European soccer: Real Madrid rally; Big win for Mourinho’s Roma

IMAGES from the soccer matches played across European leagues over the weekend.

Real Madrid fightback to down Sociedad

Real Madrid came from behind to beat Real Sociedad 2-1 on Sunday as the hosts regained the top spot in LaLiga with their fifth consecutive win.

Carlo Ancelotti’s side maintained their perfect league run to reach 15 points, two clear of second-placed Barcelona, who crushed Betis 5-0 on Saturday.

Real Sociedad took the lead after just five minutes as former Madrid player Take Kubo found Ander Barrenetxea in the centre of the box to score at the second attempt as keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga made a superb save but could not prevent the goal on the rebound.

Federico Valverde levelled the score in the opening seconds of the second half with a fierce shot from the edge of the box that hit the left post and went in for his first goal of the season.

“The best thing we did was try. They had a lot of chances and the first one they had they scored,” Valverde told the club’s official media.

“But we always kept trying, the goal right at the start of the second half helped us to keep pushing… Whatever I can do to contribute I’m happy.”

Joselu then earned the lead for the hosts with a towering header from a Fran Garcia cross from the left in the 60th minute.

“Any team in the league can hurt you, we have to correct things because we conceded a goal very early on,” summer signing Joselu said.

“But this is at the Bernabeu (Stadium) and with our fans we were able to turn it around.

“The goals that I score and help the team to earn points, that’s what makes me the happiest.”

Real Madrid kick off their Champions League campaign when they host Union Berlin on Wednesday before visiting Atletico Madrid for their league derby.

Roma hammer Empoli 7-0 for first win of season

Jose Mourinho’s AS Roma earned their first win of the 2023-24 season after two quick-fire goals set them on their way to a 7-0 home trashing of bottom-placed Empoli in Serie A on Sunday.

After a horror start to the season, the victory lifted Roma out of the relegation zone to 12th on four points from four games.

Five different Roma players were on target against powerless Empoli, who remain the only team in Serie A yet to score a goal and collect their first point this season.

“We played well, but we didn’t have a 7-0 game,” Mourinho told DAZN.

“We played to win calmly and the team played a good match. A bit of ups and downs, even on a physical level. You can see that there are people who don’t have the condition to play a 90-minute match.”

Paulo Dybala gave Roma the lead, converting from the spot in the second minute after a penalty was awarded for a handball.

Renato Sanches doubled the advantage in the eighth, nodding home a cushioned cross by Rasmus Kristensen, before Empoli’s Alberto Grassi made it 3-0 to Roma with an own goal in the 35th minute.

Empoli did not pose a challenge to Mourinho’s Roma who were even more comfortable after the break and Dybala scored his second of the night, placing a low finish inside the bottom left corner.

The Argentine striker has opened personal scoring account this season in his second game.

Bryan Cristante fired home from outside the box to make it 5-0 11 minutes from time before new signing Romelu Lukaku added one more with a low shot into the middle of the net in his first Roma start since joining on loan from Chelsea.

Captain Gianluca Mancini completed the rout with a header from Cristante backheel cross following a corner on an entertaining night at the Stadio Olimpico.

Empoli became the third team in the Serie A history to have lost their first four games of a season without scoring, after Mantova in 1964-65 and Padova in 1994-95.

“I believe that at this moment the responsibility isn’t just the coach’s: It’s everyone’s, including me,” said Empoli sporting director Pietro Accardi.

“It’s clear that we will take some time to reflect. There is something that isn’t going right.”

They next host leaders Inter Milan.

Roma travel to Sheriff Tiraspol in Moldova in the Europa League on Thursday before they visit Torino in the league next Sunday.

Monaco held to 2-2 draw at Lorient as Mendy returns after acquittal

AS Monaco missed the chance to extend their lead at the top of Ligue 1 after Lorient’s Romain Faivre scored a late equaliser to salvage a 2-2 draw in a game that saw defender Benjamin Mendy make his return to professional football on Sunday.

