El Clasico Recap

Real Madrid 3 – Barcelona 1

The two biggest clubs in Europe. The highest of star power. Messi, Ronaldo, Neymar, James.

And yet it was Pepe and Karim Benzema — far from slouches — who stole the show at the Bernabeu on Saturday.

Barcelona came out strong, pushed the tempo and started Luis Suarez in his Barcelona debut.

“With a mouthwatering lineup of Neymar, Suarez, Messi, why wouldn’t you start Suarez?” Garth Crooks said on The Football Show Monday morning.

There was talk about the forward not being match-fit after serving his most recent ban. He quieted the doubters early on, setting up Neymar for the first goal of the game.

Neymar collected a pass at the top-left corner of the box from Suarez, juked one defender, cleared space around another and then fired a shot past Iker Casillas just over three minutes into the game. Superlative football, as Ray Hudson said on the beIN SPORTS broadcast.

Barcelona had not allowed a goal in La Liga until Marcelo’s cross found Gerard Pique’s hand. A penalty was called and Ronaldo stepped up. No doubt. Tie game.

Five minutes into the second half, Pepe out-leaped the field to give Madrid the lead.

Benzema’s goal iced the game for Real Madrid in a second-half performance reminiscent of the team’s dominance over Liverpool in the UEFA Champions League this week.

The only issue for Real Madrid is how they will cope against a team that slows the game down as Tim Stannard, La Liga Loca, pointed out on TFS.

“Carlo Ancelotti doesn’t have a true defensive midfielder. Everyone wants to go forward,” Stannard told Crooks and Joe Tolleson.

The number of teams that can legitimately give them trouble? You can count them on one hand. However, there’s a chance neither of these two teams actually win La Liga.

“Winning the Spanish league just isn’t a prize for Barcelona and Real Madrid,” Stannard explained.

The focus is on the money-making machine that is the Champions League.

It’s a shame these two can’t play every week. What a show that would be!

EPL Recap

Manchester United 1 – Chelsea 1

Just a moment. That’s how long it took to swing the game, and perhaps the EPL season.

Chelsea was heading for their eighth win in nine games. Jose Mourinho, it appeared, had constructed another 1-0 road win. Louis Van Gaal and his Red Devils would have to mull over another loss at Old Trafford.

But Robin Van Persie, much maligned to start the season, found himself in the right place. Seven yards from goal, with Chelsea’s goalkeeper on the ground, he directed the ball into the net.

How did that happen? Branislav Ivanovic tripped up Angel Di Maria from behind ever so slightly. With the second yellow card, Chelsea was limited to 10 men to defend the final United charge.

At the time of the foul, the referee Phil Dowd was on the other side of the pitch.

“It was near impossible to get the Ivanovic call correct,” Geoff Shreeves of Sky Sports said on The Football Show Monday morning. Dowd could not have seen Ivanovic’s eyes and thus interpret the intent of the contact.

Before the equalizer, Van Persie had swung the ball into the box and found Marouane Fellaini’s head — one can only wonder if Ivanovic would’ve denied that chance had he still been in the game — but Thibaut Courtois rejected the offer. That’s when RVP won back the United faithful.

The goal at the death earned United a massive point and stole two points from the league leaders, preventing them from increasing their lead in the table.

The game had pace, physicality and scoring chances for both sides. A typical English match. And as with any typical English match, there’s going to be finger pointing at the referee.

“Phil Dowd, I don’t think he had his finest hour and a half,” Garth Crooks said on TFS. “The first booking for Ivanovic wasn’t a booking. I thought [the second yellow card] was very harsh, that sending off.”

Tongue-in-cheek, Jose Mourinho expressed his feelings after the game to The Telegraph.

“You know I cannot speak [about the referee]. Some can and some don’t and one of the ones who cannot speak is me, because you know what happens to me when I do. So I prefer not to speak about the second yellow card because, if I do, I have to start in the first half and go through many, many things that happened in the game.”

Chelsea opened the scoring a few minutes into the second half. On a corner kick, 36-year old Didier Drogba raced toward the near side of the box, leaped into the air and flicked the ball perfectly into the near corner of the goal.

