Bamford double gives Leeds revenge over Wigan


London (AFP) – Leeds forward Patrick Bamford struck twice to claim a 2-0 win over Wigan in the Championship on Saturday which served as a measure of revenge for a damaging defeat by them last season.

The brace by Bamford against a Wigan side reduced to 10 men saw Marcelo Bielsa’s side go top on goal difference with five sides level on seven points after three matches of the campaign.

Wigan, also then with 10 men back in April, had inflicted what turned out to be a fatal blow to Leeds’ hopes of automatic promotion to the Premier League last term coming from behind to beat Bielsa’s side 2-1.

The former Argentina and Chile coach said he was pleased with the manner in which the team’s performance was evolving in every match.

The eccentric Argentinian also believes the brace could be just the tonic 25-year-old Bamford needed after being guilty of some awful misses for the club.

“For a striker, scoring goals is always going to be important,” said Bielsa.

“It’s going to be a major positive for him and also for the team. Bamford is a player with a big personality, and to score two goals is obviously going to be exciting for him,” added the 64-year-old.

The unlikely duo of south London rivals Charlton Athletic and Millwall — who held on to beat Sheffield Wednesday 1-0 despite being down to 10 men — are among those on seven points.

– Buoyant Bilic –

The other two are teams expected who could well contest the promotions spots West Bromwich Albion and Swansea. 

Former Croatia and West Ham manager Slaven Bilic’s bright start at West Brom Albion continued as they came from behind to beat promoted Luton 2-1.

A double from substitute Grady Diangana turned the game on its head and changed Bilic’s mood.

“We have to be there, in the first half we weren’t there, so you have to be there and eventually the ball will hit you,” said Bilic.

“After that we gained confidence, they were knocked down of course, because they conceded a couple of goals in a period of the game where they were totally out-played.”

Swansea lost some key players in the close season but their expensive Spanish signing Borja Baston appears to have at last clicked and begun paying back the £15million the club paid to Atletico Madrid in 2016.

The 26-year-old — who scored his first goal for them in more than 1,000 days on the opening day of the season — grabbed a double as Swansea came from 1-0 down to beat Preston North End 3-2.

Marseille eke out point with goalless draw in Nantes


Nantes (France) (AFP) – Marseille wasted a penalty on Saturday before finishing the match clinging to a 0-0 Ligue 1 draw at Nantes.

For both teams the stalemate yielded a first point of the young season. 

Marseille had a chance to score their first goal of the campaign after VAR detected a handball in the home box in the 31st minute. But Argentine striker Dario Benedetto, Marseille’s marquee summer signing, smashed the penalty kick high over the bar.

The home team took control in the second half and finished the match besieging the Marseille goal. 

Nantes managed a total of 19 shots, six of them on target. Marseille totalled nine, only two on target. 

Last weekend, Marseille opened the season with an embarrassing 2-0 home defeat to Reims while Nantes lost away to last season’s runner’s up, Lille.

Klopp impressed as Liverpool hold firm to see off Saints


Southampton (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Jurgen Klopp denied that exhaustion was behind Liverpool’s inconsistent display in their hard-fought 2-1 win at Southampton on Saturday.

Klopp’s team struggled in the first half and it was completely against the run of play when Sadio Mane put Liverpool ahead in first half stoppage-time at St Mary’s.

Clinical finishing from Roberto Firmino after 71 minutes seemed to have secured the three points.

But a dreadful error by Liverpool goalkeeper Adrian gifted a goal to Danny Ings, who later miskicked from six yards when an equaliser seemed inevitable.

Reds boss Klopp had argued for a later start to the domestic season after his players’ busy international schedule during the summer.

And his team, who played extra-time in Istanbul before beating Chelsea in the European Super Cup on Wednesday, looked fatigued for long periods.

But after the final whistle at St Mary’s, Klopp insisted tiredness had not been a major factor in the uneven performance.

“Southampton are a good team, they defend well with good counter-attacks, good organisation,” he said. 

“It was nothing to do with the game in midweek. If we had come here with two weeks’ preparation it would have been difficult.

“I liked the game a lot. I’m not allowed to think too much about Wednesday but of course I know it so I was really impressed with how fresh we looked, at the start especially and how good we were.”

Adrian, injured after colliding with a celebrating fan on Wednesday and playing with a swollen ankle, had to rush from goal to smother a shot from Che Adams, who also put a free header over the crossbar during Liverpool’s tepid opening.

And the Spanish goalkeeper was forced to make a reflex save when Japan defender Maya Yoshida beat Virgil Van Dijk to a corner kick and headed goalwards from three yards out.

But shortly before the interval, Mane took a short pass from James Milner, arguably the one Liverpool player who looked fresh throughout, and curled a beauty beyond the dive of Saints goalkeeper Angus Gunn.

– ‘Good steps’ –

Firmino scored the second after Mane had won the ball from a Southampton throw-in near their own corner flag.

“We controlled the game, we were fluent but yes, Southampton came up with some set pieces and long balls,” Klopp conceded. 

