How’d You Do This Week, Friend?
Highlights/Headlines from the Week We’re Reviewing
First, some reminders that your week wasn’t that bad:
Palermo sacked Walter Novellino, making that EIGHT managers the Italian side has disposed of this year. The 4-0 stomping Juventus provided must’ve felt great too.
Aston Villa has officially reached that special place called relegation — sent by the foot of Marcus Rashford 🙁 And poor Lewis Kinella, a Villa loan to Kidderminster Harriers, gets to experience two relegations this season. Head up, Lou, someone still loves you!
Edin Džeko literally misses an open goal every other week.
I can only assume Shakira was on his mind as Pique squandered this golden opportunity. Also worth noting, this is the first time Barca have lost three straight since ’03. When’s the last time you had to refer to ’03 for something bad you did?
Chelsea’s atrocious performance against Man City went from bad to worse when Thibaut Courtois received a straight red card for having to play defender and goalie while his defense watched him struggle.
Get domed in Denmark, son! And I guess think twice about smoking that cigarette.
Here are some more uplifting things to see:
In their 5-1 thrashing of La Liga’s worst, Real Madrid’s Keylor Navas stood resolute. Point blank reaction saves are tight.
Outrageous saucery courtesy of Juan Cuadrado as he scores Juve’s third on Palermo. Move-busting ensues.
Get Subbed on, Rip Volley: the Kevin Kampl story.
Champions League/Europa League
Cristiano decided to play this week and shut Wolfsburg out 3-0 to advance 3-2 on aggregate, while PSG played terrible ball and lost to a weak Man City effort. Benfica played Bayern so well, but could not pull out the second leg comeback tying 2-2 (losing 3-2 on aggregate).
Atletico Madrid 2-0 Barcelona (Madrid advance 3-2 on aggregate)
This was the game everybody had been waiting for. Madrid down one on aggregate with the home stadium advantage, and what an advantage the Calderón can provide. The electric air, all the great hair, about what else could you care? Madrid was heat right from the beginning, showing us (as they would for much of this game) that some of the world’s best defenders can effectively shut down (arguably) the world’s greatest offensive threat. Madrid’s tactics were swarm and stifle. Barcelona gets space, and then they score, that’s their game. Don’t provide them with any space, they won’t score. Brilliant stuff. Despite only maintaining about a quarter of the possession, Atleti took care of everything they needed. After a strong opening from the hosts, Barcelona finally started to show some fight midway through the half. Maybe some handball controversy in there? Regardless, Barca’s momentum was quickly shut down by an excellent opening goal in the 36th from Antoine Griezmann. Perfect, outside-of-the-foot cross from Saul right onto Griezmann’s head. Ter Stegen left helpless. Meanwhile, Barcelona continued their chippy play from last week as their frustration became apparent.
Madrid picked right back up where they left off with more fuego. Barcelona absolutely could not produce a legitimate chance, Cholo was hyped on the sideline, Saul rocked the goal frame, all the momentum was for Atletico. All this frustration boiled to a head in midway through the second half when Suarez rocked his Uruguayan teammate Diego Godin with an elbow. As if you weren’t aware already, these two teams don’t like each other very much. Neymar continued the dirty play soon after, but Madrid would get the last laugh when Iniesta whipped out the ol’ arm-ball defense to give Atletico a PK. Griezmann would net his second casually and advance the boys onto the semi-final, where they will meet Manchester City. It’s also worth noting just how much Madrid out-hustled their opponents, covering 12 more kilometers than Barca. Hard work can pay off!
Liverpool 4-3 Borussia Dortmund (Liverpool advances 5-4 on aggregate)
Game of the week for sho. TBH, I try not to pay too much attention to the Europa League. I decided last week that whoever won this fixture would win it all. I’ll stand by that until someone proves me otherwise, but I don’t expect it. This match looked like a breeze for BVB if you only saw the first half. Second only to Bayern in Germany, Dortmund struck not once, but twice within the first 10 minutes. First, a Henrikh Mkhitaryan rebound off an Aubamayeng shot (great setup). Then a perfect feed for a vicious Aubamayeng finish of his
own. Liverpool would collect themselves and create some chances of their own, but it was not their half. I can only assume Jürgen Klopp said a bunch of inspirational shit, because the second half brought us a brand new Liverpool.
