Top 10 Performances from Around the World for Weekend of March 7-8
Another weekend packed full of excellent performances has come and gone, with many European leagues another step toward the end of their season, the Russian Premier League finally back underway and the new MLS 2015 campaign up and running.
We've scoured the planet, as always, to bring you a roundup of the best displays and outcomes from all the biggest leagues (and several of the smaller ones) and present the top 10 team performances of the weekend.
Our orderings are dependent on opposition, result, form guide and league placement.
There are two Bundesliga teams this week in the rankings, and we begin with Cologne (or Koln, as they are also known).
They beat Eintracht Frankfurt 4-2 at home, a midtable battle that ended a six-game winless run for Cologne and saw them overcome the best efforts of Alexander Meier, the league's top scorer, who netted both the away team's strikes.
A strong finish to the match for Cologne saw them net three in the final 20 minutes, with Nigerian Anthony Ujah scoring his ninth of the season in the process and lifting his side to 11th in the Bundesliga table.
Major League Soccer is back! The opening weekend of the new season saw last year's top two sides, the Seattle Sounders and LA Galaxy, both pick up convincing home victories. But our choice of top performer is Toronto FC, the only team to pick up an away win.
Toronto travelled to Vancouver Whitecaps, and despite falling behind early on, they turned things around to record a 3-1 win.
On his debut, Jozy Altidore equalised and then netted his second with a stoppage-time penalty, meaning he already has more goals than he managed in his entire 42-game stint with Sunderland.
Over to the Eredivisie now, and our sole selection from the league isn't Ajax, Feyenoord or PSV, although all three big clubs did win. Instead, we opt for Utrecht, struggling in midtable this season but delivering a thumping 6-2 win at the weekend against AZ Alkmaar, who were third in the league.
A fast start saw Utrecht three up inside 20 minutes, and they netted a further trio of goals in the second half. Sebastien Haller hit a brace of penalties, and the six goals were achieved even without top-scorer Ruud Boymans in the matchday squad.
Utrecht moved up to 11th, while AZ dropped to fourth.
Three La Liga teams make our cut this weekend, starting with Villarreal.
A superb first-half performance saw them deservedly score twice late on to have a comfortable lead over Celta Vigo at the break, with a wonderful solo goal from Giovani Dos Santos being and a Mateo Musacchio header off a corner.
Celta came back into the game in the second half and looked likely to take a point at one stage. Villarreal had sat back, but they then realised the game was turning and took it upon themselves to push much higher up, hitting on the break quicker. The result was two further goals, one each for forwards Luciano Vietto and Gerard Moreno, and an eventual 4-1 win.
Villarreal's top-four hopes are marginal at this point, but they are in a battle for fifth with Sevilla, which they should win if they continue with performances like this one.
After a month of throwing away leads, failing to consolidate good starts to matches and generally wasting chances for points, Marseille finally got back to business on Friday night by hammering Toulouse 6-1.
The away victory over the relegation-zone side never looked in doubt from the moment Michy Batshuayi hit a second-minute opener, and that lead was doubled within five minutes. Batshuayi had another before the break as Marseille went in four goals to the good at half-time.
A late Andre-Pierre Gignac strike sealed the win to keep Marseille in third and leave them as joint top scorers in Ligue 1 this season.
5. Schalke 04
Back to Germany now, and Schalke 04 take our second vote for the Bundesliga after they picked up an important win over Hoffenheim on Saturday.
Schalke had been in poor form of late, losing two of their previous three, and Hoffenheim could have overtaken them with victory, but a Max Meyer brace added to Christian Fuchs' early goal to give Roberto Di Matteo's team a 3-1 win.
S04 stay fifth in the table, outside the Champions League places by a point.
Back to Ligue 1 now, and after Marseille made their statement win on Friday, fellow title chasers PSG (4-1 vs. Lens) and Lyon followed suit over the weekend.
Lyon faced a Europa League-chasing Montpellier outfit that had won their last two away from home, and it looked as though Montpellier would continue that run after opening the scoring after just six minutes.
The league leaders have a monstrous strike force, though, and both forwards came through in a big way: Alexandre Lacazette netted a penalty to equalise before the excellent Nabil Fekir bagged a brace to put Lyon in control. Lacazette also went on to score his second, and Lyon ended up winning 5-1 to stay top of the table by a single point.
One of the biggest grudge matches in Europe took place at the weekend, as Fenerbahce hosted Galatasaray in the Turkish Super Lig.
Before the weekend, we identified Dirk Kuyt as the man to watch in such an environment. He is a big-game player and a cool head in a tough environment, and the Dutchman proved that when he hit the winner just nine minutes from time.
His strike from the edge of the box gave Fenerbahce a 1-0 victory to tighten the title race. Galatasaray remain top on 51 points, Besiktas moved to the same total, and Fenerbahce are third on 50.
2. Athletic Bilbao
Our final two selections come from Spain's La Liga, starting with Basque outfit Athletic Bilbao.
After finishing fourth last season and qualifying for the Champions League, Ernesto Valverde's team endured a horrid start to this campaign and was in the drop zone for some time, but Bilbao have turned their form around in 2015. On Saturday, they showed just how far they had come by winning their third match in succession, beating table-toppers Real Madrid by a 1-0 scoreline.
It was totally merited, too. Athletic attacked, pressed and harassed Real in the first half, scoring a deserved goal through Aritz Aduriz and not letting Real get their own game going. In the second 45 minutes, Athletic sat back far more and invited Real to break them down with their range of world-class attackers…and the European champions were unable to.
A 45-yard strike off the post from Gareth Bale was the only time Real looked like scoring. Athletic worked heroically and took the points, moving up to eighth place in the Spanish top flight.
The top spot once more goes to Barcelona, our third La Liga team of the weekend, who also moved up to first place in their own league table thanks to the combination of Athletic's victory and their own.
Knowing a win would fire them above Real Madrid, Barcelona started fast against Rayo Vallecano and were relentless in their pursuit of goals. Luis Suarez got the ball rolling after five minutes and, in truth, he could have had four goals and won two penalties.
In the end, he managed half of both: two goals for himself and one penalty won that Lionel Messi dispatched en route to a hat-trick, while Gerard Pique also netted. Both teams had a player sent off as Barcelona won 6-1 with ease, but with a more clinical edge and a few debatable decisions going their way, they could have hit double figures in this match.
Superb play all round, especially from Suarez.