Welcome to the new match report feature where we will take in one game from each division that has some importance attached to it. Over the matchdays, things will probably evolve for the better. We can only see what direction is taken but let’s have a look at the first games to be reported:
REAL MADRID ………. 0 ATLÉTICO MADRID …… 1
It was derby night in Madrid. The game that brings the city to life. The build up was tense with the usual banter between the two sets of fans. 85,439 squeezed into the Santiago Bernabéu, all expecting a thrilling end to end match. That was 15 short of capacity and someone’s head will roll for not selling the last 15 tickets. Viagogo was believed to have they 15 tickets on sale for €2,000 apiece.
Managers Andrew Kelly and Gav Harmer took their seats in the dugouts. They looked around and didn’t recognise their back room staff so quickly swapped dugouts.
The game kicked off and the first foul was conceded by Real after 12 seconds. Cervi took the long free kick aiming it for the far post. The ball was allowed to bounce by the Real defence but that turned out to be a huge blunder as the ball sneaked in at the post. 64 seconds on the clock and Atlético were 1-0 ahead. The stadium was silent apart from the 2,000 travelling fans so the stadium wasn’t silent.
It was a good start from Atlético and Romagnoli has to haul back Moreno to stop him getting away. The result was the first yellow for Real with just 5mjn on the clock. Real gradually got a foothold and on 10min Džeko was hauled down just outside the box resulting in a yellow card for Barella. Rodríguez sent in a dangerous ball that met the head of Džeko. His header was heading for the top corner only for Donnarumma to get his fingertips to it to touch it over the bar. Three minutes later we were down at the other end with Agüero finding space in the Real box. Unfortunately for him, his effort was screwed well wide. The third yellow of the game arrived with just 16min on the clock, this time Sandro going in too hard on Atlético’s Torreira. The game was starting to slow down but on 23min Bonucci hit a solid drive that forced Donnarumma to show strong hands in making the save. A midfield battle was now ensuing and chances becoming less frequent. The last clear opportunity of the half fell to Atlético on 38min. Barella fed Agüero on the edge of the Real box. The Argentine international showed great skill in getting enough space to get a shot away but it just went wide of the left hand post and out for a goal kick. When the referee blew the whistle for half time, it was met by a chorus of boos. The Real players really need to stop doing that.
The second half got underway and Real created the first chance on 48min when a cutback by James found Romagnoli but the big centre back curled the ball wide. This resulted in a stoppage as the Real trainer came on to try and stop the nosebleed that Romagnoli had for being so far up the pitch. The home side had Atlético pinned back in their own half and Džeko had a half chance outside the box but his effort went high, wide, and handsome with the ball eventually hitting the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Real were having trouble getting the ball on target and Busquets joined in as he sent the ball wide on 53min. Atlético got some relief when they won a free kick in a dangerous position a minute later. Dembélé became the fourth player booked for the offence. Cervi’s free kick found Agüero but his header cleared the bar. Not the crossbar, the bar in the lounge at the top of the stand behind the goal. The yellow cards were flowing and on 59min, Moreno was next in the book. There were changes on the hour mark but too many to mention. Atlético won a corner on the right and Cervi’s cross was met by Gómez who forced Schmeichel to show great reactions. It was now end to end and on 63min Real has a free kick on the left of the box. The referee pulled out a tired looking yellow card and showed it to De Ligt. James sent a dangerous curler into the box that Di María got to first. It was a great effort but Donnarumma got his hand to it to push it away from goal. Two minutes later it was Real again pushing for the equaliser and Donnarumma was in action again as he held on to a good Džeko effort. Atlético were still pushing forward themselves and they earned another corner on 73min. Cervi sent the ball in for Gómez but his header was over the top. Real were looking tired as they got frustrated in trying for the equaliser and it was Atlético again with an effort on goal that seen Klostermann shoot wide. The game was nearing the end but there is always time for another yellow with Atlético’s Minamino receiving the 7th of the match. Real looked a beaten side and it was soon all over as the referee blew for full time to send the Atlético fans in the stadium wild with delight.
