Ali Rampling reflects on the winners and losers of world football this week as Southend United recorded their first win of the League Two season and Barcelona had a week to forget.
Orlando City took the scenic route to the Eastern Conference semi-finals on Saturday. The MLS outfit were held to a 1-1 draw by New York City in the first round of the play-offs, a Maxime Chanot effort cancelling out Nani’s penalty inside the opening eight minutes to send what had been a relatively routine game to extra-time and then penalties.
It was in the shootout that the chaos unfolded. Orlando thought they had booked their semi-final place when goalkeeper Pedro Gallese saved Valentin Castellanos’ decisive fifth spot-kick, triggering wild celebrations. However, these were short lived as the Orlando number one was judged to have left his line before the penalty was taken – and just to rub salt into the wound, Gallese was then shown a second yellow card.
Orlando were not permitted to make a substitution, so defender Rodrigo Schlegel donned the goalkeeper gloves. The makeshift ‘keeper miraculously saved from Gudmundur Thorarinsson in sudden death, before Benji Michel netted from 12 yards to secure Orlando’s first ever playoff victory.
Within two hours of the shootout concluding, Orlando City’s official club store had released a Schlegel goalkeeping strip.
From Florida to South Essex. Southend are rooted to the basement of the Football League having picked up just two points from a possible 33 prior to the weekend’s encounter with Walsall.
But the Shrimpers recorded their first win of the League Two season – at the 12th time of asking – at the Banks’s Stadium on Saturday. Walsall missed a second-half penalty, Elijah Adebayo’s effort clattering the crossbar, enabling Southend to capitalise two minutes from time.
Striker Emile Acquah’s low strike took a slight deflection on its way in to secure Southend’s maiden three points of the 2020/21 campaign, their inaugural victory in all competitions under manager Mark Molesley and the club’s first win since 7 March.
Bodo/Glimt won the Norwegian Eliteserien title on Sunday for the first time in their 104-year history. Just three years earlier they had been playing in the Norwegian second tier.
The hiring of former air force pilot Bjorn Mannsverk as a mental coach in 2017 has been hailed as pivotal to the club’s success, with the psychological work he does vital to the player’s belief that they could pull off the improbable.
Bodo/Glimt have lost just once all season, scored 85 goals in 25 league matches and are on track to break a multitude of Eliteserien records, including the biggest title-winning margin, most points, most goals and most victories in a season. Sunday’s 2-1 victory over Stromsgodset pulled them 18 points clear at the top of the table with five games remaining to secure the title and wrap up a remarkable footballing story.
Barcelona ultimately slipped to a 1-0 loss – their first La Liga defeat to Atletico in 10 years and their third of the season – leaving them 12th in the table and 12 points off top spot.
The newly crowned champions of Norway were promoted back to the top flight during the 2017 campaign. After narrowly avoiding relegation the following year and then finishing as the division’s runners up in 2019, they blew the competition out of the water this term.
Barcelona have endured their fair share of turbulent weeks over the past 12 months but managed another seven days to forget last week.
Upon his arrival back from international duty on Wednesday, talisman Lionel Messi informed journalists at the airport that he was “tired of always being the problem for everything at the club” following criticism from Antoine Griezmann’s former agent. The Argentine made his 800th Barcelona appearance during his side’s clash with Atletico Madrid on Saturday – but was unable to celebrate the milestone in style.
Barcelona fell behind against Diego Simeone’s side thanks to bizarre piece of goalkeeping from Marc-André ter Stegen, allowing Yannick Carrasco to stroke the ball into an empty net from 20 yards out in the third minute of first-half stoppage time.
Defender Gerard Pique hobbled off just after the hour mark having suffered knee ligament damage, and is expected to be sidelined for between three to six months.
Frequently hailed as the most entertaining division in the world, English football’s second tier really let itself down over the weekend.
Coventry and Birmingham set the tone on Friday evening by mustering just three shots between them as they played out a cagey 0-0 draw. The pair were two of nine Championship teams who failed to find the net during the weekend’s round of fixtures.
Just 25 goals were scored across the 12 matches, with only two games serving up more than two goals: the top-of-the-table clash between Bournemouth and Reading, which ended 4-2 to the Cherries, and Stoke’s thrilling 4-3 win over Huddersfield.
On 11 August 2020, the eccentric Bilel Mohsni signed a one-year deal at League Two outfit Grimsby Town. Manager Ian Holloway compared his new signing to Virgil van Dijk.
On 19 September 2020, Mohsni made his first appearance for the Mariners, coming off the bench in the 70th minute with his side trailing 2-0 to Salford. Grimsby went on to lose 4-0.
On 21 November 2020, Holloway announced the famously fiery former Rangers defender had left the club.
The following day, Mohsni set up a Twitter account specially to deny that he was leaving – and he attended training on Monday. Holloway confirmed the player was still set to depart once the club and player could come to an agreement regarding his contract, with his his Grimsby career poised to last a full 20 minutes.
Follow Ali on Twitter @alirampling