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Africa Cup of Nations

This Week In Football: Tight UWCL ties, new international managers & more

This week has been a little calmer than most others in the world of football thanks to the men’s international break, but there was no shortage of action to pick from for our weekly column.

Here are five of the week’s biggest results:

🏆 UEFA Women’s Champions League: Paris Saint-Germain 0-1 Wolfsburg

All four UWCL quarter-final ties are far from decided after the first legs this week. We got to see four goals altogether — one in each match — so there are no substantial leads to report.

There was a fair bit of drama at the Parc de Princes between PSG and Wolfsburg, especially in the second half. After a goalless first half where both sides left a lot to be desired in the final third, the game sprung to life on the other side of the break.

PSG were awarded a penalty when Sakina Karchaoui went down in the box. There was no question about the fact that there was contact but after a VAR review, the referee deemed that her knee went into the defender’s rather than vice-versa, so the decision was overturned.

A few minutes later, VAR got involved at the other end. Élisa De Almeida was adjudged to have handled the ball inside her own penalty area, so Wolfsurg were awarded a spot-kick and she saw a second yellow card.

Dominique Janssen slotted it home to give her side the lead, which they comfortably held on to thanks to their numerical advantage.

🌍 2024 Euro Qualifiers: Portugal 4-0 Liechtenstein

Roberto Martínez’s first match in charge of Portugal’s men’s national team was not exactly a trial by fire. They were visited by Liechtenstein, who were just about holding on to a spot in the top 200 of the FIFA rankings.

A strike from João Cancelo after a corner which pinballed off a couple of defenders en route to the net gave Portugal an early lead, but they struggled to break down Liechtenstein’s compact 5-3-2 low block for the rest of the first half. They only took a one-goal lead into the break.

They got off to a much better start in the second half. Bernardo Silva made it 2-0, soon after which Cristiano Ronaldo struck from the penalty spot.

The Al Nassr striker celebrated the day when he broke the men’s record for the most senior international caps by scoring a second in the 63rd minute, sealing the result.

🌍 2023 AFCON Qualifiers: Ghana 1-0 Angola

There was a major managerial debut in Africa just a few hours before Portugal’s match, as Chris Houghton took charge of his first match for Ghana.

The Black Stars were level on points with opponents Angola in Group E, so their target would have been to open up a gap. They had a tough time of it, though, struggling to fashion clear-cut chances throughout the match.

Athletic Club striker Iñaki Williams was starting up front, but he looked rather disconnected from the rest of the side and was eventually brought off in place of Antoine Semenyo.

The 23-year-old Bournemouth player instantly looked more threatening, but he still needed his teammates to supply something.

The goal never looked like coming from open play, so Ghana’s last hope was a late corner they won in stoppage-time.

After a bit of a scramble on the goal line, it broke loose for none other than Semenyo, who swept it home to get Houghton’s tenure off to a positive start.

🇦🇷 Argentina: Vélez Sarsfield 4-0 Central Córdoba

Over in Argentina, Ricardo Gareca started his second tenure as the head coach of Vélez Sarsfield. He had last been in Buenos Aires from 2009 to 2013, after which he stopped by Palmeiras and had a long stint with the Peruvian national team.

Vélez had picked up just nine points from seven matches, which is why they changed coaches. They naturally hoped to have a change in fortunes along with that, and early indications are looking good.

El Fortín put four past Central Córdoba to start the second edition of the Garica era. Lucas Pratto got the only goal of the first half, after which Abiel Osorio doubled his side’s lead early on in the second period.

Gianluca Prestianni, 17, was the last of the scorers, but before that came one of the most unique goals you will ever see.

Gareca’s side shouldn’t bank on too many more knee-shots that spin the right side of the post to get their goals.

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 England: Barnsley 4-2 Sheffield Wednesday

England’s top two divisions are not in action during the international break, but the rest of the vast pyramid is.

In the third tier this week, we were treated to a big South Yorkshire derby between promotion chasers Barnsley and leaders Sheffield Wednesday.

The visitors could boast of the longest ongoing unbeaten streak in England’s nationwide leagues, but that came under serious threat early on.

Goals from Devante Cole and James Norwood put Barnsley in a commanding position 12 minutes in, as Wednesday already began to worry about tasting defeat in League One for the first time since October.

Lee Gregory pulled one back before half-time to bring his side back within striking distance, and he went on to equalise in the 77th minute. Barnsley were not to be outdone, as substituteMax Watters put them back in front in the 83rd minute. Late on, Liam Kitching capped off a memorable night at Oakwell with his side’s fourth goal.

That makes things quite exciting in the battle for the direct promotion spots, as the gap between Barnsley and Wednesday has now come down to six points.

(Image credit: FotMob)

👀 What To Watch Next:

With next to no top-flight action in the realm of men’s club football, the schedulers for the women’s game have put together a special weekend.

🇩🇪 Germany: Bayern Munich vs Wolfsburg (Saturday, 16:55 UTC)
The title race in both Frauen-Bundesliga is set to go right down to the wire. This weekend, leaders Wolfsburg will visit Bavaria in arguably the most important fixture of the season.

🇪🇸 Spain: Barcelona vs Real Madrid (Saturday, 17:00 UTC)
Less than one week after the last Clásico (between the men’s teams), we have another one. Here too, anything but a win for Real Madrid will leave the title race as good as done since they have a 10-point deficit to their rivals.

🇺🇸 USA: North Carolina Courage vs Kansas City Current (Saturday, 18:00 UTC)
The new NWSL season is upon us. The opening match sees last season’s defeated finalists Kansas City Current visit North Carolina on Saturday.

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 England: Manchester City vs Chelsea (Sunday, 12:40 UTC)
A pivotal fixture in the WSL title race will take place on Sunday when third-placed Manchester City host Chelsea. Emma Hayes’ side will be looking to preserve their two-point lead at the very least, but even a defeat would not necessarily knock them off their perch for good because they have a game in hand as well.

Stats courtesy FotMob and Transfermarkt.

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