Between some exciting knockout matches and men’s internationals, this was yet another busy week of football. As ever, we have picked out five of the best matches and results for our weekly column.
🏆 UEFA Women’s Champions League: Chelsea 1-2 Lyon (2-2 on aggregate; 4-3 on penalties)
It was all to play for in each of the Women’s Champions League quarter-finals’ second legs, as all the teams were separated by just one goal.
In the last tie between Chelsea and Lyon, Emma Hayes’ side had the aggregate lead but were far from comfortable. Injuries had left their squad rather depleted for this tie, while the tough loss to Manchester City on Sunday would not have helped either.
Unsurprisingly, they found themselves a bit under the cosh from the get-go. They had to defend in and around their penalty area for a fair bit, but Lyon could not fancy too many clear-cut chances either.
They eventually scored the all-important goal in the 77th minute through Vanessa Gilles, taking the game to extra time.
The visitors had all the momentum, so they were the ones who looked far likelier to grab a winner. They must have thought that they did so when Sara Däbritz scored in the 110th minute, but there was a lot of late drama to come.
In stoppage time of extra time, Chelsea appealed for a penalty as Lauren James went down in the box. The referee gave nothing initially, but after being advised to take a second look by VAR, she pointed to the spot.
After some delays, Maren Mjelde stepped up to take a crunch spot-kick in the 128th minute, but she seemed to feel no pressure whatsoever as she dispatched it into the top corner.
She went on to score the first effort of the penalty shoot-out too, but after that, goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger stole the spotlight from her. She made two fantastic saves — including the one that won the game against Lyon’s last effort.
That capped off a great week for English football as two sides from the country advanced to the UWCL semi-finals for the first time. They are also on opposite sides of the draw, so an all-English final could be on the cards.
🌍 2024 Euro Qualifiers: Scotland 2-0 Spain
Hampden Park was treated to a historic night on Tuesday when Scotland recorded their first victory over Spain in nearly four decades.
Luis de la Fuente was taking charge of his first match for the senior men’s national team away from home. He made eight changes from the side that beat Norway 3-0 in Málaga — a decision viewed as arrogant by many.
Scotland seemed to be buoyed by it, hoping to go out and show Spain that a rotated XI would not be able to get a result in their backyard.
Just seven minutes in, an unfortunately-timed slip for Pedro Porro allowed Andy Robertson to play a ball across the box, which reached Scott McTominay. The Manchester United midfielder directed it goalwards, needing a deflection to beat Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Spain dominated the possession stats, but their overall performance was one that their fans will have become all too familiar with. They simply could not create any meaningful chances in the final third, managing just five attempts from inside the box.
McTominay got on the scoresheet again early in the second half, enabling Scotland to have a much smoother ride in the second half. So, Hampden Park celebrated a famous win as Scotland’s Euro 2024 qualification campaign got off to the perfect start.
🌍 2023 AFCON Qualifiers: Namibia 2-1 Cameroon
Over in Africa, we saw a similar story earlier in the day, minus the bouncing home crowd.
Namibia were playing their designated home match of this window in South Africa since none of the stadiums in their homeland meet CAF standards. Soweto has become their home away from home for the last couple of years now.
Their opponents, Cameroon, are the overwhelming favourites to qualify from Group C. They still seem well on course to do so, but have encountered a couple of hiccups in this window that should put the position of Rigobert Song under scrutiny.
After only managing a draw at home against the side 80 places below them in the FIFA rankings, Cameroon went one worse at the Dobsonville Stadium. After putting in a very poor performance, the Indomitable Lions suffered a deserved defeat against Namibia.
Peter Shalulile and Absalom Limbondi were the goalscorers for Collin Benjamin’s side in the second half. Vincent Aboubakar pulled one back for the away side late on, but they seemed well defeated by then.
This great result propels Namibia to the top spot in the three-team Group C. With Kenya disqualified as a result of their previous suspension from FIFA due to government interference, the Brave Warriors only have to finish ahead of Burundi to book their tickets to the Ivory Coast.
🏆 CONCACAF Nations League: US Virgin Islands 1-2 Sint Maarten
The 2022/23 CONCACAF Nations League group stage drew to a close in this international break. There was not a lot of late drama in Leagues A and B, but the ever-entertaining League C came through with the goods again.
Going into this international window, Bonaire seemed primed to win Group 2 and consequently promotion to League B as well as a spot in the Gold Cup preliminary stage.
However, a heavy 1-6 defeat to Sint Maarten jeopardised that, although their fate remained in their hands as a win on the final matchday would be enough.
They ended up suffering a shock defeat to the Turks and Caicos Islands, giving Sint Maarten a golden chance to steal the top spot.
They took the lead through Gerwin Lake in the 58th minute of their match against the US Virgin Islands but were pegged back by Karson Kendall in the 76th minute. A winner was needed, and it eventually came in the 86th minute through Jeroen Cox.
That goal must have sent the island into party mode, which they will hope to preserve when they got a real shot at qualifying for their first-ever CONCACAF Gold Cup.
🇧🇷 Brazil: Sport Recife 1-0 ABC
The regional championships of Brazil always provide a good deal of entertainment in the first half of the year, and 2023 has been no exception.
Most of these tournaments are approaching their end now, which means it is time for knockout football. In the Copa do Nordeste, the semi-finals were played this week. First, Ceará got the better of defending champions Fortaleza. Then, it was time for Serie B sides Sport Recife and ABC to vie for the other spot in the final.
Their match kicked off on Wednesday night. Just two minutes in, 38-year-old striker Vágner Love gave the home side the lead. Not too long thereafter, the rain forced the match to be suspended.
The game resumed about 24 hours later, but there were no goals to speak of on Thursday. So, Sport advanced to the Copa do Nordeste final for the second year in a row. They will hope for a different result this time out.
👀 What To Watch Next:
Men’s club football returns this weekend, and with some cracking fixtures too.
🇩🇪 Germany: Bayern Munich vs Borussia Dortmund (Saturday, 17:30 UTC)
This could be the most important Klassiker since the 2013 Champions League final, as Bayern’s decade-long Bundesliga dominance is under real threat. Thomas Tuchel could not ask for a bigger occasion to make his debut as the new Bayern boss.
🇪🇸 Spain: Cádiz vs Sevilla (Saturday, 17:30 UTC)
At the same time, we will also see a managerial debut in Spain. José Luis Mendilibar’s Sevilla debut will come in a crucial match too, as their visit to Andalusian rivals Cádiz will double as a relegation six-pointer.
🏆 CAF Champions League: Al Ahly vs Al Hilal Omdurman (Saturday, 20:00 UTC)
Seven of the eight knockout spots have already been decided ahead of the final matchday of the CAF Champions League, so one showdown remains. Egyptian giants Al Ahly are currently third in Group B, so they must beat Al Hilal of Omdurman to advance to the quarter-finals.
🏴 England: Arsenal vs Manchester City (Sunday, 12:30 UTC)
Manchester City made the WSL title race very interesting after beating Chelsea last weekend, and they have yet another big fixture in store for them. Arsenal are three points behind them currently but do have a game in hand too, so it is all very tight at the top.
Stats courtesy FotMob.
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