“But Sadio scored a fantastic goal. That helped of course and in the second half we made more good steps.

Bale returns to and Madrid get back to winning ways at Celta


Vigo (Spain) (AFP) – Zinedine Zidane promised changes but it was a retro Real Madrid that gave the revolution a winning start on Saturday as Gareth Bale led the way in a 3-1 victory over Celta Vigo. 

Bale was back in the team and back in form at Balaidos, with Zidane’s eagerness to move him out this summer still perhaps in his mind as he teed up Karim Benzema’s opening goal. 

Celta saw a potential equaliser chalked off before half-time. Then Real’s Luka Modric was sent off 11 minutes inti the second half but a stunning 30-yard shot from Toni Kroos put Madrid firmly back in control. 

By the time Lucas Vazquez added a delicious third, at the end of a silky passing move, it was possible to wonder where this Madrid have been for the last 12 months, particularly as this starting line-up included not a single summer signing. 

Zidane wanted Paul Pogba but it was Casemiro, Modric and Kroos in midfield, the same trio he picked for the Champions League final in 2018. 

The coach also started Marcelo, arguably Madrid’s worst performer last term, and Bale. Only last month Zidane had said it would be “best for everyone” if the Welshman were sold. 

Eden Hazard, who injured his thigh in training on Friday, will certainly start when he is fit again and there will be much tougher opponents than Celta, who finished 17th last season and were dead and buried before Iker Losada delivered a late consolation. 

But, after a poor pre-season, Zidane needed a positive opening. This one was made all the sweeter by Barcelona’s defeat by Athletic Bilbao on Friday night. 

Celta spent much of the match feeling aggrieved, no more so than after Benzema scored after just 12 minutes. 

The home team claimed a foul by Casemiro in the build up. After that, Bale still had a lot to do, his dart one way and then the other freeing space for a drive towards the near post, where Benzema reacted fastest. 

Early on, Bale was everywhere, blocking a cross in his own penalty area before being unleashed on the break, his rasping shot pushed away by Ruben Blanco. 

Celta also had their moments. Gabriel Fernandez’s lunge was just short at the back post. Brais Mendez tapped in after the impressive Denis Suarez robbed Alvaro Odriozola and Iago Aspas made the final pass. 

Aspas, however, had strayed offside as VAR spared Odriozola’s blushes. The referee, Javier Estrada, departed to a chorus of whistles at half-time. 

‘Better every day’ – Dortmund launch title charge with Augsburg rout


Berlin (AFP) – Borussia Dortmund coach Lucien Favre said his team could get even better after they made a perfect start to the new Bundesliga season on Saturday, thrashing Augsburg 5-1 to take an early lead in the title race.

England international Jadon Sancho, who claimed his first goal of the term in Dortmund’s Supercup victory over Bayern Munich two weeks ago, was among the scorers again as Dortmund ran riot to go top of the table. 

“We did well and had a lot of possession today, and we deserved to win,” said Favre, but said that his team could still improve in some areas.

“The important thing is that we get better every day,” he said.

Having thrown away a nine-point lead and narrowly missed the title last season, Dortmund had promised another attack on Bayern’s hegemony in 2019/20.

Dortmund received a boost on Friday when the champions dropped two points against Hertha Berlin in the season opener. They then romped to victory in front of their own fans on Saturday.  

Florian Niederlechner’s first-minute opener for Augsburg left Dortmund stunned, but it took the hosts two minutes to draw level. Paco Alcacer gratefully pounced on a mistake from Augsburg keeper Tomas Koubek.

Koubek was at fault again when Sancho put Dortmund ahead after the break, flapping at a low cross before the Englishman smashed the ball in at the far post. 

The Czech keeper then crowned a miserable Bundesliga debut by dropping the ball at the feet of Marco Reus to gift Dortmund a third goal. 

A curling long-range strike from Alcacer and a debut goal for new signing Julian Brandt completed the rout for Dortmund. 

– Leverkusen win late-on –

Elsewhere, former Dortmund boss Peter Bosz watched his Bayer Leverkusen side stumble to a 3-2 victory over promoted minnows Paderborn.

Leon Bailey’s early opener and Sven Michel’s sharp equaliser kick-started an action-packed first half. 

A nonchalant chip from Kai Havertz quickly restored the lead, but Paderborn hit back again through Streli Mamba before Kevin Volland slotted home the winner 20 minutes from time.

Werder Bremen, widely tipped as dark horses in this year’s race for Europe, made the worst possible start with a 3-1 home loss to Fortuna Duesseldorf. 

Bremen’s Johannes Eggestein cancelled out Rouwen Hennings’ first-half opener just after the break, but goals from Kenan Karaman and Kaan Ayhan ensured a perfect afternoon for Duesseldorf.

A sweetly-timed volley from Maximilian Arnold and a simple finish by Wout Weghorst saw Wolfsburg edge a 2-1 win over promoted side Cologne, while late goals from Lucas Hoeler, Jonathan Schmid and Luca Waldschmidt snatched a 3-0 win for Freiburg over Mainz.