European soccer news: Chelsea stay top, Kane makes history

Another weekend of European soccer brought plenty of talking points, drama and action. On Friday in the Women’s Super League, league leaders Chelsea made light work of Arsenal to keep their spot at the top of the table. In LaLiga, Vinícius Júnior showed once again why he’s one of the most in-form wingers in the world after scoring twice in Real Madrid‘s victory over Osasuna. In the Bundesliga, Harry Kane reached personal and club milestones after they hammered Darmstadt 5-2.

And FA Cup action saw Coventry City and United States midfielder Haji Wright steal the headlines in a last-gasp win over Wolverhampton Wanderers to go through to the semifinals. And finally, in the Premier League, Fulham stunned Tottenham Hotspur to win 3-0, a result that could potentially end Spurs’ hopes for a top four finish.

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SATURDAY REVIEW

The lead: Chelsea sock it to Arsenal in title-clash (Chelsea 3-1 Arsenal)

The stage was set on Friday night for the WSL’s most played fixture as Chelsea welcomed Arsenal to Stamford Bridge, still smarting from a 4-1 thrashing dolled out at the Emirates earlier in the season. There was far more than just pride on the line for the Blues however, as a win for the Gunners would have seen them go level on points with the champions, allowing Manchester City to leapfrog the both of them into first with a win on Sunday.

The narrative could have been about the title race, Chelsea’s injury woes, or even the fall-out from Emma Hayes’ pre-match comments about player-coach, or specifically, player-player relationships in the women’s game — something Hayes addressed after the match. Or even just the parity between the two over the years, in their 27th league meeting — there have been more than enough cup clashes, too — the scales were balanced at 10 wins a piece with six shared draws.

Yet so much of the football fell away with start delayed due to a kit clash noticed only minutes before kick-off, and then for half an hour the only conversation was about Arsenal’s white socks, and however much they had to spend at the Stamford Bridge megastore to purchase Chelsea’s blue and black away socks for the whole squad to allow the match to start. It brought a certain joviality with it, almost setting the tone for the bizarre nature in which the Sjoeke Nüsken netted her first half brace.

For Arsenal, it wasn’t just about wrong socks as much as wrong tactics, the shape of their midfield unbalanced through the first-half allowing the hosts to attack them with ease, to find spaces to exploit and to dictate play. Lauren James again put in a starring performance — a running theme whenever the Blues play at the Bridge rather than their usual Kingsmeadow home. After James’ opener, there was Nüsken’s first that the German thrust a toe-nail at to divert into the bottom corner, then a second that bounced off of her backside, wrong-footing Manuela Zinsberger to make the lead an unassailable one.

For Chelsea’s dominance, the finishing was arguably not the best from the hosts, especially in the second half with the game already won, yet they were clearly the team getting the rub of the green. But the tactics from Hayes, the shape and idea of using Nüsken in a center-forward role — just a week after deploying her at center-back — was one that worked perfectly, and their lead was entirely deserved thanks to a sterling team performance.

Arsenal’s second-half conciliation was just that, something for the red wall of away fans to cheer, but more of a footnote for the team now six-points off of the top. For Chelsea, who have oscillated between dazzling and grinding so far this season, the game was a side-stepped banana-peel and although they still have City snapping at their heels, they remain in control of the title fight. — Sophie Lawson


Saturday talking points around the leagues

More goals and another yellow card for Vini Jr

Two more goals for Vinícius Júnior, this time in Real Madrid’s 4-2 win at Osasuna on Saturday. This was a complete performance from the Brazilian — “he could have scored four goals today, easily” said coach Carlo Ancelotti — and even included a now trademark yellow card for the forward, for arguing with referee Juan Martinez Munuera before halftime.

This was yet another demonstration of Vinicius’ increasingly versatile, unpredictable attacking game. “I’m trying to play more on the inside, to score more goals,” he told Real Madrid TV. The result: six goals in his last four appearances. Two against Valencia, one each against RB Leipzig and Celta Vigo, and two here at El Sadar. Eight of his 12 league goals have come since late January, his early-season injury problems forgotten.

In another recent trend, he’s also been yellow carded in each of his last four games. That means he’ll be suspended for Madrid’s next match, hosting Athletic Club on March 31. Fortunately that coincides with the return from suspension of the team’s other outstanding goal threat, Jude Bellingham. Ancelotti admitted Vinícius “could control the pressure a bit more” in terms of how he reacts to situations, but backed him to improve over time, saying “he’s humble and intelligent.”

Vinícius now won’t play for Madrid for three weeks, as the international break is followed by the Athletic game in LaLiga, and then the league taking a week off for the Copa del Rey final. After that, it’s Manchester City in the Champions League quarterfinals on April 9, the biggest test yet of this season’s edition of Real Madrid.

They’re good enough to overwhelm and befuddle Osasuna — “they have quick players on the outside but play without wingers, with Vinícius, Rodrygo [Goes] and Brahim [Diaz] coming inside. At times [Ferland] Mendy and [Dani] Carvajal join them. It’s a very flexible system,” their coach Jagoba Arrasate said — but Pep Guardiola’s City will be a very different test. — Alex Kirkland

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What made Vinicius Junior ‘unplayable’ vs. Osasuna

Alex Kirkland and Ale Moreno reflect on a superb two-goal performance for Vinicius Junior in Real Madrid’s win over Osasuna.

Bayern and Darmstadt deliver another spectacle as Kane breaks Bundesliga goal record

Meetings between Bayern Munich and Darmstadt always appear to have box office potential. The German champions walloped the side from Hesse 8-0 in October and cruised to a 5-2 win at Darmstadt on Saturday, keeping their slim hopes of defending the domestic championship alive.

