ESPN correspondents Mark Ogden, Rob Dawson, Julien Laurens, Sam Marsden, Mike Wise and James Tyler break down the most interesting and important stuff you need to know about the weekend.
Liverpool’s failings emerge again
Liverpool’s inconsistency is threatening to deny Jurgen Klopp’s team a top four finish in the Premier League. Or, to be more precise, their consistency in dropping points against struggling opponents is the reason why they are now six points adrift of fourth spot.
Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at Bournemouth — just six days after their 7-0 rout of Manchester United — was the second time this season that Liverpool have lost to a team that started the day at the bottom of the table. You could even argue that it was the third instance, with United starting matchday three as the bottom team, before moving up a spot on goal difference due to other results before kick-off, when beating Liverpool 2-1 at Old Trafford in August.
– Liverpool ratings: Salah 3/10 after missed penalty
Still, even if that early defeat against United is discounted, Liverpool have now dropped 15 points in games against teams threatened with relegation this season. They have failed to beat Crystal Palace in two fixtures, lost at home to Leeds United and were beaten at Nottingham Forest, Wolves and now Bournemouth — a team they hammered 9-0 at Anfield earlier this season.
Had Liverpool taken just half of the 15 points they have dropped against the strugglers, they would now be in the top four, with a game in hand over fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur.
Their results against teams fighting a relegation battle will be a concern to Klopp because his side remains one of the best in the country, as showcased in the win against United. But with games against Leeds, Forest and West Ham United due next month after the international break, followed by trips to Leicester City and Southampton in May, Liverpool clearly need to find a way to beat the teams they would usually blow away.
If they don’t, Liverpool can forget about playing in the Champions League next season. — Ogden
Liverpool lose to 20th place Bournemouth.
What a difference a week makes 😅 pic.twitter.com/g0qQow2UwD
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) March 11, 2023
BVB’s biggest rivals have the last laugh in a damaging draw
The Revierderby between Schalke 04 and Dortmund is one of the best and feistiest in world soccer, with form ahead of their tempestuous clashes never being a factor in the final result. It’s a rivalry in which anything can happen and with their respective seasons facing very different conclusions — Dortmund are chasing a first league title since 2011-12, while Schalke fight tooth and nail against relegation — Saturday’s 2-2 draw delivered plenty to talk about.
Twice, Dortmund took the lead at their rivals’ VELTINS-Arena and twice the hosts pegged them back, taking advantage of individual mistakes and throwing real doubt upon BVB’s title aspirations. Defender Nico Schlotterbeck, of all people, put Dortmund in front, stepping up and curling a stylish shot beyond Ralf Fahrmann from 20-ish yards, his third goal in 2023 alone. But Schalke’s confidence was never shaken and they leveled five minutes into the second half, with Jude Bellingham losing possession in midfield and the hosts’ quick counter ending with Marius Bulter tapping Michael Frey’s low cross in at the far post.
– Watch replay: Schalke 2-2 Dortmund (ESPN+, US only)
With Bayern Munich beating Augsburg 5-3 earlier in the day, Edin Terzic’s side knew they needed another goal and with half an hour left, they found it as Emre Can played Raphael Guerreiro in on the left side of the box, the Portuguese wing-back dutifully thundering a left-footed shot into the top corner. However, as has so often been the case this season, Dortmund’s defence blinked and Schalke profited, with Kenan Karaman’s set-piece header sneaking under Alexander Meyer’s gloves with 11 minutes remaining.
Dortmund deserved to drop points as much as Schalke deserved to take a draw; after winning just twice before the World Cup, the Royal Blues extended their unbeaten run to seven games with Saturday’s point. After losing 6-1 to RB Leipzig on Jan. 24, Schalke have rattled off four straight 0-0 draws followed by two wins, with just three goals conceded over that run.
Will it be enough to keep them in the Bundesliga? Will it be enough to doom Dortmund’s title hopes, as they now trail Bayern by two points with 10 games left, including a head-to-head on April 1? Only time will tell on both fronts. — Tyler
Dortmund slip up at Schalke in Bundesliga title race
Borussia Dortmund lose the lead twice in an entertaining 2-2 draw with arch-rival Schalke.
