Away from the high-octane drama that the opening weekend of the Premier League brought us, as well as the highly publicised El Clásico Supercopa in Barcelona, other major European domestic leagues and cups lit up in sensational fashion. In France, PSG’s record-breaker Neymar stole the weekend’s headlines, with an impressive debut for the club away at Guingamp, in a 3-0 victory. In the Netherlands, the candidates for the Eredivisie title had contrasting opening-day fortunes, with Feyenoord and PSV winning narrowly, and Ajax slumping to a shock 2-1 away loss at Heracles Almelo. A truly pulsating Italian Supercup match-up between Lazio and Juventus at the Stadio Olimpico also ended 3-2 to the hosts, with Juventus showing worrying early signs of life after Dani Alves and Leonardo Bonucci.
The first view from the continent this season featured sparking debutants, scintillating end-to-end football, and returning heroes, which firmly marks the return of European football for the 2017/18 season.
Neymar delivers on debut for Les Parisiens, as Falcao hits hat-trick for reigning champions Monaco
Neymar made his PSG debut in their 3-0 away victory against Guingamp on Sunday evening, scoring their third goal and providing a lovely through ball assist for Edinson Cavani for the second. The deadlock was broken in bizarre circumstances, with an own goal by Guingamp defender Jordan Ikoko, who seemed to attempt a pass back to his goalkeeper, only to send his pass towards goal. with the ball going in off the post. Neymar understandably took the headlines, with an exciting performance that offered an indication of more to come from the world class talent. He said after the game that he was “more alive than ever”, and he certainly demonstrated this on the pitch throughout the match.
Monaco also won on Matchday Two of the Ligue 1 season, with their 4-1 away thrashing of Dijon. Radamel Falco picked up where he left off last season as he netted a brilliant hat-trick, his second goal the pick of the bunch, a wonderful looping effort from just outside the box. His effort left Dijon’s keeper Baptiste Reynet with no chance, and he put another past him just after half time. Falcao again showed his undeniable class with a leaping header from Thomas Lemar’s corner, showcasing the range of goal-scoring he still possesses, aged 31. Kylian Mbappe was an unused substitute on Monaco’s bench, but Leonardo Jardim will be expecting minutes from him in the coming weeks.
Friday night saw Lyon travel to Rennes, looking to set their own benchmark for the Ligue 1 title race. Life after Alexandre Lacazette looks promising, and Memphis Depay looks ready to fill the void left by the French star striker. Depay’s free-kick opened the scoring just before the hour mark, with a late Rennes goal proving a mere consolation. Lyon also lost Rachid Ghezzal to rivals Monaco, and midfield powerhouse Corentin Tolisso to FC Bayern, yet they are showing early consistency, something they critically lacked last season.
Marseille edged past a stubborn Nantes side in a 1-0 victory away from home. With 63% possession, Les Olympiens were looking frustrated going into the last minutes of the match, with multiple shots on target. However, Lucas Ocampos managed to bundle in a cross from the right-hand side in at the back post, provoking wild celebrations on the pitch, as Marseille snatched the three points to ensure two wins from their first two matches.
These teams look to be forming an early 4-way title race, with Lyon and Marseille hoping to return to the heights their fans’ were used to in the 2010s. However, the manner in which PSG and Monaco are dispatching their opponents is irresistible, and it is already hard to see past them as the favourites for the Ligue 1 title, due to their wonderful fire-power and solid defences.
Feyenoord pick up from where they left off as Ajax suffer from summer departures
Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s Feyenoord began their title defence perfectly, picking up three points in front of De Kuip in a 2-1 victory of FC Twente. Nicolai Jørgensen opened the scoring for the Rotterdam side in typical fashion, cutting across Twente’s defence and assuredly tucking in a from six yards out from a cross by new signing Jean-Paul Boetius, who is hoping to emulate the departed Eljero Elia. A stunning volley from Fedrik Jensen just before half-time temporarily dampened spirits for the home fans, but Feyenoord turned on the style in the second half. Another summer signing, Steven Berghuis, marked his return to the club with a clinical header from a Jens Toornstra cross into the box from the left flank in a free-kick position. Despite the narrow scoreline, Feyenoord’s display was convincing, and they look as good as last season.
PSV got their season off to a winning start in a dramatic 3-2 home win over AZ Alkmaar. First half substitute Dabney Dos Santos opened the scoring as AZ took an early lead, after some questionable defending from PSV left-back Joshua Brenet. New Mexican signing Hirving Lozano levelled the scores on the half-hour with a driven near-post finish, cutting in from the left flank. The £9 million summer signing from CF Pachuca gave PSV fans a taste of things to come with his impressive debut overall. Gaston Peirero gave the home side the perfect start to the second half with a wonderful solo goal within 3 minutes of the restart, although AZ keeper Marco Bizot should have done a lot better in dealing with Peirero’s shot. PSV showed they did not need their lead marksman from last season, Luuk de Jong, as they made it 3-1 in the 75th minute through Dutch midfielder Marco Van Ginkel. AZ’s Wout Weghorst made it 3-2 from the penalty spot, but PSV survived to pick up a vital opening day victory.
As highlighted in FTO’s piece on Feyenoord’s incredible Eredivisie title triumph in the 2016/17 season, Ajax would be reeling from the loss of their almost irreplaceable captain Davy Klaassen. Despite taking the lead through Hakim Ziyech’s powerful drive from just outside the box in the 56th minute, Heracles stunned the travelling Ajax contingent with Paul Gladon’s near post finish from a Brandley Kuwas searching through ball just ten minutes after they fell behind. Kuwas went from provider to match winner with a brilliant curling finish from the right side of the box, submitting his entry for Eredivisie goal of the weekend. Klass-Jan Huntelaar almost became Ajax hero yet again in his career with a late effort on goal, only to be thwarted by Bram Castro in the Heracles net. It was a concerning loss for Ajax on the first day of the season, and with speculation surrounding centre-back youth prospect Davinson Sanchez, linked with a move to Tottenham Hotspur, Ajax could be in danger of lagging behind again in this season’s Eredivisie.
Lazio late show denies the Old Lady of yet another piece of silverware
Ciro Immobile put in a phenomenal display either side of the first and second half for Lazio, as he won his side a penalty just before half time, which he tucked away with ease. His header in the 54th minute was a sign of his capabilities as a top-class poacher for the Italian outfit, yet the last exchanges of the second half were dominated by another individual performance, this time from Paulo Dybala of Juventus.
Dybala’s free-kick from 30 yards out demonstrated the range of his breathtaking talent, and like Immobile, he slotted his own penalty kick away under pressure, equalising for Juve in added time. However, the drama continued into the last seconds of the game, with Lazio snatching the Supercup title through Alessandro Murgia’s poachers finish. Jordan Lukaku threatened from the left wing, and once he had beaten Mattia De Sciglio for pace, he squared for Murgia, who commenced rampant celebrations into the night for Lazio, who had avenged their defeat to Juventus in last season’s Coppa Italia final to win the first silverware available in the Italian domestic season.