Gareth Bale's Golazo and the Greatest World Football Moments of the Weekend

Ryan Bailey@ryanjaybaileyFeatured ColumnistFebruary 24, 2014

Gareth Bale's Golazo and the Greatest World Football Moments of the Weekend

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    Gareth Bale went some way to justifying his hefty price tag over the weekend, netting his 10th league goal of the season for Real Madrid in epic style. 

    Over in England, meanwhile, Olivier Giroud redeemed himself for recent extracurricular activity with a brace of goals; there was an epic match at Anfield and a stunning volley in the Championship.

    There were also fantastic goals in Germany and Italy, while UEFA's head honchos gathered in Nice to determine the qualification fate of the 53 nations vying for a spot at Euro 2016.

    Check out the weekend's best moments over the next few pages...   

Barcelona Suffered a Post-Champions League Comedown

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    Days after a commanding Champions League performance at Manchester City, Barcelona were a shadow of themselves, slumping to a 3-1 defeat to Real Sociedad. 

    The Txuri-urdin's constant pressure and counter-attacking proved too much for the reigning league champions, whose manager Tata Martino was sent to the stands for complaining to the referee.

    After only their second Primera loss of the season, the Blaugrana have now fallen three points behind Real Madrid in the title race, while Atletico have a game in hand. 

    As Yahoo's Dirty Tackle blog notes, Xavi was not impressed

Gareth Bale Launched a Rocket at the Bernabeu

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    Real Madrid cruised to their 10th home win of the season with a 3-0 victory over Elche on Saturday. The standout moment happened in the 71st minute, when Gareth Bale struck a superb long-range goal.

    The world's most expensive player hadn't had a vintage game, but he made amends with a 35-yard strike that took the paint off the underside of the crossbar. According to Marca, Bale's shot travelled at 100.5km/h. 

Arsenal Scored a Superb Tiki Taka Goal in Win over Sunderland

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    Arsenal bounced back from their midweek Champions League defeat to Bayern Munich with a resounding 4-1 win over Sunderland at the Emirates.

    On the day that Dennis Bergkamp's long-awaited statue was unveiled, Olivier Giroud scored a brace while Tomas Rosicky and Laurent Koscielny also found the net. 

    Emanuele Giaccherini's late consolation was a wonderful strike, but the best goal came from the tiki-taka passing move that Rosicky tucked away in the 42nd minute.  

    In his post-match interview, manager Arsene Wenger said it was one of the best goals he'd ever seen at Arsenal. 


Liverpool Kept Up with the Top Four Pace with a Thrilling Win over Swansea

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    It's not the 1990s and Newcastle were nowhere in sight, but Liverpool enjoyed a thrilling 4-3 Premier League win on Sunday.

    When Daniel Sturridge and Jordan Henderson had both scored on Swansea within 20 minutes, it looked like a landslide was in the cards. However, the visitors pulled equal by the 27th minute, with Jonjo Shelvey's long-range effort looking just as impressive as Henderson's had been three minutes prior.

    With respect to his time at Anfield, the 21-year-old refused to celebrate

    Honours were even at 3-3 just after the break when Wilfried Bony converted a penalty, but Henderson was on target once again with a 74th-minute winner.

    Henderson, who was criticised upon his arrival at Liverpool, is fast becoming a key component in their pursuit of Champions League football.

    However, a defence that allows Brendan Rodgers' side to leak three goals at home will certainly need tightening up. 

The Mighty Zlatan 'Zlataned' Toulouse

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    Zlatan Ibrahimovic appears to score hat-tricks for fun these days.

    The dynamic Swede brought his Paris St-Germain tally to 37 this season (as per Graeme Yorke of The Daily Mail) with a triple strike in the Ligue 1 leaders' 4-2 win at Toulouse.

    The first was a penalty and the second was a header from a Yohan Cabaye free-kick. The hat-trick was completed with typical Ibra swagger when he failed to convert a cheeky Panenka penalty but stabbed home the rebound. 

