Football Features

Messi and injuries are inevitable for Barca – All the action you might have missed across Europe today

By Harry Edwards

Published: 20:57, 27 February 2021

After all the excitement of the Champions League and Europa League in midweek, domestic football had big shoes to fill this weekend, but it stepped up to the mark.

There was a host of games across Europe’s top five leagues with the likes of Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich and Barcelona all in action. And the day did not disappoint, with so much going on and a lot to talk about.

So we’ll waste no time and get right to it, with nine things you might have missed today.

1. Pep reaches milestone Man City extend run

We’ll start with the occasion most will already know about, as Man City took on West Ham in the opening Premier League game of the day in search of their 20th consecutive win across all competitions. It was a tough task, with the Hammers in excellent form, but they ultimately pulled it off.

Centre-backs Ruben Dias and John Stones were the goalscoring heroes, either side of Michail Antonio, with Kevin De Bruyne recording an excellent assist for the former with his weaker foot.

But, the win was also a landmark one for Pep Guardiola, his 200th as Man City manager since taking charge in 2016, coming in just his 273rd game. No manager has reached 200 wins across all competitions with an English top-flight club than Guardiola, with the Spaniard blowing the previous record out of the water (Jose Mourinho with Chelsea in 309 games).

He truly is on a level of his own.

2. VARsity blues at Brighton

Refereeing in the Premier League has come under a lot of criticism this season and unfortunately there was another bottom that had fans scratching their heads in Brighton’s trip to the Hawthorns to face West Brom.

West Brom had the early lead through Kyle Bartley but Brighton thought they had wiped that out after a smart, quick free-kick taken by Lewis Dunk not too long before half-time. Although West Brom were still setting up their wall, Lee Mason had blown his whistle signalling the free-kick could be taken, or so we thought.

Just before the ball hit the back of the net (but whether it had already crossed the line no one could tell) Mason had blown his whistle for a second time, which would lead to him ruling the goal out. After protests from Brighton’s players, the goal was then rewarded but following a long VAR review which included Mason going to the screen, the goal was ruled out again reportedly due to the second whistle.

Speaking after the game, Dunk wasn’t happy, telling Sky Sports: “It’s embarrassing, it’s a horrendous decision.

“I said to the referee, ‘can I take it?’ He blew his whistle and I took it. Why doesn’t he come and speak to the press like me? Never, they hide behind their bubble.

“I don’t think he knew what he was doing. He gave the goal. Why did he give it? I don’t know why VAR was getting involved.”

3. Potter’s cursed Seagulls

But the drama at the Hawthorns wasn’t done there and we felt this one needed its own point. With the disallowed goal and another game in which Brighton dominated and went on to lose, some may call the Seagulls unlucky. But they can only truly have themselves to blame.

Graham Potter’s side had an xG of 2.95 against West Brom, showing their domination and the chances that they were making for themselves. But yet again their poor finishing cost them points, particularly from the penalty spot.

Brighton had not one, but two chances to score a penalty and missed both, with Pascal Groß hitting the post and Danny Welbeck striking the bar. Maybe Brighton need to focus a bit more on their finishing in training.

4. Goretzka’s hat-trick of assists keeps Bayern in control

Bayern Munich were ruthless in their 4-1 win over Lazio in the Champions League in midweek, and it was very much the same as they put FC Koln to the sword. The defending Bundesliga champions had recently seen their lead at the top of the table cut down to two points but, with RB Leipzig playing Borussia Monchengladbach in the evening, this was their chance to get ahead.

In a six-goal game, Bayern scored five and Leon Goretzka was very much the man pulling the strings. In his first 16 Bundesliga appearances this season, Goretzka had only registered two assists so you could be forgiven for expected him to be more reserved. But the German helped himself to a hat-trick of assists against Koln, including a simply marvellous one for Robert Lewandowski’s second goal, showing neat footwork on the edge of the area.

5. PSG’s KM-MK partnership strikes again

PSG moved to within a point of Ligue 1 leaders Lille (albeit having played a game more) thanks to a big 4-0 win over bottom-of-the-league Dijon and it was thanks to their budding attacking partnership.

Kylian Mbappe and Moise Kean helped themselves to the goals again, hitting 18 and 11 respectively for the season in Ligue 1. For Kean, who opened the scoring inside six minutes, it was the continuation of his best personal season so far, already equaling his tally for Serie A across spells with Juventus and Verona. Meanwhile Mbappe extended his lead as Ligue 1’s top scorer, and netted at least twice in a single game for the fifth time this season, more than any other player.

6. Lionel Messi and injuries are inevitable

Who said Lionel Messi was done?

Barcelona pushed themselves up to second in La Liga with a massive 2-0 win over Sevilla that showed the ship is once again steadying (although they have played more than both Real Madrid and Atletico). As you can expect, Messi was involved in both of Barcelona’s goals, setting up Ousmane Dembele for the opener before sealing the win himself late on.

It continued Messi’s excellent run of scoring across all competitions of late, with the Argentine having found the net now in his past nine league and Champions League appearances (13 goals).

But, as with any Barcelona game there were more injury worries with Pedri coming off after 71 minutes with a muscle problem and Ronald Araujo suffering yet another setback having only just returned – last 15 minutes as a substitute before having to be taken off.

7. Sancho’s revival continues

A lot has been said about Jadon Sancho and his performances this season, and while the start of 2020/21 may not have been kind to the Englishman, he is certainly making 2021 his.

Borussia Dortmund were made to work for their 3-0 win over Arminia Bielefeld but Sancho stepped up in the second half, first setting up Mahmoud Dahoud for the opening before getting the second from the penalty spot. He has now been directly involved in 79 goals in 99 Bundesliga appearances for Dortmund, an excellent return considering he still isn’t 21.

And since the start if 2021 only Lewandowski (13) has been directly involved in more Bundesliga goals than Sancho’s 12.

8. RB Leipzig pull off dramatic second-half turnaround

RB Leipzig and Borussia Monchengladbach must have looked at West Brom vs Brighton and thought “we want some of that action” because the pair put on a truly thrilling performance in the Bundesliga’s evening kick off.

There wasn’t much time for fans to settle down before things got started with Dayot Upamecano conceding a minute in the opening six minutes with Jonas Hofmann put away. Gladbach doubled their lead just over 10 minutes later despite RB Leipzig having the better opportunities, with Marcus Thuram’s shot deflecting in off Upamecano in what was a torrid half for the future Bayern centre-back.

RB Leipzig looked done, falling further being Bayern but then came that second half. The hosts thought they had scored early on but Alexander Sorloth’s goal was ruled out, and then they actually did get one back through Christopher Nkunku.

Yussuf Poulsen equalised shortly after and just as the game looked to be petering out to a draw, Sorloth did get his goal in the third minute of injury time to keep this Bundesliga title race alive.

9. Aston Villa’s stubborn defence prevail again

Elsewhere in the Premier League, Aston Villa kept their Champions League hopes alive with a solid 1-0 win over Leeds in which they starved their opponents of any real chances after taking an early lead.

In the second half of the game, Leeds failed to produce a single shot on target, with a defensive performance helping Villa to their eighth away clean sheet of the season, already equalling their best-ever Premier League tally for shutouts on the road.