD Espanyol v Real MadridSky Sports Live
    Saturday19:45Serie ALazio v JuventusESPN Live
    Saturday21:45BundesligaBorussia Dortmund v Bayern MunichESPN
    Saturday21:00La LigaSevilla v Real ZaragozaSky Sports Live
    Sunday11:00Russian PLDinamo Moscow v Spartak MoscowESPN Live
    Sunday14:00Serie AInternazionale v ParmaESPN Live
    Sunday16:30BundesligaFC Koln v Schalke 04ESPN Live
    Sunday18:00La LigaValladolid v ValenciaSKY Sports Live
    Sunday19:45Serie AGenoa v NapoliESPN Live
    Monday12:30EredivisiePSV v Roda JCESPN
    Monday13:30EredivisieAjax v NAC BredaESPN
    Monday15:00Russian PLCSKA Moscow v Krylia SovetovESPN
    Monday22:15BundesligaRound Up ShowESPN
    Tuesday18:00La LigaRevista de La LigaSKY Sports 1
    Tuesday21:30Serie ARound Up ShowESPN
    Tuesday22:00EredivisieRound Up ShowESPN
    Wednesday21:00Liga SagresPortuGolESPN

    Thursday, 10 September 2009

    Henry earns Domenech stay of execution: international reviews

    Denmark 1-1 Portugal
    France 1-1 Romania
    Georgia 0-2 Italy
    Poland 1-1 Northern Ireland
    Spain 5-0 Belgium

    Germany 4-0 Azerbaijan
    Hungary 0-1 Portugal
    Italy 2-0 Bulgaria
    Scotland 0-1 Netherlands
    Serbia 1-1 France
    Slovenia 3-0 Poland
    Spain 3-0 Estonia

    The writing appeared to be on the wall for Les Bleus and for Raymond Domenech after just nine minutes of Wednesday's game in Belgrade when Hugo Lloris was sent off and Nejad Milijas converted the resultant penalty. As he had on the previous Saturday, up stepped Thierry Henry to rescue the situation, swooping on a rebound off the keeper after Nicolas Anelka's speculator was fumbled. Saturday saw Henry put France ahead against Romania, but the hapless Julien Escudé put through his own net in comical style to level it. Two draws aren't good enough on their own, but results elsewhere mean France are in second place in the group, four behind Serbia and four clear of Austria who are third. The play-offs beckon, but that won't be enough to save Domenech. He has totally failed to get a very good crop of players playing well together and internal divisions are reportedly widespread.

    The Dutch have finished their campaign and signed off with a win in Glasgow. They had stand-in keeper Michel Vorm, of in-form Utrecht, to thank in a large part as he pulled off a string of top notch saves to keep the Scots at bay. Having done that, it was Eljero Elia, off the bench in place of Arjen Robben, to pop up and take the ball round David Marshall and tuck it away to end the Oranje qualifying campaign with a 100% record.

    Poland are out. In need of two wins to stand any real chance of qualification, they completely ballsed it up. A battling draw at Windsor Park wasn't necessarily too bad, but the capitulation in Slovenia on Wednesday consigned them to fifth place in the group and signalled the end of Leo Beenhakker's tenure.

    Portugal live to fight another day, although it's still tough for them to get through. The draw with Denmark was useful, but it meant that they had to beat Hungary on Wednesday. Pepé's early header put them ahead and they hung on for a not-entirely-convincing win. Sweden are still in the box seat for the play-off place, but this one is going to the wire.

    Estonia were brushed aside by Spain as they waltzed into the finals. Cesc Fabregas got things moving on Wednesday with a tidy goal involving him and David Silva. Santi Cazorla is back and doing great and added a second before Juan Mata wrapped it up. They'll be among the top two or three favourites next year.

    Italy aren't there yet, but they're within touching distance after two comfortable wins. Two Kakha Kaladze own goals gifted them victory in Tblisi on Saturday before Fabio Grosso and Vincenzo Iaquinta gave them another 2-0 win on Wednesday. They're four clear of Ireland with two games to play and the next fixture is against Trappatoni's Irish in Dublin next month. A point will do them.

    Two wins over the week for Russia coupled with Germany's routine win over Azerbaijan sets up a showdown between the two nations next month on Russian soil. Two Miroslav Klose goals were sandwiched by a Michael Ballack penalty and Lukas Podolski's first goal of the season saw off the Azeris to leave them Germans a point ahead of Russia with two to go. The winner of the clash on the tenth of October will probably top the group with a draw favouring Germany.

    Friday, 4 September 2009

    An international break

    With the leagues across Europe taking a breather for international football, let's have a look-see about who needs to do what from the leagues we follow.