With Monaco leading 2-1 and looking well set to seal all three points, Isaak Toure rose above their defence in the box to head the ball down for Faivre, who volleyed home in the seventh minute of added time.

The draw means Monaco are on 11 points after five games, one point ahead of second-placed Brest — who won 2-1 at Reims — while defending champions Paris St Germain are a point further behind in fifth.

Lorient, who lost 3-0 at promoted Le Havre before the international break, made an explosive start when Aiyegun Tosin opened the scoring inside two minutes.

Eli Junior Kroupi capitalised on Monaco’s high line and released the Nigerian striker, who displayed his pace and power to shrug off a challenge and slip the ball past the keeper to score.

Monaco equalised in scintillating fashion 15 minutes later with a well-worked team goal, a sweeping move ending with Youssouf Fofana chipping the ball to Aleksandr Golovin, who controlled the lob and scored.

The visitors then took the lead in the second half through substitute Folarin Balogun as the 22-year-old — who scored 21 Ligue 1 goals for Reims last season — squeezed his shot in at the near post for his first Monaco goal before Faivre levelled.

Mendy, who was acquitted of rape and attempted rape by a British court in July, came on as a substitute at wing back for the final 20 minutes.

The 29-year-old last played for Manchester City in August 2021. He signed for Lorient on a two-year deal.

Olympique de Marseille had the opportunity to move level with Monaco on points but despite having an array of attacking talent on the pitch, they were held at home to a 0-0 draw by Toulouse, leading to jeers from their own fans.

Marseille had 21 shots in the match, a third of them from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who has yet to score in the league since his move from Chelsea. But they failed to find the net while they also hit the woodwork twice.

The result leaves Marseille third in the standings with nine points, the same as Nice who have an identical record. Toulouse are 12th with six points.

Felix, Cancelo on target as Barcelona crush Real Betis

Barcelona put on a scintillating performance to crush visitors Real Betis 5-0 on Saturday and provisionally move top of the LaLiga standings.

Xavi Hernandez’s side moved up to 13 points from five games, one point ahead of Real Madrid who host Real Sociedad on Sunday.

Loan signing Joao Felix put Barcelona ahead after 25 minutes with a shot from a tight angle after he had missed his first attempt following a superb Oriol Romeu cross.

“I had a bad shot on the goal but I kept looking for the ball and finally scored,” the 23-year-old Felix told Movistar Plus.

“Everyone did very well. Everyone was where they should be. When you have a good structure and the ball circulates quickly, the spaces and the goals appear”.

“I’m working to be at my best. The team spirit great. It’s easy to play among them. I’m very happy here.”

Robert Lewandowski doubled the lead after a neat move in which Andreas Christensen slipped a pass to Felix who left the ball to give the Poland striker an easy finish.

Ferran Torres scored his third goal of the season with a low free kick into the bottom right corner in the 62nd minute before substitute Raphinha netted from the edge of the area to make it 4-0.

“I didn’t know we hadn’t scored from a free-kick since Messi,” Torres said after scoring the first free-kick goal for Barcelona since May 2021.

“It could have been someone else but I’m glad it was me of course. The unseen training pays off, we are a team that has made a big qualitative leap forward. I’m full of confidence.”

Joao Cancelo scored his first goal since joining Barca on loan from Manchester City to complete the rout nine minutes from time.

Coach Xavi said on the triumph: “It wasn’t a perfect game but it was excellent. We had a lot of brilliant moments. This is the way”.

Barcelona face Antwerp in their Champions League opener on Tuesday before hosting Celta Vigo in LaLiga.

Inter humble Milan 5-1 in derby

Henrikh Mkhitaryan scored twice to help Inter Milan crush neighbours AC Milan 5-1 in Serie A on Saturday and continue their perfect start to the season.

Inter, who won their first three matches without conceding a goal, moved two points clear at the top of the standings on 12 points from four games.

They are two points above second-placed Juventus, who beat Lazio 3-1 on Saturday, and three clear of Milan in third before they travel to Real Sociedad in the Champions League on Wednesday.

