Another weekend of headlines, golazos, and unpredictable finishes across Europe’s biggest leagues. From Borussia Dortmund‘s meltdown to Leeds’ dominating performance over Chelsea, there was no shortage of drama.
ESPN correspondents Rob Dawson, Alex Kirkland, Julien Laurens, Sam Marsden, James Tyler and James Olley all break down the big stuff you need to know about the weekend.
City bracing for a wild title defence?
Could this Premier League season continue to be so unpredictable and end with a surprise? It’s far too early to tell but it’s fun to think about while we can. Manchester United and Liverpool face each other on Monday with both looking for a first win while on Sunday, Chelsea were humbled at Leeds United and Manchester City had to fight back from a two-goal decifit to draw 3-3 at Newcastle United.
Man City will still be favourites despite dropping points at St James’ Park but the result, at the very least, shows Pep Guardiola’s reigning champions can be made to look vulnerable. Arsenal, meanwhile, have started a season with three straight wins for the first time since 2004 and Tottenham Hotspur have taken seven points from a possible nine.
This season is going to be a strange one with a break in November and December for the World Cup and maybe it could throw up a surprise winner. Who knows after such a rollercoaster start? – Dawson
A familiar nightmare for Dortmund
So much for a resurgence this season, eh? Much had been made of Borussia Dortmund‘s smart summer acquisitions after the drawn-out farewell to Erling Haaland, in particular the moves made to fix the chaotic defense that had held them back from a proper title challenge in recent years. Nico Schlotterbeck was a shrewd signing and Niklas Sule couldn’t be bad after winning so many trophies at Bayern Munich, could he?
As it turns out, closing out games is the real mark of a champion and Saturday’s collapse against Werder Bremen shows just how far they have to go.
It took Dortmund nearly 75 minutes to painstakingly build a 2-0 lead at home to a side that just got back into the Bundesliga this season after a year in the second division. Julian Brandt‘s long range effort snuck in on the cusp of halftime before another low percentage shot, this time a worldie from Raphael Guerreiro, doubled the lead.
From there, carnage, as Emre Can, Sule and goalkeeper Gregor Kobel seemingly forgot how to mark, press or close down shooting angles as the visitors notched three lamentably easy goals after the 89th minute to take the points.
Bremen sub Oliver Burke was at the heart of much of it, but while credit’s due to the fight back, Dortmund fans must be terrified for another long season of self-inflicted errors to doom any chance of success. This needs to be a wake up call for Erin Terzic and Co. if this season — which began with two tidy, professional wins over Bayern Leverkusen and Hertha Berlin — is to end differently from so many before it. — Tyler
Jamie Bynoe-Gittens’ interview is interrupted by loud Werder Bremen celebrations after their comeback win over Borussia Dortmund.
Mbappe all smiles (for now) after ‘Penaltygate’
Last week, we saw a grumpy and discontent Kylian Mbappe in the middle of a controversy that was deemed “Penaltygate” due to his attitude against Montpellier. On Sunday, we saw him beam once more after scoring nine seconds into Paris Saint-Germain‘s big win over Lille, one of the quickest goals in French football history. And it’s not just getting on the scoresheet so quickly which was the most impressive (nor the final score of 7-1) — it was exceptional was the goal itself, lifted from what you see on the training ground!
Neymar to Marco Verratti, back to Neymar who laid the ball for Lionel Messi in the centre-circle to send a perfect through ball over the top for Mbappe, whose perfect run was matched by a perfect touch to lob Lille goalkeeper Leo Jardim.
The reaction from the PSG players was telling. They almost over-celebrated because they worked on that play in training and were delighted to reproduce it in an actual match. It put an end to all the tensions from the previous weekend and put a smile back on Mbappe’s face, who finished with a hat-trick. If you add Neymar’s monster performance (two goals, three assists) and Messi’s brilliance (one goal, two assists), it was a perfect night for PSG. — Laurens
‘Yellow Submarine’ cruising
Villarreal laid down a marker for the season with an impressive 2-0 win at Atletico Madrid on Sunday to make it six points from six in LaLiga. Yeremy Pino opened the scoring in a tight encounter in the 73rd minute and Gerard Moreno sealed the points in stoppage time after summer signing Nahuel Molina was sent off on his home debut for Atletico.
The win will fuel belief that Unai Emery’s side can return to the Champions League. After reaching the semifinals of Europe’s elite competition last season, losing to Liverpool, they will only compete in the Europa Conference League this time round after finishing seventh in LaLiga.
However, the top four should be within their reach this year. Pino’s an exciting winger who now has the benefit of his debut campaign behind him, while Jose Luis Morales adds depth to their attack. Emery’s teams are usually well coaches and hard to break down, too. The key, though, will be keeping goal scorer Moreno fit.
It’s early days, but this win over Atletico, coupled with Sevilla‘s slow start, has Villarreal in a good place. – Marsden
Saliba sends Gunners soaring
After scoring an own goal against Leicester City last week, William Saliba netted at the right end for the first time in his Arsenal career on Saturday. And what a goal it was. The 21-year-old decided to take Granit Xhaka‘s lay-off first time, executing a superb left-foot floated finish over Bournemouth goalkeeper Mark Travers to seal a 3-0 win for the Gunners.
