Category Archives: European Football

Dortmund Propel Themselves Back Into Bundesliga Title Race With 3-1 Win Over Leipzig

Borussia Dortmund reignited their fading title hopes with a statement victory over fellow challengers RB Leipzig on Saturday which moved them within five points of leaders Bayern Munich.

Jadon Sancho opened the scoring before a double from Erling Haaland sealed the win, with Alexander Sorloth netting a late consolation for the hosts as they suffered only their second league defeat of the season.

Both sides went into the game in good form, with Leipzig unbeaten since the end of October. Die Roten Bull knew a win at the Red Bull Arena would see them leapfrog leaders Bayern Munich at the summit, after the Bavarian giants let a two goal lead slip against Borussia Monchengladbach to suffer a 3-2 defeat.

It would be a stern test against a much improved Dortmund however, with Die Borrussen having won two of their three Bundesliga games under interim manager Edin Terzic since he took over in December.

Julian Nagelsmann made one change to the team which defeated Stuttgart 1-0 last Saturday, with Yussuf Poulsen coming in for Kevin Kampl. Opposition boss Terzic opted to name the same starting eleven who helped Dortmund to overcome Wolfsburg 2-0 last weekend.

Dortmund were dealt an early blow in the game as Belgian midfielder Axel Witsel was forced to limp off and be replaced by Emre Can. The club later confirmed that Witsel had suffered a torn Achilles’ tendon and is set to be ruled out of action for a number of months.

In a first half where chances were at a premium, Leipzig’s Dani Olmo came closest to opening the scoring. He capitalised on a poor clearance from Dortmund left back Guerriero, taking the ball down well on his chest on the edge of the area, before volleying a shot which dipped just over the top of the crossbar.

After a toothless first period, where Dortmund failed to register a single shot on target in a half for the first time in nearly 14 months, they came out for the second half with a renewed vigour and were nearly rewarded with an early breakthrough.

Just three minutes after the restart, Jadon Sancho slipped Marcos Reus in on the left hand side of the penalty area, but the Dortmund captain was denied by Gulasci at his near post. From the resulting corner, Emre Can rose highest to meet Sancho’s inviting delivery, but the German midfielder’s thumping header skimmed the crossbar.

They took a deserved lead on fifty five minutes after a lightening quick move. Haaland burst down the right and squared to Reus, who cleverly flicked the ball into the path of the onrushing Sancho and the winger did the rest, coolly slotting past Gulasci at his near post to put Dortmund ahead.

It was the Englishman’s second goal in as many games, after previously going seventeen games without one. Dortmund continued to find their strive and almost had a second when Sancho fed Haaland who had made a darting run into the penalty area, but the Norwegian striker’s thunderous effort cannoned off the crossbar after a touch from Gulasci.

At the other end Leipzig came closest to equalising when Dani Olmo’s low drive rattled the far post. The Spaniard received the ball on the half turn and wriggled away from Guerriero before shooting, with his angled drive bouncing off the upright and away from goal.

Dortmund got the all important second goal with just twenty minutes of the contest remain after some lovely build up play, which was started and finished by Haaland. He danced past a number of players before feeding Sancho on the left. He then neatly exchanged passes with Guerriero before putting in an enticing delivery which Haaland duly met, towering above Halstenberg to give Dortmund a deserved two goal cushion.

Haaland wrapped up the win in the 83rd minute when he latched onto Reus’ perfectly weighted through ball before rounding Gulasci and tapping into an empty net for his 12th Bundesliga goal of the season.

Leipzig found time to pull one back when substitute Alexander Sorloth reacted quickest to fire home at the second attempt after Burki had parried his initial header back into the striker’s path. It proved to be too little too late however, as Dortmund held on for a crucial win which moves them to within three points of the home side.

Speaking to ESPN after the game, Dortmund midfielder Emre Can said:

“Everyone knows that today this was an extremely important game for us. It was a game that would tell us which way our season will be going. It was decisive to win it. The last few weeks have not been easy. Now we want to launch our attack.”

Meanwhile Leipzig boss Nagelsmann told the media:

“We’ve lost after nine unbeaten. It’s frustrating because it was against a direct rival. However looking at their chances, it was a deserved victory for Dortmund.

“It was an interesting game, with both teams very good tactically. We controlled the first half and Dortmund the second.
In the second half, we lost our structure and BVB took advantage when we lost possession.”

Both teams are back in Bundesliga action next weekend as Dortmund host Mainz in their next fixture on Saturday afternoon whilst Leipzig are away to Wolfsburg at the same time.

West Ham record signing completes Ajax move

Sebastien Haller has completed his transfer to Dutch side Ajax for a cut-price deal of £20 million. 

West Ham broke their transfer record in signing the striker from Eintracht Frankfurt for £45 million 18 months ago, however, Haller has struggled to adapt to life in the Premier League having just scored 10 goals in 48 League appearances.  

