Midweek Action: Bundesliga, Serie A & La Liga

Midweek saw plenty of action across Europe and quite a few eye-catching performances and results. All the major European leagues had fixtures in midweek, as we round up all the major stories in the Bundesliga, Serie A and La Liga.

BUNDESLIGA: Lewandowski the hero for Bayern, Dortmund stumble

Not many would have imagined the benched Robert Lewandowski making much of an impact in Bayern Munich’s important league game against last season’s runners-up Wolfsburg. But with Pep Guardiola’s side trailing at half-time to a Daniel Caligiuri goal for the away side, Lewandowski came on for the second half and produced a masterpiece in goalscoring.

The Pole, astonishingly, scored five goals in nine minutes, and helped Bayern to an eventual 5-1 win. On the way, Lewandowski broke quite a few records, becoming the fastest scorer of five goals in the world and the first substitute to score five goals in the Bundesliga. He broke the internet too.

Meanwhile, staying at the top end of the table, Borussia Dortmund–who started their season like a train–finally had their first stumble as they only managed a point away to Hoffenheim in a 1-1 draw, consequently dropping behind Bayern in the table for the first time this season. Hoffenheim were promising but failed to convert their chances as their winless start to the season has now stretched to six games.

Elsewhere, managerless Borussia Monchengladbach earned their first points of the season after losing five games on the spin, beating Augsburg 4-2 in their first game since Lucian Favre walked away earlier this week. While newly-promoted Ingolstadt’s recent good run of results came to a halt as they suffered a home reverse against Hamburg.

In other results, Schalke needed a late show to get past Eintracht Frankfurt as goals from Joel Matip and Leroy Sane in the final quarter hour saw them emerge 2-0 victors and move up to third. While ex-Man Utd striker Javier Hernandez netted his first goal for Bayer Leverkusen with a solo effort to help his team earn a narrow 1-0 win over Mainz. Hannover remain rooted to the bottom as they lost their third straight home game of the season.

LA LIGA: Barcelona stunned, Madrid duo win, Sevilla rock bottom

Luis Enrique’s Barcelona suffered their first loss of the season in disastrous fashion as defensive shambles meant they lost their way entirely in a 4-1 loss to Celta Vigo. Celta–Enrique’s former club–were good value for their win as they climbed above the Catalans up to second.

Gerard Pique’s return from his four-game suspension was a forgettable experience for the Spaniard as the Barca stalwart struggled to deal with the pace of the Celta forwards, Nolito and Iago Aspas. Barca’s 100 percent record in the league is now over and they now find themselves fifth in the table.

Meanwhile, Rafa Benitez’s Real Madrid continued their ascent up the table with a hard-earned 2-1 win in a seemingly difficult fixture away to Athletic Bilbao at San Mames. Karim Benzema scored his fifth and sixth goals of the season to lead his team to the top of the table. City neighbours Atletico Madrid, too, continued their good start as they saw off Getafe 2-0 at home.

Elsewhere, Sevilla remain winless and rooted to the bottom after another loss, this time at the hands of newly-promoted Las Palmas. Unai Emery’s side are in a slump not many expected but these are testing times for the Andalusian outfit. Villarreal maintained their good start to the season, and are one of only three clubs to remain unbeaten so far with their fortuitous 1-0 win over struggling Malaga.

In other news, Real Sociedad’s first win of the season–a 3-0 away win over Granada–eased the mounting pressure on manager David Moyes after their uninspiring start to the season. La Real climbed out of the relegation zone with a hat-trick from striker Imanol Agirretxe. Valencia’s miserly start in front of goal continued as they suffered their first loss of the season against Espanyol at the Cornella-El Prat 1-0.

SERIE A: Juventus, Roma stumble, Inter continue title surge, Balotelli shines

Just when it seemed they had turned a corner after an indifferent start, champions Juventus were pegged back in stoppage time by tiny Frosinone at the Juventus Stadium as they had to settle for a 1-1 draw. Simone Zaza’s second half opener was cancelled out by a dramatic late equaliser from centre-back Leonardo Blanchard as the newly-promoted club earned their first point of the season.

