Lionel Messi made his home debut for Paris Saint-Germain, although it was a different Argentine who made the decisive contribution. Elsewhere, Juventus still seek their first Serie A win, while Borussia Dortmund impressed and a legendary figure was mourned in England.
Here are Mark Ogden, Tom Hamilton and Sam Marsden to discuss the big stuff you need to know from the soccer weekend around Europe.
Four talking points
Argentine forward saves PSG … as Messi watches on
Paris Saint-Germain lined up with Neymar, Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe in attack for the second time in a week, but it was Mauro Icardi who saved their 100% winning record in Ligue 1 against Lyon, heading a 93rd-minute winner to make it six from six for Mauricio Pochettino’s side.
The win will disguise another disappointing night for PSG’s front three, following on from their debut in a 1-1 Champions League draw against Club Brugge. Messi was the pick in the first half, twice drawing saves from Lyon’s Anthony Lopes and hitting the woodwork with a free kick. Mbappe, perhaps rushed back from a knock picked up in Belgium, was more subdued, while Neymar won and converted a penalty.
Pochettino then dared to take off Messi, who did not look pleased. But the coach’s changes proved effective, with substitute Icardi finding space in the box to connect with Mbappe’s cross and maintain PSG’s perfect start. — Sam Marsden
Mixed fortunes for Bundesliga bosses
Marco Rose and Borussia Dortmund made it four wins from five in the league with a 4-2 victory over Union Berlin. Erling Haaland grabbed two goals — the first a brilliant header and the second an audacious lob — but more ominous for their rivals is how quickly BVB’s new signings have slotted in. Jadon Sancho‘s replacement, Donyell Malen, has started well, while €15m signing Gregor Kobel is proving a bargain. Thomas Meunier is revitalised at right back and with incredible youngsters like Jude Bellingham and Gio Reyna, you have potential title challengers.
Prior to the season, it looked as if three teams would contend and that is how things are playing out, albeit with Wolfsburg — rather than Leipzig — leading the charge alongside Bayern and Dortmund.
Jesse Marsch has had a tough start at Leipzig, with one win from five Bundesliga matches and a 6-3 defeat to Manchester City in the Champions League representing a slow start. Unlike Dortmund’s, Leipzig’s new signings have not jelled; Andre Silva is yet to find the scoring boots he had at Eintracht Frankfurt, while the defence is dealing with the exits of Dayot Upamecano and Ibrahima Konate. Leipzig drew 1-1 at Cologne on Saturday but squandered chances to win. — Tom Hamilton
Liverpool depth starting to show
After last season’s injury-littered campaign, Jurgen Klopp last week found himself in the unfamiliar situation of being able to rotate Liverpool’s squad on his terms, and wins over Milan and Crystal Palace should concern other silverware-chasing hopefuls.
After a winning start in the Champions League, Saturday saw James Milner at right-back and Kostas Tsimikas at left-back, with regulars Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson given a break. The ageless Milner was superb — he covered the most distance of any player and put in the highest number of sprints — while Tsimikas was one of several who showed he can be a viable option when others need to be rested.
Naby Keita‘s late goal was wondrous and Thiago looks more at home than he did last season. New signing Ibrahim Konate’s Liverpool career is at the early stages, but he looked assured alongside Virgil van Dijk; such options at centre-back — including Joel Matip and Joe Gomez — mean Jordan Henderson and Fabinho can be restored to midfield.
Finishing in the top four looked unlikely for long periods last season at Anfield. Having done so and with key players now healthy, bar Harvey Elliott‘s broken ankle, Klopp can target loftier goals. The likes of Chelsea, Man City and Man United will be taking notice. — Hamilton
Shaka Hislop says he’s starting to see Chelsea as Premier League favourites after comfortably beating Spurs.
Greaves was a great, regardless of era
The goal-scoring feats of Jimmy Greaves are largely unknown to a generation of modern fans, but the death of the former Tottenham, Chelsea, West Ham, AC Milan and England forward at the age of 81 on Sunday offered a timely reminder of his greatness and the folly of measuring all achievements solely within too narrow a context.
Alan Shearer’s tally of 260 Premier League goals is a record, but only in the sense that it dates back to the restructuring of English football in 1992; Greaves remains the country’s all-time leading topflight scorer with 357 goals. Harry Kane, meanwhile, needs another 47 goals for Spurs to take the club record from Greaves, who hit 266 in 379 games (Kane is in second spot, with 223 from 342).
No player has scored more goals in a season for Spurs than Greaves’ 37 in 1962-63 and he also holds that record for Chelsea, with 41 goals in 1960-61. In total, he scored 132 goals in 169 games for the Stamford Bridge club in the space of four years.
All sports measure greatness by comparing competitors from different eras, but English football’s trend of citing only Premier League records — as if football was less significant before 1992 — makes no sense as it diminishes the giants of the past. After all, the likes of Greaves and others paved the way for what has followed. — Mark Ogden
Three must-see goals
Morata magic not enough for Juventus
Alvaro Morata’s fourth-minute goal completed a fine team move, but it was not enough to earn Juventus their first win of the Serie A season.
