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European soccer news: Man City, Haaland unstoppable; Bellingham rescues Madrid again

European soccer news: Man City, Haaland unstoppable; Bellingham rescues Madrid again

  • ESPN

Sep 2, 2023, 05:41 PM ET

European club football is back, providing another weekend of more last-minute winners, upsets and lots of goals. The Premier League, LaLiga, the Bundesliga and Serie A all had matchups worth diving into.

We start with Friday, when Borussia Dortmund squandered a 2-0 lead, while Romelu Lukaku‘s Roma debut was spoiled in a 2-1 loss to AC Milan. On Saturday, Jude Bellingham stole the show once again for Real Madrid, and in England, a new-look Manchester City cruised past Fulham.

Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, more (U.S.)

So let’s get into it. With a full menu of games, here are your talking points, great goals and all the news from a wonderful weekend in the big European leagues.


The Saturday lead: Man City’s new look, same results

With four summer signings in the squad — Mateo Kovacic and Jérémy Doku starting and Josko Gvardiol and Matheus Nunes on the bench — this is a new-look Manchester City, but some things remain the same. For the 15th time in a row, City beat Fulham and with it earned a club-record 18th consecutive victory at the Etihad Stadium. To continue the theme of inevitability, Erling Haaland scored another Etihad hat trick in a comfortable 5-1 win to reach six goals for the season.

It’s now four wins from four for City in the Premier League, their best start since Pep Guardiola’s first season in charge in 2016-17. They didn’t even need Guardiola for this one, with the 52-year-old still recuperating from back surgery at home in Barcelona. He will be back after the international break.

It should be a worry for the rest of the league that City were without Kevin De Bruyne and Jack Grealish against Fulham but were still able to overpower Marco Silva’s side. Fulham got a creditable draw at Arsenal last week, but even when they equalised here to make it 1-1, you always felt City would just kick it up a gear. And they did.

Phil Foden‘s touch and movement were too good, while Julián Álvarez contributed a goal and an assist before winning the penalty from which Haaland scored his second. The question ahead of the new season was whether anyone is capable of stopping City and it’s still not been answered. Haaland keeps scoring and the winning machine rolls on. — Rob Dawson

Saturday talking points around the leagues

Dortmund blow it again

It’s hard to be a Dortmund fan these days. Having come within 90 minutes of beating Bayern Munich to the Bundesliga title last season, they look about 90 million miles behind trophy pace already this season, and we’ve not yet entered our first international break of 2023-24.

Having raced to a 2-0 lead inside 15 minutes against lowly HeidenheimEmre Can teed up Julian Brandt for the opener before converting a penalty — Dortmund created a raft of chances but conceded a brilliant goal with half an hour left, prompting an existential crisis. Their effervescent play gave way to panic and fear of throwing points away; instead of playing on the front foot, they sat deep and tried to protect what they had. And, sure enough, flimsy and clumsy defending led to Dortmund’s demise as an 82nd-minute penalty saw Heidenheim snatch a 2-2 draw.

This is a major issue; we knew they would struggle once Bellingham left, but that was also an open secret. Despite having ample time to plan, they ushered in the bare minimum reinforcements and are playing a similar style. There’s also a sense that last season’s dramatic collapse is still lingering in the minds of the Black and Yellow; here’s hoping manager Edin Terzic can use the break to work things out both on the pitch and in the locker room. — James Tyler

Bellingham scores, but Kroos changes the game for Madrid

Real Madrid’s 2-1 comeback win over Getafe was the first game played under the Santiago Bernabeu’s new roof. The structure got a useful stress test when it was rocked by the ecstatic reaction to Jude Bellingham’s 95th-minute winner. Bellingham stole the spotlight for the fourth matchday in a row. It’s now five goals in four games, helping Madrid take maximum points in LaLiga. The Bernabeu rebuild has taken four years and €900 million — it’s due to be finished in December — and on the evidence so far, Bellingham will be the stadium’s main attraction.

🏟✨ Santiago Bernabéu 🎥 pic.twitter.com/9iNYr0W9dW

— Real Madrid C.F. 🇬🇧🇺🇸 (@realmadriden) September 2, 2023

Madrid dug deep after Borja Mayoral put Getafe ahead in the 11th minute. They came up against an inspired David Soria — the Getafe keeper made 10 saves facing 26 Madrid shots, 12 of them on target — and raised their game after an uninspiring opening 45 minutes. The second half saw them score early through Joselu and hit the woodwork three times. Bellingham’s goal, an easy finish after Soria spilled Lucas Vázquez‘s shot, secured the win.