Just like in October, Darmstadt genuinely enjoyed a few moments when it looked like they could emerge triumphant, but eventually they had to succumb to Bayern’s onslaught. Early on, Darmstadt, who remain rooted to the bottom of the Bundesliga table, acted quite smart in not allowing Bayern to create any kind of meaningful goalscoring opportunities, despite the visitors enjoying almost 80 percent ball possession at times. To make things even more intriguing, Mathias Honsak capitalized on a rebound from Eric Dier by fooling a few Bayern defenders before setting up Tim Skarke for the go-ahead goal.

But Bayern, as opposed to outings earlier this season, remained patient and did not deviate from their game plan. They continued to break down Darmstadt methodically, eventually opening up the spaces to not only score the equalizer but also take the lead before the half-time break. Bayern’s second goal was also Kane’s 31st of the season which marks a new Bundesliga goal record for a player in his first season. The previous record was set by Uwe Seeler in 1963-64 which was also the first Bundesliga season in history.

Two standout players were Jamal Musiala and Aleksandar Pavlovic. Both will meet up again in a few days when they travel with the Germany squad during the international break, and midfielder Pavlovic is expected to make his debut for the country of his birth. Both the German FA (DFB) and national team coach Julian Nagelsmann remain keen to ensure Pavlovic does not play international football for Serbia.

The only thing that could mess up Nagelsmann’s cunning plan is the head injury Pavlovic suffered in the second half which led to his substitution. With his replacement Konrad Laimer on the pitch, Bayern continued to dominate and added a further three goals before Darmstadt’s Oscar Wilhelmsson made it 5-2 deep into stoppage time. With their 19th win of the season in the bag, Bayern are seven points behind table leaders Bayer Leverkusen who play at Freiburg on Sunday. — Constantin Eckner

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Kane makes Bundesliga history with 31st goal of debut season

Harry Kane sets the record for most goals in a debut Bundesliga season with a header to put Bayern 2-1 up on Darmstadt.


Americans abroad: Wright shocks Wolves in FA Cup quarterfinals

Haji Wright put on a late, late show today to send Coventry City through to the FA Cup semifinals after beating Premier league side Wolves. With this team down 2-1 going into injury time, the 25-year-old stepped up to not only assist the equalizer but put the game to bed after scoring the winner. That’s the magic of the FA Cup!

And just to give you all some historical context, Coventry hadn’t reached the FA Cup semifinals since the 1986-87 season, when it won the whole thing. Meanwhile, Wright becomes the second American to score in a quarterfinal or later in the FA Cup since 2007 (Christian Pulisic scored in the 2020 final). Not only that, he’s has scored four goals in a four-game span for the first time with Coventry City and the first time overall since Aug. 2022 with Antalyaspor.

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Coventry score 2 goals in stoppage time to stun Wolves in FA Cup

Coventry scored twice in stoppage time to win 3-2 at Wolves in an incredible FA Cup quarter-final at Molineux.

In Germany, Brenden Aaronson scored the deciding goal for Union Berlin against Werder Bremen to help them secure a much-needed 2-1 win in the fight to stay clear of the relegation zone. Aaronson was not selected in the USMNT’s roster for the Concacaf Nations League, but will hope to find form to be selected ahead of the summer’s Copa América.

In England, Antonee Robinson assisted the opening goal for Fulham (he has a club high of six assists this season) against Tottenham Hotspur with a beautiful cross to striker Rodrigo Muniz, who finished emphatically. Robinson has been crucial for the West London side, who sit 12th in the table.

Meanwhile, Josh Sargent‘s incredible season continues after scoring his eighth goal in nine games (and 13th for the season) for Norwich City, who put three past Stoke City. Can he do the same in the Nations League later this week?


News of the day

  • Chelsea boss Emma Hayes has said she let herself down by calling intrasquad player relationships “inappropriate” and added that she will no longer be providing “clickbait headlines.” Hayes, who takes over as coach of the U.S. women’s national team in June, expressed her disapproval of romantic relationships between players on the same team Thursday, adding that it would be “ideal” if she didn’t have to deal with them. “I want to be clear to everybody in the room, I don’t want to create any more clickbait headlines for you guys. I think sometimes that becomes the case when we have honest conversations about things,” Hayes said at a news conference.

  • Barcelona coach Xavi Hernández has said Paris Saint-Germain’s finances make them favorites in their Champions League quarterfinal tie after the Spanish and French champions were pitted against each other in Friday’s draw. “Perhaps I’d say PSG are favourites. History aside, because we’ve won more Champions Leagues, financially right now it’s not the same, with what they’ve spent and what we’ve spent. But you have to perform on the pitch,” Xavi said. It’s the Catalan club’s first Champions League quarterfinal since 2020, after they were eliminated in the group stage in 2022-23.

  • FIFA raised president Gianni Infantino’s base salary by 33% last year to make his total pay package worth more than $4.67 million, world football’s governing body said in its financial report released Friday. Infantino’s pre-tax base salary payment rose by more than $565,000 last year to reach more than $2.78m. His annual bonus was worth $1.87m, the same as in 2022 when the men’s World Cup was played in Qatar. The previous FIFA president, Sepp Blatter, had a contracted bonus worth $12m for the 2014 World Cup on top of a $3m basic salary and annual bonuses.


And finally, on Saturday …

Fulham ended their nine-match winless streak against Tottenham in the Premier League after Saturday’s 3-0 victory. And to put the icing on the cake, the Cottagers’ Muniz joins Phil Foden, Bukayo Saka and Ollie Watkins for most goals scored since Feb. 1.