The win sees Atlético climb two places to 7th in the table with Real remaining 10th. Neither side has any chance of the title with Atlético maybe having an outside chance of earning a Champions Cup slot. For Real, it’s been a disappointing season and this was their 10th defeat. A place in the Euro Shield is the best they can hope for as they surely start to plan for next season.
AS MONACO ………. 1 BAYER LEVERKUSEN ……. 2
Two of the biggest names in European football came face to face in the south of France but the battle for the points was taking place at the wrong end of Division 2. Relegation for either of these clubs would be a financial disaster and it would see them down to their last £200m.
The Louis II Stadium in Monaco was only half full with the visiting German support outnumbering the home fans. The pressure is on both managers to get their clubs out of trouble. Danny G only joined Monaco 8 weeks ago after Corey Johns was executed by firing squad. This was Neil Frankland’s first game in charge of the German outfit and he will know what his job is for this season.
The match kicked off in glorious cloud cover and Leverkusen created the first chance after just 2min. Lima got down the right before sending in a low cross that Costa turned towards goal but Rico was down quickly to save comfortably. Monaco responded well and on 4min, Simeone played a nice weighted pass to Mata but, much to the relief of the static Leno, his shot sailed over the bar. Both teams were looking nervy and the game developed into a midfield sluggers with neither team making much of an inroad. It was 21min on the clock before the next half-chance with Mata having to shoot from distance and again his effort was over the bar. On 24min, Leverkusen’s Brandt received a Costa pass in the box and he took a lovely first touch before his shot went inches past the near post. The game was coming to life and Saint-Maxim was unlucky for Monaco as his shot looked net bound only for it to squeeze wide. A goal was coming and on 29min it duly arrived. Hulk moved forward towards the Monaco box before laying it to the side for Lima to hit first time. The ball exploded off his boot and found the top corner via the inside of the post with Rico looking surprised. It was the goal that Leverkusen craved and they celebrated wildly. The confidence flowed through the Leverkusen team and Costa had a chance on 32min to make it 2-0 but his shot was over the crossbar. Again Leverkusen came forward and Mahrez found Costa with a searching ball but again Costa showed why rugby should have been his game as he fired over. When the whistle went fir half time, Monaco boss Danny G would have been glad to get his team into the dressing room to regroup.
Monaco got the second half underway but the expected fast start from the home side failed to materialise. The first chance of the half fell to Leverkusen on 56min when Lima put Costa through but his shot….. well I will let you guess. The first yellow card of the game came on 59min which, considering the importance of the game, was surprising. Lima was late with a tackle on Saint-Maxim and the Leverkusen man was in the referee’s book. The game, all of a sudden, turned nasty and a minute after Lima’s booking, Lars Bender went in knee high on Monaco’s Correa. The referee seemed unsure on what the tackle merited but after a few seconds decided on red to reduce Leverkusen to 10 men. Frankland was out of his dug out trying to re-arrange Leverkusen’s shape but a disastrous 5 minute spell ended with an equaliser for Monaco. Simeone created the chance with a penetrating run before a clever pass to Saint-Maxim. The French wide man hit it perfectly and his flew past Leno Off the post and into the top corner. Monaco has the tails up against the 10 men of Leverkusen and were favourites to go on and win. The German side were defending well, denying Monaco space but on 72min Doucouré crossed a low ball that Milik latched on to only time see it going the wrong side of the post. Leverkusen finally got a break on 74min and it was the defining moment of the game. Hulk broke at a snail’s pace due to his age but he played a superb pass to put Costa through. Then, just as the fans behind the goal prepared to catch the ball, he let fly and the ball rocketed past Rico into the top corner. The Leverkusen players smothered Costa as Frankland sprung off the bench and celebrated with a random nice blonde girl sitting behind the dugout. Monaco were gutted and couldn’t recover. Leverkusen took full control and 5min later Costa sent another chance wide. On 82min a dangerous cross from Brandt seen Mahrez’s flick just inches away from making it 3-1. Monaco had run out of ideas and when the referee blew for full time, it was the 10men of Leverkusen that we’re celebrating.
