We’re heading toward the end of October and with that, the final weekend of matches for the month happening all across Europe. As always, there is drama and excitement within various storylines that go beyond the final scores of matches.
On Friday, we saw Tottenham continue their unbeaten Premier League streak under new manager Ange Postecoglou, defeating Crystal Palace 2-1. On Saturday, we saw Brentford lead a second-half charge as they defeated Chelsea 2-0 at Stamford Bridge. In Spain, Real Madrid‘s Jude Bellingham struck twice, including the winner in a 2-1 victory against Barcelona in El Clasico. Finally in Germany, we saw a chaotic match as Bayern Munich hit SV Darmstadt for eight goals, as Harry Kane scored another hat trick.
On Sunday, Manchester City reiterated that the city is indeed blue, after thrashing Manchester United 3-0. Liverpool enjoyed a similarly comfortable scoreline in their victory over Nottingham Forest at Anfield.
Here is your look back at all the fun from this weekend so far.
The Sunday lead: If Liverpool finally have a midfield, look out
Liverpool took the field Sunday and expended little energy in dispatching Nottingham Forest 3-0 in a game that showed just why Jurgen Klopp & Co. focused their summer business on fixing that midfield. The Reds dominated proceedings from start to finish, enjoying nearly 75% of possession, racking up 21 shots to Forest’s nine and causing United States keeper Matt Turner no shortage of stress between the posts.
Much has been written about Liverpool’s work-in-progress XI this season, as they rebound from an underwhelming campaign last year that saw them finish outside the top four, but Sunday showed that they’re further along than their rivals might think. Alexis Mac Allister was a capable holding midfielder tasked with screening the back four and disrupting passing lanes, while Dominik Szoboszlai and Ryan Gravenberch were constant two-way threats, winning possession in transition and always looking to surge upfield.
Together, the trio controlled the middle of the park and helped the home side ensure there would be only one winner.
Diogo Jota opened the scoring, converting the rebound after Darwin Núñez‘s shot forced a fine save from Turner, the ball spilling to the Portugal international for an easy finish on the half-hour mark. (Jota celebrated by holding Luis Díaz‘s shirt aloft in recognition and solidarity with his teammate, whose parents were confirmed as kidnapped in their native Colombia over the weekend.)
Núñez then doubled the hosts’ lead less than five minutes later, smashing home from close range after fine approach play by Mohamed Salah and Szoboszlai, who found plenty of space to exploit down the right all afternoon. Salah added a third with just under 15 minutes left, gleefully scoring from Turner’s error.
Discounting the dramatic Spurs defeat, Liverpool’s rebuild appears firmly on track, with seven wins and two draws from their opening 10 league games. — James Tyler
Sunday talking points around the leagues
History suggests Ten Hag may be running out of time
Manchester United will do everything they can to stick with Erik ten Hag as the defeats stack up this season, but the history books are making uncomfortable reading for the Dutchman. A lengthy injury list isn’t helping but it’s now five defeats in the league — the most after 10 games since 1986. In more recent memory, Jose Mourinho (in 2018-19) and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (in 2021-22) were both sacked before Christmas, but on both occasions, United had better records after 10 games than Ten Hag does now. They lost three of their first 10 games under both Mourinho in 2018-19 and Solskjaer in 2021-22, but neither manager lasted much longer.
Ten Hag isn’t under pressure yet, but questions will be asked about his decision to bench Raphaël Varane and Sergio Reguilón against Manchester City for “tactical” reasons. His substitution of Rasmus Højlund midway through the second half was greeted with loud boos from the United fans inside Old Trafford.
After a heavy home defeat to City, it’s suddenly a big week for Ten Hag with a Carabao Cup tie against Newcastle United to come on Wednesday before a trip to Fulham in the Premier League on Saturday. He really can’t afford to lose either game.
