Check back every Monday for BC Magazine’s “Euroscore” Round-Up of the weekend's top matches from Europe.
Liverpool stay top, a point ahead of Chelsea and six points in front of Manchester United, following their comfortable 3-1 win at troubled Blackburn Rovers. Blackburn have now dropped into the relegation zone putting more pressure on manager Paul Ince.
Chelsea kept up the pressure winning 2-0 at Bolton with two first half goals from Anelka and Deco. Meanwhile Manchester United finally broke down a resilient Sunderland winning 1-0 with an injury time goal from defender Vidic.
It was Sunderland’s first match without manager Roy Keane who surprisingly resigned during the week. The hunt is on for his replacement with ex-Newcastle and Bolton boss Sam Allardyce and former West Ham manager Alan Curbishley among the favourites. Whoever it is they will have to stop a run of six defeats in seven matches, form that has seen them slide into the drop zone.
There was a thriller involving Villa who won 3-2 at Everton. They initially appeared to have the match sown up when they were leading 2-1 on 90 minutes. Everton defender Joleon Lescott scored his second of the game with a volley making it 2-2 in the 93rd minute. Remarkably Aston Villa went straight up the other end and England prospect Ashley Young scored his second goal of the game giving the away side all three points.
Germany This weekend’s Euroscore featured match took place on Friday night in the Bundesliga between the top two sides. Last season’s champions Bayern Munich took on upstarts TSG Hoffenheim at the Allianz Arena in Munich.
It was top against second at the magnificent Allianz Arena on Friday night. Remarkably it was the away team, Hoffenheim who are enjoying an incredible start to their first ever season in the 1.Bundesliga, who went into the game in top spot.
Formed in 1945 following the merger of two local sides, TSG 1899 Hoffenheim remained a relatively small amateur side until the early 1990s. Their rise to the top since then has been nothing short of miraculous. By 1996 they were in the Verbansliga Nordbaden. They finished top in 2000 and were promoted to the 4th division of the Oberliga Baden-Wurttemburg.
They earned another promotion this time to the Regionalliga Sud by winning the league. Just two years ago they finished second and found themselves in the 2.Bundesliga, the second tier of German football. Incredibly they won that in their first season. They have followed that by going top of the first division. A few years ago the very thought that they would be playing Bayern Munich at all was frankly ridiculous. To go there as leaders was the stuff of German fairytales.
Not only that but they took the lead early in the second half through that man Vedad Ibisevic. The 24-year-old Bosnian forward scored an instinctive, predatory strikers goal in the 49th minute when his excellent first touch created space in the Bayern defence for him to score. He was signed from fellow German team Alemannia Aachen.
He has been around a bit starting his career in the States playing 22 games for St. Louis Strikers, scoring 18 times. He moved on to Chicago Fire scoring three in as many matches. A short unsuccessful four game spell in France at Paris Saint-Germain was goalless and he moved on to Dijon, and from there on to Aachen. However he has clearly come of age and the goal against Bayern was his 18th of an incredible season.
With the January transfer window looming you can expect several big clubs to be on his trail. From Hoffenheim’s point of view they can turn in a very quick and healthy profit on the striker. However it is his goals that have landed them in such a high position. He is fluent in English, French, and German, and no doubt could learn Italian or Spanish if one of the big clubs put in a suitably large bid. Paris Saint-Germain must be kicking themselves.
In this match Hoffenheim held on until the 60th minute when Phillip Lahm burst through the visitors tight defence scoring with the help of a deflection that lifted the ball above the goalkeeper. Italian striker Luca Toni ended the dream with a very late winner when the ball broke to him in front of goal. Hoffenheim has been so close to taking a point from their more glamorous opponents.
It ended 2-1 to Bayern who are now level with Hoffenheim on 34 points each, but remain in second place on goal difference. Many of those goals are courtesy of Vedad Ibisevic.
On a semi-personal note it was good to see Senegal International striker Demba Ba doing so well for Hoffenheim. He previously played at one of the teams I drop in on occasionally, Royal Excelsior Mouscron, in the top Belgium division. His time there was ended by a horrific incident when he broke his leg whilst stretching for a ball. It looked like it would possibly be the end of his career. Instead he moved on to Hoffenehim where he has scored 17 goals in 39 games and formed an impressive strike partnership with Ibisevic.
