World Football Weekend Review

Sean BabcockCorrespondent IIAugust 8, 2011

World Football Weekend Review

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    We're still a week away from the start of the Premier League season, but that doesn't mean that there's not football news to report all around Europe and the world.

    This weekend, several European domestic leagues started their seasons, including the highly-competitive German Bundesliga and French Ligue 1. Ajax and FC Twente had something to say about a Netherlands domestic title run, as well.

    Of course, this weekend wasn't entirely free of news from England's top tier, as Manchester's two top sides went head to head in the Community Shield, with Manchester City hoping to prove that they're finally ready for an English title.

    Hold on tight, football fans. European action is back.

Top Story: Manchester United Overcome Deficit to Defeat Rivals

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    It may be opening weekend for domestic leagues around Europe, but the top story of the weekend comes from a league that's still a week away from kicking things off. And it comes from a match that Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson called "just another friendly."

    City got off to an early start, testing new United goalkeeper David de Gea and taking a 2-0 advantage in the first half of the Community Shield, failing to prevent the second goal from well outside of the box. He looked almost lost and confused through much of the first half, only adding to the questions that United will face following the departure Edwin van der Sar from Old Trafford.

    Still, the second half would belong entirely to United. In the 52nd minute, Chris Smalling redirected a free kick just past the keeper to bring United within one. Six minutes later, Nani made it level.

    For another half-hour, the tension between the two rival sides, and their respective fans, could not be broken. Just when it seemed as though the Community Shield would be decided on penalties, Nani was gifted a breakaway from a mistake from City's Vincent Kompany. He raced downfield and slid the ball past City's keeper to secure the last-minute victory.

    Of course, Alex Ferguson might be onto something in calling the Community Shield a glorified friendly, but it cannot be denied that this was a friendly that meant something to fans of both sides in this match.

    Both City and United came into Wembley with messages they hoped to send to their rival opponents. City's message, which they briefly made clear in the first half: "We're here, and we're ready to challenge for the English title."

    United's response: "Good to know. Enjoy what will surely be one of the most expensive second-place Premier League finishes in recent history."

German Bundesliga: Top Stories

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    Borussia Dortmund Reassert League Dominance in Season Opener

    Borussia Dortmund 3-1 Hamburger SV

    At Signal Iduna Park on Friday, in front of more than 80,000 fans, the home side looked as comfortable as ever as they started the new season off strong.

    Last year's Bundesliga champions Borussia Dortmund put on a show, defeating the vastly underrated Hamburg by a margin of two goals.

    Kevin Großkreutz started things off early, scoring Dortmund's first goal of the 2011-12 season in the 17th minute, taking advantage of a world-class feed from Mario Goetze. Großkreutz would complete a brace by the end of the match (with the help of Goetze once again), and the German champions would go 79 minutes and three unanswered goals before conceding their first of the season.

    Dortmund outshot Hamburg 16-7, and dominated every other offensive aspect of the match. In their desperation, the visitors committed 21 fouls to try and stem the tide of Dortmund's repeat-Championship campaign.

    For Borussia, this match was more than the first of the season. It was an opportunity to send the Bundesliga a message: "get ready, because it's going to be a long season for the rest of you."


    Rough Start at Home for Bayern Munich

    Bayern Munich 0-1 Moenchengladbach

    One match into the season, and last season's Bundesliga third-place finishers Bayern Munich are already wishing they could get one back.

    Playing at home, Bayern struggled to find the back of the net, but only conceded four shots to Moenchengladbach, one of which snuck through in the 62nd minute to secure the victory for the lower-table side. Bayern themselves took 13 unsuccessful shots, and will face difficult questions about their finishing ability as they prepare for next week.

    Moenchengladbach, of course, finished third to last in Bundesliga at the end of the last campaign. They only narrowly avoided relegation by winning the playoff to determine who would compete in Germany's top tier in 2011-12.

    The final result is less of an indicator of an improved Moenchengladbach squad, and much more of indicator of Bayern's struggle to start off strong. If they can't figure out how to convert some of those shots into goals, Bayern may be in for a long and disappointing campaign.


    Could This be the Year for FSV Mainz?

    FSV Mainz 05 2-0 Bayer Leverkusen

    Starting the season at home, FSV Mainz 05 wasted very little time in showing the league that they're ready to be taken seriously.

