The international break was over and fans across Europe were yearning to see the players take the pitch as club football resumed after two weeks.
It did not take rocket science to figure out the talk of the town – Cristiano Ronaldo playing his first match for Manchester United after 12 years. The stage was set, Old Trafford was rocking with the ‘Viva Ronaldo’ chants and the Portuguese’s return was sweeter than ever.
Ronaldo takes centrestage
If one tried to filter out the deafening buzz of Ronaldo’s return to Manchester United, there were a few interesting occurrences to note in English top-flight football. For starters, Arsenal registered its first victory in the league for the current season with a 1-0 win against Norwich as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored the first goal for the Gunners in the league.
Crystal Palace manager Patrick Vieira enjoyed a resounding 3-0 victory against Nuno Espirito Santos’ Tottenham Hotspur. Palace debutant Odsonne Edouard came off the bench in the last ten minutes to score a brace to put the game to bed and end Spurs’ 100% start to the season.
However, it was Ronaldo’s brace on his United return, which stole all the headlines as Manchester United thrashed Newcastle 4-1 to go top of the table. Bruno Fernandes and Jesse Lingard found the net for the third and fourth.
It was a memorable evening for Romelu Lukaku as the striker scored his first goals at Stamford Bridge and Chelsea thrashed Aston Villa 3-0 while defending champion Manchester City secured a 1-0 win over Leicester City.
Liverpool scored three past Leeds without reply but the win was marred by Harvey Elliot’s horrific leg injury after a strong challenge from Leeds’ Pascal Strujik. The Liverpool youngster was carried off the pitch while the Leeds player saw a red for the challenge.
Roaring form: Karim Benzema celebrates scoring a goal against Celta Vigo. He scored a hat-trick to help Real Madrid win 5-2 in its return to the Santiago Bernabeu for the first time since March 2020. – REUTERS
Benzema’s happy return
The Spanish High Council for Sports accepted LaLiga’s request to postpone the Barcelona vs Sevilla and Villarreal vs Alaves matches due to the extended South American World Cup qualifying window put in place by FIFA to compensate for COVID-19 postponements this year.
Yannick Carrasco and Thomas Lemar shone for Spanish champion Atletico Madrid in its 2-1 win over Espanyol. Carrasco equalised before Lemar struck in the 99th minute after 10 minutes were added on.
Karim Benzema’s hat-trick capped a happy return for Real Madrid to Santiago Bernabeu for the first time since March 2020, as the Blancos beat Celta Vigo 5-2. Vinicius Jr. and debutant, Eduardo Camavinga, also found the net as the win propelled Carlo Ancelotti’s side to the top of the table.
A stuttering Juve
Life post-Cristiano Ronaldo has been tough for Juventus as Massimiliano Allegri’s side lost 2-1 against Napoli. It was the second consecutive defeat in the league for the Turin side, which now languishes in the bottom half of the table.
Defending champion Inter Milan could not notch the three points as it drew 2-2 against a resolute Sampdoria, which came back from behind twice to secure a precious point.
AC Milan secured a comfortable 2-0 win against Lazio with Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Rafael Leao on the scoresheet, but it was the Roma-Sassuolo match, which grabbed the spotlight in Italy’s top league.
Managing his 1000th professional match, the occasion could not have been better for Jose Mourinho as his team snatched a 91st-minute winner courtesy of Stephan El Shaarawy’s goal and won the match 2-1. It was a perfect tribute to the ‘Special One’ as the win took Roma to the top of the table ahead of Milan.
Elsewhere, it was a poor performance by Gian Piero Gasperini’s Atalanta as it lost 1-2 against Fiorentina.
Haaland all the way
German top-flight football saw a thriller played out in the match between Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Dortmund as it finished 4-3 in Dortmund’s favour. It was an Erling Haaland show again as the Norwegian striker scored a brace, which took his league-goal tally to five this season, just one behind the leader, Robert Lewandowksi.
Defending champion Bayern Munich dominated RB Leipzig as Julian Nagelsmann’s side scored four past last season’s runner-up. The win took Bayern to second place with 10 points, two behind current league-leader VfL Wolfsburg, which won 2-0 against newly-promoted Furth.
PSG continues to rule
Paris Saint-Germain did not have Neymar and Lionel Messi in its match against Clermont as they arrived late after international duty. Their absence was hardly a problem as PSG thrashed its opponents 4-0, with Ander Herrera scoring a brace and Kylian Mbappe and Idrissa Gana Gueye scoring the other two. It is perched on the top of the league table after this game week.
Elsewhere in France, it was not a good week for defending champion Lille OSC as it lost 1-2 to FC Lorient. The club is now in 12th place on the league table.