In the end, they couldn’t hold on when it mattered most.

“I’m very disappointed in Chelsea,” Geoff Shreeves of Sky Sports told Joe Tolleson and Garth Crooks on TFS. “That’s twice now that they’ve surrendered a one-goal lead.”

West Ham United 2 – Manchester City 1

West Ham United fans aren’t used to being in the top=four at this point in the season. After downing defending champion Manchester City, the Hammers appear to have true staying power.

Sam Allardyce said the win wasn’t lucky after the game. He’s right.

The first goal by West Ham was well-earned. Morgan Amalfitano tapped in a cross from Enner Valencia thanks in part to Pablo Zabaleta falling into Joe Hart in front of goal.

Diafra Sakho headed in a cross from left-back Aaron Creswell in the 75th minute to double West Ham’s lead.

Though David Silva may have had the classiest finish in all of England — slicing and dicing his way past three defenders before perfect curling a 16-yard shot into the far corner in the 77th minute — Man City couldn’t muster a game-tying goal the rest of the way.

Detractors may point out multiple Man City shots hitting the post. Both Sergio Aguero and Yaya Toure missed chances to level the game in the second half.

Adrian was superb in goal for West Ham for the entire 90 minutes. City did have a 70-to-30 percent advantage for possession, but the entire West Ham United team applied great pressure to Man City’s midfield throughout the game.

Allardyce’s bunch sit in fourth place still, but are two points clear of Arsenal and trail City by a single point. If you called that, please take me to Las Vegas with you.

Liverpool 0 – Hull City 0

Mario Balotelli let another golden opportunity to score his first EPL goal for Liverpool slip away. This time he is to blame.

The service was impeccable. The timing could not have been better — he would have won the game against Hull City in the 94th minute at home. And still, his one-timer from two yards out went straight into the goalkeeper’s feet. Criticism and frustration are coming to a boil from the fans and media alike.

What could possibly be going on inside Super Mario’s head right now? Garth Crooks, who scored 129 goals in English football, explained what it’s like to go through a major scoring drought on The Football Show.

Crooks’ point about Liverpool being out of sync since Daniel Sturridge’s injury is a big one. Though Balotelli should have multiple EPL goals by now, the season is still just a quarter done, and Liverpool have plenty of time to climb back into the top-four.

Serie A Recap

Roma 0 – Sampdoria 0

Juventu. Paris Saint-Germain. Bayern Munich. Chelsea. Sampdoria.

One of those teams is not like the others.

What does Sampdoria have in common with the other European giants? They’re one of just five remaining teams in the top five leagues on the continent that still hasn’t lost a league game this season, sitting third in the Serie A.

How have they done it? Not by lighting up the scoreboard. Through eight games, they’ve only scored nine goals. They’re keeping teams out of the net, giving up only four goals so far this season. At this rate, they could find themselves in contention for a European spot even without the wins.

For Roma, a team that is in the UCL and should be contending for trophies this season, a scoreless draw can’t be something to hang your hat on.

After the match, Rudi Garcia was oddly optimistic — especially after the 7-1 thrashing they took against Bayern Munich in the UCL this week — about the result, wrote Joe Wright on Goal.com.

“You need a little luck to win these games, too. Unfortunately, we were stopped by the post. In any case, a point away to the third-placed side playing at our standards is good. I liked the attitude of the team and I am satisfied,” the Roma boss said.

Juventus 2 – Palermo 0

Juventus soundly beat Palermo, 2-0, with goals coming from Arturo Vidal and Fernando Llorente.

Eight games, seven wins. 16 goals, tops in the Serie A, versus just three goals allowed, also best in Italy’s top-flight.

Still, the perplexing issue surrounding Juventus is their lack of success in Europe. Aiming for their fourth consecutive Scudetto, Juve lost to Greek power Olympiacos, 1-0, and sit third in their UCL Group.

Once the blueprint for the beautiful game, there’s a general belief that the quality of soccer in Italy is dropping. They lost their third automatic UCL spot recently as well.