    Taking on last season's Bundesliga runners-up, the home side dominated in nearly every offensive aspect of the match, holding a majority share of the possession and more than tripling Leverkusen's shots on target.

    Mainz has been on a steady ascent in German football since their relegation in 2007. In 2009, they won promotion back to the top tier, and finished ninth the following season. In 2010-11, they secured a spot in European football by finishing fifth in Bundesliga and earning a spot in the Europa League qualifying round.

    Could this be the season that FSV Mainz 05 finally break into the top three and earn themselves a coveted spot in next year's Champions League tournament? In any case, they could easily be the club to watch in Germany this year.

German Bundesliga: The Rest of the Results

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    Werder Bremen 2-0 Kaiserslautern

    Thanks to a second-half brace from Markus Rosenberg, Werder Bremen are starting off strong in their home debut. Can they improve on a disappointing 13th place finish?


    FC Koln 0-3 VfL Wolfsburg

    Two goals from Patrick Helmes and one from Marcel Schafer helped Wolfsburg overcome a tough opening road trip. The goal difference was held to one for the majority of the match, before Wolfsburg got comfortable and opened up on FC Koln after the 85th minute.


    VfB Stuttgart 3-0 Schalke 04

    Despite being last year's surprise success story in Champions League, Schalke fell far down the domestic table in their home campaign. Finishing 14th in Bundesliga last season, Shalke are looking at another tough year as they start off outshooting VfB Stuttgart 15-11, but still losing by a margin of three goals on the road.


    Hannover 96 2-1 1899 Hoffenheim

    Sejad Salihovic equalized for Hoffenheim in the 18th minute after being awarded a penalty for a reckless foul. That decision would be negated 11 minutes later, as Hannover received a penalty opportunity of their own to secure the victory.


    FC Augsburg 2-2 SC Freiburg

    It was a second-half back-and-forth at SGL Arena, featuring four goals and the only Bundesliga draw of the weekend.


    Hertha Berlin 0-1 Nurnberg

    Tomas Pekhart scored late to secure the victory over the newly-promoted hosting side.

French Ligue 1: Top Stories

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    PSG Falls at Home to Lorient

    Paris Saint-Germain 0-1 Lorient

    PSG are widely regarded this season as favorites to win the French domestic championship, which is odd for a club that has only won the league twice in its history. But PSG's recent purchase by the Qatar Sports Investment group has led to a wide array of high-profile acquisitions and rather great expectations for last year's fourth-place finishers.

    Those expectations were a bit much for PSG to handle, however, as they got off to weak start at home to Lorient, falling 1-0.

    The lone goal of the match was scored in the 28th minute, as Julien Quercia beat PSG goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu to earn the lead. In the following 62 minutes, PSG would struggle to find an offensive rhythm and equalize to at least earn a point in the season opener.

    Can France's new financial powerhouse get it together quickly enough to compete for the top spot? Perhaps. But with 37 league matches left to play, PSG should be more than capable, talent-wise, of at least placing in the top three.

    If not, they'll have some serious questions to face on the management side of things in the near future.


    Can Lille Win the Crown Once Again?

    AS Nancy 1-1 LOSC Lille

    With PSG now (supposedly) in the hunt for Champions League football in 2011-12, what will become of France's top three?

    LOSC Lille don't particularly think they have anything to worry about, especially with newly-acquired French striker Dimitri Payet expected to make his mark in the coming campaign.

    Payet did not score in Lille's season opener on the road against AS Nancy, however, but defensive teammate Mathieu Debuchy did in a big way, earning the lead on the road for a short while.

    That lead would eventually be lost, courtesy of an own-goal by Lille defender Franck Beria.

    At least they know their defenders can find the back of the net.

    Still, the point on the road is plenty enough for Lille, and will prove to be crucial as they attempt a repeat run at the French domestic title.


    Lyon Looks for Another Strong Start in Ligue 1

    OGC Nice 1-3 Lyon

    Lille might not have won on the road, but last year's third-place finishers Olympique Lyonnaise certainly did, beating OGC Nice and taking home all three points.

    Lyon's management style is a favorite among many analysts, with some experts predicting a Champions League title sometime in the very near future. That may be a little overboard in the eyes of most casual observers, but a French domestic title could certainly be on the horizon.

    Granted, Lyon's first road match came against a club that narrowly avoided relegation last time around, but three points is never a bad way to start a new campaign, no matter the opponent.

