By Alan Clark
Champions in the bottom half. Jose Mourinho rumored to be close to the sack. Relegation contenders top of the league. A former Fleetwood Town striker being the talk of the top division. It’s all gone a bit bonkers in England just now. Another weekend of big teams throwing away opportunities to make progress in the race for the league title, and again, another Chelsea defeat to lower-quality opposition. Leicester City continued their eye-catching form with a 3-0 demolition job on Swansea City – all three goals coming from Riyad Mahrez and surprisingly none from man of the moment Jamie Vardy. Claudio Ranieri could surely not have pictured such a stunning start to his reign at the King Power Stadium – results going their way at the weekend means they lead the pack by two points. Remarkable.
Meanwhile, Marko Arnautovic scored twice to hand Stoke City a superb victory over Manchester City. Xherdan Shaqiri created both of Arnautovic’s first-half goals in an inspired performance – Arnautovic nudged home Shaqiri’s cross for the opener and then finished off a perfectly weighted through ball from his team-mate. City have not won in four away league games. Arsenal stuttered but got there in the end with a 3-1 home win over lowly Sunderland, but the other big talking point came at another London club in the evening kick-off. Bournemouth pulled off a famous 1-0 win away to Chelsea. The Blues’ start to the season is the worst of any reigning Premier League champion. Blackburn Rovers are the only other side to have picked up fewer than 20 points in the first 15 games of a title defense. Bournemouth’s late but deserved winning goal was scrappy but it matters not to Jose Mourinho how they concede – just that they are. Some serious soul searching will be going on at Chelsea right now, who lie in 14th position. In December.
Spain – Real rampant but still trail Barca despite draw at Valencia
Real Madrid tore apart Getafe 4-0 in La Liga as Karim Benzema scored his first goals since October. The Spanish giants recovered after their recent expulsion from the Copa del Rey due to fielding an ineligible player and certainly showed no signs of letting criticism for the manager and owner get to them. Benzema volleyed home Pepe’s cross then slotted in a second from a Gareth Bale pass. The Welshman fired in a third after being set up by Cristiano Ronaldo, who added a fourth before half-time. Getafe captain Alexis headed a second-half goal but it mattered not a jot.
It was all smiles for the Neville brothers as Valencia held leaders Barcelona to a 1-1 draw at the Mestalla. Former Manchester United star Gary was announced as the mew head coach last week but sat out this game, with brother Phil taking caretaker charge for one game only. But it looked like Luis Suarez had handed the away side victory, showing just why he has become one of the most coveted attacking talents in world football by finishing ruthlessly. Valencia didn’t give in and got a dramatic equaliser on 86 minutes through 19-year-old Mina Lorenzo. Barca lead Atletico by two points and Real by four.
Germany – Dortmund capitalize on shock Bayern defeat to close deficit
Bayern Munich’s unbeaten start to the Bundesliga came to a halt Saturday as Borussia Monchengladbach inflicted their first defeat on them. After a goalless opening 45 minutes, Gladbach took the lead through Oscar Wendt, then Lars Strindl and Fabian Johnson added goals in quick succession to lead the champions 3-0 after 68 minutes. A Franck Ribery goal for Pep Guardiola’s side arrived late on but meant nothing as the hosts took the three points. That gave Borussia Dortmund ample opportunity to close the gap and get back into the title race as they faced Wolfsburg. It didn’t go all their way but they got there. Marco Reus put them in front and it looked like being enough for Dortmund, until they conceded a 90th-minute penalty – Ricardo Rodriguez tucking it away for 1-1. Dortmund weren’t up for giving the three points away though and in such dramatic circumstances Shinji Kagawa converted a cross in injury time to move five points adrift of Bayern.
Italy – Inter on top as Juve’s relentless comeback continues
Inter Milan continued to prove that this could be their year with another win to keep them top of Serie A. Adem Ljajic’s free-kick early in the second half evaded everyone in the Genoa box and the goal gave the Nerazurri a 1-0 victory. Fiorentina are a point behind Inter in second as they comfortably defeated Udinese 3-0 at the Artemio Franchi – Milan Badelj, Josip Ilicic and Gonzalo Rodriguez with the goals.
Elsewhere, Juventus are now six points from the summit as they won at Lazio. The 2-0 win comes as Massimiliano Allegri’s side took just five points from their first six games – but victory in Rome was their fifth in a row. Paulo Dybala’s sublime volley and an own goal from Santiago Gentiletti secured the win.