    The score line may have flattered PSG, but they remain five points ahead of fellow nouveau riche contender Monaco in the league.  

Dortmund and Leverkusen Helped Bayern Munich's Title Pursuit

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    In the Bundesliga, Bayern Munich took another step toward engraving their name on the shield once again with a 4-0 rout over Hannover, while second-place Leverkusen lost at Wolfsburg and third-place Borussia Dortmund were defeated 3-0 by Hamburg.

    The Bavarians now have a 19-point lead that shows no sign of decreasing.

    The most shocking result was that of BvB, who faced a Hamburg side in crisis that had lost their last eight competitive fixtures. Jurgen Klopp claimed his players took the game to lightly and were punished as a result. PA Sport via ESPNFC quotes the manager:

    There's an old saying that a good horse only jumps as high as he has to. Well I hate this saying more than anything. I think a horse should jump as high as it can.

    We looked at how high we had to jump today and, when we realised that it wasn't so high, we had already fallen behind.

    BvB have now conceded 42 and lost six games—the exact same tallies they finished the 2012-13 season with. 

    Yet there was nothing the 2013 Champions League finalists could do about Hakan Calhanoglu's outrageous long-range free-kick in the 92nd minute. 



Juventus Won the Turin Derby Thanks to Carlos Tevez

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    Juventus are now nine points clear of Roma at the top of Serie A thanks to a 1-0 win over Turin rivals Torino. 

    Carlos Tevez made the difference in the 30th minute, with a powerful volley from outside the area.

    According to ESPNFC, seventh-placed Torino have now failed to score against The Old Lady in their last 10 attempts, taking only one point in those encounters. 

Blackpool's Andy Keogh Channeled His Inner Marco Van Basten

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    There was no shortage of quality goals over the weekend, but one of the best occurred in Blackpool's 2-1 loss to Birmingham.

    The Seasiders went ahead in the tie when Andy Keogh, on loan from Millwall, volleyed in beautifully after a corner. Yet two second-half goals from Birmingham handed the visitors three points. 

    Caretaker manager Barry Ferguson has not recorded a win in six games since succeeding Paul Ince, bringing Blackpool's winless streak to 15 games in the Championship. 

The Istanbul Derby Featured an Unusual Moment of Fair Play

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    Galatasaray edged out Istanbul rivals Besiktas 1-0 on Saturday evening thanks to Selcuk Inan's 38th-minute penalty. 

    In a game where tempers often run high, Gala defender Semih Kaya gained respect with a surprising moment of fair play. When a ball was kicked against his legs and out into touch, the referee gave a goal kick instead of a corner. 

    Kaya, however, had a word with the referee and insisted the corner was awarded against him. The gesture was highly appreciated, with the official tracking him down to shake his hand and a panel of Turkish pundits giving him a standing ovation during a post-match interview. 

    H/T to 101 Great Goals for spotting this one. 

The Euro 2016 Draw Was Good News for England

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    The biggest football moment of the weekend didn't actually involve any football, as the Euro 2016 qualification draw was held in Nice on Sunday. 

    England fans found the draw particularly "nice," as the Three Lions drew San Marino, Lithuania, Estonia, Slovenia and Switzerland. Seeing as the top two teams from each group qualify automatically and the third is entered into a play-off, it would be fairly astounding if Roy Hodgson's men didn't make the French tournament.

    The most interesting group—well, perhaps the only interesting group—is D, which features new boys Gibraltar, Germany, Georgia, Scotland, Poland, Republic of Ireland. 

    The draw has exposed one of the key drawbacks of the 2016 tournament and its expansion from 16 teams to 24. With nearly half of UEFA's members earning a place at the finals, the major teams have a huge safety cushion for qualification, which should make for a fairly undramatic campaign.

    Read more about my gripes with Euro 2016 here.


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