Over the Weekend: Dream Debuts, Big Italians Lose & Tito Wins One

The FA Cup began proper in England as clubs from the Premier League joined in the third round action, while a couple of the major leagues returned from the mid-season break with Cavani, CR7 and El Messius still banging goals in and Tito Vilanova back in the Catalunya dugout as he recovers from cancer… and Casillas showing just why The One would rather not start him.

FA Cup
The oldest competition in football witnessed its third round over the weekend, traditionally the stage where the elite clubs – the Premier League clubs – begin their quest for the Cup.

But there’s a reason the FA Cup is so revered by all who play and who watch the competition, the giantkilling. And Brighton & Hove-Albion set the third round going with a well earned 2-0 humbling of what has lately been a rather appalling Newcastle United (one club from the elite, down! Next!)

Yes, yes, the pitch there wasn’t Ashburton Grove sleek or Old Trafford inspiring but the early kick-off on Saturday gave little indication that the Toons deserved to get even a replay from the encounter.

On the contrary, the Cup’s most illustrious clubs and landlords of the exemplary pitches in the previous paragraph, managed to trigger yet more twitter banter between both set of their loyalists along with nosy spectator fans of other clubs.

First, on Saturday, Manchester United took a Cleverley lead, then fell behind to DeJoe vu moments as Joe Cole (on his second West Ham debut) fed James Collins twice, only for Robin van Persie to come on, take down a long ball from Ryan Giggs under pressure and strike low (with his right foot) for a 90th minute equaliser.

With that goal, gooners yet again opened the book of Lamentations on the world though it sounded more like the Songs of Solomon to the red devils.

And on Sunday, Arsenal, typically, fell behind to a Miguel Michu strike, before well taken goals by iPod, who came on for the much loved Ramsey, and a well struck left foot venom by Kieran Gibbs off a sumptuous one-two put the Gunners ahead in the closing stages.

But that’s merely dramatic and Arsenal love the drama only when it’s extremely so hence, some very absurd defending allowed the Swans to get a late equaliser and earn a replay next week at the Emirates with Brighton & Hove-Albion awaiting the winner of that.

Elsewhere, Demba Ba settled in quite quickly to being number 29 at Chelsea, getting a brace on his debut as the Blues came from behind (sexual) to trounce Southampton 5-1 at St. Mary’s.

Then Daniel Sturridge, sold to Liverpool for 12 mlllion quid by Chelsea, got a goal as the Reds beat Mansfield 2-1. He lived up to expectation of course, failing to convert when one-on-one with the opposition keeper.

Why Liverpool got Studge for a dozen million quid when it would’ve cost a bit less to get Ba… well, it’s done. Liverpool have done better in these sort of matters ala Henderson and Downing.

The club did spend good money on Luis Suarez, a very talented player that. Problem is, the Uruguayan always has controversy trailing him and this weekend was no exception as he clearly controlled the ball with his hand just before scoring Liverpool’s second.

La Liga
Lionel Messi scored his 27th league goal of the season.. pause… I’ll take that again. After 18 matches played, Zeus’ godfather incarnate Lionel Messi scored his 27th league goal as Barcelona eased to a 4-0 win over neighbours RCD Espanyol.

More embarrassingly for the neighbours, all four goals were scored in the first half while Pedro was denied a hattrick by an offside flag. Neighbours, the closest Espanyol will get to being at Barcelona’s level.

That said, Barça now holds an 11-point lead over Atletico Madrid after the latter was held to a 1-1 draw at Real Mallorca. Real Madrd meanwhile remains ♫super sweet 16♫ points adrift of their arch-rivals after coming out of an eventful seven-goal encounter victorious.

Iker Casillas again started from the bench and after Karim Benzema had put Real ahead in the second minute with a goal that continues to render Gonzalo Higuain surplus to requirement, Real keeper Adan was sent off for conceding a penalty in the sixth minute.

On came Casillas but Prieto levelled for Sociedad. No problem there, goalkeepers hate facing penalties. But Casillas twice lapsed in concentration and you have to ask, is the man still motivated to be Real and Spain’s number one? Reina, De Gea and Valdes keenly watch on.

Real at the other end spared Casillas blushes and, thanks to a Cristiano Ronaldo brace, claimed a fortuitous 4-3 win over Sociedad that later had a man sent off themselves.

In the end, what matters is the count in the 2013 golden boot, they-score-when-they-want race. Radamel Falcao isn’t off the mark yet, CR7 has two and Messi has one no thanks to Pedro’s stray foot and the crossbar.

Robin van Persie though has three goals so far and was joined by the very fit Edinson Cavani who got a hattrick as Napoli bullied AS Roma to a 4-1 defeat.

Serie A
Cavani now has 16 league goals and a total of 99 goals in his Serie A career, helping Napoli rise to third on a weekend that saw Juventus, Fiorentina and Inter Milan fall.

Juventus’ lead had been cut to five points by Lazio in a 2-1 win over Cagliari in Saturday, but the Old Lady certainly was still on her mid-season break as 10-man Sampdoria came from behind – after being reduced to 10 men – to claim a 2-1 win at Turin’s Stadio Olimpico.

Antonio di Natalie meanwhile orchestrated Inter Milan’s 3-0 loss at Udinese while Fiorentina fell 2-0 at home to lowly Pescara but remain ahead of Inter on goal difference, with both still nine points behind leaders Juventus.

It’s a Wrap
Here’s wishing Tito Vilanova a recovery as smooth sailing as his club’s La Liga form. Barcelona, after 18 matches, have won 17 and drawn one and look very well on course to break the records Real set in winning the title last season.

Finally, I don’t think I’ve ever run a series of posts to schedule over a stretch of time on here so “Over the Weekend” and possibly “During the (Mid)Week” will help this cobweb clogged blog clear up.

Have a productive week then.

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