    The Netherlands don't need to do anything. They were the first European qualifiers for South Africa after cutting a swathe through what, for them at least, is a pretty easy group. Bert van Marwijk's side (he's Mark van Bommel's father in-law - FACT!) have won seven from seven, scored 16 goals with just two coming back the other way and sit fourteen points clear of Macedonia - a huge margin. Put it another way: they are two points per match better than any other side in the group. A potential stumbling block for van Marwijk in the lead-up to the finals was the fate of the Dutch contingent at Real Madrid, all of whom were on the outer as soon as Florentino Perez walked back into the boardroom and started doing all that galactico bollocks again. Arjen Robben (Bayern) and Wesley Sneijder (Inter) have moved on, but Rafael van der Vaart has chosen to remain. With little chance of regular football, it'll be hard for van Marwijk to pick him and a move in January may be the only chance van der Vaart has to force himself into the reckoning for South Africa.
    On Saturday, the Dutch have a friendly against Japan before Wednesday's trip to Glasgow for what looks a routine job to go eight from eight against Scotland.

    France haven't had a great campaign, but lie second in group 7, five points behind Serbia with a game in hand. Goals have been at a premium with none of Les Bleus four wins being by more than one goal. Indeed, Yoann Gourcuff's virtuoso performances have been the only thing keeping the French in it and, perhaps more pertinently, keeping Raymond Domenech in a job. Saturday sees them take on Romania who have struggled to make an impact in the tournament, before an absolutely crunch game in Belgrade. Lose that one and they can kiss goodbye to top spot and automatic qualification. Win it and it's all back on again. A fit Franck Ribéry is vital to their hopes, but with some bizarre tactical formations from Domenech, it could quite easily unravel.

    Germany have dropped just two points from their first seven games, but are only four points clear of Russia in second. Crucially, the Russians have a game in hand which they'll play while the Germans have a friendly against South Africa on Saturday. Wednesday sees Azerbaijan go to Germany and it's impossible to think there's any hope of an upset there. While other countries may see their national side succumb to the odd shock result, Germany doesn't tend to. Instead, they improve their goal difference in ruthless fashion as recent demolition jobs bare testament to, such as the 12-0 drubbing of San Marino a couple of years ago. Next month's game in Russia will be the big one in this group.

    Group 5 hasn't troubled Spain any, six wins from six seeing them six points clear at the top. Belgium are Saturday's opponents and while they're an up and coming side are Belgium, they lack a little experience at the moment. They're certainly a side to keep an eye on in the not too distant future, but Spain should have few issues in this one. It's another home game on Wednesday too, against Estonia, and you can't see past del Bosque's charges making it eight from eight.

    Italy are just a point clear of the Republic of Ireland in group 8, but do have a game in hand. They go away to winless Georgia on Saturday before third placed Bulgaria - not the force they were back 1994 - come to Italy on Wednesday. It's Italy's group to lose and it's almost impossible to imagine they'd do that. Two wins this week and it begins to look very straightforward.

    Portugal have a struggle on to make second and the play-offs, lying in third place seven points off leaders Denmark and four behind a resurgent Hungary in second. The fixtures this week therefore become make-or-break as it's off to Copenhagen on Saturday before Hungary visit the Iberian peninsula on Wednesday. Six points from these two games is a must or they can forget about South Africa. Even that may not be enough, but it would certainly get them going in the right direction.

    Group 3 is the tightest of the European groups with the top five clubs covered by seven points. Poland are fourth but have played a game fewer than the two sides immediately above them and those same sides are Poland's opponents over the next few days. Northern Ireland visit Poland on Saturday before a trip to Slovenia on Wednesday. Win those and they'll go into second and look good for the play-offs, but this is Poland and something is going to go horribly wrong at some point. It's just what happens.

    It's all hotting up in South America as well, and you can read more about that on CONMEBalls.

    Tuesday, 1 September 2009

    La Liga Round 1 Review: El Real stutter into life

    Real Madrid 3-2 Deportivo
    Zaragoza 1-0 Tenerife
    Athletic 1-0 Espanyol
    Mallorca 2-0 Xerex
    Malaga 3-0 Atletico
    Osasuna 1-1 Villarreal
    Racing 1-4 Getafe
    Valencia 2-0 Sevilla
    Almeria 0-0 Valladolid
    Barcelona 3-0 Sporting Gijon

    Well it was a much changed Real Madrid line-up for the game against Deportivo; Arbeloa, Albiol, Garay, Kaka, Ronaldo and Benzema all started. They took the lead through Raul but the same defensive problems remained; Riki equalised with a header after some poor marking, and Juan Valeron had plenty of time to score a precise equaliser after Ronaldo's penalty. In fact, the veteran midfielder should have put Depor 3-2 up later, and was made to pay for his mistake by Lassana Diarra's impressive finish. There's clearly plenty of attacking force in this new-look team, but still frailties at the back.

