By JUSTIN FERGUSON
For new manager Gerardo Martino, Barcelona’s La Liga opener could not have gone any better.
The Spanish champions routed Levante 7-0 on Sunday, starting their domestic title defense in spectacular fashion. Superstar forward Lionel Messi led the way for Barcelona, scoring two goals and playing a large role in two more.
With names like Andres Iniesta, Jordi Alba and the debuting Neymar sitting on the bench, Messi and the rest of Barcelona put the match out of reach way before the halftime whistle. After Alexis Sanchez’s opener just three minutes in, Messi scored Barcelona’s second goal, forced a turnover that started their third, assisted Pedro on their fourth and netted their fifth from the penalty spot—all in the opening 42 minutes.
Xavi added a sixth goal just before the halftime whistle, tying a club record for most goals in one half. While the second half featured Neymar’s much-anticipated league debut, it did not feature the amount of scoring as the opening 45 did, and Pedro’s 73rd-minute goal wrapped up a celebratory evening in Barcelona.
Another manager who enjoyed a successful debut at his new high-profile club was David Moyes, who led Manchester United to a 4-1 win at Swansea City. Much like Messi for Barcelona, Robin van Persie picked up right where he left off in league play, netting a brace of his own at Liberty Stadium.
Van Persie’s opener, an acrobatic finish in the 34th minute, turned what had been a solid start for the host Swans into a nightmare. Fellow forward Danny Welbeck scored less than two minutes later on a fine Antonio Valencia cross. The English international, who only scored one goal for the Red Devils last season, doubled his offensive output in second-half stoppage time, chipping Michael Vorm to ensure a three-goal win for the defending EPL champions.
Here is a closer look at all the weekend’s action from the top leagues in Europe:
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho also enjoyed a win on his league debut this weekend as his Blues blanked newly promoted Hull City 2-0 at Stamford Bridge. The hosts took care of business in the opening half-hour, grabbing goals from Oscar and Frank Lampard, who had his early penalty saved by a busy Allan McGregor. The Blues eased off the accelerator and cruised to victory in the second half, ensuring that their returning manager’s unbeaten home record in EPL play reached 61 matches.
While rivals Manchester United and Chelsea enjoyed opening victories under their new managers, Arsenal and the longest-tenured manager in the league were stunned in their Saturday opener, a 3-1 home loss to Aston Villa. Although Olivier Giroud got Arsene Wenger’s squad off to a fine start in the sixth minute, Villa forward Christian Benteke netted a 22nd-minute rebound off a penalty and converted another spot kick just after the hour mark to give the Villans a shock comeback lead. After Arsenal defender Laurent Koscielny was sent off for his second yellow card in the 67th minute, Villa sunk the injury-riddled Gunners with a counter attack goal from new signing Antonio Luna.
Here are the results from this weekend’s English Premier League action:
Liverpool 1, Stoke City 0
Aston Villa 3, Arsenal 1
Norwich City 2, Everton 2
Fulham 1, Sunderland 0
Southampton 1, West Bromwich Albion 0
West Ham United 2, Cardiff City 0
Manchester United 4, Swansea City 1
Tottenham Hotspur 1, Crystal Palace 0
Chelsea 2, Hull City 0
Carlo Ancelotti’s league debut with Real Madrid was not as smooth-sailing as other new managers throughout Europe as Los Blancos escaped with a 2-1 win over Real Betis on Sunday. Ancelotti made headlines well before the dramatic match’s conclusion by starting Diego Lopez at goalkeeper over Iker Casillas, a decision that was a point of controversy during Mourinho’s tenure at the Bernabeu. New signing Isco was the hero for Madrid, drilling an 86th-minute header past Stephan Andersen for the winner. It was the first career goal scored via header for the 21-year-old Isco, who took the league by storm these past two seasons at Malaga.
