Another weekend of European football is in the books and, once again, there is drama everywhere you look. Liverpool knocked an astonishing seven goals past Manchester United, while Arsenal staged a comeback that carried an aura of champions about it.
Elsewhere, Borussia Dortmund flexed their title credentials and things went from bad to worse for Lens in France.
ESPN correspondents Luis Miguel Echegaray, Julien Laurens, Alex Kirkland, James Tyler and James Olley break down the most interesting and important stuff you need to know about the weekend.
Liverpool inflict historic humiliation on United
And to think, most people thought this would be close. Manchester United arrived at Liverpool on Sunday aiming to showcase their improvement under coach Erik ten Hag but left humiliated in a 7-0 thrashing — the club’s joint-heaviest ever competitive defeat, alongside Wolves in December 1931, Aston Villa in December 1930 and Blackburn Rovers in April 1926.
Ten Hag must have thought a pathetic capitulation like this was a thing of the past, especially after matching Liverpool for the first goal-less 40 minutes. But after Cody Gakpo and Darwin Nunez struck either side of half-time, United collapsed and Liverpool ran riot in a manner reminiscent of their very best under coach Jurgen Klopp.
– Ogden: Liverpool crush Man Utd, on course for top 4
Doubts had grown recently over whether Liverpool could still hit those heights and confirmation this week that Roberto Firmino will leave the club at the end of the season was a reminder how the era of their fabled attacking trio — Sadio Mane, Firmino and Mohamed Salah — is coming to an end. And in that context, this felt like a changing of the guard.
Gakpo and Nunez (with Luis Diaz also to return) are Salah’s new partners and all three of them scored twice as United were ripped to shreds. And to cap off a perfect afternoon for Liverpool, Firmino came off the bench to net the seventh goal late on.
Any lingering hopes United had about mounting a late charge for the Premier League title are now emphatically extinguished and if anything, they will now be looking over their shoulders at a resurgent Liverpool, who closed to within three points of fourth-placed Tottenham with a game-in-hand. — Olley
Ten Hag ‘surprised’ by how United gave the game away
Erik ten Hag reacts to his team being embarrassed by Liverpool in the Premier League in 7-0 rout.
Dortmund shrug off Leipzig to continue their surge for the Bundesliga title
Champions always need a bit of luck or the ability to pick up points when playing poorly, or so the saying goes. And when it comes to Dortmund, who are angling for their first Bundesliga crown since 2011-12, they’re enjoying every bit of it right now. Friday saw BVB extend their winning streak to eight games, shrugging off a nervous second half and few clear-cut scoring chances to defeat RB Leipzig 2-1. While Bayern Munich beat VfB Stuttgart 2-1 on Saturday to reclaim top spot on goal difference, it’s clear that Dortmund are the Bavarians’ closest rivals in what has the potential to be an epic of a title race.
Friday’s win wasn’t vintage, it wasn’t memorable and it certainly wasn’t a textbook example of how to approach such a high-stakes game, but Dortmund took a 2-0 lead into half-time and clung on for the victory. After haggling through much of the game’s early exchanges, Julian Brandt had a goal disallowed for handball — a shame considering the quality of Jude Bellingham’s pass over the defense — before Marco Reus converted a penalty, rightfully awarded after being tripped in the box by Leipzig keeper Janis Blaswich.
– Watch replay: Dortmund 2-1 RB Leipzig (ESPN+, U.S. only)
In the final 10 minutes of the half, Emre Can’s seemingly ponderous shot from distance found its way through a crowded box, took a chunky deflection and snuck beyond Blaswich to double the hosts’ lead. Two shots on target for two goals is the stuff of champions.
Dortmund did little to ruffle Blaswich’s feathers after the break and Leipzig soon forced their way back into the game, with David Raum slipping in behind the Dortmund defense and sliding a low cross along the box that Emil Forsberg guided into the net at the far post. Yet Dortmund held firm for their 10th straight win in all competitions.
There’s still a lot of games left ahead — including Bayern vs. Dortmund on April 1 — and Bayern haven’t won 10 straight league titles without knowing how to seize upon these situations down the stretch, but BVB have a sense of momentum and confidence that is hard to plan against. — Tyler
Mbappe: record breaker, history maker
He only just turned 24 and Kylian Mbappe just adds record after record to his list of prizes. On Saturday, he became Paris Saint-Germain’s all-time top scorer, overtaking Edinson Cavani with 201 goals. Against Nantes, he left it late (the 92nd minute) to get his goal and the record which is funny for someone so precocious. By his reaction, you could see how much it meant to him to go above Cavani. 201 goals for his home club is pretty special. To do it in 247 games is even more impressive. He will always remember that he beat the record with his left foot which, for a perfectionist like him, is very significant.