A crucial win for Bayer Leverkusen and it keeps them out of the relegation zone. They may be just 2pts ahead of fourth bottom Standard Liege but the boost from this result could see them go on a good run.
AS Monaco are now 5pts adrift of safety and the huge disappointment of this result could be damaging. There is still hope though as they were on a run of 4 games unbeaten so they have the talent in their team to get out of trouble. It will be down to their mindset.
ASTON VILLA …. 2 BORUSSIA MÖNCHENGLADBACH …1
Aston Villa and Borussia Mönchengladbach are locked with Southampton in the battle for automatic promotion to Division 2. Before this match up, Borussia were in third with a one point advantage over Villa which gave the English side plenty of incentive for this game. It was Adam’s first game in charge of Villa after the incredible merry go round that seen plenty of managers switch jobs. Borussia manager, Attila Olah, on the other hand, has spent almost 2 years in charge of the German club.
A very noisy home crowd roared as Villa kicked off but it was the German side that settled quickest. On 3min, Deulofeu played a pass to Kurzawa. The French defender cut in from the left before hitting a shot for the top corner that Strakosha got behind to save. The first yellow card of the game was flashed on 5min after Denayer was too wreckless with a tackle on Deulofeu. Not the best of starts for Villa but they settled and started to dictate the pace without causing too much trouble to the Borussia back line. Out of the blue, on 21min, Aston Villa went in front. Serdar won a corner on the left before he swung the ball into the centre of the box. The ball found its way to the back post area where Bowen sent a rocket across Lecomte into the far corner. It was a well taken goal and it set the game alight. Borussia tried to find their way back into the match but Villa were strong in the tackle, preventing Borussia getting into a rhythm. The next flashpoint came on 32min when Melendo and Smalling jumped for a long ball and Smalling clearly fling his elbow into the back of Melendo’s head. Villa players advanced on Smalling forcing the referee to intervene before showing Smalling the red card. 1-0 down and down to 10 men made it an uphill struggle for Borussia and on 34min a Kahveci effort went wildly over the bar when he should have done better. The second goal was coming and on 41min Melendo linked up with Serdar and the winger’s low shot went into the net despite a touch from Lecomte. The referee blew for half time shortly after and it was job half done for Villa as they went up the tunnel 2-0 ahead.
Borussia has it all to do as they kicked off the second half but it was Villa who created the first chance of the half on 49min. A handball, preventing Serdar getting a cross in, seen De Jong go into the book. Serdar took the free kick and his cross seen Denayer rise above everyone to send a header goalwards. It was a great header but Lecomte managed to get a strong hand to it and turn it away. Borussia madd three substitutions on the hour (look up the players yourself) and it seemed to give them a lift. On 63min one of the subs, Yilmaz, broke free in the box and stuck the ball past Strakosha. As he turned to celebrate he noticed the flag was up and it was disallowed. The incident, however, went to VAR and after a couple of minutes, NO IDEA was flashed up on the scoreboard. It was a close call but the referee stuck by the offside decision. Villa started to push forward again and Bensebaini was unlucky with a shot that zipped off the turf on 66min. Next it was Bowen who found room to fire off an effort that caught the outside of the post with Lecomte well beaten. However, on 73min it was game on as Borussia pulled one back. Lanzini was the creator as his run down the right wing had Villa in a panic. Lanzini pulled the ball back from the byeline into the path of Yilmaz, who rifled a low shot from 15 yards past Strakosha. Borussia got a new lease of life and two minutes later they won a dangerous free kick on the edge of the box. Bowen picked up a yellow for dissent at the free kick being given. Lanzini decided to chip one into the box and the and the, up to now, mainly inefficient Batshuayi got his head to it with Strakosha having to dive to his left to get an important hand to the ball to keep it out. The ball came to Yilmaz who slipped the ball to Sidibé with the full back’s shot being superbly tipped away by Strakosha. Villa weathered the storm and almost killed the game on 86min when Serdar managed to get in a shot that just went wide. That was it for chances as Villa played out time before the referee blew for full time.