Mkhitaryan, Marcus Thuram, Hakan Calhanoglu and Davide Frattesi were all on target for Inter, securing their fifth consecutive win in the Milan derby across all competitions for the first time in history.

“Last year, four derby wins brought us a (Supercoppa Italia) trophy and allowed us to play in a very important (Champions League) final,” coach Simone Inzaghi told a press conference.

“(Today’s victory) gives us first place, but the championship is still very long.”

Mkhitaryan struck from close range to put Inter in front in the fifth minute and new signing Thuram doubled the advantage before the break with a fine shot into the top corner for his second Serie A goal.

Milan pulled one back just before the hour mark through Rafael Leao, who latched onto a pass and shot past Inter keeper Yann Sommer as a sudden downpour of rain struck the San Siro.

Inter allowed Stefano Pioli’s side control of possession but were far more ruthless and Mkhitaryan made it 3-1 in the 69th minute before midfielder Calhanoglu added the fourth from a penalty awarded for Theo Hernandez’s foul on Lautaro Martinez.

Substitute Frattesi completed the rout in stoppage time when he was fed by Mkhitaryan and the 23-year-old outwitted the goalkeeper to find the back of the net.

“A derby lost like this weighs a lot. I’m really sorry, especially for the fans,” Milan defender Simon Kjaer told DAZN.

“Tonight, they were smarter than us, we (only) played until 3-1.”

Inter have beaten Milan a record 69 times in Serie A and scored a record 256 goals against their city rivals in the competition.

Napoli salvage 2-2 draw at Genoa

Second-half goals by Giacomo Raspadori and Matteo Politano helped champions Napoli come from behind to rescue a 2-2 draw at promoted Genoa in Serie A on Saturday.

Napoli provisionally moved up to fifth in the standings with seven points from four games.

Genoa, who returned to Serie A after being relegated in 2021-22, defended well against visiting champions and defender Mattia Bani earned the lead in the 40th minute, sending the ball into the roof of the net following a corner.

Italy forward Mateo Retegui added the second for the hosts after the break with a first-time shot into the bottom left corner.

Napoli were helpless in front of goal and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia sent their first shot on target in the 72nd minute but his low effort towards the left corner was easily denied by Genoa keeper Josep Martinez.

But Raspadori gave Napoli hope of a comeback shortly after when he narrowed the deficit with a shot into the top corner.

Encouraged by the goal, Napoli pushed for an equaliser and substitute Politano levelled with a close-range volley six minutes from time, denying Genoa a second win of the season.

“Mine was an important goal but it wasn’t enough, we had to win and there is regret because we created many opportunities without managing to materialize them,” Politano told Sky Sport.

“We can’t afford any more mistakes. From tomorrow morning we’ll think about the Champions League.”

Napoli, who on Wednesday kick off their Champions League campaign at Braga, next travel to Bologna on Sept. 24 in the league.

Genoa, who are 12th on four points, will travel to Lecce on Friday.

Asoro goal gives clinical Metz 1-0 win at Lens

Joel Asoro netted a first-half goal to seal a smash-and-grab 1-0 victory for Metz over a wasteful RC Lens in Ligue 1 on Saturday.

Hosts Lens – looking for their first win this season – played with great intensity throughout the match and set up camp in Metz’s half in the opening spell, taking 13 shots in the first 35 minutes of the game.

Goalkeeper Alexandre Oukidja kept Metz in the match with a string of fine saves, before the visitors struck against the run of play in the 37th minute, as new signing Asoro stuck a foot out to divert a cross into the net.

A huge roar erupted at the Stade Bollaert-Delelis in the 65th minute when Lens thought they had finally broken the deadlock after Elye Wahi found the net, but the goal was disallowed for offside.

Florian Sotoca forced a 10th save of the evening from Oukidja with a low shot late into added time, but it was to be a day of frustration for the hosts.

Lens, who finished second in Ligue 1 last season, are second from bottom in the league standings, while Metz’s win takes them up to sixth with eight points from five games.

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