Isco’s old club was unable to kick off its season with a victory as Valencia edged Malaga 1-0 on Saturday. The new-look Malaga squad, which lost most of its core and manager Manuel Pellegrini during the offseason, struggled to maintain possession and get quality chances on the road. Ricardo Costa scored the match’s only goal in the 63rd minute, taking advantage of goalkeeper Willy Caballero’s mistake for an easy score.
Here are the results from this weekend’s La Liga action:
Real Sociedad 2, Getafe 0
Athletic Bilbao 2, Real Valladolid 1
Valencia 1, Malaga 0
Barcelona 7, Levante 0
Granada 2, Osasuna 1
Real Madrid 2, Real Betis 1
Atletico Madrid 3, Sevilla 1
The top two clubs in the Bundesliga had to grind out victories this weekend to stay level with one another in the early-season race for the title. Bayern Munich did not have the same amount of offensive success as Hertha Berlin had against Eintracht Frankurt did last weekend, and the defending champions had to settle for a 1-0 road win over the Eagles. Mario Mandzukic’s 13th-minute goal was enough for Bayern, which missed several golden opportunities to put the match out of reach in the second half. Frankfurt put some pressure on Manuel Neuer and the Bayern defenders right before the final whistle, but the hosts’ efforts came up short in the end.
On Sunday, Borussia Dortmund could not find the back of the net until the final 15 minutes of the match in a 2-1 win over Eintracht Braunschweig. The hosts dominated possession and chances on goal, but it took substitute Jonas Hofmann’s 75th-minute effort off the inside of the post to get Dortmund on the scoreboard. Hofmann would play a part in a critical second goal, drawing a penalty that Marco Reus converted in the 86th minute. The visitors would pull one back on a Kevin Kratz header that took a favorable deflection off Robert Lewandowski, but they could not find an equalizer in stoppage time.
Here are the results from this weekend’s Bundesliga action:
Bayern Munich 1, Eintracht Frankfurt 0
Hoffenheim 5, Hamburg 1
Mainz 2, Freiburg 1
Bayer Leverkusen 1, Stuttgart 0
Wolfsburg 4, Schalke 0
Werder Bremen 1, Augsburg 0
Borussia Monchengladbach 3, Hannover 0
Nurnberg 2, Hertha Berlin 2
Borussia Dortmund 2, Eintracht Braunschweig 1
In the early stages of the Ligue 1 race between financial powerhouses, AS Monaco have pulled four points ahead of defending champions Paris Saint-Germain after just two matches.
Radamel Falcao’s first league goal may have started Monaco’s home opener, but Emmanuel Riviere’s hat trick stole the show as the newly promoted club defeated Montpellier 4-1 on Sunday. After Falcao’s penalty conversion was matched by a Victor Hugo Montano goal, Riviere gave the hosts the lead just before halftime. His second-half goals came on either side of a Daniel Congre red card, which sealed Montpellier’s fate in the 64th minute.
Meanwhile, Paris Saint-Germain had to get a late equalizer from their latest big-money signing, Edinson Cavani, in order to snatch a point from visiting Ajaccio. Benoit Pedretti scored a wonderful long-range goal in the 9th minute, Ajaccio’s only shot on goal in the 1-1 draw. PSG commanded over 80 percent of the possession, but Mexican international Guillermo Ochoa made an incredible 14 saves during the match. He could do nothing about Cavani’s 86th-minute goal, a thunderous strike that soared into the top corner of his net.
Here are the results from this weekend’s Ligue 1 action:
Lyon 3, Sochaux 1
Marseille 2, Evian Thonon Gaillard 0
Bastia 2, Valenciennes 0
Nice 2, Stade Rennes 1
Saint Etienne 1, Guingamp 0
Stade de Reims 2, Lille 1
Toulouse 1, Bordeaux 1
AS Monaco 4, Montpellier 1
Lorient 2, Nantes 1
Paris Saint-Germain 1, Ajaccio 1
What are your thoughts on this weekend’s results? Impressed with Barcelona’s seven-goal thumping of Levante? Surprised to see Manchester United beat Swansea by three goals on the road? What other performances from this weekend’s action caught your eye?
Share your thoughts below.