Expectations were challenged across the continent this weekend as FC Zenit St Petersburg triumphed at PFC CSKA Moskva to close the gap in Russia and much-fancied duo FC Bayern München and Paris Saint-Germain FC suffered surprise opening-day losses in their respective leagues.
Five points clear and in superb form at home, CSKA must have fancied their chances of taking a significant stride towards the Russian Premier League crown when they hosted champions Zenit on Saturday. A 2-0 defeat has left them looking decidedly vulnerable, however, Aleksandr Kerzhakov and Aleksandr Anyukov scoring the goals that have injected a huge dose of doubt into the title race. "It was a beautiful match between two strong opponents," said Zenit manager Luciano Spalletti. "We didn't hold the initiative throughout the match but we played with power and character."
The Bundesliga season has only just begun, but even so there are already indications that it could be another fascinating campaign. Bayern have made a number of changes since finishing third last term, yet the side now led by Jupp Heynckes could hardly have made a more inauspicious start, losing 1-0 at home to VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach. Last season's runners-up Bayer 04 Leverkusen tasted defeat as well, going down 2-0 at 1. FSV Mainz, leaving titleholders Borussia Dortmund to pull rank among the heavyweights by seeing off Hamburger SV 3-1.
Over in France, all eyes were on how big-spending PSG would fare, and few could have expected Antoine Kombouaré's men to commence proceedings with a 1-0 home loss to Lorient FC. Champions LOSC Lille Métropole were unable to resume with a win either, drawing 1-1 at AS Nancy-Lorraine, while their predecessors Olympique de Marseille had to settle for a 2-2 stalemate at home to FC Sochaux-Montbéliard. The performance of the round came from Stade Rennais FC, in fact, as they prevailed 5-1 at promoted Dijon FCO.
AZ Alkmaar put in another performance worth noting as they opened their Eredivisie bid with a 3-1 victory against PSV Eindhoven despite the late sending-off of Niklas Moisander. Champions AFC Ajax overcame adversity too, coming from behind to win 4-1 at De Graafschap thanks in part to a Miralem Sulejmani double. As for FC Twente, they recorded a 1-0 success at NAC Breda, while their fellow UEFA Champions League play-off contenders KRC Genk were held 0-0 at K. Lierse SK in neighbouring Belgium.
There was similar frustration for Swiss champions FC Basel 1893 after they posted their third draw in four outings this term, and it took Cabral's 92nd-minute equaliser to earn them anything at all as they salvaged a 3-3 result against FC Sion. Peter Larsson waited even longer to find the net for Helsingborgs IF, meanwhile, and his goal could prove important in the Swedish title equation. The defender completed a 2-1 comeback win at Syrianska FC in the fifth minute of added time to move the visitors three points clear of closest pursuers IF Elfsborg with ten games to go.
Ukrainian giants FC Shakhtar Donetsk and FC Dynamo Kyiv engineered 2-0 victories apiece – against FC Kryvbas Kryvyi Rih and FC Karpaty Lviv respectively – but they are yet to shake off FC Metalist Kharkiv, with their rivals lying level with Dynamo on 11 points and two shy of the Pitmen. Elsewhere, there was pre-season joy for FC Porto as they downed Vitória SC 2-1 in the Portuguese Super Cup and Manchester United FC as they fought from two goals down to lift the FA Community Shield by edging neighbours Manchester City FC 3-2.
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