It was a week of cup football across Europe and the world, as the 2022 (that’s right) Club World Cup started to heat up in Morocco.
That is just one of five tournaments we will cover in this edition of This Week In Football.
🇫🇷 France: Olympique Marseille 2-1 Paris Saint-Germain
The round of 16 of the Coupe de France was played this week, and the headline clash came late on Wednesday night when Marseille hosted Paris Saint-Germain for Le Classique.
The last time the Orange Vélodrome celebrated a victory in this fixture was in 2011, just a few months after QSI (Qatar Sports Investments) made their first investment in French football.
Marseille might have fancied their chances going into this game, though, as they were in fine form while PSG were stuttering a bit and missing star striker Kylian Mbappé.
One of the ramifications of the Frenchman’s absence was that defensive midfielder Danilo Pereira wore the number 9 shirt for PSG as the starting XI must be numbered 1-11 in the Coupe de France. More significantly, PSG looked rather blunt in the final third without a recognised striker up top.
Marseille opened the scoring just after half an hour through Alexis Sánchez from the penalty spot. It looked like they would take a deserved lead into the break, but Sergio Ramos equalised from a set-piece in stoppage time.
The home side struck again early in the second period thanks to winter signing Ruslan Malinovskyi, who scored what proved to be the decisive goal.
With that, Marseille’s quest for their first Coupe de France title in 34 years continues, while PSG will be without the trophy for two consecutive years for the first time since 2014.
🏆 Club World Cup: Flamengo 2-3 Al Hilal
The semi-finals of the Club World Cup were on the menu this week. Favourites Real Madrid were facing Al Ahly on Wednesday, but before that, Flamengo flew in to take on Al Hilal.
The Copa Libertadores winner had made the final in their one previous appearance in this tournament and were favourites to repeat the trick.
Al Hilal had just about made it to this stage by the skin of their teeth as they scored a stoppage-time equaliser and went on to win on penalties against hosts Wydad Casablanca. Now, they were looking to advance from a stage where they had been halted in their last two appearances.
The Saudi Arabian side came out and caused a stir by taking the lead from the penalty spot in less than five minutes, thanks to World Cup hero Salem Al-Dawsari.
Soon enough, 2022 Libertadores top scorer Pedro pulled his side back level. The real turning point of the match came deep into first-half stoppage time when Gerson picked up a second yellow and conceded a penalty, which Al-Dawsari scored.
The Saudi Arabian international then set up Luciano Vietto for the AFC Champions League holders’ third goal of the match in the 70th minute, which put the result beyond doubt.
Flamengo pulled one back late on through Pedro again, but they could not stop Al Hilal from becoming the first Saudi Arabian side to reach the Club World Cup final.
🏴 England: Manchester United 2-2 Leeds United
Over in England, FA Cup replays made up most of the major midweek action, but there also was one Premier League game.
It featured Leeds United, who had sacked Jesse Marsch just a couple of days before this fixture on the back of a very poor run of form. Their hosts, Manchester United, were looking about as good as they ever have done in quite a few years, so a win for them seemed quite likely.
Wilfried Gnonto had other ideas, though, as he struck from just outside the box in under a minute to give the visitors the lead. That was the 19-year-old summer signing’s fourth goal since moving to the UK from FC Zürich in a move that has turned out to be perfect for his development so far.
Leeds held on to that lead till half-time and even doubled it just a couple of minutes after the restart, so they looked on course to get their first league win in over three months.
However, Man United turned things around quickly after the hour-mark. Marcus Rashford pulled one back with a header, after which substitute Jadon Sancho equalised with his first Premier League goal since the 2nd of September.
The home side could not get a winner, so the spoils were shared at the end of a match where neither side could be too disappointed with the result given the circumstances.
🇳🇱 Netherlands: Feyenoord 4-4 NEC Nijmegen (5-3 on penalties)
Twitter going down on Wednesday night was a real shame because plenty of people were prevented from spreading the word about the incredible KNVB Cup round of 16 tie between Eredivisie leaders Feyenoord and NEC Nijmegen.
The visitors sprung a surprise by taking a two-goal lead into half-time, and the scoreline remained unchanged till the 89th minute. Then, it all kicked off.
Ex-Manchester City defender Philippe Sandler was sent off as the hosts won a penalty, which Orkun Kökçü converted. Just over a minute later, Igor Paixão equalised.
With a numerical advantage, Feyenoord would have been expected to get the job done in extra time, but there was another twist in the tale as some questionable play at the back allowed Jordy Bruin to put his side back in front.
The hosts soon bagged an equaliser and then took the lead in the 116th minute, but they could only hold on for a minute before conceding to Bruijn again.
The match went down to penalties, and the first seven were scored. But then, Ilias Bronkhorst’s effort was saved, allowing Paixão to win it for Feyenoord. So, their search for a first cup win since 2018 continues as NEC hearts were broken.
🇦🇷 Argentina: Tigre 1-1 Centro Español (4-5 on penalties)
Cup football was at its very best in Argentina this week when amateur fifth-tier side Centro Español, who currently don’t even have a stadium they can call their own, visited Liga Profesional side Tigre.
They certainly would have been up for the occasion after a rousing pre-match team talk.
After all that, though, they conceded just over a minute in when some weak wristwork from the goalkeeper allowed an angled shot to creep in. Tigre would have thought the match was theirs, but they could not score again and were pegged back early on in the second half.
There were no more goals in the match, so it all boiled down to penalties. Tigre’s first effort was saved and everyone else got the job done until the Centro Español goalkeeper stepped up to take a potentially decisive spot-kick. He missed the target altogether, but his blushes were spared by an opponent doing the same in sudden death.
Centro Español’s already-historic cup run gets another chapter with that, and they will face top-flight opposition again next in the form of Defensa y Justicia.
👀 What To Watch Next:
Looking ahead to the weekend, here are a few interesting games to keep an eye on.
🇧🇪 Belgium: Club Brugge vs Union Saint-Gilloise (Friday, 19:45 UTC)
Over in the Pro League, defending champions Club Brugge are hosting title contenders Union Saint-Gilloise with 14 points separating the sides. Of course, that gap will automatically come down if they make the play-offs, but Scott Parker will be keen to get his second win in Belgium.
🏆 CAF Champions League: Mamelodi Sundowns vs Al Hilal Omdurman (Saturday, 13:00 UTC)
The 2022/23 CAF Champions League gets underway this weekend. Group B is shaping up to be the group of death, so watch out for the clash between South African champions Mamelodi Sundowns and Sudanese champions Al Hilal.
🇩🇪 Germany: RB Leipzig vs Union Berlin (Saturday, 17:30 UTC)
For once, things are looking tight at the top of the table in the German Bundesliga. Union Berlin are just a point behind Bayern Munich, but they have a really tough game against fourth-placed RB Leipzig, who could leapfrog them with a win.
🇵🇹 Portugal: Sporting CP vs FC Porto (Sunday, 18:00 UTC)
About two weeks after the two sides met in the League Cup final, Sporting and Porto are going at it again in the league. Regardless of the result, the defending champions will continue to have the upper hand in this competition as they are seven points clear of Rúben Amorim’s side, but trail Benfica by eight.
Stats courtesy Transfermarkt, Opta via FotMob and WhoScored, and Vizz App.
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