Football Features

Unwanted Bundesliga history averted plus other stats & stories you might have missed

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 20:27, 10 January 2021 | Updated: 14:01, 11 September 2021

The second weekend of 2021 saw league and cup action being played across Europe.

This season’s FA Cup third round proper continued on Sunday, with six games taking place before eighth-tier Marine took on Premier League giants Tottenham, in a 0-5 losing effort that saw on loan Brazilian forward Carlos Vinicius bag a hat-trick.

Elsewhere, three of Europe’s big five competitions were open for business, as well as the Eredivisie and Portugal’s top division. With so much happening, it’s only natural if you miss an important or memorable event.

But don’t fret. Squawka is here, with eight things you might have missed.

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1. Historic cupset that matches unwanted streak

Before the season kicked off, there was a notable advertising campaign focusing on Leeds United as they prepared for life back in English football’s top division. It asked whether folks were ready for the Peacocks. On today’s evidence, League Two outfit Crawley Town, who had television personality Mark Wright in their squad, answered that emphatically.

In what must go down as the biggest shock of this season’s third round, the West Sussex-based club ran out 3-0 winners over their more illustrious Premier League rivals; former Tottenham academy player Nick Tsaroulla opened proceedings before Ashley Nadesan and Jordan Tunnicliffe rounded off a day to remember.

Incredibly, according to Opta, this was only the second time a top-flight side had lost by this margin in the FA Cup since the Football League’s fourth tier was added in 1958. Oxford United, who Aldershot humbled 3-0 in 1987, now have Marcelo Bielsa’s men for company.

This defeat also means Leeds have been eliminated at this round for a fourth consecutive season equalling a similar miserable run between 2003-04 and 2006-07. Of course, such an embarrassing loss will lead to uncomfortable questions being asked but given their current league standing (12th, but also just six points off the Champions League places), it would still feel like a knee-jerk reaction if this episode leads to talk of Bielsa losing his job.

As for their vanquishers, they’ll revel in this giant-killing though one wonders if another spirited run from nowhere is on the cards.

2. Back in the saddle

No one saw Chelsea acquiring the services of Timo Werner as being problematic; his final season with RB Leipzig saw him register 34 goals across 45 matches in all competitions. Understandably, this led to heavy interest, with English champions Liverpool as noted long-term suitors.

That Werner opted for the Blues saw many observers place Frank Lampard’s side as dark horses for the championship, but going into this weekend the wheels were seemingly coming off and the striker himself was enduring a barren spell.

His 12-game drought ended this afternoon, though, when he netted against Morecambe of League Two, bringing him to nine goals in 25 appearances this season. Werner doubled Chelsea’s lead after Mason Mount broke the deadlock. Callum Hudson-Odoi and Kai Havertz, another summer acquisition that needed a strong performance, completed a 4-0 rout. Looking ahead, the Londoners have reasonable Premier League fixtures with Leicester City and Tottenham away standing out. Werner, and Lampard by extension, will be hoping this rebound can be the catalyst to really get his campaign underway.

3. Magnificent Seven

There were no surprises at the Etihad, as Manchester City steamrolled their Championship visitors Birmingham City and had the game won before half-time. Bernardo Silva ended a personal dry spell at home when he put Pep Guardiola’s side ahead early on. It was his first strike in 16 outings since netting past Fulham last January and, like London buses, another soon followed. Phil Foden continued his strong run of form by adding City’s third; he’s now been involved directly in 12 goals (scoring seven himself), the most by any Premier League player under 21.

As comfortable as this result was, it preserves City’s recent impeccable record at their fortress; they’ve now won seven consecutive matches, which is the Mancunians’ best run since posting 14 in a row 75 years ago.

4. Defence is the best form of attack

There were some eyebrows raised when Real Madrid sold Achraf Hakimi to Inter Milan last summer. The mercurial defender was sensational during a loan spell at Borussia Dortmund, with many observers placing him alongside Trent Alexander-Arnold as the best right-back around. The consensus was that Zinedine Zidane would reassimilate him in Los Blancos’ first-team. But that never came to fruition; instead his immediate future will be under Antonio Conte’s leadership.

