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What You Might Have Missed: Benfica record, a Plea from Balo and Reto Ziegler´s better than Ronaldo

There were mixed fortunes for football’s big guns over the last weekend – and that’s being kind to at least one of them.

The Premier League remains as open as ever, with Manchester City, Arsenal and Tottenham failing to win, while Liverpool got back in gear against West Brom, but Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United saved a year’s worth of errors for their humilitation at Chelsea.

In LaLiga, Barcelona and Real Madrid scraped narrow wins but Atletico Madrid were finally undone by Jorge Sampaoli’s sublime Sevilla, while Borussia Dortmund lost further ground to Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga.

Paris Saint-Germain and Marseille drew blanks in a Classique that had millions on the edge of their seats wondering if anybody was going to shoot, but there was considerably more to mull over in Milan, as AC’s young guns shocked Juventus while Inter fans left Mauro Icardi alone long enough to demand Frank de Boer’s head.

But away from Europe’s major players, there were some remarkable stories…

 

RUI VITORIA’S HALF-TON MAKES BENFICA HISTORY

Benfica comfortably dispatched Belenenses on Sunday to earn head coach Rui Vitoria his 50th win in charge – and make Portuguese history in the process.

Goals from Kostas Mitroglou – his sixth in three games against these opponents – and Alex Grimaldo sealed a record 16th away win in a row for the Eagles, eclipsing the previous best set by Jimmy Hagan’s side between April 1972 and April 1973.

“It was an exhibition that left me very pleased,” said the coach, whose 50 wins have come in just 64 matches. “I have to congratulate my team and the supporters. “They remain three points clear of Porto.

 

A NEW MAGIC TRICK FROM A TRUE OLD BOY

Order was restored on Sunday – as far as Newell’s Old Boys are concerned – as they won their first derby against Rosario Central in eight years at the Gigante de Arroyito.

To make it even sweeter, the solitary goal was scored by veteran Maxi Rodriguez, who rejoined his boyhood club in 2012 after 10 years in Europe with Espanyol, Liverpool and Atletico Madrid.

Newell’s certainly rode their luck, with Luciano Pocrnjic producing heroics in the visiting goal, but the injury-time strike from the boot of ‘La Fiera’ was worth the nerves for all concerned.

Indeed, for Rodriguez, it might just be the best goal he’s ever scored – better even than his unbelievable volleyed winner in the last-16 of World Cup 2006 for Argentina against Mexico.

“I cheered the goal more than the one against Mexico at World Cup 2006,” said the 35-year-old. “If I had to choose how to win the Clasico, it’d be like this.”

 

HAGI’S SON GETS SERIE A BOW

Amid a remarkable eight-goal thriller at Stadio Sant’Elia on Sunday, Fiorentina fans got to savour one more special moment.

WIth the scores at 5-2 in their favour thanks to Nikola Kalinic’s hat-trick and two from Federico Bernardeschi, the visitors handed a Serie A debut to Ianis Hagi with 14 minutes to play.

Granted, Marco Borriello scored a minute later for Cagliari to make the closing stages a little less comfortable, but the sight of the son of Romania great Gheorghe Hagi taking to the pitch was a real moment to savour.

 

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Fericit pentru debutul la prima echipa a Fiorentinei. Happy for my debut at the first team. Sono felice per il debutto in prima squadra. #fiorentinacagliari

Posted by Ianis Hagi on Sunday, 23 October 2016

 

NICE’S PLEA-BARGAIN HAS BALOTELLI LOST FOR WORDS

Nice’s unbeaten start to the season looked to be under threat on Sunday as they travelled to Metz without the rejuvenated Mario Balotelli.

Alassane Plea has scored some vital goals already this season, including winners against Angers and Nancy, and he answered his side’s call for salvation once more with a hat-trick at Stade Saint-Symphorien that helped to secure a 4-2 win.

The 23-year-old, who cost a reported sum of just €500,000 from Lyon two years ago, iliicited a stunned “wow” from his injured strike partner on Twitter as he struck his second of the game.

By the end, only emojis could fully encapsulate Balotelli’s delight. See? It’s not always him…

IS ZIEGLER THE BEST GOALSCORING DEFENDER EVER?

Nobody would have dreamed of seeing Reto Ziegler’s name on the 30-man Ballon d’Or shortlist released on Monday, but Sion fans have been given plenty of reasons – eight, in fact – to start arguing his case.

The 30-year-old Switzerland international has journeyed across most of Europe since leaving his homeland for Tottenham in 2004, with his best spells coming with Sampdoria and Fenerbahce, where he won two Turkish Cups.

That was until this season, though.

The Sion captain extended his side’s unbeaten run in the Super League to eight games on Sunday as he scored a penalty and a fine free-kick to secure a 2-0 win away to Lausanne. In the process, he took his goal tally to eight in 11 league appearances, and four in his last two.

That’s more than last term’s top scorer Munas Dabbur scored in the opening 11 rounds, and four times as many league goals as Ballon d’Or favourite Cristiano Ronaldo has managed. Not bad for a defender.

Mon 24 Oct, 2016
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