When Mourinho and Solskjaer started to feel the pressure, things began to unravel very quickly, so Ten Hag needs to stop the bleeding as quickly as possible. United don’t want to sack Ten Hag, but he desperately needs a good run of results and a couple of positive performances from his team to instill some confidence that he remains the right man for the job. — Rob Dawson
Is Ten Hag’s Man United any better than Solskjaer’s?
Luis Miguel Echegaray feels Manchester United are no better under Erik Ten Hag than they were with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
‘Fans’ embarrass French football
Marseille vs. Lyon, the Olympico as the game is known in France, was supposed to be the showdown of the weekend in Ligue 1. A massive game, a big rivalry and a huge occasion for both teams. Gennaro Gattuso’s Marseille needed a win to continue climbing up the table (currently ninth) while Fabio Grosso’s Lyon, bottom of the table, wanted their first win of the season.
In the end, no one got what they wanted. The Lyon bus was attacked on its way to the Stade Velodrome, with Grosso suffering facial injuries from shards of broken glass, and the game was postponed.
This is not the first time this sort of thing has happened in France, unfortunately, and probably not the last, sadly. These “fans” are presenting the world a terrible image of French football once more, and it comes in the midst of negotiations for a new television rights deal.
Embarrassed, Ligue 1 now faces difficult questions as it ponders next steps. Should it punish Marseille? Should Lyon be awarded the three points? Should the game even be rescheduled? And what lesson should the league and French football as a whole learn from it?
In too many clubs, fans are uncontrollable and demonstrate unacceptable behaviour. Clearly not enough is being done because shameful incidents keep repeating themselves. — Julien Laurens
Atletico thriving out of the spotlight
With Real Madrid and Barcelona getting all the attention, especially on a Clásico weekend, Atletico Madrid are quite happy to keep picking up points and putting together a quietly excellent start to the season.
Sunday’s 2-1 win over Alavés took Atletico to 25 points, just three behind leaders Real and second-placed Girona, with a game in hand. The result never looked in doubt from the moment winger Rodrigo Riquelme put them ahead in the 26th minute. When Álvaro Morata made it 2-0 before half-time, it was essentially game over.
Atletico are flying. They’ve now won their past six LaLiga games, a run kicked off by the confidence boost of their 3-1 win over Real in the Madrid derby. This latest victory was their 14th consecutive league win at the Metropolitano, a run stretching back to February that equals Atletico’s best-ever home streak.
Riquelme’s goal was expertly taken. The youngster’s talent has never been in question — he shone at youth level and in loans at Mirandés and Girona — but there were some doubts about how a flair player like him would fit into a Diego Simeone team. On this evidence, the answer is at left wing-back.
Morata, too, deserves credit. Antoine Griezmann‘s outstanding form has obscured the fact that his often-maligned strike partner Morata is in the form of his life, with six goals in LaLiga already and nine in all competitions. But just like Atletico as a whole, Morata might be better off doing his job out of the spotlight. — Alex Kirkland
Americans Abroad: Reyna underwhelms in first start
Before Sunday’s match at Eintracht Frankfurt, it had been 260 days since Giovanni Reyna last started a match for Borussia Dortmund. That streak came to an end at Deutsche Bank Park, with the 20-year-old U.S. international playing from the off, but it likely began another countdown: how long will he have to wait before getting another start?
Dortmund and Frankfurt share six-goal thriller
Borussia Dortmund twice come from behind to draw 3-3 with Eintracht Frankfurt in a pulsating encounter.
Reyna was substituted at half-time as Dortmund trailed. He could be credited with making things happen on two or three occasions, but those moments were few and far between. Worse, much of Eintracht’s threat came in the form of wing-back Buta, who marauded up and down the right wing Reyna was tasked with helping Ramy Bensebaini patrol.
These 45 minutes were the most he’s played for the club since March’s Champions League exit at the hands of Chelsea.
One could argue that amid his lengthy injury history, Reyna simply hasn’t had the chance to establish himself in Dortmund’s first team this season. More likely, though, is that he is simply too far down the pecking order to receive plentiful opportunities.