    Barcelona started off in predictably comfortable fashion against Gijon - Bojan and Seydou Keita had Barca 2-0 up at half time, and Zlatan Ibrahmiovic, who despite the change of club still plays the same game, i.e. brilliant one minute phenomenally lazy the next, got the third. New signing Gregory Arnolin impressed for the Asturians. On a terrible pitch at the Mestalla, Valencia beat Sevilla who had Fredi Kanoute sent off for two bad challenges - Pablo Hernandez and Juan Mata capitalised as Manolo Jiminez's men never really got going. Getafe are top after Roberto Soldado scored a hat-trick against a Racing side who this season really are dead certs for relegation. Torquero scored a solitary goal for Athletic Bilbao which was enough to beat Espanyol.

    Villarreal were held to a surprise draw at Osasuna - Santi Cazorla, making a welcome return from a broken leg, gave the visitors the lead only for Walter 'The Rifle' Pandiani to cancel it out within five minutes. Dark mutterings in Madrid after Atletico were pummeled by Malaga, who are intent on showing last season was no fluke. Nabil Baha, Manu and Xavier Torres all scoring for the southerners. Mixed fortunes for the promoted sides; Zaragoza squeezed past Tenerife while Xerex were defeated by Mallorca.

    Serie A Round 2 Review: Inter thrash city rivals

    Bari 0-0 Bologna
    AC Milan 0-4 Inter Milan
    Roma 1-3 Juventus
    Atalanta 0-1 Genoa
    Cagliari 1-3 Siena
    Chievo 1-2 Lazio
    Fiorentina 1-0 Palermo
    Napoli 3-1 Livorno
    Parma 2-1 Catania
    Sampdoria 3-1 Udinese

    Joy unconfined on the blue and black side of Milan (and in the Hampshire house where your correspondent resides) as Jose Mourinho's Inter swept past their local rivals in one of the most one-sided Milan derbies of recent years. With Gennaro Gattuso getting himself sent off, the rossoneri folded, as Thiago Motta and Maicon capped off fine team moves with good finishes in the first half either side of Diego Milito's penalty. In the second half, Dejan Stankovic put the cherry on top with a wonderful long-range strike to highlight not only Inter's dominance but the tremendous task Leonardo faces in getting his Milan team in shape for any kind of title challenge.

    It is Sampdoria who top the table, however, collecting their second straight win with an easy victory over Udinese. Giampaolo Pazzini, Daniele Mannini and Antonio Cassano all got on the scoresheet, with only Di Natale's solitary response for the visitors. Juventus, who wrapped up the signing of Fabio Grosso from Lyon on Monday, are second after beating Roma at the Olimpico. Brazilian Diego looks like an inspired acquisition, as he scored twice and compatriot Felipe Melo sealed the win after Daniele De Rossi had temporarily drawn Roma level in the first stanza. Genoa are third after former Valencia left-back Emiliano Moretti scored his first Serie A goal in seven years to squeeze past an obdurate Atalanta side. Lazio went behind at Chievo to a Sergio Pellissier strike, but Julio Cruz, still dangerous at 34, scored twice either side of half time to put his side 4th in the table.

    Elsewhere Napoli cruised past Livorno, with Fabio Quagliarella scoring twice; an Albert Paloschi goal, his second in a week, was enough for Parma to beat Catania; Stevano Jovetic highlighted his burgeoning reputation with the winner for Fiorentina against Palermo at the Artemio Franchi; and Siena pulled off something of a surprise by beating Cagliari in Sardinia, thanks to two goals from Emanuele Calaio.

    Superliga Round 3 Review: Benfica run riot

    Pacos de Ferreira 0-0 Guimaraes
    Naval 1-3 FC Porto
    Leixoes 0-0 Rio Ave
    Leiria 0-0 Maritimo
    Braga 3-1 Belenenses
    Academica 0-2 Sporting
    Nacional 1-1 Olhanense
    Benfica 8-1 Setubal

    Sporting Braga continue to set the pace in Portugal, maintaining the only 100% record in the Superliga after three matches with a comfortable victory over Belenenses. After Diakite's own goal put the league leaders in front, the visitors levelled through Cameroon midfielder Jean-Paul Yontcha. Hugo Viana (remember him?) scored a second half double to keep The Archbishops top, as new coach Domingos Pacienca enhances his reputation by the week.

    Benfica moved up to second on goal difference following their thumping win over a wretched Setubal outfit. Oscar Cardozo scored a hat-trick, while Javi Garcia, Luisao, Nuno Gomes, Ramires and Pablo Aimar also got on the scoresheet for O Glorioso, who were 5-0 up by half time. Champions Porto strolled to a 3-1 win at Naval thanks to strikes from Falcao (3 in 3 for the Colombian) Silvestre Varela and Ernesto Farias. They keep the pace with Benfica in third. Maritimo and Rio Ave remain unbeaten after draws at the weekend with Leiria and Leixoes respectively while Sporting CP got their first win of the season away at Academica with Liedson and Yannick Djalo scoring. 9 sides, from positions 8-16, are still without wins from the first three matches but the two promoted sides will be happy with their start.