European soccer winners and losers: Manchester United get revenge despite Liverpool goals; Milan, BVB struggle
Another wild weekend in European soccer saw some surprises, upsets and more. While Manchester United hosting Liverpool in the FA Cup’s fourth round took center stage, in Spain we saw some big wins from smaller clubs, while in Germany Bayern Munich’s rivals continued to struggle.
So who were the winners and losers from the weekend?
Winners: Manchester United
The Red Devils got the best of their rival Liverpool and advanced in the FA Cup with a fine 3-2 victory. United went down early, fought back to overcome two goals from Mohamed Salah and got an amazing late winner from a Bruno Fernandes free kick. The victory see them advance to the fifth round, while Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team are also in first place in the Premier League after 19 games with a 12-4-3 record. It’s early, they did have the debacle in the Champions League, and this has been asked several times in the last two years, but have United turned the corner?
Loser: Dortmund’s Bundesliga hopes
This was the year Dortmund were supposed to push Bayern Munich for the title after Erling Haaland got half a season at the club under his belt last year. But, Haaland has dealth with injuries and at the other end of the field Dortmund’s defense has been horrific. The club has lost seven of their first 18 games, and already moved on from manager Lucien Favre. They are on pace for 58 points, which would be an 11 point drop from last season. Dortmund lost just seven games in the league all of last season and are on pace to double that and drop 14 matches this time around. Already 13 points off the top, their chances of winning the Bundesliga are gone.
They’ve lost back-to-back games to Leverkusen and Borussia Monchengladbach, conceding six goals.
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Winner: Liverpool’s attack
Just as surprising as seeing United win was seeing Liverpool actually score. After a scoring drought (one that still exists in the league), they get two goals in the FA Cup thanks to Mohamed Salah. The Reds have six goals in their last two FA Cup games but just one goal in their last five league games. Jurgen Klopp will be hoping the finishing gets back on track against Tottenham on Thursday.
Loser: Milan’s title chances
After a dashing start to the Serie A season, Milan have lost two of their last four and have seen their lead atop the league reduced to just two points. Inter Milan are close, while Roma, Juventus, Napoli, Atalanta and Lazio are all within striking distance. They still sit in a good spot, but the side’s reliance on Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the defense conceding multiple goals in three of their last five games is concerning. They play Inter Milan twice in the next month, with Tuesday’s showdown in the Coppa Italia next up.
Winner: Osasuna’s chances of survival
Osasuna’s chances of survival looked bleak when Chimy Avila picked up his knee injury, but this club has dug deep to get points from seven of their last eight games to climb out of the bottom three. With draws against Real Sociedad, Real Madrid and Valencia, and Sunday’s big 3-1 win over Granada, Osasuna now are a point clear of the relegation zone. They are still averaging under a goal per game, but the improved play of forward Ante Budimir, now averaging an impressive 0.62 expected goals per 90 minutes, is an encouraging sign after two goals on Sunday. There’s still a long way to go and no room to breathe, but they are starting to warm up during a crucial part of the season.
While Matthew Hoppe has four goals and has looked like a player to keep an eye on, the team as a whole continues to struggle. The talent level isn’t there, and it’s hard to see Klaas-Jan Hunterlaar making much of a difference at the age of 37. They remain dead last in the league with seven points from 18 games, and sit 10 points from survival. It really feels like if they don’t pull off a couple back-to-back wins soon, they’ll be toast. To do that their defense will have to improve, and fast. They’ve conceded nine goals in their last three games.