Reyna is at his best when he’s operating in the middle of the attack, a role that he’s made his own with the USMNT. For Dortmund, though, Marco Reus is fit and in form — something of a rare confluence of events — while Julian Brandt remains one of the Bundesliga‘s most underrated playmakers. These are No. 10s any manager would be loathe to lose from their lineup.
Given the Westphalia club’s current makeup, it’s difficult to see how Reyna can make the case for more minutes. And based on his performance on Sunday, it’s difficult for Dortmund to believe he’s worthy of more of them at the expense of Reus or Brandt. — Austin Lindberg
News of the day
And finally, on Sunday …
🔊 VOLUME UP
The San Siro faithful make their feelings known as Romelu Lukaku returns to face his former club. pic.twitter.com/Ud0T6hGU63
— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) October 29, 2023
That might have changed just a year later, after a single underwhelming season at Stamford Bridge led to his return to San Siro on loan, but it changed again this past summer. That’s when the Nerazzurri were negotiating to sign him permanently, only for him to ghost the club. Inter walked away from negotiations, and fans doubled down on their distrust of the 30-year-old Belgium international.
Now at AS Roma, Lukaku returned to face his former side for the first time on Sunday, and Inter fans made clear that he was as unwelcome as ever. Before the match, ultras distributed 30,000 whistles with instructions to let Lukaku hear it every time he touched the ball.
He heard it, all right, but he was gracious enough to applaud the Inter faithful’s enthusiasm. Those dressed in black and blue went home happiest, after Marcus Thuram (ostensibly the man who’s replaced Lukaku in Inter’s squad) scored the lone goal in a 1-0 win. — Lindberg
Chelsea’s new owners can change the manager, the coaching staff and the players, yet some things stay the same.
There was an all-too-familiar feel to Saturday’s 2-0 home defeat to Brentford, which has through lines from the Thomas Tuchel, Graham Potter and Frank Lampard head coach eras at Stamford Bridge: create chances but compound a failure to take them by conceding soft goals.
And so to some extent, Mauricio Pochettino has inherited this problem despite a dramatic turnover of players in the £1 billion spree overseen by Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital since their May 2022 takeover. There have been signs of progress: seven points from nine before this weekend, including a 4-1 win at Burnley, promising flashes from Mykhailo Mudryk and an impressive start to life in London from 21-year-old summer signing Cole Palmer.
But if blowing a 2-0 lead against Arsenal last weekend to draw 2-2 was a warning Chelsea’s performances remain incomplete, they failed to heed it against Brentford. The cyclical feel is only enhanced by Brentford securing their third consecutive win at Stamford Bridge, this time through second-half goals from Ethan Pinnock and Bryan Mbeumo.
This game had three distinct phases. Chelsea were good for 25 minutes, Noni Madueke striking the crossbar early on before Marc Cucurella and Raheem Sterling missed good opportunities in the box. Sterling had a penalty shout turned down after going to ground under a challenge from Mads Roerslev midway through the half but the control they had of proceedings gradually began to slip thereafter.
The tempo and incision in their passing steadily receded and then came the sucker punch: a goal conceded from a throw-in. Mathias Jensen and Mbeumo exchanged passes before the latter crossed to the back post for Pinnock to head in. It was shambolic defending.
Jude Bellingham comes up clutch to give Real Madrid a late lead
Jude Bellingham taps home the goal to give Real Madrid a 2-1 lead in stoppage time against FC Barcelona.
Chelsea chased the game to the extent that goalkeeper Robert Sánchez came up for a stoppage-time corner but instead, Brentford broke and Neal Maupay fed Mbeumo to sidefoot into an empty net. In an acrimonious finale, Chelsea coach Jesus Perez was sent off and boos greeted the final whistle, albeit reflecting frustration rather than hostility toward their new manager.
