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This Week In Football: Napoli finally seal the Scudetto, Wolfsburg break hearts at a packed Emirates Stadium & more

Champions have been crowned and records have been broken in the world of football this week, so we have a lot of big stories to discuss in this week’s column.

🇮🇹 Italy: Udinese 1-1 Napoli

The biggest story of the week undoubtedly came from Italy, where Napoli finally ended a 33-year wait and won the Scudetto again!

After missing the chance to get the job done at home against Salernitana on the weekend, they travelled to Udine knowing that a point would be enough to kick off celebrations over 500 kilometres away back in Naples.

They did not get off to the best of starts, though, conceding a superb 13th-minute strike by Sandi Lovrić. Luciano Spalletti’s side did not really create a lot thereafter, but they did eventually equalise through the league’s top scorer, Victor Osimhen.

That was all they needed to get the job done in terms of sealing the title, so they could comfortably hold on for the draw.

Unsurprisingly, it all kicked off after the referee blew the final whistle. The visiting fans predictably invaded the pitch at the Dacia Arena, while Naples started a party that would last the night.

This party will probably last at least a month till the end of the season, and given the trials and tribulations Napoli have faced since the last Scudetto, no one can begrudge them this.

🏆 UEFA Women’s Champions League: Arsenal 2-3 Wolfsburg (3-4 on aggregate)

Monday was a historic day at the Emirates Stadium, as a capacity crowd of over 60,000 set a record-breaking attendance figure for a women’s club football match in England. They were treated to an absolutely cracking game of football.

The injury-hit Arsenal side were unsurprisingly unfancied against the German champions going into the tie, but their first-leg performance might have changed a lot of people’s minds.

They did go two goals down within 25 minutes at the Volkswagen Arena but then fought back to come back to England level on aggregate.

Hopes would have gone sky high when Stina Blackstenius opened the scoring just 11 minutes in, placing Arsenal in the lead of the tie for the first time.

They could not hold on until half-time as Wolfsburg equaliser just a few minutes before the break. Their formidable forward Alexandra Popp turned the tie around, assisting their first goal and going on to score their second just before the hour.

Arsenal somehow still had some fight left in them, as their efforts of throwing the kitchen sink at finding an equaliser proved successful in the 75th minute when Jennifer Beattie scored a thumping header to make it 2-2. That took the game to extra time, and that is where Arsenal’s injury issues and consequent lack of squad depth proved problematic.

While Wolfsburg were able to make a couple of changes to their side and send fresh legs on to attack in the extra half an hour, Arsenal were very much holding on for dear life.

They almost managed to take the game to penalties, but their hard work was undone in the 119th minute when substitute Jule Brand stole the ball from a defender and set up Pauline Bremer’s winner.

Arsenal’s special day ended in heartbreak, but they will look back on this match and this Champions League run very fondly.

Wolfsburg must continue balancing their Bundesliga title charge with preparations for the final against Barcelona.

🏆 CONCACAF Champions League: Los Angeles FC 3-0 Philadelphia Union (4-1 on aggregate)

The all-American semi-final of the CONCACAF Champions League was all level going into the second leg in Los Angeles. Philadelphia Union knew that they would have to score to reach their first final due to the away goals rule, but that was never going to be easy at the home of the MLS champions.

Things did not get off to the best of starts for the visitors as Timothy Tillman opened the scoring in the 13th minute, but that did not change the equation for them; they still had to score to stay in the tie.

With that in mind, the real decisive moment came just before the hour-mark, when Olivier Mbaizo saw a second yellow card for the Union.

After that, LAFC found more comfortable. They were through to the final as things stood anyway, but they scored twice more to make the scoreline a little healthier as Kwadwo Opoku and Denis Bouanga put the ball in the back of the net in the last few minutes.

With that, the hosts qualified for what will be just their second CONCACAF Champions League final. They lost the last one to Tigres in 2020, so the good news is they won’t be facing them again as Club León staged a turnaround in the second leg.

