It has been a dramatic week of football, to say the least. Besides a Finalissima, some major cupsets and huge rivals facing each other deep into cup knockouts, we also had some unsavoury scenes in some places.
🏆 Finalissima: England 1-1 Brazil (4-2 on Brazil)
The first-ever women’s Finalissima pitted European champions England against Copa América holders Brazil in what was set to be both teams’ last competitive fixture ahead of the World Cup.
The hosts got off to a great start in front of a packed Wembley Stadium, and Ella Toone eventually opened the scoring in the 23rd minute at the end of a very well-worked move.
They were very much in the ascendency throughout the first half, prompting Brazil to make a tactical change at half-time and switch to a back-four.
This did not have much of an effect initially, but as time ticked on, the Seleção started to look more and more threatening. They could not create too many meaningful chances, but in stoppage time, Mary Earps made a meal of a seemingly harmless cross and allowed Andressa Alves to stab home an equaliser.
With no extra time in this game, the trophy was to be decided via a penalty shoot-out. Both goalkeepers saved the second attempt they faced, but Brazil also missed their third. So, Chloe Kelly — whose goal won the Euros in Wembley — scored the decisive kick here to add another trophy to England’s cabinet.
🇩🇪 Germany: Bayern Munich 1-2 SC Freiburg
Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich faced last year’s defeated finalists SC Freiburg in the DFB Pokal, hoping to advance to the semi-final for the first time in four years. The last time they were absent from the final four of the German Cup for so long was in the 1990s.
This was also Thomas Tuchel’s second match in charge of the club, having guided them to a crucial Klassiker victory last weekend. He just made one change to his line-up, bringing in Manchester City loanee João Cancelo at left-back in place of Alphonso Davies.
Freiburg opted to defend in a compact 4-4-2 formation, doing pretty well in open play. However, a set-piece proved to be their undoing as Dayot Upamecano headed Bayern in front in the 20th minute.
The visitors were not deflated by this, and in fact, they equalised within seven minutes thanks to a stunning strike from Nicolas Höfler.
Christian Streich’s side’s defensive solidity helped them get through the second half without conceding, though they didn’t pose too much of an attacking threat.
But, in stoppage time, a handball in his own box by Jamal Musiala gave Freiburg a penalty and a golden chance to beat Bayern for the first time in 24 meetings.
Lucas Höler stepped up to take this crucial spot-kick. Yann Sommer went the wrong way, but he likely wouldn’t have saved it even if he had guessed right because Höler thrashed it into the roof of the net, sending the 8,000 away supporters into raptures.
🇳🇱 Netherlands: Feyenoord 1-2 Ajax
The Eredivisie title race is no longer as close as it was about a month ago, as recent results have seen Feyenoord take an eight-point lead at the top of the table. Ajax’s streak of league titles looks set to end, but they were not ready to give up the trophy so easily.
They faced their traditional rivals in the cup semi-final, hoping to record their first win against them in over a year. The setting was De Kuip, which had a predictably low-key atmosphere.
Soon after the match resumed, Dušan Tadić opened the scoring after a mix-up at the back for Feyenoord. It looked like the visitors would take their lead into the half-time break, but Santiago Giménez had other ideas as he scored for a fifth-consecutive match for his club to bring them back level.
Just a few minutes into the second half, Davy Klaassen restored Ajax’s lead. About 15 minutes later, the ex-Werder Bremen midfielder would be struck in the head by an object thrown from the Feyenoord stands, which led to the players walking off and the match being suspended for the second time.
After a member of the Feyenoord coaching staff came out and spoke to the fans, the match finally resumed. There were no more goals to speak of, so Ajax advanced to the cup final after a crazy Klassieker.
🇪🇸 Spain: Barcelona 0-4 Real Madrid (1-4 on aggregate)
Similarly to Feyenoord and Ajax, Spanish rivals Barcelona and Real Madrid found themselves facing each other in a cup semi-final while one of them were running away with the league.
In this case, Barcelona also brought an aggregate lead to their home leg. This was the fourth time they were facing Real Madrid since the turn of the year, and having won the three previous encounters, they certainly would have backed themselves.
Their first-half performance was not the best, but they did come close to scoring a couple of times and largely kept Real Madrid at bay. In stoppage time, though, a rather scrappy goal after a counterattack gave them the lead on the night and brought them level on aggregate.
Then, it was time for the Karim Benzema show.
The French striker had scored a first-half hat-trick on the weekend, but he saved his goals for the second period here. First, he capitalised from the edge of the box after being afforded acres of space outside it.
Soon after, he converted a penalty to cushion his team’s lead. And finally, in the 80th minute, he completed his hat-trick after a lovely assist from Vinícius Júnior to seal the result.
🇮🇹 Italy: Juventus 1-1 Inter
The semi-finals of the Coppa Italia featured the Derby d’Italia, with both Juventus and Inter seeking to rescue their otherwise disappointing seasons with some silverware.
For the most part, this was a relatively peaceful match by the standards of a big derby in a knockout tie, but things turned sour at the end.
Juan Cuadrado’s goal in the 83rd minute seemed to be enough for Juventus to win this leg, but Inter won a penalty in stoppage time. Romelu Lukaku stepped up to take it, and he scored.
Sadly, the Juventus fans in the stands around the goal shouted racist abuse at the Belgian international before and after the spot-kick. Having converted it, he responded by standing in front of them, putting one hand across his forehead and a finger on his lips.
Somehow, this was deemed as ‘excessive celebration’ by the referee, who showed Lukaku a second yellow card and sent him down the tunnel. With full-time just a few seconds away, tensions flared after the final whistle between the players and led to both sides seeing a red card each.
The following day, Serie A released a statement promising to identify the fans responsible for the racist chants and hand them lifelong bans, but Lukaku’s one-match ban after the red card was not overturned.
👀 What To Watch Next:
Another weekend is around the corner, so here are the big games to look out for:
🇵🇹 Portugal: Benfica vs Porto (Friday, 17:00 UTC)
The Primeira Liga title race may well be done and dusted on Friday night. Benfica have a 10-point lead over their big rivals Porto with just eight rounds of fixtures left till the end of the season, so if they manage to at least preserve it in O Clássico, they will effectively have a hand on the trophy.
🏴 Scotland: Celtic vs Rangers (Saturday, 11:30 UTC)
The title race in Scotland is not particularly close, and it could be done for good this weekend. Rangers must beat Celtic to cut down their nine-point lead at the top if they are to harbour any hopes of putting up a fight in the second stage of the season.
🇫🇷 France: Nice vs Paris Saint-Germain (Saturday, 19:00 UTC)
PSG do still have a six-point lead at the top of Ligue 1, but the pressure is really on Christophe Galtier now. The Parisians followed their Champions League elimination by losing back-to-back Ligue 1 matches for the first time in two years, so they need a good performance and result against Nice.
🇬🇷 Greece: Panathinaikos vs Olympiacos (Sunday, 18:00 UTC)
We certainly have a close title race in Greece, where the top two are level on points with defending champions Olympiacos just three points behind them in the Championship play-off group. They parted ways with manager Michel earlier this week, right ahead of a huge derby against Panathinaikos.
🇧🇷 Brazil: Palmeiras vs Agua Santa (1-2 from first leg) (Sunday, 19:00 UTC)
Many of the regional championships in Brazil are coming to an end this weekend. One of the fixtures to watch out for is the Paulista final, where recently-promoted minnows Agua Santa will try to defend an aggregate lead against Serie A holders Palmeiras.
Stats courtesy Transfermarkt and FotMob.
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