Pochettino needs time to mould a team out of these expensively assembled parts and there is still mitigation in an injury list totalling nine first-team players which restricted his ability to change things off the bench here. But Brentford — without anything like the same resources — were without star striker Ivan Toney and key defender Rico Henry yet produced a coherent and clinical display that leaves Chelsea with just one home win from 13 matches.
The only teams they have beaten in the league this season are Luton, Fulham, and Burnley. They are eight points off the top four already. Pochettino needs to find a way to break the cycle sooner rather than later. — James Olley
Saturday talking points around the leagues
Tottenham continue unbeaten streak under Postecoglou
If Tottenham are going to maintain a title challenge this season, then they are going to have to keep finding different ways to win. That’s just what they did with a 2-1 win at Selhurst Park on Friday night as they opened up a five-point gap at the top of the Premier League before their rivals played at the weekend.
Roy Hodgson’s Crystal Palace team, perhaps still pumped up by the prematch playlist and accompanying light show that attempted to turn the Archibald Leitch-designed Selhurst Park into a ’90s warehouse rave for kickoff, set off in pursuit of the white shirts with vigour as they snapped at the Spurs players’ ankles, literally at times, during the first half.
Spurs’ struggles during the first 45 minutes were the first time this season in which you could sense Kane’s absence in manager Ange Postecoglou’s new-look team. Kane’s ability to strike from a seemingly hopeless chance has decided many of these types of matches in the past — he scored the first two goals in Spurs 4-0 win in this fixture last season.
But Spurs’ creative issues were put behind them eight minutes into the second half when the holder of Kane’s old No. 10 shirt, James Maddison, fired a ball across goal that was put into his own net by Palace defender Joel Ward. Son Heung-Min doubled Spurs’ lead from another Maddison-inspired move 13 minutes later before Jordan Ayew scored late on for the home side.
Maddison has now scored or assisted in each of his first six Premier League away games for Spurs, contributing two goals and setting up six. The positive vibes around Spurs caused Postecoglou to joke that the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium has the feel of a “nightclub” on Thursday, and with Maddison continuing to orchestrate proceedings, the party atmosphere isn’t showing any signs of letting up. — Tom Chambers
Real’s Bellingham achieves dream El Clasico debut with brace
When Jude Bellingham was a kid, he would stay up late to watch the Clásico, despite the insistence from his mother that he should be in bed.
Speaking ahead of his first appearance in the fixture as a Real Madrid player this week, he reeled off some of his highlights, including Cristiano Ronaldo‘s famous “Calma” celebration at Camp Nou in 2012. “Those iconic moments stick with you,” he said.
On Saturday, he created his own iconic moment, scoring twice in the second half, including a 92nd-minute winner, as Madrid came from behind to beat Barcelona 2-1 at the Olympic Stadium. After the second, he stood in the corner of the pitch, his arms up, as he does after most goals, in an image that will be added to the Clásico history books.
The afternoon had started with the Rolling Stones front and centre. Mick Jagger and Ronnie Wood were present to see Barça play in a shirt featuring the band’s logo. By the end, though, it was The Beatles’ ”Hey Jude” ringing out from the few hundred supporters in the away end.
In hindsight, looking back over his sensational start in Spain, perhaps it was always going to be about Bellingham. Of his 13 goals for Madrid, four have now been match winners. Three of them have come in stoppage time.
However, for large parts of the game, Xavi Hernandez’s tactics — switching to a back three with wing-backs — had shackled Bellingham and Vinicius Jr. Barça were good value for their lead at the break, secured via Ilkay Gündogan‘s sixth-minute opener, and only the post prevented Fermín López and Iñigo Martínez from adding to the tally.
Olley: Pochettino must break losing cycle soon
James Olley reacts to another disappointing defeat for Chelsea as they lost 2-0 at home to Brentford.
Madrid eventually found their way into the game after the hour mark. Bellingham’s first goal was a cracker from distance, and his second was a case of being in the right place at the right time as Luka Modric‘s stray touch fell in his direction.