Sevilla and Valencia boost survival hopes
Sevilla and Valencia are accustomed to fighting for the European places in Spain but here they both are, in the middle of March, picking up huge wins in the fight to avoid relegation. At various stages of the weekend, both of them found themselves in the bottom three, but they ended Sunday in the safety zone thanks to victories against Almeria and Osasuna.
Things looked bleak for Sevilla when they went a goal down at home to second-bottom Almeria on Sunday, but Jorge Sampaoli’s side fought back at a nervy Sanchez Pizjuan stadium thanks to a Lucas Ocampos penalty and an Erik Lamela winner. A day earlier, in Valencia, where fans continue to protest against owner Peter Lim, Ruben Baraja’s side beat Osasuna 1-0 thanks to a late strike from Justin Kluivert. That’s two wins in their last three games under Baraja, who recently replaced Gennaro Gattuso.
Neither Sevilla nor Valencia are out of trouble yet, mind. Only goal difference is keeping Valencia out of the bottom three and they travel to Atletico Madrid next. Sevilla, meanwhile, have climbed to 13th and lead a group of seven clubs, down Almeria in 19th, separated by just three points. Elche are adrift at the bottom but two of Almeria, Getafe, Valencia, Cadiz, Espanyol, Real Valladolid and Sevilla must join them in the second division next season. Girona, Celta Vigo and Mallorca are not that far ahead, either. — Marsden
Erik Lamela’s powerful header seals Sevilla’s comeback win
Erik Lamela receives a perfect cross from Bryan Gil and heads in the winning goal for Sevilla vs. Almeria.
Openda cements himself as the Hat Trick King
Scoring one hat trick in a domestic season at any level is something quite special and that you really appreciate. Scoring two hat tricks in the same campaign, in one of the top five leagues in Europe, is very special and rare. And imagine if your second triplé, as we say in France, also broke a record.
Lois Openda is now part of this very rare crew, as the Belgian international fired Lens to a superb 4-0 victory at Clermont on Sunday afternoon.
On top of an assist, he notched that second hat trick of the Ligue 1 season after the one against Toulouse before the World Cup. That day, he netted three goals in just over 30 minutes, but he went one better this weekend, scoring all three in 4 minutes and 30 seconds — between the 31st and 35th minute of the game. It goes down as the fastest scored in the last 50 years of the French top flight, beating Lille’s Matt Moussiou, who did it in 4:34 in 2008.
Thanks to those four seconds, Openda had become the undisputed king of hat tricks. He now has 12 league goals in 18 starts this season and helped take Lens to a much-needed first win in their last four games. — Laurens
With a hat-trick in 4’30”, @LoisOpenda 🇧🇪 wrote his name in #Ligue1UberEats books forever!#CF63RCL | @RCLens pic.twitter.com/f7DUiuBY20
— Ligue 1 English (@Ligue1_ENG) March 12, 2023
Another Maldini haunts Inter Milan
With a surname like Maldini, you know Internazionale fans will never ever like you. If, on top of that, you are actually a member of that Maldini family, they might hate you even more. And if, as well as all of that, you score against them while on loan from Milan to Spezia, you might take the hatred to a whole new level.
Daniel Maldini is the son of Paolo and the grandson of Cesare, two AC Milan legends, and is currently on loan from the Rossoneri this season. On Friday night, the 21-year-old helped his parent club massively by coming on at half-time against Inter to open the scoring and lead his team to a huge 2-1 win. A victory from Milan at San Siro against Salernitana on Monday would see Maldini’s parent club coming back level on points with Inter in the table.
Maldini finished a great counter-attack with a composed finish and the celebrations showed his delight at scoring against Milan’s biggest rivals. It was just his second goal of the season in what has been a disappointing loan so far, despite becoming one of the rare players to score against Inter and Milan — he did so earlier in the season — in the same league campaign. — Laurens
Spezia hit Inter on the counter and it’s the on-loan Milan player Daniel Maldini who scores! 🍿 pic.twitter.com/2Mu72PT2xA
— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) March 10, 2023
Havertz offers a glimpse of his Chelsea future
Kai Havertz has secured his place in Chelsea’s history winning goals in both the Champions League and Club World Cup finals, but what does the future look like? The Germany international’s goal during the 3-1 win at Leicester City might just have given us all a glimpse of what may happen in the years to come.