And to say he’s settled in well is an understatement. The Moroccan is becoming an attacking outlet like no other. His strike as Inter were held to a 2-2 draw at Roma saw him net for a sixth time in Serie A this season. A significant milestone, as the last Nerazzurri defender to post this amount was Hakimi’s spiritual predecessor Maicon, who managed to register that across 33 matches in 2009/10. That was Inter’s last championship-winning season, then also coached by a former Chelsea boss.

5. Mkhitaryan’s rejuvenation continues

In the aforementioned game, Roma snatched a point from the jaws of defeat even though Paulo Fonseca’s side went ahead. Lorenzo Pellegrini’s goal was yet another provided by Henrikh Mkhitaryan this season. His eighth assist of the campaign to go along with his eight strikes, meaning only he and Harry Kane, across Europe’s ‘big five’ leagues, has managed to produce that amount in those respective fields.

Even more noteworthy is the Armenian forward returning to a semblance of his irresistible Dortmund form. There, he registered 49 assists in 140 appearances, which ultimately convinced Manchester United to part with a reported £27m for his signature. Mkhitaryan’s time in England, which included a brief stay at Arsenal, was forgettable but those days are behind him as he seeks to claim Serie A’s ‘assist king’ crown.

6. Even-stevens

The feeling before this weekend’s round of fixtures was the Eredivisie title race should go down to the wire and now after Ajax played out an enthralling 2-2 draw with rivals PSV Eindhoven that sentiment is as strong as ever. Roger Schmidt’s men found themselves 0-2 up before 25 minutes had been played, Eran Zahavi scoring twice and subsequently becoming the first player to do so against Ajax in the Eredivisie since October 2010, when Ricky van Wolfswinkel also netted a brace by the 21st-minute mark.

However, an end to their long wait for a win in Amsterdam never came. Instead, Erik ten Hag’s side responded strongly and, importantly for them, new record signing Sébastien Haller came off the bench to set up Antony’s equaliser after Quincy Promes halved the deficit just before half-time. His effort means he’s now scored in each of his five league games against PSV. More impressively, only Promes has managed this feat having faced the Eindhoven club on more than two occasions. Feyenoord, who earlier beat Sparta in the Rotterdam derby, now find themselves three points the leaders whom they face next weekend.

7. Embarrassment averted

Klaas-Jan Huntelaar was missing from Ajax’s team, and he more than anyone would have been keeping tabs on the goings-on at his former club Schalke 04, who avoided owning the Bundesliga’s longest-ever winless run. Heading into their game against Hoffenheim on Saturday afternoon, Die Königsblauen had gone 30 consecutive league matches without registering a win, which meant failure to pick up all three points would have seen them match Tasmania Berlin’s unwanted record of 31, set 54 years ago.

History, though, must wait for now, as 19-year-old American striker Matthew Hoppe grabbed a stunning hat-trick (all three goals created by Amine Harit) as they ran out 4-0 winners. Having started in the previous game, in which they fell to a defeat at Hertha Berlin’s hands, manager Christian Gross kept faith and was duly repaid by the youngster. A much-needed victory that can become the boost needed to escape danger. As things stand, after 15 matches played, they are second bottom and six points from safety.

8. Metronomic as ever

He’ll go down as one of Real Madrid’s most astute signings when all is said and done. Though it was a frustrating outing at Osasuna, who held Spain’s champions to a goalless draw, the outrageous class of Toni Kroos shone bright. It was a landmark game as the German international reached appearance number 300 in all competitions for Los Blancos and to celebrate the milestone he put on a passing masterclass.

Kroos attempted no fewer than 121 passes and completed 113, giving him a 93% accuracy rating, which is the most registered by a Real Madrid player in La Liga this season. The result, though, leaves Real a point behind leaders (and city rivals) Atletico Madrid who also have three games in hand.