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Friday, September 1, 2017

Weekend football review

Arsenal manager, and a band of Gunners supporters, were left red-faced following the humiliation at Liverpool on Sunday, while the MTN8 semifinal first legs in SA adopted a cautious approach.

First up to the eagerly anticipated match of the weekend in the Premier League -- Liverpool v Arsenal. On any given day, this clash should have produced fireworks and a great deal of entertainment. But not so for the Gunners as they arrived at Anfield without any firepower.

The Reds gladly accepted the invitation and blasted four past Arsenal. Liverpool attacking players Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah tore Arsenal to shreds as Arsene Wenger's team crashed to a humiliating 4-0 defeat.

The trio all found the net to condemn Arsenal to a second successive defeat after their 1-0 loss at Stoke City, leaving them six points below early Premier League pace-setters Manchester United in 16th place.

Liverpool rose to second place, two points below United and one above champions Chelsea, who recorded a straightforward 2-0 win over Everton.

Earlier in the day, Chelsea lifted Antonio Conte's spirits ahead of the crucial final days of the transfer window as goals from Cesc Fabregas and Alvaro Morata sealed a comfortable victory over the woeful Toffees.

The attention on Saturday was at Old Trafford, and for a moment it looked as though the Red Devils were about to drop points for the first time this season. But substitutes Marcus Rashford and Marouane Fellaini struck to maintain their 100 percent start to the Premier League season in a 2-0 win over Leicester City.

Rashford, dropped to the bench to make way for Anthony Martial, turned in Henrikh Mkhitaryan's corner in the 70th minute, less than three minutes after coming on. Fellaini added a late second from Jesse Lingard's cross-shot to send Jose Mourinho's side back to the top of the table after Huddersfield Town briefly overtook them by drawing with Southampton earlier in the day.

HISTORY-MAKER GAMAL FINISHES A LOSER
Amr Gamal became the first Egyptian to play for a South African club on Sunday, but could not prevent BidVest Wits from losing 1-0 at Cape Town City in an MTN8 semifinal first leg.

The 26-year-old striker was well policed and had no clear-cut scoring chances in a match settled by an Ayanda Patosi goal just before halftime.

"Amr held the ball up nicely," said Wits coach Gavin Hunt, "but he was unable to carry out some of my instructions."

Gamal joined the MTN8 title-holders this month from record eight-time African champions Al Ahly on a one-season loan, with the Johannesburg club having an option to then buy him outright.

"We stopped Wits playing," said recently appointed Cape Town coach Benni McCarthy, a 2014 Uefa Champions League final winner with Jose Mourinho's Porto.

McCarthy has won his four matches in charge since the season began -- two in the league and two in the MTN8 knockout competition -- and his team have conceded just once.

SuperSport United were held 1-1 at home in Pretoria by Maritzburg United in the other first leg, with Thuso Phala giving the hosts the lead that Lebohang Maboe cancelled out six minutes from time.

The MTN8 is an R8 million competition contested by the top eight finishers in the previous league season.

REAL STREAK HALTED, MESSI MAKES AMENDS

Real Madrid needed a late strike from Marco Asensio to prevent a shock defeat but still saw their relentless winning-streak ended by Valencia in a thrilling 2-2 draw at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday.

Asensio had got the hosts off to the perfect start after just 10 minutes, but Carlos Soler rounded off an excellent Valencia team move to level shortly after.

Valencia stunned the Bernabeu when Geoffrey Kondogbia, who joined the club this week on a season-long loan from Inter Milan, swept home Rodrigo's cross from the edge of the area.

However, like on so many occasions last season, Madrid had a late reply as Asensio curled home a free-kick seven minutes from time.

Meanwhile, Lionel Messi scored twice and saw a penalty saved as Barcelona maintained their perfect start to the season in La Liga with a 2-0 win at Alaves on Saturday.

Without new signing Ousmane Dembele, who completed the second most expensive transfer ever by moving for 105 million euros ($125 million) from Borussia Dortmund on Friday, or the injured Luis Suarez, Messi ensured Barca didn't lose any early ground in the title race despite a tumultuous start to the campaign off the field.

The five-time World Player of the Year missed from the penalty spot for the 20th time in his career as Fernando Pacheco produced a stunning save midway through the first half.

However, Messi wasn't to be denied as his deflected effort opened the scoring shortly after halftime before a sweetly-struck volley secured all three points.

Elsewhere, Defending Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich needed two late Robert Lewandowski goals to seal a 2-0 win at Werder Bremen to preserve their 100 percent record, but Borussia Dortmund stayed top after two games on goal difference.

In France, Kylian Mbappe was left on the bench as Radamel Falcao scored twice in Monaco's 6-1 trouncing of Marseille in Ligue 1 on Sunday.

Four of the goals came in the first half at the Stade Louis II, with captain Falcao's brace falling in between strikes from Kamil Glik and Adama Diakhaby. Djibril Sidibe and Fabinho, with a penalty, completed the rout after the break.

Then in the Italian Serie A, Torino forward Andrea Belotti got off the mark in style by scoring his first Serie A goal of the season with an outrageous scissors kick as they beat Sassuolo 3-0 on Sunday while Milan and Napoli kept up their winning starts.

A majestic Suso free-kick gave AC Milan a 2-1 win over stubborn Cagliari while Napoli, like Milan, have six points from two games after scoring three second-half goals to beat Atalanta 3-1.

Three other teams have maximum points - Juventus and Inter Milan, who won on Saturday, and Sampdoria who beat Fiorentina 2-1 away.

WHAT THEY SAID….

"Mentally it was difficult. A very disappointing performance. It was disastrous. The result is a consequence of the performance. It was not good enough. We were beaten everywhere physically and in the end we made it easier for them. We have done recently well in the big games. That is why today is even more disappointing." – Arsene Wenger after the Liverpool rout.

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