Meanwhile, Inter Milan maintained their perfect start to the season with another 1-0 win–their fourth in five games–as they now lead holders Juventus by ten points. Felipe Melo’s second half goal was enough for the solid Nerazzurri, who have conceded only one goal this season, to see off Hellas Verona.

Last season’s runners-up AS Roma suffered their first loss of the season as a late Konstantinos Manolas own goal was enough for Sampdoria to secure a 2-1 win and continue their good start to the season. Rome’s other club, Lazio, recovered from last weekend’s humbling at the hands of Napoli to register a 2-0 win over Genoa, who ended the match with ten men.

AC Milan’s summer loan signing Mario Balotelli once again offered glimpses of his ability and potential as he helped the Rossoneri to their second successive 3-2 win, this time over Udinese at the Stadio Friuli. Udinese were on the brink of a famous comeback after being 3-0 down at one stage, but Milan held strong and now find themselves seventh in the table.

Elsewhere, Napoli failed to maintain their momentum after back-to-back 5-0 wins as they were held to a 0-0 draw at newly-promoted Carpi. Chievo recovered from last weekend’s loss to Inter by winning 1-0 against Torino, while Paolo Sousa’s Fiorentina continued their rise as they notched their fourth win of the season, with new signing Jacub Blaszczykowski scoring his first goal for La Viola.

Source: Associate Press, Fox News, Sky Sports, ESPNFC

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Di Maria, Martinez, Sevilla, Monaco and Juve

AS Roma 2 Juventus 1: Watch the match highlights

Defending champions Juventus have lost their opening two Serie A games of the season for the first time in their history, with Roma deserved victors. Roma, runners-up for the past two years, led when Miralem Pjanic, who also hit the post, lifted a fine free-kick over the wall. Juventus had Patrice Evra sent off after 77 minutes for two yellow cards. Edin Dzeko doubled the lead with a header, although Paulo Dybala ensured a tense finish with a close-range strike. Leonardo Bonucci almost rescued a draw with an injury-time header but Wojciech Szczesny, who is on loan from Arsenal, did brilliantly to tip it wide. Juve have won four consecutive titles, but their bid for number five looks in trouble already following an opening-day 1-0 defeat by Udinese and now this. Massimiliano Allegri's side, who won the title by 17 points last year, sold star midfielders Andrea Pirlo and Arturo Vidal, as well as top scorer Carlos Tevez, in the summer. And hours before kick-off, teenage winger Kingsley Coman joined Bayern Munich. Roma overran them in midfield, with Paul Pogba not looking as effective without Pirlo and Vidal helping him out.

Sevilla 0 Atletico Madrid 3: Watch the match highlights

Atletico Madrid made it two wins from two games with victory at fellow Champions League side Sevilla. The visitors enjoy easy win over Sevilla as Koke ends his goal drought and Jackson Martinez came off the bench to score his first Atletico Madrid goal in a 3-0 win over Sevilla at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan. The 28-year-old Colombian forward moved to the Spanish capital over the summer after a prolific spell in Portugal with Porto and the South American opened his account with Atleti to cap off a comfortable win for Diego Simeone's men. Spain international Koke prodded in the opener 10 minutes before the interval and Martinez's introduction as a 78th-minute substitute to replace Fernando Torres paid dividends to the tune of two further goals.

Monaco 0 PSG 3: Watch the match highlights

Angel Di Maria set up a goal on his debut as Paris St-Germain maintained their 100% start to the Ligue 1 season with a deserved win at Monaco. The former Manchester United winger, on for the last 25 minutes, teed up Ezequiel Lavezzi to score after Edinson Cavani had struck twice. Cavani powered in a first-half header to round off a 20-pass move. The Uruguay striker slotted in a second after being played through by Zlatan Ibrahimovic, returning from injury. Laurent Blanc's side, winners of the last three league titles, are three points clear at the top of the table, having won four matches without conceding a goal.

Source: The Guardian, Sky Sports, BBC, Fox News

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VOTE: The Best Women's World Cup Goal

With the FIFA Women's World Cup Canada 2015™ tantalizingly close, what better way to get you in the mood than by giving the chance to relive some of the tournament's greatest ever goals?

