As far as football weekends go, this past one (the 22nd and 23rd of April, 2017) was colossal. For the most part, it felt like executives from the majority of the leagues around Europe converged in a small room and started working on a plan to give the fans a super-sized treat. In the end, what we got was a two day stretch of action, which involved some of the biggest remaining fixtures of the season; with most of them being the kind that you would usually have to mark down on your calendar. So, even though a lot these games could have headlined individual weekends of their own, we got to see them all kick-off and conclude, within mere hours of each other… Needless to say; the plans of these “executives” (if they made any) worked to absolute perfection and we hope they make similar ones again, sometime soon.
Of course, keeping up with all of the action during this stretch would’ve been nigh impossible for anyone; but, thankfully, we have the internet, several sport channels and other resources which make it possible for us to go back in time and catch up on whatever we might have missed (it’s a good time to be a football fan, isn’t it?). Now, if you’re truly interested in reliving all of the weekend’s high points (which you should be), we’re giving you our very own guide to help you figure out where you’d like to start from and what to be on the lookout for (you’re welcome). So, over the next few paragraphs and pages, we’ll be helping you to cast your mind back to a weekend which was full of drama, magic, intensity and moments that will undoubtedly end up being some of the most pivotal of the season. Enjoy.
We’ll start with a quick round up of the action from some of the lesser watched leagues and slowly pick up from there. Here’s the order in which we’ll be reviewing the games, just in case you might want to jump to a specific one:
- Galatasaray vs. Fenerbahce
- Celtic vs. Rangers
- Sporting vs. Benfica
- PSV Eindhoven vs. Ajax Amsterdam
- Fiorentina vs. Inter Milan
- Borussia Monchengladbach vs. Borussia Dortmund
- Lyon vs. Monaco
- Chelsea vs. Tottenham Hotspur
- Arsenal vs. Manchester City
- Real Madrid vs. Barcelona
- …that’s all, folks.
Galatasaray vs. Fenerbahce.
When: Sunday, the 23rd of April; 2017. 17:00; Where: Turk Telekom Arena.
Competition: Super Lig; Result: 0-1.
As the largest city in Turkey, it is no surprise that there are a lot of Super Lig clubs from Istanbul. As a matter of fact, Istanbul’s dominance in the League has now become so great, that it now has four clubs (Besiktas, Istanbul Basaksehir, Fenerbahce and Galatasaray) sitting at the top of the domestic League. However, only one of the rivalries between these four teams has earned itself the moniker of the “Eternal Rivalry” (or Intercontinental Derby), and that’s the one between Galatasaray and Fenerbahce. Admittedly, last week’s Derby did not carry the same championship implications that past versions did, and that’s because both clubs had been forced into the 4th and 3rd positions in the League, respectively (by none other than Besiktas and Basaksehir). Still, with eight games left to go and European places still up for grabs, the fixture still held a lot of importance to many, especially fans and players of both clubs.
The notable players in this one included; Muslera, Bruma, Sneijder, Podolski, Derdiyok (Galatasaray); and Skrtel, Kjaer, Souza, Lens, van Persie, Sow (Fenerbahce).
The pair of Dutchmen; Sneijder and Robin van Persie went close for both sides, but there weren’t many clear-cut chances created by either team. Just when it looked like we were about to end up with a nigh-pointless 0-0 draw, one of Fener’s midfielders, Souza, rose up to head in a 91st minute cross from Sener Ozbayrakli, to give the visitors all three points.
The result did absolutely nothing to the look of the table, but it did help Fenerbahce extend their lead over Gala to four points, while also bringing them within four points of Istanbul Basaksehir, in second place. As for Besiktas, they won their game and increased the gap at the top of the table to seven points, so they’re going to quite some catching. Still, there are six games left to play, so we’ll see how it all goes.
For those of you who might’ve wondered, we can confirm that the names above were, indeed, a pain in the butt to constantly spell out, so you better have enjoyed reading it.
Celtic vs. Rangers.
When: Sunday, the 23rd of April, 2017. 12:00; Where: Hampden Park.
Competition: Scottish FA Cup; Result: 2-0.
It was another chapter in the tale of the “Old Firm”; the biggest rivalry in Glasgow (and all of Scottish football), with roots outside of football, stretching all the way into religion and even violence. Both teams occupied two of the top three positions in the Scottish League, but, this time, they were vying for a place in the final of the 2016/17 Scottish FA Cup.