The elevated follow-through proves this was no fluke: the flight was deliberate, pin-point and worthy of a centre-forward. Oleksandr Zinchenko, stood behind Saliba, sank to his knees, hands on head, knocked over by the majesty of it all.
Do do do do do do do…💫
William Saliba says hello to the top right corner ⚽️
— Premier League USA (@PLinUSA) August 20, 2022
And Saliba, serenaded throughout the game by jubilant Arsenal fans on the south coast, was so overwhelmed by the moment he ran off to the wrong corner of the ground to celebrate, sliding on his knees in front of the home supporters. No bother — those Gunners fans will only love him more now. — Olley
Modric magic sets up Vinicius beauty
Luka Modric‘s first-half goal might have been the most eye-catching moment in Real Madrid‘s 4-1 win at Celta Vigo on Saturday, but it was Modric’s role in Madrid’s third which both defined the match and summed up Carlo Ancelotti’s scarily efficient counter-attacking machine.
There might not be a more dangerous team on the break anywhere right now. Celta hadn’t performed badly at Balaidos, but they were ruthlessly torn apart as the game opened up in the second half. The move that led to Vinicius Junior coolly rounding keeper Agustin Marchesin and finishing from an angle began with Aurelien Tchouameni‘s block inside the Madrid penalty area.
When Modric received the ball moments later, deep in his own half, the danger was evident: Celta had players committed upfield, and Vinicius was poised to run in behind. Modric’s pass still had to be expertly timed and perfectly weighted, and so it was, bisecting defenders Hugo Mallo and Unai Nunez on the halfway line and putting Vinicius in on goal.
At 3-1, it looked like game over; a conclusion confirmed by another breakaway, finished off by Federico Valverde, ten minutes later. — Alex Kirkland
Pefok on the mark again for Union Berlin
The U.S. men’s national team are still waiting for an in-form striker to emerge ahead of the World Cup, with several having tried and failed over the past 12 months to stake their claim to start up front in Qatar. Might Jordan Pefok be the man after all?
The striker has wasted little time settling into life at Union Berlin since leaving Swiss side Young Boys this summer, scoring his third goal in four games as his side stunned RB Leipzig 2-1 on Saturday. He was on the end of a slick counter-attack to calmly convert after Jannik Haberer and Sheraldo Becker combined to put the striker through on goal, with Pefok sweeping it beyond a helpless Janis Blaswich for the opener.
Becker added another before half-time and even though Willi Orban scored for Leipzig with just under half an hour remaining, the Bundesliga underdogs hung on for an impressive win. The league table is looking fun and funky after three matches, with Union second with five points largely thanks to Pefok. Is the World Cup next in his sights? On this form, it’s hard to deny him.
Teams in trouble
Sevilla already struggling
Sevilla won just three of their final 12 matches last season to go from being Real Madrid’s closest challengers for the title to hanging on to finish in the fourth and final Champions League place. That form has followed them into the new campaign after a difficult summer which saw them forced to sell both their centre-backs, with Diego Carlos joining Aston Villa and Jules Kounde moving to Barcelona.
After opening the season with defeat at Osasuna, they were lucky to get a draw at home to Real Valladolid this weekend. Anuar Tuhami had given Valladolid a surprise lead with 10 minutes to play only for a huge gaffe from goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo to allow Karim Rekik in to score a late equaliser. Rekik’s goal saved a point but Sevilla, who lost winger Jesus “Tecatito” Corona last week to a leg injury, will need to improve substantially with coach Julen Lopetegui already under pressure. – Marsden
West Ham look weak
Three league games, three defeats, zero goal scored, five conceded: West Ham United are bottom of the Premier League and it is neither an accident or a surprise. It is worrying though that they already in a lot of trouble. Against Brighton & Hove Albion at home on Sunday (0-2), they were beaten, again, like against Manchester City and at Nottingham Forest where they maybe didn’t deserve it.
David Moyes can argue that he has some injuries and that the club has found recruiting the players they wanted this summer really difficult. Yet, all his stars from last season are still there and the momentum from last season was really strong. Things could get even worse with a trip to fellow strugglers Aston Villa next before playing Chelsea and Tottenham. – Laurens
Marsch has Leeds flying high
There was plenty of scepticism when Leeds United appointed Jesse Marsch to launch a relegation rescue mission but he’s doing a good job of silencing the doubters. There were nervous moments at the end of last season but Leeds did just enough to stay in the Premier League and now they are making the most of their lifeline.
Marsch, who has had to deal with the transfer of key players Kalvin Phillips (Manchester City) and Raphinha (Barcelona), has guided his team to an unbeaten start to the new campaign. Against Chelsea the American showed he can be a match for one of the best managers in the world in Thomas Tuchel.
Leeds were dominant against Tuchel’s team, winning 3-0 thanks to goals from Brenden Aaronson, Rodrigo and Jack Harrison. If anything, the result flattered Chelsea after Marsch’s tactical plan worked like clockwork. Whether it’s spotlight of being an American manager or the difficult spell at RB Leipzig that has intensified the scrutiny on Marsch, the former MLS midfielder seems to be revelling in it – Dawson