Connect with us


This Week In Football: Haaland hauls five, Sporting send Arsenal packing & more

The final week of club football in March ahead of the international break produced some big results and drama, so let us review the best of the action.

🏆 UEFA Champions League: Manchester City 7-0 RB Leipzig (8-1 on aggregate)

After a 1-1 draw in the first leg in Leipzig, it was all to play for in Manchester between City and RB Leipzig.

Or at least, that was the case for about 25 minutes. By then, the home side were 2-0 up after Erling Braut Haaland scored twice in quick succession.

He netter once from the spot after a contentious handball call influenced by VAR, and then on the follow-up to Kevin De Bruyne’s left-footed rocket. By half-time, he completed a perfect hat-trick by touching the ball in on the goal line.

The result seemed as good as decided then, but Manchester City took things up a notch early on in the second half. İlkay Gündoğan scored his side’s fourth before Haaland added two more, becoming just the third player to score five goals in a Champions League match.

After that, he was brought off before he could get a double hat-trick. In exchange, we did get a great interview from the man himself.

Late on, De Bruyne scored his side’s seventh goal to match their (and Bayern Munich’s) record of the biggest win in a single leg of the Champions League knockout stage.

🏆 UEFA Europa League: Arsenal 1-1 Sporting CP (3-3 on aggregate; 3-5 on penalties)

Sporting and Arsenal played out an entertaining 2-2 draw in Lisbon last week, so this was the tie to watch in the Europa League this week. The Gunners were at home and bolstered by the return of Gabriel Jesus, so they were still the favourites here.

Although they suffered a couple of injuries early on, they got off to a good start thanks to Granit Xhaka’s opener in the 19th minute. Sporting had kept a fair bit of possession in the early exchanges, but this goal seemed to kill their momentum. They slowly managed to recover, though, and started the second half on the front door again.

Then, Pedro Gonçalves did this.

Sporting even had the chance to win it in normal time when Tottenham Hotspur academy graduate Marcus Edwards went through on goal, but his effort was thwarted by Aaron Ramsdale. So, we went on to extra time.

Arsenal were dominant in this period, but the heroics of goalkeeper Antonio Adán kept Sporting alive. He made a couple of huge saves in the period to take the game to penalties, where his side won the toss and went first.

The Sporting players kept their nerve in front of a hostile crowd and converted all of their attempts even though the keeper guessed right on most occasions, so the pressure kept building on Arsenal.

Gabriel Martinelli was the one who cracked on his side’s fourth attempt, allowing Sporting to advance to the Europa League quarter-finals.

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 England: Brighton & Hove Albion 1-0 Crystal Palace

We had a couple of Premier League matches sneak into our midweek schedule, and one of them proved to be a momentous occasion.

Brighton & Hove Albion hosted Crystal Palace on the Ides of March, when they sought to improve their chances of securing European qualification at the end of the season with a win. A goal from Solly March in the 15th minute helped them do just that.

For Palace, this was yet another narrow defeat that extended their winless run to 12 matches in all competitions — they haven’t won since the turn of the year.

They haven’t even scored in their last four fixtures, and have now been sucked within three points of the relegation zone even though they are up in 12th place.

Patrick Vieira earned many plaudits for the job he did in guiding the Eagles to a 12th-place finish last season, but their terrible form in 2023 and proximity to the relegation zone led to his sacking.

Palace will now search for someone else to steer them to safety in what appears to be an eight-team relegation battle in the Premier League.

🏆 UEFA Europa Conference League: Villarreal 0-1 Anderlecht (1-2 on aggregate)

The Europa Conference League last-16 was just as exciting as anyone would have hoped for, as several lesser-spotted European teams made their way to the quarter-finals. Among them was one outstanding upset.

Villarreal and Anderlecht’s fortunes have been quite contrasting in recent years. While the Yellow Submarine lifted their first major trophy in 2021 by winning the Europa League, the Belgian giants last won a title of similar stature almost six years ago.