Milan committed everyone forward and paid the price when Juve won back possession. Paulo Dybala fed Morata and the Spanish striker did the rest; his first touch was in his own half and he needed only three more, holding off Theo Hernandez and then showing precision to lift the ball over Mike Maignan.
It looked like Juve would hold on for three points from there but, for the third time in four league games this season, they surrendered a lead. Ante Rebic‘s late header earned Milan a point to move them joint top with Inter on 10 points from a possible 12. Massimiliano Allegri’s wait for a first league win since returning to Turin goes on. — Marsden
DYBALA 🤝 MORATA
ALVARO MORATA WITH A CHEEKY FINISH 🎯 pic.twitter.com/FZ8v9DF6Cj
— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) September 19, 2021
Bailey brings Villa Park to its feet
Leon Bailey was one of the biggest transfers of the summer window, moving from Bayer Leverkusen to Aston Villa in a deal worth up to £30m, but the Jamaica international perhaps slipped under the radar because of the focus at Villa Park on Jack Grealish‘s departure to Manchester City.
Bailey’s stunning goal in Saturday’s 3-0 win against Everton, though, was one of those that made everyone sit up and take notice. A long pass by Danny Ings found Bailey in the Everton half and, without breaking stride, the winger headed the ball down before sending a left-foot shot past goalkeeper Asmir Begovic from 20 yards.
Bailey was on the pitch for only 21 minutes after being introduced as a substitute, but contributed an assist as well as his goal before being forced off with a muscle injury. Fans in the Holte End — the section crammed full of Villa’s noisiest supporters — will hope their exciting new forward is not out for long. — Ogden
— Aston Villa (@AVFCOfficial) September 18, 2021
Guerreiro delivers a goal to remember
It was 10 minutes into BVB’s eventual 4-2 win over Union Berlin when the ball bobbled on the edge of the box between Jude Bellingham and Guerreiro, who had a chance to chest it down before firing a half volley from the left side of the box, across goal and into Union keeper Andreas Luthe‘s top corner.
It was a timely reminder that, for all the talk of Borussia’s firepower up front through Erling Haaland, who did score twice himself in the game, they have other players to step up and produce a moment of outrageous brilliance. — Hamilton
— Bundesliga English (@Bundesliga_EN) September 19, 2021
Two teams that should be worried
Alarm bells for Celta Vigo
Celta opened the LaLiga season with defeat to champions Atletico Madrid and lost to Real Madrid last weekend, but each passing week weakens the argument that their slow start is down to a difficult early schedule. Because outside reverses against the two aforementioned giants, drawing at Osasuna and a home defeat to Athletic Bilbao were compounded by a 2-1 defeat to Cadiz — winless themselves heading into the game — at Balaidos on Friday.
Eduardo Coudet did a good job last season, steadying the ship and clinching an eighth-place finish, and Celta should be too good to go down, but a start of one point from 15 will worry supporters, especially with a dispute rumbling in the background.
President Carlos Mourino is at odds with Intermedia Sport Player, the agency that represents several first-team players, including Iago Aspas and Denis Suarez. Mourino was angered by the way a youngster, Bryan Bugarin, left the club for Madrid in the summer.— Marsden
Bochum get a harsh Bundesliga lesson
Greuther Furth and VfL Bochum took their place at Germany‘s top table this season, but the gulf was apparent this weekend for the latter as they were hammered 7-0 at Bayern Munich thanks to a mix of shots from distance, scrappy close-range efforts and a comical own goal.
After a 2-0 win over Mainz in matchday two, Bochum have lost three on the bounce and, with fellow strugglers Eintracht Frankfurt and Borussia Monchengladbach likely to find some form sooner rather than later, Bochum need to recover quickly from this trouncing. — Hamilton
Dzeko shows Inter can thrive without Lukaku
Lukaku hit 64 goals in 95 games for Inter and his 24 Serie strikes last season were crucial as Antonio Conte’s side won the Scudetto. The exit of both men during the summer meant Inter needed certainty and reliability up front and the free transfer signing of Dzeko from Roma proved a masterstroke.
The 35-year-old scored twice as a substitute during Saturday’s 6-1 home win against Bologna — a victory which left the reigning champions at the top of the table — and has three goals in four league games for Inter; while he may not prove as prolific as Lukaku for the Nerrazzurri, his experience and ability to deliver consistently will be key for Simone Inzaghi’s team.
Dzeko is one of Europe’s most consistent scorers, but has perhaps never got the credit he deserves. He hit 85 goals in 142 games for Wolfsburg and helped the club to a Bundesliga title in 2008-09, then became a Premier League champion with Manchester City, for whom he scored 72 times in 189 appearances. He has made a good start in pursuit of a third title in a major league. — Ogden