This game was the equivalent of say, Conference side Histon, going to Old Trafford in a few years time and being ahead of Manchester United in the Premiership. If this game is anything to go by, they would then proceed to take the lead. Despite all the money and glamour that surrounds the top teams there is always the chance of glory for just about anyone.
Final result: Bayern Munich 2 TSG Hoffenheim 1
Elsewhere in the Bundesliga, Bayer Leverkusen kept up their challenge in third spot with a convincing 3-1 win at Borussia Monchengladbach. Stefan Kiessling scored twice underlining his own possible transfer credentials.
Numancia beat Almeria 2-1 in a bad tempered match resulting in 11 yellow cards, one of which earned a sending off for the home side.
Real Madrid lost 3-4 in a thriller at home to Sevilla who led 3-1 at half time. The game was eventually won with an 85th minute goal from Renato with it balanced at 3-3. With Barcelona destroying visitors Valencia 4-0 with a hat trick from ex Arsenal striker Thierry Henry the pressure at Real Madrid is heating up. They remain in 5th, nine points behind leaders Barcelona, who are six points clear of Villareal.
AC Milan made hard work of a Catania side, winning 1-0 with a goal from Brazilian star Kaka. Fiorentina thrashed home side Torino 4-1, and Inter Milan won 3-0 in Rome beating SS Lazio.
Rangers gained some ground back on leaders Celtic by destroying bottom of the table Hamilton Academicals 7-1 with a hat trick from Kris Boyd.
Celtic went down 2-0 at impressive Hibernian. Hibs took the lead in the 55th minute when a long distance forty-five yard shot from John Rankin from just inside the Celtic half dipped and swerved past Celtic keeper Artur Boruc. They put the game beyond table topping Celtic with a second in the 69th minute, Colin Nish deflecting another shot by Rankin.
Ajax won 2-1 at bottom side Volendam to stay second behind AZ Alkmaar who beat Herecles 2-0. Feyenoord surprisingly lost 1-3 at home to De Graafschap. Twente Enschede brushed aside Sparta Rotterdam 6-2.
In the derby match between Marseille and Nice, the home side proved too strong for the visitors winning 2-1. The match at the Stade Velodrome was played on a pitch that looked like an allotment with vast expanses of new turf struggling to find root.
Champions Lyon continued their poor spell losing 2-1 at relegation threatened Nantes. They remain top but their lead over Marseille is cut to just three points. PSG continued their climb up the table to 5th beating Le Mans 3-1 in Paris.
My game of the weekend took place in the beautiful historic city of Brugge where Cercle Brugge were impressive as they beat AA Gent 3-1. Goals from Ukrainian midfielder Sergiy Serebrennikov, and two from departing striker Tom de Sutter sealed the victory. De Sutter will join Anderlecht in January, the two clubs having reached a deal. Nearly ten thousand saw the game.
Meanwhile Brugge’s ‘top’ team lost 0-2 at Lokeren. Anderlecht went top ahead of Club Brugge by thrashing lowly Tubize 5-1. At the bottom Roeselare gained, all three much needed points by beating Westerlo 1-0.
Benfica claimed top spot when they won away at 6th place Maritimo 6-0. Benfica’s local rivals Sporting Lisbon won 3-1 at Amadora, and Porto won 3-0 at Vitoria Setubal to go 3rd and 4th respectively.
Olympiakos of Athens stayed top beating Levadiakos 1-0 at home. It was a win that saw them open up a six point gap between them and 2nd place PAOK Salonika.
3rd place Galatasaray won 3-0 at Ankaragucu. Meanwhile table topping Trabzonspor beat Kocaelispor 2-1 to stay three points ahead of Sivasspor.
Let’s hope that more teams can achieve what Hoffenheim and Hull City have done in their respective leagues in the future. Such performances help make football the game it is and can only be good for the sport in general. It proves that a big name and an impressive history is not necessarily a guarantee or entitlement to honours. They still have to be earned. Over the course of a season expect the big names, with their spending power and larger squads, to win the honours. In the meantime we should applaud Hoffenheim for their remarkable rise to the top.
Thought For The Week
Dutch legend Ruud Gullit summed up the effects that the pressure involved in top flight football can have on a manager when he said, "We dominated for 99% of the game, it was the other 3% that cost us". With maths skills like that let's hope he wasn't in charge of the club's finances.
Dont forget it's not the winning, it's the taking part that counts. Yeah, sure!