“The summary of the game is very simple,” Xavi said. “We had 60 really good minutes and scored one goal. Madrid had 20 good minutes and scored twice. But that’s football, if you don’t score the second … We need five or six [chances] to score a goal; with three, they score two.” — Samuel Marsden
Neuer returns for Bayern, while Kane scores hat trick in wild game
The 37-year-old goalkeeper likely did not expect to be witness to such a wild game that ensued in Munich’s Allianz Arena. A total of three red cards in the first half marked a new Bundesliga record. It took Joshua Kimmich only four minutes to be sent off, as the midfielder did not control the ball in front of the penalty area and subsequently fouled Marvin Mehlem, who would have otherwise had an open road toward Neuer.
Darmstadt smelled blood in the aftermath and tried to go toe-to-toe with the German record champions. The guests had some success in testing Bayern’s back line and creating chances, but they left themselves open to being caught by counterattacks. Two counterattacks forced Klaus Gjasula and Matej Maglica to attempt last-man tackles which they missed. Red cards against both were the result of Darmstadt’s high-risk tactics.
Once the temperature inside the Allianz Arena was back to normal, it was all Bayern, as Harry Kane, Leroy Sané, Thomas Müller and Jamal Musiala scored the goals to secure an 8-0 win for Bayern, with Kane bagging a hat trick.
Regardless of recent results, it is almost a certainty that Bayern games turn into dramatic affairs these days. Meanwhile, Neuer faced four shots on goal and kept a clean sheet in his return. The veteran goalkeeper enjoyed a nice warm-up for Bayern’s upcoming challenge in the Bundesliga when they travel to Dortmund next weekend. — Constantin Eckner
Moreno: Bellingham best player in the world right now
Ale Moreno sings the praises of Jude Bellingham after the young English midfielder scored twice in Real Madrid’s 2-1 win vs. Barcelona.
Americans Abroad: VAR denies McKennie assist; Green scores
It was a mixed bag of a weekend for the main USMNT stars as Weston McKennie was denied an assist on Moise Kean‘s goal in Juventus‘ 1-0 win against Hellas Verona thanks to the intervention of VAR. With both McKennie and Timothy Weah starting for Massimiliano Allegri’s team, Juve now go top of the Serie A table for the time being with Inter and the American contingent of AC Milan breathing behind their necks.
We also saw some players go on the receiving end of a loss. In Germany, Kevin Paredes played 74 minutes but was unable to help his Wolfsburg side as they fell 3-2 to Augsburg in the Bundesliga. In England, Auston Trusty played the entire match and was part of a Sheffield United defense that wasn’t able to stop Arsenal as the Gunners scored five against them with Eddie Nketiah getting a hat trick.
However, it wasn’t all doom and gloom for the Americans abroad! Julian Green (remember him?) was able to go on the score sheet on Friday to help Greuther Fürth defeat VfL Osnabruck 4-0 and continue their push for possible promotion from the 2. Bundesliga. — Roberto Rojas
45′ TOOOR fürs #Kleeblatt!
— SPVGG GREUTHER FÜRTH (@kleeblattfuerth) October 27, 2023
News of the day
And finally, on Saturday …
In North London, Eddie Nketiah scored his first-ever Premier League hat trick as led Arsenal to a 5-0 win over Sheffield United. “Here with the fans, my family and friends, it’s an amazing feeling,” said the 24-year-old postmatch. “I’m really happy with the three goals and the win. It’s a dream come true.”
— Eddie Nketiah 📞 (@EddieNketiah9) October 28, 2023
With that win, Arsenal continue unbeaten as they currently sit in second place just two points behind their bitter rivals Tottenham. Even if Kane and Bellingham will be certain starters for Gareth Southgate’s England team, this Nketiah performance at least sends a message to the England boss that he definitely wants to be considered for the future and be part of an already stacked attacking Three Lions side. — Rojas