Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s first competitive goal for Paris Saint-Germain. The score came as PSG was down 2-0 in the second half versus Lorient. Zlatan would go on to equalize from the spot in the 89th minute, salvaging a result for the Parisians.
Unexpected and encouraging: Yoann Gourcuff scoring Lyon’s first goal of the season. Most have given up on the former Bordeaux star, unable to explain why he hasn’t performed at OL. After a year’s worth of rumors he may move, perhaps to join his father at Lorient, Gourcuff scored Lyon’s match-winner on Saturday.
(What an amazing ball in from Jimmy Briand.)
It’s amazing how quickly we’ve gotten used to Lyon underachieving. Now four years removed from their last title, Lyon’s cast themselves as talented contender. Most years, they’ll get into Champions League, but they’re not a viable challenger to Paris Saint-Germain, the new thinking goes. That has to be Lille, right?
Consider Lyon’s starting XI from Saturday, and know that Remi Garde’s team will normally include Lisandro Lopez and Hugo Lloris:
Remi Vercoutre, Anthony Reveillere, Cris, Bakare Kone, Aly Cissokho, Guieda Fofana, Maxime Gonalons, Jimmy Briand, Yoann Gourcuff, Alexandre Lacazette, Bafetimbi Gomis
Talent is not the problem for Lyon. This is strictly a performance issue.
And while a 1-0 victory at Rennes is a strong start to the season, Lyon played 11-on-10 for 62 minutes after Jires Kembo-Ekoko was sent off. At the end of the match, shots were only 9-6 for OL.
Lyon may have gotten three points, but they still don’t seem to be playing to their talent.
Think Spain’s duopoly is bad? No team other than Dynamo Kyiv or Shakhtar Donetsk has won Ukraine’s Premier League since 1992 - the first year of the league.
Over the past few years, Metalist Kharkiv has emerged as the most likely challenger, but after five rounds this season, it looks like Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk’s investment is starting to pay off. After their 4-1 Saturday victory over Hoverla-Zakkarpattia, Juande Ramos’s team is temporarily on top of the standings with a 4-1-0 record.
(Both Dynamo and Shakhtar are 4-0-0. Each have home games on Sunday.)
In addition to Ramos, Dnipro has a number of recognizable names. Samuel Inkoom moved from Basel two years ago. Ivan Strinic was one of Croatia’s best defenders at Euro 2012. Derek Boateng has that famous last name. Nikola Krasnic has a Premier League pedigree. Matheaus Nascimento was part of Braga’s rise. Oleksandr Aliyev was an established star at Dynamo, while Yevhen Konoplyanka was one of Ukraine’s brightest young stars this summer.
And then there’s Giuliano. At 20, the attacking midfielder was voted the best player in the Copa Libertadores as he left Internacional to South America’s title. He was also a key part of Brazil’s 2009 U-20 world champions.
In 2012, Giuliano made a somewhat surprising move to Dnipro. It’s not that Brazilians don’t go to Ukraine. They just usually go to Shakhtar. Why was this player - a player this talented - moving to Dnipro?
With the buildup that followed, Giuliano’s move made sense. Unfortunately, it also meant he’s fallen out of the national team picture. Despite making his senior debut two years ago, Giuliano’s only received five caps.
Now he’s reasserting his value. In his first four appearances this season, Giuliano’s scored three goals, including Dnipro’s third on Saturday.
They’re a very talent team. As talented as Dynamo and Shakhtar? No, but they’re in the ballgame, now. They can compete, and while it’s unlikely they’ll better both Shakhtar and Dynamo over the course of a season, they can still make a statement.
Perhaps they can pick off one of them and get a shot a UEFA Champions League, or perhaps they can merely play them close enough to show everybody Ukraine’s days as a two-club league may be winding down.
With this 2-0 win at Lausanne Sports on Saturday, Sion improved to 4-1-0, already four points clear at the top of the Swiss Super League. They’re scored nine goals while conceding only once.
Thun has a chance to pull within three tomorrow, though they’ll have to win at Basel, the team that serves as our reference point.
Basel’s the favorite in this league. They won last year’s title by 20 points despite losing their last two matches. This year, they’ve drawn three straight, including a 1-1 result last Saturday at Sion.
Basel may not be as strong as lost year, but at some point (possibly after their UEFA Champions League is done), they’ll turn it on. Sion’s objective is to put as much room between them and the holders as possible. The hope: Once Basel realizes it’s time to play, it may be too late.
(Disclaimer: We’re only in the fifth of 36 rounds in Switzerland. It’s more likely we’re too early to say which teams need to do what.)
Sion’s goal scorers against Lausanne Sports: Vilmos Vanczak and Xavier Margairaz.
Some nice goals in this Belgian Pro League match between KV Mechelen and Club Brugge. The match ends 3-3, with Brugge’s Israeli midfielder Lior Refaelov scoring twice.
Check out the technique on the first: Driving through the ball and keeping it low. Perfectly placed.
The third … well, we all love a well executed Panenka, right?
Club Brugge leads the Belgian league with seven points through three rounds, though Anderlecht could pass them on difference after the Purple-White’s Sunday match at Cercle Brugge.
After spending last season in the second division and losing their first Primera match after promotion, River Plate won in La Plata on Saturday, defeating Estudiantes 2-0. The two second half goals from 21-year-old attacker Rogelio Funes Mori moved River to 1-0-1 on the season, with the Millionarios losing 2-1 at home last Sunday to Belgrano.
The result was also Estudiantes’ first loss post-Veron. La Brujita, Juan Sebastian Veron, retired at the end of the Clausura.
On Monday, the team won their first match of the Inicial, a road win at Tigre; however, playing a high line that was unable to contain Funes Mori, Estudiantes also finished Saturday’s match 1-0-1.
Esteban Paredes’s transition to Mexican soccer is going quite well. After his double on Friday at Jaguares, the Chilean forward is up to four goals in four games, though his teammates deserve much of the credit. Cristian Maidana, who also moved from Chile this summer (Rangers, Paredes came from Colo Colo), was brilliant on the first goal, while Liga veteran Osvaldo Martinez plays a beautiful ball to set up the winner.
As you could tell from the reaction from Jose Guadalupe Cruz (Jaguares’ head coach), near full time is not the ideal moment to allow Martinez to loop a ball over your defense, particularly after you’ve managed to find an equalizer.
The match’s beginning was clouded by a frightening incident, with Atlante defender Luis Gerardo Venegas laying on the ground with blood streaming out of his nose are taking an inadvertent elbow from John Cordoba.
Atlante, looking very strong, defeated Jaguares, 2-1.
An amazing night in Guanajuato as newly-promoted León ran out 3-0 winners over defending Mexican league champions Santos Laguna.
With nine points, the Esmeraldas are currently on top of the standings in Mexico, though Toluca (also with nine points) plays later this weekend.
León is in their first tournament since returning from the second division, a return that took the five-time champions 10 years and five failed playoff attempts.
More on them in my week-old piece from Pro Soccer Talk.