This was a reminder that while Madrid’s midfield evolves around Bellingham, Aurélien Tchouaméni and Eduardo Camavinga, there’s still room for the old guard. Toni Kroos and Luka Modric have had to be patient this season, starting one game each. Kroos came on at halftime here and changed the game with an injection of quality, driven by the desire to show coach Carlo Ancelotti he still has a part to play. Bellingham was the match winner, but Kroos built the platform for that added-time drama. — Alex Kirkland

Defending champs Napoli down one already

Lazio are starting to be a bit of a bogey team for Napoli! For the first time since 1937, it’s back-to-back league wins now for the Romans in Naples. After Matías Vecino’s goal last March for a famous 1-0 victory at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona, they did it again on Saturday and the heroes this time are Luis Alberto and Daichi Kamada for a 2-1 away win. Under manager Maurizio Sarri, everything worked great: his compact 4-5-1 out of possession caused Napoli a lot of problems, and with the ball, the counterattacks from the Laziale were lethal and brought the two goals.

It was a disappointing performance from Rudi Garcia’s Napoli side, who took a long time to bring on Giovanni Simeone in support of Victor Osimhen. Juan Jesus was poor in defense, while the stars of the last season’s title-winning campaign, Osimhen and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, couldn’t rescue their team. Inevitably, comparisons with last season will be made, when the Italian champions were undefeated until early January under former coach Luciano Spalletti. Meanwhile, Garcia’s unbeaten run lasted only two matches (against Frosinone and Sassuolo) and as soon as the level of the opposition improved, he had no answers. — Julien Laurens

Bayern rally for a rare win at Gladbach

Bayern Munich under manager Thomas Tuchel remain a work in progress, but Saturday saw them grab a most unlikely 2-1, come-from-behind win at Borussia Monchengladbach for the first time in six attempts to remain perfect in the Bundesliga so far this season.

Gladbach have consistently been the only team to upset the Bavarians, with 10 victories and five draws in 24 meetings over the past decade, and they seized the lead after half an hour when Ko Itakura headed Max Wober’s flick-on beyond Sven Ulreich to send the home crowd into hysterics. Yet to their credit, Tuchel’s side refused to let history repeat.

Leroy Sané and Alphonso Davies forced saves from Moritz Nicolas before half-time, and Leon Goretzka and Thomas Müller both came close in the second half before Sane finally tallied on the hour mark, timing his run precisely to meet Joshua Kimmich‘s through-ball and convert. There was only one winner at 1-1 and after a pair of glaring Gnabry misses, substitute Mathys Tel headed home Kimmich’s corner just six minutes after coming on to give the Bavarians all three points.

It might not seem like much in the grand scheme of things — we’re only three games into a 34-game campaign — but Bayern worked hard to shrug off history and a 1-0 deficit to remain joint-top of the table. It’s a resiliency that their rivals have so far failed to show, and if they end up winning a remarkable 12th straight league title, road wins like this will be the difference. — James Tyler

News of the day

  • Ahead of Inter Miami’s MLS match against LAFC, Lionel Messi and co had to change their hotel where workers recently went on strike. Miami were scheduled to check into the Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows on Friday, but after union Unite Here Local 11 asked them to stay away, the team heeded their call. Employees from the establishment recently joined thousands of hotel workers across the region to go on strike and demand higher pay to meet rising housing costs. “Thank you to the great Lionel Messi and his teammates for agreeing to move from the hotel and stand in solidarity with striking workers!” the union said in a statement.

  • After a busy transfer window, Premier League clubs spent a record £2.36 billion ($2.97bn) on new players, according to analysis from Deloitte. Compare that to last year, when English topflight teams spent £1.92bn (a record at the time). “A second successive summer of record spending by Premier League clubs suggests that year-on-year revenue growth could return following the pandemic,” Tim Bridge, lead partner in Deloitte’s Sports Business Group, said in a statement. Out of all the spending across Europe’s top five leagues, the Premier League was responsible for 48% of that expenditure.

  • A U.S. judge has thrown out convictions of a former Fox executive and an Argentine sports marketing company for trying to bribe soccer officials in exchange for broadcasting contracts. The convictions of Hernan Lopez and Full Play Group were dropped because the federal law governing honest services wire fraud did not cover foreign commercial bribery. Prosecutors said Lopez, the former chief executive of Fox International Channels, schemed to bribe officials at South American soccer federation CONMEBOL to win rights for that continent’s most popular club tournament, Copa Libertadores. Meanwhile, Full Play was accused of scheming to bribe officials at CONMEBOL and the North American federation, Concacaf, to win media and marketing rights to Copa Libertadores and World Cup qualifying matches.

And finally …

The last time three hat tricks were scored on the same day in the Premier League was Sept. 23, 1995, when Robbie Fowler (Liverpool), Alan Shearer (Blackburn) and Anthony Yeboah (Leeds United) all had one. Viewers were treated to a trio of hat tricks from Saturday’s action.

— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) September 2, 2023

Son Heung-Min, the new captain for Tottenham Hotspur, bagged his three goals (and fourth career Premier League hat trick) against Burnley in their 5-2 win, giving fans more to be excited about under new manager Ange Postecoglou.

Meanwhile, Haaland, unsurprisingly, scored his fifth topflight hat trick against Fulham, becoming the fastest player (39 appearances) to reach 50 goal involvements in the Premier League.

And finally, at 18 years and 318 days old, Brighton’s Evan Ferguson became the fourth-youngest player to score a hat trick in the league.

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