Notable players in the game included; Gordon, Boyata, McGregor, Griffiths, Sinclair, and Dembele (all from Celtic). The gulf in class between both teams (which accounted for a 33 point gap between 1st and 3rd in the Scottish Premiership) was evident from the beginning, and it took Celtic only 10 minutes to score the first goal of the game, through Callum McGregor. The Rangers hardly had a sniff, all game long, and just six minutes into the second half; the deficit had been doubled… thanks to a Scott Sinclair penalty, which was won as a result of a dangerous, counter-attacking run by Leigh Griffiths.
It was pretty much a summary execution and the result now leaves Brendan Rodgers with a good chance of securing a Scottish treble (League and League cup titles inclusive) in his debut season as manager.
Sporting vs. Benfica.
When: Saturday, the 22nd of April, 2017. 20:30; Where: Estadio Jose Alvalde.
Competition: Liga NOS; Result: 1-1.
For anyone living in the Lisbon region of Portugal, the chances of inhaling oxygen, and seeing Bas Dost score a goal on a Liga Nos Match-week have been roughly even. The striker had scored 28 goals in 29 League games for Sporting and was 13 goals ahead of Benfica’s Kostas Mitroglou (who was tied for second), before this game. That was one of the bigger stories, heading into the match between the 3rd and 1st placed teams in the Portuguese League. Benfica had a 3 point lead over Porto, who, in turn, had a 5 point lead over Sporting, and with European places also up for grabs, neither team would’ve liked to lose this one.
The notable players in this one included; Patricio, Coates, Carvalho, Martins, Silva, Campbell, Ruiz, Dost (Sporting); and Ederson, Luisao, Lindelof, Pizzi, Salvio, Mitroglou (Benfica).
The game got off to a brilliant start for Sporting, as Ederson fouled Bas Dost in the penalty area, leading to a penalty which was coolly converted by Adrian Sillva. Dost failed to capitalize on the chances that came his way and he must’ve been filled with extra regret, when Victor Lindelof scored a 65th minute free-kick to pull Benfica level… and that was how the scoreline remained, until the end of the game.
The draw basically ended Sporting’s title chase, while Benfica were able to maintain their three point lead at the top, thanks to a Porto draw. There are still four games left in the season, and all three teams will be looking to consolidate or improve on their positions (as well as guarantee European qualification), so the race isn’t completely done yet.
PSV Eindhoven vs. Ajax Amsterdam.
When: Sunday, the 23rd of April, 2017. 15:45; Where: Philips Stadion.
Competition: Eredivisie; Result: 1-0.
This was one which was supposed to go a lot differently than it did (in our minds, anyway). It was a game between two sides with title ambitions as well as European aspirations. With just two games left to go in the Eredivisie, PSV’s title challenge was mathematically canceled by Feyenord’s away win at Vitesse, just minutes before, while Ajax knew that a win for them would keep them within two points of the leaders (whom they had worked so hard to defeat at the beginning of the month).
The hosts had won one and drawn two of their last three, scoring 8 goals in the process, while the visitors had won two and drawn one of their last three (including the two-legged Europa League Semi-final tie, against Schalke), scoring 9 goals along the way.
The notable players who participated in this one included; Brenet, Moreno, Arias, Guardado, Pereiro, Ginkel, Propper, Locadia, de Jong (PSV); and Sanchez, Viergever, Klaassen, Schone, Ziyech, Younes, Traore, Dolberg, Kluivert (Ajax).
As we said earlier, we expected this one to go a lot differently, with lots of attacking play and goals at both ends (five of their last six meetings had finished with a minimum of 2 goals); instead, PSV (who were in a three-way tie with Ajax & Feyenord for the best defense in the League), took an early lead through Jurgen Locadia and decided to sit on it (pause) for the rest of the game. Producing a defensive performance that was so effective, Ajax’s youthful and extremely potent attack barely stood a chance.
The result was far from ideal for Ajax, who are now the only possible challengers left for Feyenord; they’re four points behind, with only six points left to play for. Even if they don’t go on to win the Eredivisie, they could still exact a small measure of revenge on PSV, by holding on to second place and keeping the Eindhoven team completely out of next season’s UCL. However, if Ajax does go on to win the Europa League (in which they’ve already made it to the Semi-finals), they would secure automatic Champions League qualification and reopen the door for PSV to qualify for the tournament. Revenge is such a tough business, these days.
Also, since we haven’t mentioned it yet, Locadia’s goal was from a free-kick (an absolutely amazing one, at that) and well worthy of winning any game.