🏆 Copa Libertadores: Fluminense 5-1 River Plate

Fluminense have been attracting a lot of attention from all over the world for the fantastic fluid football they have been playing under Fernando Diniz, and they have now started to set some records too.

Their midweek Copa Libertadores match against River Plate will undoubtedly live long in the memory, as they put five past the Argentine league leaders.

It should be noted that they scored thrice late on after River went down to ten men, but they looked quite good throughout the match and certainly deserved a big win.

Flu’s prolific Argentine striker German Cano scored most of his side’s goals as he came away with a hat-trick, adding to the two goals he scored in the previous group stage matches. Jhon Ariaswas the other name on the scoresheet for the hosts as he netted a late brace.

Having suffered their heaviest-ever Copa Libertadores defeat, River Plate are in a bit of a tough spot at the midway point of the group stage. They are last in Group D, although Sporting Cristal and The Strongest are only above them on goal difference.

The knockout stage remains well within reach, but they will need to put in a much better performance at El Monumental in the reverse fixture.

🇭🇺 Hungary: Budafoki 0-2 Zalaegerszeg

We also had a lot of domestic cup action this week, with a few finals here and there. Among them was the final of the Magyar Kupa in Hungary, where second-tier side Budafoki were playing their first cup final against Zalaegerszeg, whose only major trophy was a league title in 2002.

Neither side was expected to be taking to the field at the Puskás Aréna at this time, but they made the most of a season where the likes of Ferencváros and Újpest FC were eliminated in the earlier rounds.

Of course, they still had some tough opponents to overcome (such as Puskás Akadémia in the semi-final for Zalaegerszeg), but on the whole, their path to the final was much easier than anyone might have anticipated.

After a goalless 90 minutes on the big day, Zalaegerszeg eventually opened the scoring in the 27th minute of extra time through Dániel Németh.

Their fans already started celebrating the victory then, and they had more to cheer for when Szabolcs Szalay added a bit of gloss to the scoreline in stoppage-time with a direct free-kick.

With that, Zalaegerszeg lifted the cup trophy for the first time in their 103-year history in a season when they look set to avoid relegation by just a few points.

👀 What To Watch Next:

More cup finals and big matches await us this weekend – here are a few big ones:

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 Scotland: Queen’s Park vs Dundee FC (Friday, 18:45 UTC)
The final day of the Scottish Championship featured a big showdown for the sole automatic promotion spot, as league-leaders Dundee FC visit Queen’s Park, who are within touching distance of the Premiership now after winning back-to-back promotions in the last couple of years.

🏆 AFC Champions League: Urawa Red Diamonds vs Al Hilal (Saturday, 9:00 UTC)
The second leg of the AFC Champions League should be the perfect way to kick off your Saturday. The tie hangs in the balance after a 1-1 draw in Riyadh, but Urawa Reds will feel they have the advantage thanks to the away goal as well as the red card suspension that will see Saudi star Salem Al-Dawsari sit this game out.

🇩🇪 Germany: SC Freiburg vs RB Leipzig (Saturday, 13:30 UTC)
Leipzig visited the Europa-Park Stadium and put five past Freiburg in their midweek DFB Pokal tie, and they’ll be there again this weekend for a pivotal match in the race for the top four in the Bundesliga.

🇪🇸 Spain: Real Madrid vs Osasuna (Saturday, 20:00 UTC)
The Copa del Rey final is the headline fixture in Spain this weekend, as Real Madrid will look to salvage a trophy from what has been a pretty disappointing season for them overall. Osasuna will be no pushovers, though, as they will seek to win their first-ever major trophy.

🇦🇷 Argentina: River Plate vs Boca Juniors (Sunday, 20:30 UTC)
River Plate have a golden opportunity to put their midweek Libertadores humiliation behind them, as they host their old rivals Boca Juniors in El Superclásico. The visitors are struggling in the league in 13th, but this could be a good time to start setting things right.

Stats courtesy FotMob and Transfermarkt.

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