They were somewhat on the up at the time of Villarreal’s European success as Vincent Kompany seemed to be steering them back on the path to success.

However, it has all unravelled following his departure in the summer of 2022. His successor Felice Mazzù did not seem the right fit for the club at all and only lasted until October before getting sacked. At the time, Anderlecht were in the bottom half of the table and only five points above the relegation zone.

After a month-long interim spell from Robin Veldman, Anderlecht had time to recuperate in the winter break. They made a couple of smart transfers and hired Brian Riemer to take over as head coach.

The 44-year-old Dane has done a decent job in bringing them back to the top half of the table and also managing a European knockout run.

After edging past Ludogorets Razgrad on penalties, Anderlecht drew Villarreal in the round of 16. A 1-1 draw at home was a good result under the circumstances, so it was all to play for at La Cerámica.

(Image credit: FotMob)

Villarreal created loads of chances worth close to 3 xG altogether, but it was the visitors who came away with a 1-0 win thanks to a strike from deadline day signing Islam Slimani.

Looking at the rest of the teams left in the competition, Anderlecht could be in with a decent shot at a European trophy in what has been an absolute car crash of a season for them otherwise.

🏆 CONCACAF Champions League: Atlas 4-0 CD Olimpia (5-4 on aggregate)

We perhaps saw the biggest shock in CONCACAF Champions League history this week as Austin FC were eliminated at the hands of Violette AC, who just about held on to their three-goal lead from the first leg.

Elsewhere, Motagua knocking Pachuca out and Tigres getting the better of Orlando were some big results too.

The biggest second leg turnaround came in Guadalajara. Atlas hosted Honduran side CD Olimpia, who only had to protect a three-goal lead from the first leg.

They would have felt a little threatened at half-time by when Julián Quiñones had brought his side’s deficit down to two, but still would have hoped to see the game out.

Jonathan Herrera’s goal just after the hour-mark made things really interesting, especially since a third for Atlas would see them through thanks to the away goals rule. Aldo Rocha came up with just that in the 77th minute, but Quiñones scored again late on for good measure.

With that, the Estadio Jalisco celebrated their side advancing to the quarter-finals in their first-ever CONCACAF Champions League campaign.

👀 What To Watch Next:

This is the last weekend before the upcoming men’s international break. Here are a few big games to keep an eye on.

🇲🇽 Mexico: Chivas vs Club América (Sunday, 03:10 UTC)
El Súper Clásico is the headline act in Mexico this weekend, taking place on Saturday night. Just a point separates Chivas and América in fourth and fifth spot, but the goal in Liga MX is to qualify for the play-offs.

🇳🇱 Netherlands: Ajax vs Feyenoord (Sunday, 13:30 UTC)
The Eredivisie title race could take a pivotal turn before the international break. The top two are facing off in De Klassieker on Sunday, when Feyenoord will look to at least preserve their three-point lead over Ajax.

🇩🇰 Denmark: Silkeborg vs FC Midtjylland (Sunday, 14:00 UTC)
The regular league season is drawing to a close in the Danish Superliga this weekend. Both Silkeborg and last season’s runners-up FC Midtjylland find themselves in the wrong half of the table at the moment, so only one can make the championship play-offs.

🇮🇹 Italy: Inter vs Juventus (Sunday, 19:45 UTC)
There is not much riding on the Derby d’Italia in terms of the title race as there usually is because Napoli are running away with it, but this could still be an important fixture for both sides’ seasons. Inter are currently second but only have a three-point lead over fifth-placed Roma, while Juventus are four points off sixth place.

🇪🇸 Spain: Barcelona vs Real Madrid (Sunday, 20:00 UTC)
This one needs no introduction. Unless Real Madrid reduce their nine-point deficit at the top of the table, the title race may well be done.

Stats courtesy Opta via FotMob.

More in Arsenal