FIFA has chosen some of the best strikes from the competition's 24-year history for our '15 for 2015' poll, letting you help decide the fans' favorite goal from 625 scored so far. Perhaps the hammer of a strike by Marie Hammarstrom from 2011 takes your fancy, or Ingrid Johansson's thunderbolt two decades earlier?

Get in the mood for the FIFA Women's World Cup Canada 2015 by voting for the greatest goal in the tournament's history in FIFA's '15 for 2015' poll. Maybe you prefer a bit of Marta magic or Homare Sawa's silky finish, then cast your vote between 11th May and 5th June to ensure your choice sits atop the fans' poll, with efforts coming from all six previous tournaments.

While the latest helping of Women's World Cup does not kick off until 6th June, there is bound to be a goal in there that speaks to you. Be it Jin Pyol Hui capping off a flowing North Korea team move or Jie Li's sweetly struck free-kick. Watch all 15 fabulous goals and pick from the shortlist to make your decision. Make sure you visit FIFA.com once Canada 2015 begins to find out the winner!

The '15 for 2015' winner will be selected by FIFA.com users. This does not represent an official FIFA award.

Source: FIFA
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Priceless Maestro: The World At His Feet

Perhaps the most striking thing about Lionel Messi’s second goal against Bayern Munich at the Camp Nou on Wednesday night was its gentleness. There were 80 minutes gone when Messi approached Jerome Boateng, feigned to go inside but instead glided to his right, not so much a dribble as a kind of lullaby, leaving Boateng, Manuel Neuer and finally Rafinha lying down very gently on their backs in their own penalty area as the ball floated into the back of the net. In the space of five perfect strides Messi had effectively put the Bayern defence to sleep, lulled into a drowsy supplication at his feet by a moment of controlled gymnastic perfection.

“Messi is unstoppable,” Pep Guardiola shrugged at the end of Barcelona’s 3-0 first-leg victory, which sounded at first a little cute, an evasion of responsibility from a coach whose gameplan had clearly failed. Pep’s trip to the Camp Nou had ended the way Pep’s trips to the Camp Nou always used to, with an opposition coach frazzled and outmanoeuvred, eyes bulging on the touchline. On this occasion that coach happened to be Pep himself, halfway through a semi-final billed as a collision of influence between player and manager, a peeling back of the synergy between the two.

At the end of which it is tempting to conclude what some have already suggested – that Guardiola is a genius when he’s got some geniuses to genius for him. And that Messi is simply Messi, a player who is, after a slight but undeniable hiatus, once again operating to a different set of physical rules; and who has just produced something that might just rank among the all-time club football performances. It is easy to go overboard here, to get drunk on superlatives. Just as it is also easy to become inured by repetition to the pitch of Messi’s brilliance. But this was a genuinely rare combination: a great player producing a great performance against great opposition at the vital moment in an elite competition.

Bayern were without some heavyweight players, but they remain a genuine powerhouse opponent, managed by a princeling of the modern age, and stuffed through with World Cup winners. And yet Messi’s performance in victory was not simply ruthless, it was decorative too, shot through with moments of grace and beauty, the work of a 10-year club football superstar who still appears to believe that he’s playing a game rather than carrying out a tactic or executing a plan.

At the Camp Nou Messi scored two brilliant goals, made a third and at times yawned his way around champion opponents like a man tactfully avoiding a gaggle of overheated toddlers in a high street coffee shop. Often he took the ball and shimmied past two or three men, operating within a kind of fermata, events slowed and paused around him, and providing a reminder that he remains one of the great dribblers, master of the flip-flap, the surge, the amphetamine-crazed-millipede shift of feet.

The Twitter reaction to Messi's incredible second goal, in which the Barcelona star effectively crossed Bayern Munich defender Boateng to the ground before chipping over goalkeeper Neuer with his weaker right foot (watch it above). Naturally, notable names in the football world loved it:

But it didn't stop there. Over in the United States, some of the biggest athletes were blown away by the move:

Source: Twitter, YouTube, ESPN, The Guardian, Associate Press, Fox Sports
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