    Lyon fielded a very offensive 4-3-3 formation against the weaker side, and saw goal-scoring performances from two of their forwards, and from midfielder Maxime Gonalons.

French Ligue 1: The Rest of the Results

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    Marseille 2-2 Sochaux

    Sochaux hoped to assert their dominance over last year's league runners-up on the road, and would have too if Vincent Nogueira's goal in the 71st minute to take the lead had been the last of the match. Instead, Marseille's Souleymane Diawara scored the equalizer three minutes later.


    Montpellier 3-1 AJ Auxerre

    Auxerre seemed evenly matched against the hosting side for the first 45, as they entered the half tied at one apiece. However, Montpellier quickly regained their home confidence and added two more to their tally in the second half.


    Ajaccio 0-2 Toulouse FC

    Toulouse started their season with one of the easiest road matches they'll have to face, and took advantage of the newly-promoted side's struggles by taking home all two points.


    Caen 1-0 Valenciennes FC

    A single 35th minute goal by Gregory Proment withstood the test of time as Stade Malharbe Caen earned their first victory of the new season.


    Brestois 2-2 Evian

    Newly-promoted Evian Thonon Gaillard FC played their first away match in Ligue 1, taking Brestois (who narrowly avoided relegation themselves last season) for a bit of a ride in the first half. After taking an early 2-0 lead, Evian ultimately conceded the equalizers after half time, but still took home their first point in the top tier.


    Dijon 1-5 Rennes

    In what should be their easiest road match of the season (the third-place Ligue 2 finishers), Rennes took full advantage. Five different players added goals to their stat sheets as Rennes made it look easy.


    Bordeaux 1-2 Saint Etienne

    Both of these sides came within reach of Europa League football last season, and finished within two points of each other. Thanks to an own-goal by Bordeaux's defense, Saint Etienne takes the early lead this time around.

The Rest of Europe

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    Lukaku to Chelsea

    Chelsea confirmed on their website Saturday that a deal has been struck with Anderlecht to bring Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku to Stamford Bridge.

    The deal is now subject only to the passing of a physical exam, and the club and player agreeing to personal contract terms.

    Lukaku is a product of Anderlecht's youth system, and has scored 33 goals for the club since joining the first team in 2009. He arrived in London on Monday to receive his examination and negotiate terms.

    Said Andres Villas-Boas of the Belgian: "He is a very interesting young prospect and the situation is now that we have to position ourselves to maybe get this kind of talent."


    Ajax and Twente Both Start Strong on the Road in Eredivisie

    Holland's two top sides started the season this weekend with tough matches on the road, and they both secured victories to take home.

    FC Twente took the lead in the 27th minute thanks to a little help from a Marc Janko own-goal. The score would stand for the remainder of the match.

    Ajax started off with a little more offensive production against Holland's 14th place finishers from last season. With a Miralem Sulejmani brace, and two more goals on top of that, Ajax won their first match of 2011-12 by a score of 4-1.

The Rest of the World

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    Major League Soccer

    The Los Angeles Galaxy took a strong lead once again in their race for the MLS Supporters' Shield, hoping to make a repeat run at the title. They battled their closest competitors for the top spot this weekend, FC Dallas, and defeated them 3-1 after finding themselves down by one early on in the match.

    The Seattle Sounders have made their way back into the race however, though they're still seven points back from the Galaxy. The Seattle side have had some difficulty with their finishing as of late, a problem that persisted through 90 minutes of their match this weekend. Thanks to two late goals, one in the 90th and one in the 92nd, the Sounders overcame a deficit to snap Sporting Kansas City's 14-match unbeaten streak and secure the victory.

    Just how far will the Red Bulls fall? Thierry Henry's New York side haven't had a victory in several matches, and lost again this weekend to Real Salt Lake. They have now fallen to third place in the Eastern Conference, with no relief in sight.


    Mexico Primera Division

    The current title-holders of the Mexican Torneo Clausura, Pumas UNAM are starting off strong again. Unbeaten in their first four, they currently lead the pack with 10 points in the standings.

    Closing in on them are current CONCACAF Champions League title-holders, Monterrey. They dropped one match early in the campaign, but beat Morelia this weekend to bring their tally to nine.

    A Cruz Azul victory this weekend, and a Chivas draw against the Pumas bring both sides to seven points to round out the top four.