With everything going in the soccer world—plus some big event happening in the other kind of football—you might have missed a couple things over the weekend.
Here’s your chance to catch up.
1. MLS preseason friendlies got started
If you count preseason games, that goal was Orlando City's first as an MLS club. Carlos Rivas pulled off the beauty seen above to draw level with DC United at 1-1, which is how the game ended. Elsewhere, the New York Red Bulls won their first game under new manager Jesse Marsch (4-0 over University of South Florida), Portland notched a solid 2-0 win over Sporting KC, and the Chicago Fire were stranded at O'Hare airport due to a blizzard, delaying their arrival in England for preseason games against Norwich City and Queens Park Rangers.
2. Australia are champions of Asia
Like so many other games in this tournament, the final between South Korea and hosts Australia was tense, frenetic, and needed more than 90 minutes to resolve. Swindon Town midfielder Massimo Luongo put the hosts in front right before halftime but, just as it looked like the Socceroos were going to coast to the title, Son Hueng-min equalized well into stoppage time to force an extra 30 minutes. The home field advantage was just too much, however, and James Troisi netted the game-winner in extra time.
3. The front-runners for the Premier League title split the difference (again)
As fireworks go, this was a game that had big pops on narrative but fizzled out on football. After Loïc Rémy put the home side ahead late in the first half, Sergio Aguero netted the equalizer (see above) to head into the tunnel at 1-1. That ended up being the final score- coincidentally, the same as the reverse fixture back in September. City remain five points behind Chelsea with 14 games to go. Read Richard Whittall's column for a great breakdown of Manchester City's equalizer.
4. Karim Benzema did THIS against Real Sociedad
David Moyes was given some early encouragement when his Txuriurdin went ahead in the first minute thanks to Aritz Elustondo. But James Rodriguez equalized almost immediately and—well, it's Real Madrid. You can guess what happened next. The ICBM seen above was one of two Benzema bagged on Saturday, helping to power Los Blancos to a comfortable 4-1 win at home.
5. AFCON was rife with drama
This spot-kick is the source of an ongoing controversy. Just as Tunisia looked to knock hosts Equatorial Guinea out of the tournament, Ivan Bolado won a penalty well into stoppage time that many observers felt was, shall we say, soft. Javier Balboa converted to force extra time, then scored the game-winner from a spectacular free kick. The game ended with fighting, pitch invasions, referees fleeing down the tunnel, and players chasing after them. A chaotic scene marred an otherwise incredible achievement, as the relative minnows are through to the semi-finals (where they will face Ghana). Meanwhile, Congo faced off against DR Congo in a match as tense as their foreign relations, with four goals scored on both sides in a 20 minute period. DR Congo went on to win 4-2, and will face Ivory Coast in the semis.
6. Daniel Sturridge is back
And millions of Scousers rejoiced. D-Studge came off the bench in the 68th minute at home against West Ham for his first appearance since their 3-0 win against Spurs all the way back in August. 12 minutes later he bagged his first goal since that game as well. Liverpool went on to win 2-0, leaving them 4 points out of 4th place. The wavy arms are back, and with them comes the creeping sense of dread in the hearts of the other Top Four contenders.
7. The Old Firm was reignited
The rivalry between Celtic and Rangers is one of the most colorful—to put it mildly—match-ups in football, with fixtures between the two Scottish giants acting as proxies for decades worth of heated (and occasionally violent) sectarian tension. Yet the past few years have been quiet—financial difficulties at Rangers led to bankruptcy, administration, and relegation to Scotland’s fourth division. Sunday’s meeting in the Scottish League Cup was their first since April 2012. The match itself was fairly ho-hum, with Celtic cruising to a 2-0 win, but the atmosphere was thick with noise and friction and vulgarity.
8. Mats Hummels did THIS against Bayer Leverkusen
Is this just being in the right place at the right time? Sure. But most of what footballers train for is being able to be in the right place at the right time. It’s figuring out what scenarios are most likely to develop in the next few seconds, deciding which one to prepare to deal with, then getting to where you might be needed soon. All while running at high speed. For 90 minutes. So, yeah, not easy, and not (entirely) lucky. Hummels’ effort ended up being crucial as his yellow and black went on to draw 0-0, giving them a hard-won point which nonetheless leaves 2013 Champions League runners-up Borussia Dortmund stuck at the bottom of the Bundesliga table.
9. Arsenal gave Aston Villa a mollywhopping
Olivier Giroud got the party started early with the breakaway goal seen above. Mesut Özil, Theo Walcott (in his first start in over a year), Santi Cazorla, and Hector Bellerin (with his first goal for the club) added to the pile-on in what became Arsenal’s best day out this season. While the competition wasn’t particularly stiff- Villa haven’t so much as scored a goal since December—Arsenal is notorious for slipping up against weaker teams. Not this weekend, though. Great googly moogly.
10. Wolfsburg gummed up the gears of the Bayern Munich machine
Just last week we were seeing thinkpieces wondering if the lack of meaningful competition in the Bundesliga was leaving Bayern unprepared to fight for the Champions League title. Clearly the hot takes were taken out of the oven too early, as Wolfsburg gave Die Roten an unpleasant wake-up call in their first league game since the midwinter break. Bas Dost opened the scoring (above) in the 4th minute, bagged another one before halftime, and former Chelsea man Kevin De Bruyne got himself a brace in the second half to see the presumptive champions off. It’s probably a blip, but as the past few weeks of FA Cup chaos showed, everyone loves a giant killing.
BONUS: Zlatan heeds no man’s beckon. Not even the referee.