In a statement made by the club, the West Ham official site said:

“West Ham United would like to thank Sebastien for his contribution to the club and wish him the best for his future career.”

TalkSport’s Alex Crook, meanwhile, added:

“I think it’s pretty clear now that Haller isn’t really a player David Moyes feels he can hang his hat on.  He has scored some spectacular goals but not with the regularity Moyes is looking for, and we know when Michail Antonio is fit he won’t be in the starting XI.

Indeed, the likes of Ajax impressive 19-year-old striker Lassina Traore have been mentioned. The Burkina Faso International has made 29 first-team appearances for the Dutch side to date and has scored 12 goals so far this season.  This includes seven in 11 Eredivisie starts. 

The Hammers, however, may have to compete with fellow Premier League rivals Wolves, who are also in need of a striker following the serious injury sustained by Raul Jimenez. 

Another realistic possible signing could be Bournemouth striker Joshua King, who has previously attracted the interest of the East London side.  In addition, the Norwegian’s contract will expire at the end of the season. 

Reports, meanwhile, are also linking West Ham to resigning Austrian forward Marko Arnautovic from Shanghai SIPG, however, the club have since distanced themselves from this prospect due to his high wage demand.  

So, with the Haller transfer now officially confirmed it is vital that Moyes does indeed bring in a striker to the London Stadium this month with first choice striker Antonio having on going hamstring issues. Who he does bring in as a replacement though remains to be seen.

Who do you reckon West Ham should sign to replace Haller in the January Transfer Window? Feel free to share in the comments below….

Former Premier League title winner moves to Belgium

Former Leicester City and Welsh International Andy King has joined OH Leuven until the end of the 2020/21 season. 

King spent 15 years at King Power and was part of that memorable 2015/16 Premier League title triumph. In addition, the 32-year-old won the Championship and League One trophies during his stint with the side. 

The midfielder remains 11thon the club’s all time list of appearance makers having played 378 games and joins Leuven, who are currently sitting sixth in the Belgium Jupiler Pro League and are 10 points behind leaders Club Bruges.  Remarkably though Leuven will be King’s second permanent club of his professional career.  

King made his first appearance for the club way back in October 2007 and scored his first-ever-goal for City against Southampton. Weirdly his last goal for the side also came versus the Saints over 10 years later.    

When he left the King Power back in June 2020 the Leicester City Chairman Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha said:

“He’s been through everything with us and is an amazing guy.  He’s been a massive part of what the Club has achieved in that time and earned the respect of so many people.”

Indeed, since helping The Foxes secure their maiden Premier League crown, King fell out of favour with previous Leicester manager Claude Puel and subsequently went on a series of loan moves at: Swansea City, Derby County, Rangers and Huddersfield before his contact ended in the summer of 2020. 

A statement on Leuven club’s website, meanwhile, added:

“Andy was looking for a new challenge and found it at OH Leuven.  With his experience he can contribute to the further development of the club.” 

King will join three Leicester City loanees at the club in midfielder Kamal Sowah, goalkeeper Daniel Iversen and forward Josh Eppiah. 

Cristiano Ronaldo eclipses Pele’s career goal total

The Portuguese and Juventus forward Cristiano Ronaldo made a terrific start to 2021 over the weekend by surpassing the legendary Pele’s career goal total with his two goals in ‘The Old Lady’s’ 4-1 win over Udinese.

Pele now subsequently sits third on the list after registering 757 career goals between 1956 and 1977 during his time with Santos, New York Cosmos and Brazil. 

Ronaldo scored his 757thand 758thgoal of his incredible career and now sits second on the all-time list behind only the Czech striker Josef Biscan’s total of 759.  In addition, the 35-year-old took his already impressive Serie A goal tally this season to 14 from only 11 matches.  

The Portuguese forward is currently leading the goalscoring charts and has played a crucial part in moving Andrea Pirlo’s side into fifth place where they are ten points behind leaders AC Milan with a game in hand. Udinese, however, drop to 13thand are without a win in their last four matches. 

The five-time Ballon d’Or Winner scored his side’s first goal of 2021 just half an hour into the encounter with one of his trademark strikes after latching onto former Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey’s pass. He then set up Federico Chiesa for Juve’s second shortly after half time.  

Ronaldo then made it 3-0 after latching onto Rodrigo Bentancur’s through ball.  Udinese did manage to get a goal back throughMarvin Zeegelar, however, Argentine forward Paulo Dybala struck late on in injury time to secure Juventus’ 4-1 win.   

Following the match, the Juventus Manager Pirlo confessed that his team struggled, with the surprise 3-0 defeat to Fiorentina still playing on their minds in the final encounter before the winter break.  

Pirlo said:

“We started frightened after the match against Fiorentina.

“Little by little we grew up and in the second half we did better.  It wasn’t the best Juventus.” 

In total Ronaldo has managed 656 club career goals since making his debut for Sporting Lisbon back in 2002.  