To have seen him evolve at the club since he moved to the Parc des Princes in the summer 2017 at the age of 18 has been remarkable. He grew as a man and as a player, going from a little prodigy to one of the best players in the world. His progression was so linear. There were highs and lows of course on the way to the record in the last five and half years, and the uncertainty over his future during last season was maybe a distraction but nevertheless, he got there and will now take this record to new heights which may never be reached.
Mbappe is a happy Parisian and a new record holder. — Laurens
Kylian Mbappe’s resume:
🏆 World Cup winner
🏆 World Cup Best Young Player
🏆 World Cup Golden Boot
🏆 UEFA Nation’s League winner
🏆 3x Coupe de France winner
🏆 5x Ligue 1 winner
🏆 4x Ligue 1 Golden Boot
🏆 PSG’s all-time top goalscorer
On top of the world at only 24 🤩 pic.twitter.com/MO8foEzbX7
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) March 4, 2023
Simeone enjoys the spotlight in Atletico’s 6-1 rout of Sevilla
This was a very good weekend for Diego Simeone. Not only did Atletico Madrid record an emphatic 6-1 win over hapless Sevilla — Memphis Depay and Alvaro Morata scoring twice, and Antoine Griezmann delivering his best club performance in years — but those three points, coupled with a draw for Real Sociedad, saw Atletico climb to third in the table.
All this on the day that Simeone became the coach who has taken charge of the most Atletico games, 613, overtaking club icon Luis Aragones. It was clearly a meaningful landmark for Simeone, a man of few words, who published a statement — written in the form of a letter to Aragones, who died in 2014 — ahead of the game, describing his pride and gratitude at reaching the landmark, 11 years after his appointment as Atletico coach.
Simeone saluted the Metropolitano crowd before kick-off, accompanied onto the pitch by his family, and when Griezmann scored the goal of the game in the 53rd minute — making it 3-0 — he ran to embrace his beaming coach.
“An important day for [Simeone] is an important day for me,” Griezmann said, while another Simeone disciple, captain Koke, summed it up best. “You can’t imagine Atletico Madrid without Simeone.” — Kirkland
GRIEZMANN FROM DISTANCE 😱 pic.twitter.com/N21z33J7yq
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) March 4, 2023
Nelson creates a magical moment in Arsenal’s remontada
If you want to be a champion in the Premier League, it’s my undying belief that you need to take part in a remontada of the highest dramatic order. Enter Arsenal, who gave us exactly that on Saturday with a majestic 3-2 comeback against AFC Bournemouth at the Emirates. The steady objective to bring the Gunners back to life kicked off in the second half, courtesy of Thomas Partey and Ben White when they scored in the 62nd and 70th minute respectively, but what was even more spectacular was the goal that wrapped the bow. Reiss Nelson, who joined the club at the tender age of nine, wrote his name in the stars and became a hero on Saturday with literally seconds to spare.
– Olley: Nelson sends Arsenal into euphoria
Picture the scene: It was essentially the last moment of the game, the seventh minute of stoppage time and Arsenal had a corner — their final attempt to earn three points. Manchester City were surely watching with angst. The corner was cleared out with uncertainty from the visiting team and so it fell to Nelson, who proceeded to take it down with his chest, which dropped to his right foot before quickly switching to his left. It was a beautiful piece of technique that ended with a wonderful finish, too difficult for Bournemouth’s goalkeeper Neto to stop. The home crowd went berserk, coach Mikel Arteta even more so, and the goal-scorer? Well, he just ran to his bench whilst simultaneously gesturing for everyone to calm down because he had this all along. Calm down? You’re having a laugh, Reiss. The entire place did the opposite, delighted and in disbelief of what they had just witnessed.
If the club ends up lifting the Premier League trophy in May, they will look back at this moment as modern Arsenal folklore and Nelson, their local hero. One of their own. The kid from Elephant and Castle — who has only known Arsenal as his permanent home — helped the Gunners win the Premier League in the most emphatic of ways.
There really is nothing like the Premier League. — Echegaray
Pure goosebumps! 🤩
Gooners, sum up this moment with a GIF 💭 pic.twitter.com/H8EfxX6G36
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) March 5, 2023
Gutierrez scores a peach
Saturday’s Getafe vs. Girona match didn’t necessarily scream “game of the weekend,” and, in fairness, it probably wasn’t. But a 3-2 scoreline — as Getafe raced into a 3-0 first-half lead, only for Girona to stage an ultimately unsuccessful second-half comeback — included a couple of sensational strikes from the away side.
Taty Castellanos’ goal on 54 minutes was a slick team move, but the goal of the game came from left-back Miguel Gutierrez, the Real Madrid youth product firing into the back of the net from the edge of the box to give the visitors. Sadly for Girona, they still went home empty-handed. — Kirkland
Bochum’s Riemann gives Schalke a big win in the relegation fight
Saturday’s Bochum vs. Schalke 04 game will not go down in history as an epic encounter, by any means, but it did give us an unforgettable goal — particularly if one of these two struggling sides stays up this season.
