Monday, February 4, 2013

Soccer Weekend in Review

What a weekend it was in the soccer world, with exciting matches, debuts, and drama.

Friday saw the first day since the transfer window closed and it solidified the teams, with the exclusion of contract releases, for the rest of the season. The window saw Mario Balotelli return home to Italy, Lewis Holtby join Spurs a bit sooner than expected, Arsenal fail to bring in a striker, Loic Remy join AND score for QPR, and David Beckham take his talents to Paris. Friday also saw the first of the matches since the closing of the window, with PSG easily handling Toulouse and Zlatan Ibrahimovic taking his goal tally to 20 in the league.

                                           PSG reveal their newest addition, midfielder David Beckham.

Saturday was the first full day of matches, and it came with a few surprises. The weekend saw the teams you'd expect to win do just that, win. Bayern Munich cruised to a comfortable 3-0 win over Mainz in the Bundesliga, with Arsenal and Manchester United leaving both their games late to each take 3 points over Stoke City and Fulham, respectively. Then came the surprises, Newcastle shocked Chelsea late at St. James Park on a 90th minute goal by French international Moussa Sissoko. Chelsea fell 16 points behind the Red Devils and 7 points behind second place Manchester City. In maybe the biggest surprise of the weekend Real Madrid fell to Granada on an own goal by Cristiano Ronaldo. It was CR7's first own goal of his career, and it couldn't have come at a worse time for Los Blancos as it saw them fall 16 points behind Barcelona in the league table.

                   Newcastle midfielder, Moussa Sissoko, celebrates after scoring against Chelsea on Saturday.

Sunday was a day filled with one of the most, if not the most, anticipated matches of the weekend. Manchester City took on Liverpool at the Etihad and it lived up to all it's hype. Newly re-energized Liverpool took the fight right to City, but conceded the first goal on a superb finish by Edin Dzeko. Moments later Daniel Sturridge brought it back to level on an absolutely stunning strike from outside the box that left keeper Joe Hart with no chance at a save. The game looked even, until Steven Gerrard hit a strike that reminded you that with all the talk of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, Stevie G is still the man. Hitting an absolute cracker on a half volley from 30 yards out, a dipping shot left Joe Hart with no chance. But minutes later Sergio Aguero hit back on the other side of the pitch, capitalizing on a HUGE mistake from Liverpool keeper Pepe Reina as he came too far out of the box, Aguero finished from an impossible angle to end the scoring and bring the two teams level. City fall 9 points adrift from cross town rivals United.

                     Liverpool Captain, Steven Gerrard, celebrates his fantastic goal against Manchester City.

Messi came to the rescue for Barcelona against Valencia in a game that should not have been as difficult as it was for the Catalans. Valencia took the lead on an Ever Banega goal, but conceded a penalty to Barcelona just minutes later which gave Messi the opportunity to equalize. Sharing the spoils in this match does not hurt Barca one bit, as they are so far ahead in La Liga.

                                                         Messi brings Barcelona level against Valencia.

In maybe the biggest news and debut of the week, Mario Balotelli made his return to Milan, this time as a member of the Rossoneri. Balotelli's impact on the attack for AC Milan was evident from the get-go as he scored a brace in his debut. He helped give Milan the lead 25 minutes in with a spectacular finish. After a lay off cross from Stephan El Shaarawy, Balotelli struck it on the half volley and left Udinese's keeper with no chance as Balotelli's close range shot was unstoppable. Udinese pulled a goal back through Giampiero Pinzi, but it was evident AC Milan had more goals left in them. In the 90th minute it was once again Balotelli and El Shaarawy combining for a goal, but in a different way. Balotelli played a through ball to El Shaarawy who was brought down in the box by Udinese defender Thomas Heurtaux. Stepping up to the spot was none other than Balotelli who slotted the penalty away with ease at the brink of stoppage time to grab the Rossoneri all 3 points. Balotelli's amazing performance and the way he and El Shaarawy linked up easily in their first match together should serve as warning to the rest of the Serie A teams, this is a completely different team than just a week ago.

                             Stephen El Shaarawy and Mario Balotelli lead AC Milan to victory over Udinese.

And that's all the major news from the weekend. What were your favorite parts? Leave a comment below or send me an email and let me know what you thought.

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