Europe’s top leagues were not short of heavyweight clashes over the weekend.
Jose Mourinho left Old Trafford in his customarily chipper mood after old foe Arsene Wenger and Arsenal escaped with a last-gasp 1-1 draw and there were plenty more old scores being settled all over again elsewhere.
Cristiano Ronaldo proved to be the scourge of the Vicente Calderon as his hat-trick inspired LaLiga leaders Real Madrid to a 3-0 derby win over Atletico Madrid, while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang revitalised Borussia Dortmund’s Bundesliga bid by downing Bayern Munich with the only goal at Signal Iduna Park – a result that left surprise package RB Leipzig top as the division’s only remaining unbeaten side.
Fenerbahce claimed the bragging rights in Istanbul, as a Robin van Persie brace sunk Galatasaray, before Inter twice came from behind to draw 2-2 with AC Milan at San Siro on Sunday.
But away from those simmering feuds, there was plenty elsewhere to lighten the mood.
TON-UP QUAG HAS BEEN THERE, DONE IT, GOT THE T-SHIRT
Well-travelled Italy international Fabio Quagliarella joined the Serie A 100 Club on Sunday, sparking a stunning late comeback for Sampdoria at home to Sassuolo.
Quagliarella’s big moment looked likely to be nothing more than a consolation when he scored in the 84th minute to reduce the arrears to 2-1, with Matteo Ricci and Antonino Ragusa having put Sassuolo in a position of strength following a goalless first half.
However, the 33-year-old then turned provider – squaring to leave a simple finish for Luis Muriel, the Colombian forward who would net from the penalty spot in the final minute before Quagliarella soaked up the acclaim with a “100” t-shirt made up specially for the occasion.
DOLBERG DAZZLES FOR FIVE-STAR AJAX
Ajax’s teenage Danish striker Kasper Dolberg is some way off hitting such a career landmark, although we might not be waiting too long if his latest outing is anything to go by.
The 19-year-old grabbed an 18-minute hat-trick in the Amsterdam giants’ 5-0 demolition of NEC, moving him on to eight goals in 12 Eredivisie appearances.
Dolberg juggled and dribbled his way into the area to smash a 19th-minute strike into the top corner, peeled into a pocket of space to slot in his second four minutes later and claimed the matchball with a wonderfully taken backwards header.
The variety on show was very impressive and Ajax might have another forward gem to rank alongside the likes of Dennis Bergkamp, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Luis Suarez.
PLAY IT AGAIN, SEB
Early career highs such as those enjoyed by Dolberg over the weekend are enough to make any old pro want to turn back the clock and Juan Sebastian Veron could be ready to do just that.
The former Argentina, Lazio, Manchester United and Inter playmaker, now 41, is preparing to turn out for Estudiantes in 2017 according to one of the team’s current midfielders Israel Damonte.
Veron retired in 2014 and is currently the chairman at his boyhood club but promised to return for the Copa Libertadores if fans bought 65 per cent per cent of tickets on offer at their new stadium.
“He told us he wants to return, that from January he will return as a player,” said Damonte, as quoted by ESPN. “He will play from January in the league and the Copa.”
SOARING SOCIEDAD PRIMED FOR BARCA CHALLENGE
Lionel Messi’s stomach virus left Barcelona toothless in attack as they drew 0-0 against Malaga and things might not get any easier for Luis Enrique’s men next weekend.
They travel to face Real Sociedad, having lost on each of their last three visits to Anoeta, and Eusebio Sacristan’s side are enjoying a rich vein of form.
Goals from Xabi Prieto, David Zurutuza and Inigo Martinez secured a 3-1 win at Sporting Gijon on Sunday – La Real’s fourth successive triumph in Spain’s top flight.
Sociedad now lie fifth in LaLiga, a point and a place above Atletico Madrid, while their Basque rivals Athletic Bilbao are also doing their bit for the region after a 1-0 win against high-flying Villarreal left them seventh and extended a four-match unbeaten run in all competitions.
ICE COOL HASENHUTTL KEEN TO KEEP TOP SPOT
RB Leipzig’s rise to the Bundesliga summit with a dramatic 3-2 win over Bayer Leverkusen continued one of the most remarkable stories in European football this year.
Four promotions in seven seasons means there is nothing glacial about the progress made by the club formed in 2009 but coach Ralph Hasenhuttl charted Arctic waters as he searched for pre-match motivation.
“We tried to show the team their true potential is like an iceberg before the match,” the Austrian tactician explained. “Much of the potential that we have is not yet on display. We have an incredibly good attitude and we’re hard to beat.”
Leipzig have a three-point cushion at the top and face champions Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena in their final match before the mid-season break on December 21.
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