Trecker’s Monday Morning Wrap
Inter Milan won the FIFA Club World Cup over African champions TP Mazembe in the UAE, while winter weather put the big chill on fixtures across Europe this weekend, wiping out all but two games in England’s Premier League.
Goals from Samuel Eto’o, Goran Pandev and Jonathan Biabiany paced Inter to an easy 3-0 win over TP Mazembe Englebert in FIFA’s top club competition on Saturday. The victory over the Congolese side was expected but still will have been a relief for under-fire Inter manager Rafa Benitez, who had been warned by club president Massimo Moratti that he would get the chop should the Italian champs fail to take this trophy. Adding to the drama, Benitez used his post-match press conference to publicly call for the Inter board to both back him and strengthen the side, infuriating Moratti.
Despite the loss, the result was also the best-ever showing for an African side at the competition; Mazembe upset South American powers Internacional 2-0 in the semis to become the first team from their continent to reach a final.
Across Britain fifty-seven matches got the chop as bitter cold and heavy snow snarled travel across the isles. Games in France, Italy and Holland were also hit by the unusually severe European weather. Only Sunderland-Bolton and Blackburn-West Ham were allowed to kick off in England, with all of Sunday’s matches postponed. Manchester City and Everton were still expected to play their Monday night fixture.
In Europe, Germany, Italy and Spain played their final league games before their short winter break. German Cup games will take place midweek alongside the final Ligue 1 games before France’s Christmas break.
Stuart Holden’s Bolton suffered a reversal, slipping to seventh after losing Saturday. Denny Welbeck got Sunderland the winner, before ‘keeper Craig Gordon saved the three points with a stunning one-handed save on Zat Knight. In the lone late game, Jonathan Spector was a late start as Valon Behrami was injured in pregame warm-ups, and West Ham fought back to secure a 1-1 draw with Blackburn in a turgid encounter. The draw saved Hammers manager Avram Grant’s job for another week; he was warned Thursday that he had three games to turn the last-placed London side around, or else.
The biggest result of the day might have been Eintracht Frankfurt’s shocking 1-0 upset of Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund. Fanis Gekas dealt Dortmund their first away loss of the year with a late stunner, and at the same time prevented the runaway league leaders from making history. Neven Subotic’s Dortmund fell a point short of equaling Bayern Munich’s record point total (44) at the Christmas break with Saturday’s loss. The reason? Americans might point to Ricardo Clark making his first start for Frankfurt: he was close to scoring twice in a solid 90 minutes of play.
Elsewhere, Schalke keeps on winning, Saturday 3-0 over Cologne. Since manager Felix Magath sent three players, including American Jermaine Jones, to the purgatory of the fourth division, Schalke has been on a tear. Steve Cherundolo’s Hannover had their five game win streak snapped when the American defender put the ball into his own net en route to a 3-1 loss to Nurnberg. Cherundolo was unlucky on the play, as Ilkay Gundogan’s strike caromed off of him. On Friday, Michael Bradley and Borussia Moenchengladbach lost another, 2-1 to Hamburg. It wasn’t Bradley’s fault: he had an assist on the goal and is looking like the best player on an otherwise awful side.
Bayern Munich topped Stuttgart 5-3 to climb to fifth Sunday. Saturday,Wolfsburg drew with Hoffenheim 2-2; St. Pauli lost 2-4 to second-place Mainz in a wild one, and Kaiserslautern pipped Werder Bremen away 2-1. Leverkusen were held 2-2 by Freiburg. Neither DaMarcus Beasley nor Daniel Williams made the bench this weekend.
In France, Charlie Davies dressed for the first time in 14 months for Sochaux, continuing his comeback from the horrific car wreck that kept him out of the 2010 World Cup. Davies did not get on the field, but his move to the bench was a milestone nonetheless, and Sochaux looked fierce in a 1-1 draw with Bordeaux. Davies gets another chance Wednesday in a match at Monaco.
Saturday, Rennes topped Valenciennes 1-0 to to seize a share of the Ligue 1 points lead in what has been an incredibly crowded race this season. They remain third only by virtue of goal difference. Paris Saint-Germain remained second when they were clipped 2-2 in a hard fought match against Monaco. PSG would have piled more pressure on the top of the table with the win. And Lille remain top by a single goal, but with their match against Nancy snowed out, now hold a valuable game in hand.
The big losers? Lyon, who let an early lead over Marseille – and a chance to sit atop the table by a point – evaporate with a 1-1 draw. Mathieu Valbuena tied the match up after the break for Marseille after Lisandro Lopez’s first half goal had given Lyon the lead.
Elsewhere, Carlos Bocanegra and St. Etienne collected a 2-0 win over Arles, while Nice and Brest deadlocked 1-1. Montpellier held Auxerre to a 1-1 draw and Tolouse whipped Lorient 3-0. Lens-Caen was postponed due to heavy snow.
In the final games in Italy before the winter break, Roma stunned league leaders AC Milan 1-0 in a classic smash-and-grab. Milan was left with just a three-point cushion over chasers Lazio after Marco Borriello punished the Rossoneri for their lethargic performance with twenty to play. Adding to Milan’s misery was an injury to Andrea Prilo that will keep him sidelined for a month. It was Milan’s first home loss in eight matches. American Oguchi Onyewu continues to be on the outside looking in; he has yet to play for Milan this season in the league.
Lazio took full advantage of Milan’s slip, downing Udinese 3-2 thanks to an own goal scored by Christian Zapata with a minute to play. Juventus conceded a stoppage time goal to Chievo’s Sergio Pellissier that cost them two points. Juve had been reduced to ten men when Manuel Giandonato was tossed in the 52nd. Napoli downed Lecce 1-0 to keep pace while Bari held Palermo 1-1. Sampdoria-Genoa was snowed out late.
In Spain, Barcelona made it look easy against Espanyol, getting two goals from Pedro and David Villa and one from Xavi to cruise to a 5-1 triumph. Pulling the strings? The unstoppable Lionel Messi, who had three assists in the game and is busy writing a new chapter in an already storied career this season.
Real Madrid had a tougher time against Sevilla Sunday in a rough match marred by a sideline fight and two ejections. Angel Di Maria finally broke the deadlock in the 76th to get Real a critical 1-0 win. Madrid were reduced to ten when Ricardo Carvalho was sent off with a half hour to play for a senseless foul, Sevilla’s Mouhamadou Dabo then was sent to the showers when he lashed out at Di Maria with no time remaining. Real still trail their bitter rivals by two points.
Elswhere, Jozy Altidore played six minutes for Villarreal as they downed Mallorca 3-1 to stay third, but ten points behind Barcelona. Jersey-born Giuseppi Rossi sunk a penalty in the 35th to secure the win. Bilbao edged Levante 2-1 and Coruna drew against Sporting Gijon 1-1. Atletico Madrid beat Malaga 3-0 while Sociedad fell to Valencia 2-1.
In Scotland, only two games went off, with Hearts held in Edinburgh 1-1 by Inverness, and crosstown rivals Hibs sinking 2-1 at Kilmarnock. Celtic, Abrdeen, Dundee United and Rangers all had matches postponed, and it is unclear whether Tuesday’s scheduled games will go forward.
Jamie Trecker is a senior writer for FoxSoccer.com covering the UEFA Champions League and the Barclay’s Premier League.