A huge win for Villa and they climb into the automatic promotion places but with 10 games still to play anything can happen.
For Borussia, there is no doubt the red card cost them dear although the substitutions almost came up trumps. The play offs look the least that Borussia will get but they will still have their eye on the top 3.
MALAGA CF ………… 0 OLYMPIQUE MARSEILLE ….. 2
Division 4 has been tight all season with positions at the top changing on a weekly basis. On the south coast of Spain 5th places Malaga welcomed 2nd placed Marseille for a promotion affecting game. Just over 30,000 expectant fans turned up at La Rosaleda hoping for Malaga to take another step towards promotion. Marseille has other ideas though with the club knowing a win could put them top of the table if leaders Dynamo Kyiv tripped up in Belgrade.
Marseille kicked off and if I have to be honest, that was the highlight of the first half and one of the few times the ball went forward. Neither side could make any progress as both defences stood firm and refused to give up any opportunities. The first twenty minutes failed to provide us with a shot at goal and it was an odd sight seeing 30,000 people all playing Kandy Krush on their phones. There was drama on 26min when Malaga’s Sidnei got himself booked for dissent. He had been adjudged to have pushed Augustin in the back and when a foul was given he let the referee know what goes fuck yourself’ sounded like in Portuguese. On 37min there were howls from the Marseille end of the stadium as their biggest fan failed level 587 of Kandy Krush. The fan in question was raging, vowing to never play again. Back on the pitch a foul on Thiago Neves seen Mendes go into the book, making it 1 booking for each side. The referee blew for half time and was considering whether to come out for the second half. It took him 15min before deciding to carry on. Malaga kicked off the second half and there was an ironic cheer when they passed the ball forward twice in a row. On 48min we got an effort on goal. Pröpper received the ball in midfield before moving forward unchallenged. When about 30 yards from goal, he took an ambitious shot at goal that forced Ochoa into a save. It wasn’t a great effort but it turned out to be the spark that the game needed. Marseille were starting to impose themselves on the game and another long range effort from Boudebouz had Ochoa scrambling across his goal before just managing to scramble the ball away. It was all Marseille now and on 63min, Lodeiro split the defence with a pass for Augustin to run on to with the Frenchman’s effort forcing another good save from Ochoa. Augustin then missed a golden opportunity a minute later when Boudebouz picked up a loose ball before setting the striker free. Augustin tried to slot it past Ochoa but the keeper guessed right and madd it look an easy stop. With 18min remaining Marseille’s Martínez was next in the book for disputing the referee’s throw in decision but he was a lot happier a minute later when Hwang found Pröpper just inside the Marseille box and he sent a great effort past Ochoa, into the net. It was nothing more than the second half performance from Marseille deserved. Malaga, at last, came out to play and straight from the restart Clichy fired in a low shot from the left hand side of the box that went inches wide. We now had a game on our hands and with 13min to play Ochoa had to pull off another save with Augustin getting the shot away. Full back Clichy looked Malaga’s most dangerous player and on 79min he almost chipped Guaita just for the ball to drop the wrong side of the bar. Augustin looked set for a break on 81min but he was unceremoniously dumped on his butt by Defour which earned the Belgian a yellow. Augustin didn’t have long to wait though and on 83min Martinez sent in a low cross that seen Augustin get a touch to steer it past Ochoa and seal the points. That killed Malaga a off and sent the fans streaming out of the stadium. With a minute to play, Augustin almost scored a third when he latched on to a Hwang pass but it went wide of the post. When the final whistle sounded, Marseille were good value for their win and manager Chris Baggio and his team received more good news shortly after when they heard that Dynamo Kyiv had lost in Belgrade.