The majority of his goals ultimately though came during his time with Real Madrid where he scored 450 goals in just 438 games. While playing for Manchester United, meanwhile, he still managed 118 goals in 292 appearances, but he is rapidly closing in on that total already for his current side Juventus, having scored 83 times to date. 

For his international side, Ronaldo currently has 102 goals in just 120 matches and the forward will likely add to that impressive tally as he will look to help Fernando Santos’s team to defend their European Championship this summer. 

Indeed, it is surely a matter of when and not if he will eclipse Biscan’s tally with the first opportunity being on Wednesday night when the Serie A Champions visit Milan.

What is your favourite Cristiano Ronaldo goal to date? Feel free to list it in the comments below…..

Manchester United vs RB Leipzig Match Preview

The second round of matches in the Champions League Group Stage sees Ole Gunner Solskjaer’s team host Bundesliga side RB Leipzig.  

United will certainly be looking to build on their impressive start to Europe’s Premier competition. On match day one they secured a 2-1 win against Paris Saint Germain at the Parc Des Princes. 

Since then, Solskjaer’s side were involved in a rather dull Premier League encounter at Old Trafford this past weekend, a 0-0 draw with Chelsea.

This subsequently meant that it was the first time the Red Devils have failed to win any of their first three home games in the League since the 1972-73 campaign. 

RB Leipzig, meanwhile, are coming into this match in good form having won four out of their last five games. They currently lead the German Bundesliga after the opening five games.   

In addition, Julian Naglesmann’s team began their Champions League campaign with a 2-0 over Turkish side Istanbul Basaksehir. Manchester City loanee Angelino scored both of the goals. 

Manchester United Team News

Solskjaer has suggested ahead of this game that there are a few knocks. Centre-back Eric Bailly and midfielder Jesse Lingard are likely to be the only absentees for their Group H clash.

French forward Antony Martial will also be available despite his domestic ban still being in force. 

One topic that enviably has come up in the pre-match conference is the lack of opportunities currently being given to the Dutch new signing Donny Van de Beek.  The 23 year old has yet to start a Premier League or Champions League tie for his new club.  

Indeed, Van de Beek has, however, looked impressive when he has been used from the bench so far, scoring in a 3-1 defeat to Crystal Palace on the opening day of the season, while he also involved in the winning of the last minute penalty that secured victory at Brighton.  

Both Sky pundit and former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher and also ex-Dutch international Marco Van Bastan have already questioned why Van de Beek moved to Old Trafford, with the former suggesting he would not get in ahead of Bruno Fernandes, while the latter has stated that his fellow country man will live to regret his £40 million pound move from Ajax.

Solskjaer has since said:

“When Donny has played he has played really well.  It says a lot about our depth of squad that we don’t have to use him every game. 

“It’s nice for some players and commentators to have a little go, but you have to know that you don’t have to start the first three games to be a very important player in the squad.”  

RB Leipzig Team News

Despite missing the goals and assists of Chelsea’s new attack Timo Werner that has not hindered RB Leipzig’s impressive development.

RB Leipzig coach Julian Nagelsmann will, however, likely be without both Lukas Klostermann and Konrad Laimer (both knee injuries) for the German side’s first ever meeting with United.  While both midfielders Tyler Adams and Nordi Mukiele are also doubts.

Former Crystal Palace striker, Alexander Sorloth would be available for Nagelsmann. Sorloth joined RB Leipzig in the summer from Trabozonspor and could partner Yussuf Pouslen up front. French defender Ibrahima Konate is also fit again.   

The Mangers Thoughts

When asked about building on that win against PSG in the pre match press conference Solskjaer said:

“We look at every single game as a chance to get three points and in the group stage of four teams, you’d think 10 points will get you through.

“To get 18 points though ultimately is the aim.”

When asked about Manchester United’s impressive result in Paris, Julian Nagelsmann said:

“When I analyse an opponent I do not look at the results.  I try to find out how they score goals, concede, and build up play, counter attack, counter press and other things. 

“We know that their (League) start was not that good, but at the end it is one of the biggest clubs in the world, a big name in European football and world football.

“I’ve never played in Old Trafford or been there. It will be a great experience.”

Key Player

For Manchester United Bruno Fernandes I reckon holds the key to them getting a result in this game. The Portuguese international is the Red Devil’s top scorer so far and ultimately has that ability to make things happen and provide the spark that could make the difference in what I predict will be a tricky encounter for Ole’s men.

The German side will be looking to their impressive young centre back Dayot Upamecano. Upamecano made his debut for France last month and was crucial in Leipzig’s quarterfinal victory over Atletico Madrid last season.

Match Prediction: Manchester United 1-1 RB Leipzig

I am predicting another draw at home for Ole’s side. I reckon this is a harder encounter for them then the one in Paris as the emphasis will be on the Red Devil’s to have more possession and try to break the German side down. This is something that United have traditionally struggled with over the past few seasons. For this reason I will go for a score draw.