Divock Origi opened the second half with an easy finish after Liverpool effortlessly walked up through the midfield. Obviously, Klopp’s former squad knows how to ball and wouldn’t just give their lead so easily. Marco Reus fired right back, pocketing one in the corner after a great ball from Mats Hummels. Have no fear, Anfield, you have Philippe Coutinho! The Brazilian sage had no problem bringing his lads within one, driving the ball past Roman Weidenfeller. Origi nearly followed up with an equalizer the next minute. But it wasn’t time just yet, because Sakho had called next goal. Liverpool was practically swimming in the surplus of momentum they produced, but it was looking like extra time would need to solve this dispute. “No, no, no.” –A finger-wagging Dejan Lovren. Hell of a match, what a monstrous comeback.
Barcelona drops another one, this time to Valencia of all teams. Maybe Gary Neville should’ve stuck around a few more games and made himself look, well, not like garbage. Meanwhile, both Madrids soared, breaking the spirits of their respective opponents. Atletico is now tied for first (goal differentials aside), matching Barcelona’s record while Real Madrid remains one point behind. Villarreal (a very removed 4th) continues to slip as Celta Vigo and Athletic look for that Champions League qualifier spot. Five matches to go, anything can happen and I know you’re antsy just thinking about it.
Aston Villa is no more, ending one of the longer streaks in the EPL without relegation. But this has been several months coming, acceptance is a great final step. Man City actually performed, it just took a terribly spiraling Chelsea side to get Sergio scoring. Arsenal can’t seem to hold onto leads these days, even against Crystal Palace. Sunderland does not want to get relegated. Gunning for you, Norwich. Tottenham’s Monday night trashing of Stoke keeps them just 5 points from first place. Four matches to go, anything can happen! Look at Harry Kane go (one of his two)!
Leicester City 2-2 West Ham United
The dream ride from Leicester came to a substantial road block this past Sunday: a thriving West Ham side. Dimitri Payet wanted his presence known right away when he managed to hit both posts on a free kick, but not score. One of the more impressive efforts for no reward, I couldn’t have done that even if you paid me. He would go on to have an uncharacteristically quiet rest of the half though, as Leicester basked in the midst of their raucous supporters. Jamie Vardy (who else?) would put his boys up 1-0 in the 18th minute with a stereotypical counter: Mahrez to Kante to Vardy for the power finish. Plenty of bookings, and that would be the first half.
The second half, much like I imagine my life as a back-up dancer would be, was strictly drama and intrigue. Vardy received a second yellow and was sent off in the 57th for a pretty weak dive, throwing himself into Angelo Ogbonna. One of the bigger disappointments from this game, his reaction may spell future discipline for the fiery Englishman. But in a more immediate scope, Leicester was now clinging to their 1-0 lead. Playing most of the game in Leicester’s half, West Ham was fighting for an equalizer they knew they could get. Finally, it came in rather controversial form when Wes Morgan brought Winston Reid down (sort of, you be the judge, I’m not sold) and Andy Carroll put away the PK. Aaron Cresswell quickly followed the equalizer up with an unbelievable rip from the corner of the box. West Ham was feeling good going into the closing minutes, shutting down the league leaders. Robert Huth was held down in the box on a great chance, and was granted NO penalty call. Their fate was surely sealed, until the very last moment. Andy Carroll goes right into Jeff Schlupp (make-up call? Maybe. I was only a certified ref for two years in my youth) allowing Leonardo Ulloa to confidently equalize, salvaging a point from the day. Spikes in heart rate all over the place, what an absurd game.
Why are you even here? Despite my love for Dortmund and the fact that their current point count would have them in first for almost every Bunde season, save four, okay I’ll just stop there. I’m bitter. Bayern is German PSG (without cool guys like Zlatan) and I hope they lose in the CL semifinals. Back off.