At least Italy’s best team locked up the future face of the club, Paul Pogba, through 2019. (Did I mention he’s a French international?)

Ligue 1 Recap

Paris Saint-Germain 3 – Bordeaux 0

Paris Saint-Germain got back to its winning ways in Ligue 1, though they’re still four points back of Marseille due to PSG’s six draws through 11 games.

Lucas Moura, back into the fold for Brazil’s national team, responded with two goals for Laurent Blanc’s side.

The biggest takeaway, as Bleacher Report and SiriusXM FC’s French Football Insider Jonathan Johnson wrote after the game, was the first time David Luiz and Thiago Silva were able to play together in the back. The duo put the clamps down and going forward, could provide the tenacity on defense PSG needs to retain their French title and advance into the later stages of the UCL.

Bundesliga Recap

Hannover 1 – Borussia Dortmund 0

Last week I wondered why Jurgen Klopp wasn’t getting as much negative press as Arsene Wenger. Klopp has been the golden-boy manager the last few years, and Dortmund has been a legit UCL contender in that time, reaching the final two years ago.

Germany’s Bundesliga might not be as competitive as MLS or the EPL, but hey, at least it wasn’t a one-horse race.

Dortmund (2-1-6), the only team that has the talent to even make Bayern sweat, and they just lost their fourth league game in a row, going down at home without even mustering a single goal.

Perhaps Klopp understands that only a rare few clubs have the money to build teams that can compete domestically and in Europe. After all, Dortmund is coming off a 4-0 win over Galatasaray in Turkey this week. They’ve won all three UCL games, scoring nine goals, and haven’t allowed a goal on the other end.

Even wearing their patented yellow UCL jerseys — like a ferocious bumblebee — didn’t help cure their league woes.

The problem is: Unless they win it all, they’re going to need to pick it up to reach the top-four in Germany. Through nine games, Dortmund sit in 15th place having accumulated only seven points, and are 10 points back of a UCL spot.

MLS Recap

Seattle Sounders 2 – LA Galaxy 0

The road to MLS glory officially goes through The Emerald City.

Two Marco Pappa second-half goals gave the Sounders a win they didn’t need, but the momentum they should could use heading into the MLS Playoffs as the 2014 MLS Supporters’ Shield Champions.

The Sounders finish the season at 20-10-4 sitting on 64 points, three ahead of the Galaxy, who lost an MLS-best seven games and had a plus-32 goal differential on the season.

The Sounders faced the Galaxy twice in a row to end the season, and were the better team over 180 minutes.

Kasey Keller, former Sounders and USMNT goalkeeper, said that even though the Sounders only needed a draw to lock up the top-seed, getting a win before the playoffs is critical for the mental state of the team.

L.A. can rest on the fact that they did this without their best-player, MVP candidate Robbie Keane. Keane is expected back in the lineup for their first playoff game.

Seattle is just the fifth team in MLS history to win at least 20 games in a season, and the first since D.C. United in 1999.

Postseason success has been hard to come by for the Sounders, who have won two of the three major U.S. trophies so far this season, the U.S. Open Cup and now the Supporters’ Shield. Their quest for their first MLS Cup will take place at home, where they are 12-4-1 in 2014.

New York Red Bulls 2 – Sporting KC 0

Though it may be the last hurrah for Thierry Henry, the New York Red Bulls playoff hopes likely lie upon the shoulders — err, legs — of Bradley Wright-Phillips, who tied the all-time MLS single-season goals record with a brace.

Wright-Phillips matched the record set by Roy Lassiter of the now-defunct Tampa Bay Mutiny in 1996, MLS’ inaugural season, and two years ago by San Jose’s Chris Wondolowski. He’s also scored four goals in three games against Sporting KC this season.

The Red Bulls get to host the Eastern Conference “play-in” game thanks to their 2-0 win over Sporting KC on Sunday.

New York ended the season going 3-1-0 in October.

The MLS Playoffs begin on Wednesday, and you can hear all the action on SiriusXMFC 94!

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