With the Premier League and Serie A title races going down to the wire and the battle for Champions League spots and relegation scraps playing out in almost every league, it was a tense weekend of games across the continent.
Manchester City showed resilience to keep their bid to repeat in the Premier League on track, Luis Suarez admirably wore his heart on his sleeve in a farewell to the Atletico Madrid faithful, Stuttgart pulled off a great escape to stay in the Bundesliga and Borussia Dortmund’s Erling Haaland said goodbye to the Westfalenstadion the only way he knows how: with a goal.
Mark Ogden, Alex Kirkland, Sam Marsden, Rob Dawson and James Tyler recap all you need to know from around Europe.
Man City show their mettle…
The character of this Manchester City team has been called into question following the heartbreaking Champions League defeat to Real Madrid, but they came up with answer against West Ham United on Sunday.
Pep Guardiola would have preferred that his team didn’t go 2-0 down at the London Stadium, but he can be proud with the way they fought back to draw 2-2. Defeat would have left the door ajar for Liverpool to nip in and snatch the title but their second half comeback means it will still be in their hands on the final day of the season.
City have an array of the best players in the world capable of scoring goals out of nothing, but it’s unfair to suggest they don’t have the stomach for a battle, too. Guardiola has passionately defended his team since the Bernabeu capitulation — particularly after barbs from former Manchester United defender Patrice Evra — but the evidence of their fight and determination was there for all to see against West Ham. — Dawson
… but Mahrez will rue his miss
Riyad Mahrez could have made the Premier League title a formality for City had he scored an 84th minute penalty, which would have transformed a 2-2 draw into a 3-2 win and moved the reigning champions six points clear of Liverpool — with a substantially-better goal difference — going into the final week of the season.
But Mahrez saw his spot-kick saved by Hammers goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski, so Liverpool can still snatch the title with wins against Southampton on Tuesday and Wolves on the final day — but only if City fail to defeat Aston Villa at the Etihad next Sunday.
With Mahrez failing to score from the spot, social media erupted with questions as to why the former Leicester City winger took the penalty rather than Kevin De Bruyne. Pundits also made the same observation.
But the reason why Mahrez took the penalty is because he is City’s best spot-kick taker and the statistics back that up.
Prior to the miss at the London Stadium, he had scored seven from seven for City this season and it was his first failure to convert a penalty since he shot over the crossbar in a 0-0 draw against Liverpool at Anfield in October 2018.
That miss seems to have to given Mahrez a reputation as an unreliable penalty taker, but the reality is somewhat different.
Yet with Mahrez having a 100% strike rate from seven this season, he was the obvious taker at West Ham. Yes, he missed, but he has earned the right to be the man who steps up in those situations. — Ogden
Stuttgart’s remarkable great escape
Last-second drama isn’t just reserved for title races and top-four finishes, folks, and the Bundesliga served up just that at the other end of the table on Saturday as Stuttgart’s fate went down to virtually the last kick — well, header — of their game with FC Cologne.
It’s been a difficult few seasons for Stuttgart, with the club spending two years in the 2. Bundesliga and enduring relegation for the first time since the mid-1970s. As an institution of a club responsible for iconic players like Timo Werner, Sami Khedira and Mario Gomez, they needed a victory on the final day of the 2021-22 campaign — coupled with a defeat for Hertha Berlin just above them — in order to secure another year in the German top flight. With Hertha losing 2-1 at Dortmund, Stuttgart’s push for that winning goal went deep into injury time until, with seconds on the clock in the 93rd minute, this happened:
STUTTGART SCORE A 92ND MINUTE WINNER TO STAY IN THE BUNDESLIGA!!! 😱 pic.twitter.com/MSCfun2LSg
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) May 14, 2022
Midfielder Wataru Endo popped up unmarked at the far post to nod in Hiroki Ito‘s flick-on and preserve Stuttgart’s top-flight status on goal difference. Thanks to Hertha’s reversal — an early penalty had them ahead, only for an Haaland penalty and Youssoufa Moukoko thunder-striker to give Dortmund the win — New Jersey-born manager Pellegrino Matarazzo & Co. completed the unlikeliest of survivals. Despite being mired in the relegation zone until the beginning of March after a nine-game winless run (including seven defeats), Die Roten only lost twice in their final 10 games, taking points from Bayern Munich, Union Berlin and Borussia Monchengladbach to give themselves a chance on Saturday.
Racking up 24 shots and a dominant xG (4.10 to 1.26), Stuttgart were forced to wait until being seconds from oblivion before Endo provided salvation. Celebrate responsibly, friends, but enjoy that feeling of staying up. — Tyler
SCENES IN STUTTGART! 🙌 pic.twitter.com/861UZCngC8
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) May 14, 2022
Suarez’s tearful goodbye
Luis Suarez has only been at Atletico Madrid for two years, but that didn’t make Sunday’s farewell at the Wanda Metropolitano any less emotional.
Atletico’s fans are grateful — “Thank you, Luis, for making us champions,” the banner they held up during the second half of their 1-1 draw with Sevilla said — and so is he.
Suarez arrived at Atletico in 2020 angry at the way he’d been treated by Barcelona and desperate to prove his former club wrong. The 21 goals he scored to fire Atletico to the league title did exactly that.
This season has been more difficult, with the 35-year-old’s body struggling to meet the demands of top-level football. He was unable to score against Sevilla, just as he has been in all bar one of Atletico’s league games in the last three months. Substituted in the 65th minute, he was soon back out on the pitch post-match to receive the acclaim of the crowd.
