?VAR is all anyone wants to talk about in the Premier League these days and the new technology was at its brilliant best over the weekend.
As for those on the continent, they’ve already had a season with VAR in place and have grown used to the nonsensical refereeing decisions it causes. The Europeans have far more interesting things to discuss, with some more weird and wonderful stories unfolding this week.
Here’s a look at six of the best, though Gareth Bale’s combination of a brace and red card for ?Real Madrid only gets an honourable mention.
1. A Little to the Left
?Serie A has a new record following Sunday’s thrilling Rome derby. The game finished 1-1, but there could have been many more goals as the sides struck the woodwork on six different occasions between them.
It took just three minutes for the first near-miss, Lucas Leiva walloping the Roma post with a dipping volley. Giallorossi youngster Nicolo Zaniolo was next to go close, with teammate Aleksandar Kolarov finally finding the net soon after.
The men in sky blue must have been wondering what they needed to do to score when Ciro Immobile and Joaquin Correa were both denied in the opening minutes of the second half.
Imagine the sense of justice Lazio fans would have felt when Zaniolo was again left frustrated by the woodwork. Now imagine their unbridled joy when Luis Alberto rifled home a low drive just before the hour. Ok, now imagine their disbelief and fury when a swept shot from Marco Parolo kissed the top of the bar in the dying embers of the encounter.
2. Superstars or Stoke Rejects?
Paris Saint-Germain have some okay options up front. There’s the virtuoso wonderkid Kylian Mbappe, merciless hitman Edinson Cavani and – for now – Neymar. And who’s fourth choice? Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting.
Yes, the guy who couldn’t hit a barn door with a banjo at ?Stoke City is playing for one of the most alluring clubs in Europe. In fact, he’s not just playing, he’s scoring some spectacular goals, too.
The striker netted a week ago versus Toulouse and was at it again in the absence of the aforementioned trio, guiding home a deft flick away to Metz as Les Parisiens recorded a comfortable 2-0 win.
Maybe next they should sign Saido Berahino.
3. He’s Not Even Old Enough to Drive
When I was 16, I spent most of my time taking random Norwegian teams to the ?Champions League final on FIFA. At that same tender age, Ansu Fati is making up for the absence of the great Lionel Messi.
Brought on at half-time with ?Barcelona trailing 1-0 at Osasuna, the teenager could only have dreamed of how the next fifteen minutes would go.
He leapt highest to guide a beautiful header into the corner, causing a swing in momentum that resulted in La Blaugrana taking the lead through fellow sub Arthur.
Let’s just pretend it ended there and the Catalans didn’t collapse in the closing stages, yeah? That would be the stuff dreams are made of. Nevertheless, Fati can now call himself the youngest ?La Liga scorer in Barca history.
4. Is That Jonathan Woodgate?
Mathijs de Ligt was all the rage in 2018/19. Powerful, inspirational, a superb ball-player; the kid had everything.
It took just one game with ?Juventus to destroy his reputation. Ok, that’s a bit over the top, but the colossal Dutchman was absolutely dire as the Bianconeri edged a modern classic 4-3 at home to ?Napoli.
The champions forked out £67.5m to prise him from Ajax over the off-season and were rewarded with a diabolical display on debut.
All three of the visitors’ scores came as a result of De Ligt’s thoughtless play, the centre back leaving his men unmarked as Carlo Ancelotti’s men clawed back a three-goal deficit.
5. It’s Been 53 Years in the Making
Union Berlin. They are what football is all about.
Participating in their first ever ?Bundesliga campaign, the team from the capital have been a delight to watch with their fearless, attacking brand of football.
Their supporters are the definition of die-hard, with many donating blood to raise funds during a financial crisis when the club were still in the fourth tier in 2004. Now, they’re watching their darling players shred ?Borussia Dortmund and collect a maiden First Division triumph.
The atmosphere is electric and the men on the field feed off it. So few clubs are quite as lovable as Union and – arguably – none are as loved by their fans. Now, they have the 3-1 scalp of Dortmund to treasure.
6. At Ease, Sargent
Werder Bremen 3-2 Augsburg, on the face of it, looks like a pretty good contest and decent entertainment. However, the real story from this one was Josh Sargent’s magical goal in the 21st minute.
The Werder striker stretched out a leg to bring a long ball under his control, the USA international proceeding to juggle it before clipping a nimble flick over the onrushing goalkeeper.
Time stood still as Sargent waited for the ball to drop. Such a wondrous build-up simply had to be finished off and finish it off is what he did, volleying into a gaping net. Take a bow, son.