The win coupled with the a Kyiv defeat meant that Marseille went top of Division 4 on goal difference. Can they stay there? That depends whether it’s the first half team or the second half team that turns up.
For Malaga, they looked low on confidence but they will hope that new manager Ricardo Ferreira can lift them and push on with the promotion bid.
TORINO …………… 2 CRUZEIRO ……………. 0
The Division 5 promotion race is wide open with at least 8 teams and possibly even 10 teams still harbouring hopes of automatic promotion. Brazilian outfit Cruzeiro were sitting top of the table As they headed to Turin in Italy to take on Torino. The Italian club were just outside the play off places but were very much in the race for a place in Division 4 next season. A defeat last time out at Alkmaar for Cruzeiro had them approach this game with trepidation while Torino were trying to snap a three game in a row loss.
Torino kicked off and were straight on the offensive pinning Cruzeiro back in their own half. The first attempt at goal came after 2min with Badstuber shooting from 25 yards. The ball whistled past Casillas in the Cruzeiro goal but also wide of the target. Casillas was either a very good judge or a fortunate player. Over the next ten minutes the game settled with both teams trying work each other out. Cruzeiro’s first opportunity came on 18min when Poli was upended by Mena. It brought the first yellow of the game as Mena went into the book. Fulgini stepped up and hit a low shot that beat the wall but also beat the post. On 22min it was Torino’s turn for a free kick in a promising position out on the right. Giovinco sent in a dangerous cross that El Ahmadi connected with but his effort fired just wide. The flow of the game was being broken up by a series of free kicks and Torino had another chance on 24min, again on the right hand side of the box. It was the same routine as Giovinco swung the ball in for El Ahmadi to connect with but this time it hit the back of the net to put Torino ahead. It was a tremendous connection by El Ahmadi, giving Casillas no chance. Going behind sparked Cruzeiro into action and they came close to equalising on 28min. Dzsudzsák slipped the ball through to Uth with the 28yo German’s shot zipping just inches past. Torino looked to be in control as they dictated the pace of the game and the last chance of the half came on 37min when Vázquez linked up with Loïc Rémy and the wide man’s shot beat Casillas before racing wide of the goal. The half time whistle went with Torino deservedly leading by El Ahmadi’s goal as they headed to the dressing room.
Cruzeiro kicked off the second half looking for an improved performance but their first attempt at a break was stopped in it’s tracks as El Ahmadi hauled down Soldado The referee produced the yellow for the Torino player. The home side soon started putting on the pressure with Giovinco shooting wide after working himself into a good position. On 54min, Torino doubled their lead When Giovinco put Remy in on the goalkeeper. Remy still had some work to do before firing high into the net past Casillas. Cruzeiro tried to hit back immediately with Fulgini’s low cross being clipped narrowly wide by Soldado. Cruzeiro were having no luck in front of goal and on 58min, Sequeira played in Uth. The German took a couple of strides forward before hitting his shot, watching it as it clipped the crossbar before going over. It was entertaining stuff for the 26,000 inside the stadium and Torino almost killed Cruzeiro off on 67min. Acosta was the supplier as he fired in a cross from the left. El Ahmadi Met it on the volley but he failed to get it on target. Time was running out for the league leaders as they won a corner in the 78th minute. Uth sent the corner into the front post where Poli connected well, only to see the ball crash off the woodwork and over the bar. Cruzeiro couldn’t believe it and going by the bench neither could manager DouDou. On 82min, Hasebe played the ball in towards Uth but Uth decided to go for the early shot and Ziegler was able to make the save. That turned out to be the visitors last chance and when the full time whistle sounded it was a terrific three points for Torino.
The defeat coupled with a win for Atalanta means Cruzeiro slip to second place but there is plenty of time for them to try and win the Division 5 title.
For Torino, the win moves them into the play off places but to stay in they places they will have to repeat this type of performance all the way to the end of the season. The battle for the play offs is going to be tough with all the way down to Lyon in 16th still thinking they have a chance.