Was this the weekend that saw decisive moves by the leaders in Spain and Germany? Real Madrid and Bayern Munich fans certainly hope so! Elsewhere, Juventus dropped more points, a USMNT youngster scored a vital goal and Manchester United were thankful for their world-class goalkeeper.
Here are Rob Dawson, Andrew Cesare Richardson, Alex Kirkland, Sam Marsden and James Tyler with what you need to know from around Europe.
Four talking points
Real Madrid prevail against Atletico on derby day
LaLiga is in danger of becoming a one-team league this season after Real Madrid reaffirmed their grip on the top of the table with a comfortable 2-0 win over Atletico Madrid. Carlo Ancelotti’s side have now won their last 10 games in all competitions and are eight points clear of second-placed Sevilla. Traditional rivals Atletico and Barcelona are 13 and 18 points behind, respectively, although Madrid have played a game more.
There is no team in Spain more efficient in attack than Madrid, largely thanks to Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior, who both had a big say in Sunday’s Madrid derby. Vinicius set up both goals, the first for Benzema and the second for Marco Asensio. Benzema now has 18 goals in all competitions, more than anyone else in Spain. Vinicius follows him with 12, while both have seven assists, too. At the other end of the pitch, goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois is in great form, as Atletico found out.
The two sides from Seville, Sevilla and Real Betis, are now Madrid’s closest rivals in the table, but the only team standing between Madrid and the LaLiga trophy are Madrid themselves. It would take a huge implosion for this to slip away. — Marsden
Karim Benzema volleys home the cross from Vinicius Jr. 👏 pic.twitter.com/L9mxA2YtbD
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) December 12, 2021
Is the Bundesliga Bayern Munich’s to lose?
Little over a week after Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund were separated in the table by one point ahead of their Klassiker match-up, the gap is up to six; the title race might not be over, but the head-spinning shift in momentum has put the rest of the league firmly in the champions’ rearview mirror.
After nine-time defending champion Bayern’s contentious win in Dortmund, the rivals faced winnable games against Mainz and Bochum, respectively. Both fell behind, but while Bayern were able to fight back and emerge with all three points, Dortmund had to settle for a draw.
Having fallen behind to Karim Onisiwo‘s 22nd-minute header, Bayern scored twice in the second half. Corentin Tolisso‘s long ball was calmly thumped in by Kingsley Coman, before Jamal Musiala‘s thundering low strike settled the contest.
Dortmund, meanwhile, labored to create chances in the first half and went behind via a Sebastian Polter penalty after Gregor Kobel took down Christopher Antwi-Adjei. The second half was all BVB, but Julian Brandt‘s 85th-minute goal was as much as they could muster. — Tyler
— Bundesliga English (@Bundesliga_EN) December 11, 2021
Jimenez wrecks Wolves’ hopes
It will be hard to find a more stupid red card than the one Wolves‘ striker Raul Jimenez received against Manchester City on Saturday. The Mexico international’s club looked comfortable at 0-0 as half-time approached, only for a minute of madness to turn the game in favour of the Premier League champions.
First, Jimenez was booked for a challenge on Rodri on the halfway line as City tried to counter. It was a harsh call, but the 30-year-old then compounded the issue when he failed to retreat from the subsequent free kick and stuck his leg out to block the ball. Cue a second yellow card and Wolves facing the prospect of playing 45 minutes with 10 men. A bizarre chapter ended with Jimenez appearing to play up to City fans’ booing and jeering.
Having looked solid in defence and dangerous on the break, Wolves were pinned on the edge of their penalty area as City attacked in wave after wave. While they did well to resist for more than 20 minutes, they were eventually undone by Raheem Sterling‘s disputed second-half penalty.
Without Jimenez’s lapse of judgement, things could have been different. — Dawson
— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) December 11, 2021
Strikers old and young put on Serie A show
Zlatan Ibrahimovic produced more heroics at the age of 40 to rescue a point for AC Milan and a player 19 years his junior starred again to move clear in the Capocannoniere race as Italy‘s top flight continued to show that it has a wealth of quality centre-forwards.
Leading all scorers with 15 goals is Fiorentina No. 9 Dusan Vlahovic, who netted twice in Saturday’s 4-0 win over Salernitana and made more club history in the process. The Serbia international’s 32 goals in 2021 is more than either Gabriel Batistuta or Luca Toni managed in a calendar year during their time with La Viola.
Vlahovic has three matches remaining before January to score the two he needs to break Ronaldo’s 71-year high of 33, achieved in 2020, but might that be his swansong in Florence? The 21-year-old’s agent Davide Torchia has hinted Vlahovic, who has a contract that expires in 2023, could be available in January.
Elsewhere, Giovanni Simeone appears to have found his home at Hellas Verona; Sunday’s strike against Atalanta was the 12th in his last 12 league games. And watch out for Udinese forward Beto, 23, who followed up a double against Lazio with the opener against AC Milan on Saturday. — Richardson
Three must-see goals
What a moment for USMNT’s Richards!
