This weekend’s European football action saw champions crowned, records broken and top-four places up for grabs.
EUROPEAN FOOTBALL WEEKEND ROUNDUP
Leicester City secured a famous FA Cup final victory at Wembley Stadium on Saturday for the first time in their 137-year history. The match saw 21,000 fans witness one of the best goals ever scored in an FA Cup Final, courtesy of Youri Tielemans’ second-half screamer.
The Belgian’s strike was enough to give Brendan Rodgers’ side a 1-0 win over Chelsea, handing owner Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha his first major tournament triumph since the tragic passing of his father in 2018. After the final whistle, Srivaddhanaprabha shared a glorious moment with the players by celebrating in front of the Foxes faithful.
Leicester’s triumph is another remarkable step in the history of a club that has overcome financial issues and multiple relegations to win the English Football League One, win the Championship, complete the Great Escape, win the Premier League (against all odds), qualify for European football, make it into the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals, compete against the traditional English “Top Six” , and secure their long-awaited FA Cup in the space of 20 years.
Leicester City wasn’t the only team to get their hands on silverware this weekend. In Scotland, Steven Gerrard’s Rangers solidified their invincible status by defeating Aberdeen 4-0 at the Ibrox Stadium on Saturday. The champions took the lead in the 5th minute thanks to Joe Lewis’ ricocheted own-goal, before Kemar Roofe’s double on either side of the half, and veteran Jermain Defoe’s 88th-minute finish capped off Rangers’ 55th Scottish Championship title celebrations in style.
The Gers finished a historic 2020/21 season with 102 points on the table, having kept 26 clean sheets and going unbeaten at home in the process. Gerrard’s second season at the helm in European football was one for the ages.
Over in Sweden, FC Barcelona Femení ended Olympique Lyonnais Féminin’s five-year European football dominance after defeating Chelsea F.C. Women 4-0 in the UEFA Women’s Champions League final on Sunday. In a battle of domestic champions, the Spanish side displayed their dominance from the start, taking the lead inside the first 35 seconds courtesy of an unfortunate own-goal by Melanie Leupolz.
Alexia Putellas’ controversial 14th-minute penalty then put Barcelona 2-0 up, and Chelsea’s disastrous start got even worse thanks to Aitana Bonmatí’s crucial third goal for Barcelona in the 20th minute. Fifteen minutes later, Dutch superstar Lieke Martens’ marauding run on the touchline led to an easy tap-in by Caroline Graham Hansen.
Hansen’s goal ensured Lluís Cortés’s Primera División champions got the better of Emma Hayes’ FA WSL and League Cup-winning side, en route to their first-ever UEFA Women’s Champions League title.
Besiktas’ 2-1 away win over Göztepe S.K. on Saturday saw them crowned Turkish Super League champions by the slimmest of margins. Domagoj Vida’s 10th-minute header got canceled out by Alpaslan Öztürk’s 24th-minute tap-in before the Istanbul side secured their 16th league title in the 69th minute thanks to Rachid Ghezzal’s calmly converted penalty.
The Algerian’s spot-kick secured the league trophy over fellow giants Galatasaray by a SINGLE goal, and it’s worth noting that Besiktas had lost to both Galatasaray and Fatih Karagümrük ahead of Saturday’s matchup. Besiktas’ 7-0 win over Hatayspor at the start of May ultimately paid dividends, as the Black and Whites will now turn their attention towards securing the Turkish Cup final on Tuesday.
OLD BUT GOLD
Over in Spain, Atlético Madrid are now one win away from securing the 2020/21 La Liga crown thanks to 34-year old Luis Suarez’s late strike in Los Colchoneros‘ 2-1 victory over Osasuna on Sunday. Suarez’s goal turned a frustrating afternoon for his club into a fruitful one, as both Sevilla and FC Barcelona stumbled to a 4-0 and 2-1 defeat in their respective matches.
Meanwhile, city-rivals Real Madrid needed a 68th-minute tap-in by center-back Nacho to keep their title hopes alive on a day that saw Zinedine Zidane announce his departure from the Real Madrid managerial helm at the end of the season.
Elsewhere, 32-year old Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski scored his 40th goal of the Bundesliga season on Saturday, during Bayern’s 2-2 draw against SC Freiburg. The Polish’s feat meant he equal a Bundesliga record set by German legend Gerd Muller in 1972. Lewandowski can break that record next Saturday against FC Augsburg and cement his legacy as one of the biggest names in European football history.
EUROPEAN DREAMS KEPT ALIVE
Juventus’ nine-year Serie A dominance came to an abrupt end by Antonio Conte’s Inter Milan on May 3rd, so it was fitting that both sides faced off against each other at the Juventus Stadium on Saturday. With the former champions having fallen outside the coveted top-four spots in the standings, the Nerazzurri had an added incentive to compound Juventus’ recent misery.
As for the match, Cristiano Ronaldo’s second-chance penalty gave Andrea Pirlo’s side the lead in the 34th minute before Romelu Lukaku’s spot-kick leveled the affair eleven minutes later. Just before halftime, Juan Cuadrado smashed in the equalizer for Juventus, but a controversial 55th-minute second-yellow card shown to Rodrigo Bentacur reduced the home side to ten men.
VAR then ruled a Giorgio Chiellini own goal to level the match at 2-2 in the 83rd minute, before another controversial decision five minutes later–this time in Juventus’ favor–saw Cuadrado grab his second goal and Juventus’ third from the spot. Inter’s Marcelo Brozović received a second yellow in added time, as a tantalizing Derby d’Italia ended 3-2 to the favor of the Old Lady.
When was the last time you saw a goalkeeper score a goal? During the final seconds of Liverpool’s match against West Brom on Sunday, goalkeeper Alisson headed home the most remarkable, unstoppable, jaw-dropping goal from a Trent Alexander-Arnold’s corner to keep Liverpool’s Champions League hopes alive.
The Reds went into the match knowing they had to win their remaining three games of the season if they were to stand a chance of securing a Premier League top-four finish. West Brom took the lead through Hal Robson-Kanu’s 15th-minute finish before Mohamed Salah’s 22nd goal of the season leveled the match in the 33rd minute. Liverpool pressed on in the second half to find a much-needed winner but what happened next was a moment of infamy.
With the last touch of the afternoon, Alisson–having gone through personal tragedy this season–wrote his name in the headlights as the only goalkeeper in Liverpool’s prestigious 129-year history to have scored a top-flight goal. Liverpool remarkably secured a 2-1 win, giving us another example of why we love European football.
Hope you enjoyed this piece on the biggest stories from this weekend’s European football action. Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
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