With a testy encounter locked at 0-0 on the cusp of half-time, a speculative cross from the right causes chaos in the Bochum box. Goalkeeper Manuel Riemann decides late that he’s going to spring forward to try and punch it clear, only to barely lay a glove on it and instead deflect it off teammate Saidy Janko, sending the ball bobbling towards the goal. No fear, though: center-back Erhan Masovic is on hand to punt it clear … only he misses his kick and Riemann misjudges his dive back towards the ball. Instead of smothering it, the ball glances off his shoulder, between Masovic’s leg and trickles over the line in what seems like slow-motion.
Of course, Schalke celebrate like they’ve won the league, and with good reason: after having nine points through the first 17 games, Saturday’s 2-0 triumph was their second win in a six-game unbeaten run since the end of January in which they’ve drawn against Wolfbsurg and Union Berlin as well as beaten Stuttgart. Hope springs external for the beleaguered Royal Blues, and a fellow relegation candidate has certainly added to that this weekend. — Tyler
Teams in trouble
Things get tense in Lens
On Jan. 1, Lens beat PSG to start 2023 in dreamland and closed the gap to just 4 points with the league leaders. The talk was that they could maybe create the biggest surprise in Ligue 1 history and win the title, that they could do a French Leicester City. With their bright and upcoming manager Franck Haise, with their very intense style and their collective cohesion, the Sang et Or looked great. They dominated PSG and, at that point, they had only lost one game all season.
All of that is now a distant memory. Since Jan. 23, Lens have only won one of the nine games they played in all competitions. They’ve chalked up four draws and two losses in the league in that period. They were even lucky to get a point in the Derby du Nord against Lille on Saturday. They are tired, not as efficient in either box, have some injuries (most importantly to Facundo Medina and Jimmy Cabot) and maybe more worryingly, they have lost some confidence. Haise changed his system on Saturday for the first time in 102 games. He ditched the back three for a back four, to little effect.
Lens are now fourth (from second in January) in the table but Rennes, Lille and Nice are chasing them to snatch a European ticket from them. They need to react quickly. — Laurens
West Ham’s bubbles are fully bursting
With all this title-chasing chatter and the entertainment being delivered by the likes of Arsenal, Manchester City and other teams hunting for Europe, it’s easy to forget that there’s a telenovela brewing at the bottom half of the Premier League table and its relegation battle.
Only six points separate 12th place (Crystal Palace) and 20th (Bournemouth) and at this point in the season, it is pretty remarkable to suggest that eight teams are good enough to go down. One of them — amazingly — is West Ham United. I say amazingly because the decline in performances this season compared to the previous two — when they finished seventh and sixth respectively and included a magical Europa League semifinal run — is remarkably alarming. The Hammers lost 4-0 to Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday — their heaviest defeat since 2019 — as manager David Moyes left the pitch to a chorus of boos and “You don’t know what you’re doing” and “You’re getting sacked in the morning,” chants from the visiting supporters.
– Premier League table
They were, quite simply, dreadful and the complete opposite of their opponents. No identity, no creativity and emphatically narrow minded in possession. It’s funny because last weekend the Hammers were on the positive side of a 4-0 result when they thrashed Nottingham Forest. That result is looking more like the anomaly and, coupled with what we have seen for the majority of the season, Saturday’s timid showing is the reality for West Ham right now.
What’s harder to stomach is that West Ham sit one point above the relegation zone — Nottingham Forest’s 2-2 draw with Everton does little to simplify the situation — and with seven matches against teams from the top half of the table remaining, the Hammers could find themselves in even bigger trouble. — Echegaray
Salah the star
Klopp praises Salah’s ‘special’ record
Jurgen Klopp praises Mohamed Salah for becoming Liverpool’s record scorer in the Premier League after brace vs. Manchester United.
Salah carved out a piece of individual history within Liverpool’s 7-0 mauling of Manchester United on Sunday. The first of his two goals — a superb first-time effort as the ball broke to him in a central position — took him past Robbie Fowler to become Liverpool’s all-time Premier League top goal-scorer. His second, a simple close-range finish, was his 130th league goal for Jurgen Klopp’s side.
“It is very special, I can’t lie,” Salah told Sky Sports afterwards. “This record was in my mind since I came here. Since my first season, I was chasing that record.”
Two assists further confirmed Salah’s influence here, although special mention should go to Gakpo, who swung the game in Liverpool’s favour when it was in the balance by scoring the first and third of Liverpool’s seven. Salah has not always been at his ruthless best this season but he rolled back the years against United in a style that bodes well for the run-in. The 30-year-old revealed how he would mark his personal milestone.
“I’m going home to celebrate with my family, have a chamomile tea and sleep,” he said. — Olley
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