At first glance, a header from a corner might not seem like the best goal, but U.S. defender Chris Richards would no doubt disagree. After all, his 94th-minute finish from a set piece gave Hoffenheim a precious 2-1 win at Freiburg to maintain their push for a top-four place in the Bundesliga.
It was also notable for being Richards’ first career Bundesliga goal, something the on-loan Bayern Munich defender has deserved for an impressive run of form in his second season at the Rhein-Neckar-Arena. — Tyler
USMNT defender Chris Richards scored a stoppage time match winner for Hoffenheim today! It was his first Bundesliga goal.
Look at what it meant ❤️ pic.twitter.com/VVUKw5E6UH
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) December 11, 2021
Delaney decisive for Sevilla
Thomas Delaney‘s brilliant strike ensured Sevilla earned an against-the-run-of-play win against Athletic Bilbao to remain Real Madrid’s closest challengers in LaLiga, eight points back with a game in hand.
The Danish midfielder found the top corner with a lovely left-footed effort from the corner of the box at San Mames. The goal, Delaney’s first since joining the club from Borussia Dortmund, came from Sevilla’s only shot on target and punished Athletic for their profligacy at the other end — Marsden
HIGHLIGHTS | @SevillaFC_ENG triumph at San Mames thanks to a stunner from Thomas Delaney. 😍
— LaLiga English (@LaLigaEN) December 11, 2021
Maddison makes his point
James Maddison will score more spectacular goals than the late strike that rounded off Leicester‘s 4-0 win over Newcastle on Sunday, but few will better demonstrate his qualities as an attacking midfielder.
The 25-year-old has not always been in favour under Brendan Rodgers, but the Leicester manager will have been delighted to see the way Maddison bounced a pass off Patson Daka before striding into the penalty area to beat Martin Dubravka. It was a goal of simplistic quality and capped an impressive afternoon. — Dawson
Two teams that should be worried
Is Allegri the right man to lead Juventus?
To the surprise of many, the question is valid following another disappointing result, which saw Juve relinquish a lead to draw 1-1 at struggling Venezia and leaves the Bianconeri four points outside the top four and 11 behind second-placed AC Milan and 12 behind Inter as the halfway point of the campaign nears.
Five-time Serie A winner Allegri came back to Juve charged with regaining the Scudetto after Inter Milan broke the club’s nine-year stronghold. However, while Pep Guardiola, Antonio Conte and others benefited from sabbaticals, might Allegri’s time out have seen football pass him by? He seems incapable of resolving in-game issues, when finding creative solutions was once his speciality. Yes, better players are needed, but more should come from what he has.
Juve somehow managed to win their Champions League group after Chelsea, who tore them apart at Stamford Bridge, twice gave up leads against Zenit St Petersburg, but Allegri’s side will surely be seen as a favourable draw for Europe’s elite. Unreliable and inconsistent are not traits traditionally associated with the club, but are the hallmark of this season’s team. — Richardson
MATTIA ARAMU HIT THAT 💥
VENEZIA FIND THE EQUALIZER AGAINST JUVE. GAME ON 👀 pic.twitter.com/SioGn1DHbn
— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) December 11, 2021
Xavi sees the size of his Barcelona task
Reality has bitten for Xavi Hernandez at Barcelona. After wins over Espanyol and Villarreal sandwiched a draw against Benfica in his first three games, it’s now three games without a win for Barca. They twice gave up the lead against Osasuna on Sunday to draw 2-2 as they followed up slipping out of the Champions League and into the Europa League by dropping to eighth in LaLiga.
Never mind competing with Real Madrid for the title, Barca are now locked in a battle to even make the top four and qualify for the Champions League next season.
There are some positives in the form of the young players coming through, although even that’s a problem for Xavi. After watching 19-year-olds Nico Gonzalez and Abde Ezzalzouli score their first goals for the club against Osasuna, with 17-year-old Gavi once again impressing, the new Barca boss said it was “difficult to digest” that the side has become so reliant on teenagers.
A trip to Saudi Arabia to take part in the Diego Maradona Cup against Boca Juniors on Tuesday is not the preparation they need for Saturday’s game at home to Eibar, either, with defender Gerard Pique labeling the situation as “critical” and saying Barca “urgently need to get back to winning ways.” — Marsden
HIGHLIGHTS | Chimy Avila equaliser cancels out Nico and Abde’s first goals in El Sadar thriller. 🔥
— LaLiga English (@LaLigaEN) December 12, 2021
Dave saves Man United, again
Ralf Rangnick has David De Gea to thank for tipping the balance in his favour on Saturday. Manchester United’s interim coach left Norwich celebrating a 1-0 win that extended his unbeaten start at Old Trafford, but had it not been for his goalkeeper, there might have been awkward questions about how one of the world’s most talented squads lost to the league’s bottom team.
De Gea has been one of United’s best players this season — not that he has had much competition — and continued his fine form at Carrow Road. His save from Ozan Kabak‘s header, after the Norwich defender had got up above Harry Maguire, was world class and earned a second straight league clean sheet; United had not done that since March — Dawson