“I gave 200% to a club that opened its doors to me … wherever we are, I’ll be an Atletico fan,” he said. — Kirkland
Atletico Madrid said goodbye to Luis Suarez and Hector Herrera after their last home game for the club ❤️ pic.twitter.com/FiyQCy53Wq
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) May 15, 2022
En-Nesyri nods Sevilla into the Champions League
Sevilla were under huge pressure going into their game at Atletico. Not only were they yet to secure Champions League football for next season, they also had Real Betis breathing down their necks in fifth place. Defeat would have left open the grim possibility of being overtaken by their local rivals on the final day, which is why Youssef En-Nesyri‘s 85th minute equaliser, heading Oliver Torres‘ cross past Jan Oblak, was celebrated so exuberantly. A disappointing second half of the season has led to fan unrest and speculation about the future of manager Julen Lopetegui, but En-Nesyri’s goal meant Sevilla are at least sure of a top-four finish, and could still leapfrog Atletico into third. — Kirkland
EN-NESYRI HEADS IT HOME AND SEVILLA ARE ON THEIR WAY TO CHAMPIONS LEAGUE QUALIFICATION 🔥 pic.twitter.com/0VDexvAfIE
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) May 15, 2022
Of course Haaland scored in his Dortmund farewell
The Haaland era at Dortmund will go down as one of incredible goals, prolific scoring and overall disappointment as the club couldn’t ride his prodigious attacking skill to any trophies. Yet he did ensure a winning end to his time at the club in Saturday’s season finale, scoring a penalty midway through the second half as BVB rallied from 1-0 down at home to Hertha Berlin to complete a 2-1 win.
– Marcotti: What makes City a perfect match for Haaland
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Was it an amazing goal? Hardly. But it helped lift a stodgy Dortmund out of a sleepy game and put them on course for victory while reminding fans of just how much fun the past two years have been with the giant Norway striker in the team, (Oh, and it helped condemn Hertha to the relegation playoff against the third-best team in the 2. Bundesliga: Hamburg SV). — Tyler
Of course Erling Haaland scores in his final game for Dortmund! 💪 pic.twitter.com/gHIdTg1LZH
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) May 14, 2022
Prats scores crucial goal for Los Piratas
Local hero Abdon Prats will have scored nicer goals in his career, but Sunday’s last-minute winner for Mallorca against Rayo Vallecano may prove the most important. With the game deep in stoppage time, and the score tied at 1-1, Mallorca were set to go into the final week of the season in the relegation zone when Prats swept home inside the box after good work from Pablo Maffeo on the right. The Mallorca-born forward’s goal means his side have their destiny in their own hands when they travel to Osasuna next weekend. A win will guarantee their top-flight status, as will matching Cadiz’s result at already relegated Alaves, while Granada are not safe yet, either. — Marsden
Abdon Prats sends the Mallorca fans into a frenzy with a late goal in stoppage time.
Teams in trouble
Burnley slip back into the red zone
The momentum has shifted again and again in the relegation battle and after this weekend it’s Burnley who are facing an uphill battle. Their defeat to Tottenham Hotspur, coupled with Leeds United’s dramatic late equaliser against Brighton, means that with one week of the season left, they are in the drop zone. Burnley have a game in hand, but at this stage of the season it’s only points which matter and Leeds have one more than they do. They have to get something from their trip to Aston Villa on Thursday, or the home game with Newcastle United, on the final day or it’s Championship football next season, regardless of what Leeds do at Brentford on Sunday. After three wins in a row under caretaker manager Mike Jackson, it’s now consecutive defeats and when things aren’t going well at the bottom of the table, it is hard to turn it around. — Dawson
Alaves’ joy turns to anguish
The calculation for Alaves going into Sunday’s game at Levante was simple: A win against their already relegated opponents would give them a fighting chance of survival, provided that fellow strugglers Cadiz didn’t beat champions Real Madrid at the same time. Everything was going to plan, too, when Mariano Diaz put Madrid ahead at Cadiz and then Joselu — whose 14 league goals have been a bright spot in a tough season — scored a nicely-taken finish for Alaves. The live LaLiga table now had them outside of the bottom three. Their joy was short lived, though, as three second-half goals for Levante condemned Alaves to a 3-1 defeat and relegation back to the second division for the first time since 2016. The Basque club — known as El Glorioso, The Glorious One, and based at the raucous, old-fashioned Mendizorroza stadium in the elegant city of Vitoria — will be missed. — Kirkland
Hernandez helps Milan put one hand on Serie A title
Theo Hernandez scored a stunning solo goal to seal a 2-0 win against Atalanta on Sunday and leave AC Milan on the verge of a first Serie A title since 2011. Rafael Leao had given Milan a precious lead at the San Siro in the second half when Hernandez received the ball in his own half with 15 minutes to play. The left-back set off and he did not stop. He beat five opponents as he surged up the pitch, heading for the box before driving a low effort beyond the diving Juan Musso. Hernandez had earlier gone close with a free kick that brushed the side netting before finally scoring his fifth league goal of the campaign. He was also part of a rearguard effort that formed the basis for a win that left Milan one point away from the Scudetto. Stefano Pioli’s side need just a draw in their final game away against Sassuolo next weekend. They will also clinch a first title in a decade if Internazionale, who beat Cagliari 3-1 on Sunday, fail to beat Sampdoria. — Marsden