Havertz has always been a classy, languid player, but his goal highlighted just what a talent he is and also underscored the ability around him that has been amassed by Chelsea’s mega spending spree under new owners this season.
– Ogden: Chelsea emerging from slump, showing signs of clicking
The goal was created by Enzo Fernandez, the £106 million Premier League record signing, with a floated pass to Havertz, who was back-pedalling towards the Leicester goal. And with just a quick glimpse over his shoulder, the 23-year-old flicked the ball over goalkeeper Danny Ward to put Chelsea 2-1 ahead in the fourth minute of first-half stoppage time.
It was only Havertz’s sixth league goal of the season, but he won’t have scored many better. If he and Fernandez can build on their obvious early understanding, Chelsea’s future looks bright. — Ogden
Too casual, love it! 👏 pic.twitter.com/Butfv76b9F
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) March 11, 2023
Harrison’s sweet strike salvages point for Leeds
A moment of quick thinking from Jack Harrison and Willy Gnonto was all that separated Leeds United and this week’s “Teams in Trouble” category below.
Down 2-1 to Roberto De Zerbi’s free-flowing Brighton & Hove Albion and looking certain to fall to another damaging home defeat, Gnonto took a corner before the Seagulls defence was set. Up stepped Harrison looking to atone for his own goal that had gifted the visitors the lead and, after a nice shimmy past Solly March, the 26-year-old hit a wonderful curler past the keeper.
If Javi Gracia’s side are to aviod relegation, Leeds will need to produce a few more moments like these. — Wise
📐 : #LUFC x @HisenseUK pic.twitter.com/DCwiqrS7W9
— Leeds United (@LUFC) March 12, 2023
Teams in trouble
Crystal Palace are fading fast
Crystal Palace still have some breathing space between themselves and the Premier League’s relegation places, but their form is a worry. Patrick Vieira’s side have not won a game in 2023 and their 1-0 defeat to Manchester City at Selhurst Park on Saturday was their third in a row without a shot on target. The last time they scored more than once in a game was, incidentally, also the last time they won, beating Bournemouth 2-0 on Dec. 31. Their last home win was against Southampton in October.
Despite their long wait for a win, Palace have managed to pick up enough draws to stay in mid-table and they showed against Man City that they are capable of staying in games. City needed a 78th-minute penalty from Erling Haaland to win, and they’ve also fought for draws with Manchester United and Liverpool since the turn of the year.
A couple of goals and a much-needed win would ease the pressure, but Palace’s next two games are trips to Brighton and Arsenal. The longer their poor run goes on, they will begin to look more and more like relegation candidates. Once you’re in a slump, it can be very hard to turn it around. — Dawson
More pain for Hoffenheim
Sunday saw another loss for Hoffenheim, with Ozan Kabak’s 84th-minute red card compounded by Ritsu Doan’s 89th-minute goal to give Freiburg a 2-1 win. The defeat is their seventh straight in the Bundesliga and eighth in nine games since the winter break; you’d have to go back to Oct. 14 for the last time Hoffenheim picked up a league win, a dismal run of 13 matches in which they’ve collect just two points of a possible 39.
Need we say any more? At any rate, with games against four of the top eight still to come, I’m sure we’ll revisit Der Blau again soon in this very space. — Tyler
De Gea puts on a masterclass
Did Casemiro deserve to be sent off vs. Southampton?
Shaka Hislop gives his thoughts on Casemiro’s red card in Man United’s 0-0 draw vs. Southampton.
David de Gea took a lot of criticism for his performance in Thursday’s 4-1 win over Real Betis but against Southampton on Sunday, he proved he is still extremely valuable to Manchester United. His kicking has attracted plenty of attention, particularly because of coach Erik ten Hag’s desire to have his teams build from the back, but De Gea is still one of the best shot-stoppers in the world.
His save from Theo Walcott’s header in the first half is one of the best you’ll see all season and he needed to make another in the second half when Walcott went through after a mistake from Aaron Wan-Bissaka. United defended well after being reduced to 10 men but they were only able to earn a point because of their goalkeeper.
De Gea’s future at Old Trafford is uncertain ahead of a summer window when United could look to sign another goalkeeper — one more comfortable with the ball at their feet — so his performance against Southampton was a timely reminder of his ability — Dawson