European football: Heroes of the weekend feat. Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil and Gareth Bale
A second successive loss for Barcelona and wins for the two Madrid clubs saw the gap at the top of La Liga being closed down. In England, Arsenal put on a majestic performance away to consolidate their position at the top.
From England, Spain, Italy, France and Germany, we scouted the matches that took place across Europe’s big five leagues with a handy pair of binoculars to see who shone the brightest from the weekend’s action.
Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal)
The former Cardiff City man went back to his old stomping ground and put on a quite brilliant display that was filled with energy, running and some great finishing to boot. What a season the Welshman is having and he added two more goals to his account to take his tally to 8. And it wasn’t just on the attack, Ramsey along with Mathieu Flamini in the heart of Arsenal’s midfield put paid to any hopes that Cardiff had by holding possession and breaking up play at will.
Ramsey also did not celebrate the slightest bit and as he left the stadium, the home fans didn’t boo him, instead they were on their feet applauding the efforts of one of their own.
The naysayers said that Ramsey’s form would taper off, as indeed Arsenal’s. They couldn’t be farther from it at the moment.
STAT: Aaron Ramsey has now scored more goals (8) and made more tackles (58) than any other Premier League midfielder this season.
Mesut Özil (Arsenal)
If Ramsey provided the goals, it was the German international who provided the assists – and what beautiful assists they were. Özil almost always seems to have that extra moment, that extra second, in which he possesses enough clarity of thought to successfully thread the ball through.
His first delivery, a curling cross that met the head of Ramsey with pinpoint accuracy, stood out for the sort of weight that it carried – just right.
The second, a beautifully weighted through ball for Flamini to run onto, was pretty much the same.
The aesthetic spectacle that Ozil and Ramsey put on yesterday was quite something.
STAT: Özil now has 6 assists overall – the leading mark in the league this season.
Gerard Deulofeu (Everton)
He’s a Barcelona product and was one of the stars of the youth ranks. He also impressed at the U-19 UEFA Championship in 2012 where he was named the Golden Player.
So now you know what all the fuss was about and why Roberto Martinez was so keen to land him on loan. The Spaniard scored his first goal for Everton in their 4-0 thumping of Stoke City. He was always at the Stoke defence, taking them on and tearing the visitors’ defence to shreds.
Apart from his own goal, he had a major hand in each of his team’s other three goals as well.
John Terry (Chelsea)
Making his 400th Premier League appearance, John Terry inspired his Chelsea side to a great fightback after conceding an early Jay Rodriguez goal.
They started roughly conceding that early goal to Rodriguez. But they managed to stage a great comeback led by their inspirational skipper who marshaled the defence well after that early glitch.
He scored the second of their three goals, a typical powerful header that gave the keeper no chance.
Asmir Begovic (Stoke City)
Playing for Stoke, beaten 4-0, you might be wondering why Begovic is on the list. The truth is, that if not for Begovic, the score-line could have been much, much worse for the Potters.
The Stoke keeper’s performance drew praise from many quarters with some believing that its only a matter of time before he moves on to a bigger club.
Samir Nasri (Manchester City)
For a while during City’s game, it looked like a time machine had come and transported us back to the glory days of Arsenal when Nasri used to wreak havoc upon opposition defences.
His two goals and the midfield performance was superb against Swansea. When David Silva was put out of action by a serious injury, question marks remained as to how it would affect Ciy. Nasri’s fine upswing in form could not have been better timed, as it’s currently overseeing some resounding victories for City.
Moussa Sissoko (Newcastle United)
A strong midfield performance, but more than anything else, just for this absolute gatecrasher of a goal that turned out to be the game winner.
Iker Muniain (Athletic Bilbao)
The ‘Spanish Messi’ as he was known when his prodigious talent was discovered, scored for the second week running. Last week, he scored a brace to help his side come back to beat Malaga. This week, in perhaps Athletic Bilbao’s biggest game of the season, he scored an 81st minute goal to condemn Barcelona to a second successive loss on the bounce in their first ever game at the new San Mames.
Bilbao’s strategy of pressurizing Barca into surrendering the ball paid rich dividends as the Bilbao frontline then went on to raid the Catalan goal with Muniain leading the charge.
Even though Bilbao only had 38% possession, they had 15 shots on goal compared to Barca’s 11 and 6 of those were on target compared to just 2 for Barca. Muniain was a constant threat for Barca popping up in space and stretching their back-four.
Gareth Bale (Real Madrid)
The dissenting voices that sought to downplay Bale’s chances of striking it big at Real Madrid have gone away as the Welsh winger has begun to find his feet after taking time to settle down at the Bernabeu.
Right here, in this very column, Bale has been making a more prominent appearance with each passing week. First, in the company of Cristiano Ronaldo, and then slowly, even by himself.
The winger scored a magnificent hat-trick, his first as a Real Madrid player and had an assist to his name as Real Madrid went on to destroy Valladolid 4-0.
It was a performance reminiscent of those that he put on in the white shirt of Tottenham Hotspur last season where he took charge and left a mark on a game.
Out of nowhere really, Bale suddenly has 7 goals and 6 assists in La Liga alone and they’ve come in just 7 starts and 2 sub appearances. He has also found the back of the net in the last three games running.
Valencia came into the game having won just one of their last six games. Brazilian forward Jonas ensured that they would add to that column with a very well-taken hat-trick at the Mestalla. In fact, it was a passage of eight minutes from the 45th to the 53rd minute that saw the scoreline go from 0-0 to 3-0.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic & Edinson Cavani (PSG)
Zlatan Ibrahimovic took his tally of Ligue 1 goals this season to 11 with two penalties to help leaders Paris St Germain thrash Olympique Lyon 4-0 on Sunday.
His partner in crime, Edinson Cavani, had opened up the proceedings with his 10th goal of the campaign on 36 minutes. Two penalties from Ibrahimovic took his tally to 11 and the two world-class forwards are striking up quite a good understanding and starting to destroy opposition defences single-handendly.Modified 20 Dec 2019, 00:09 IST