It proved a difficult few days for many of the teams gearing up for UEFA Champions League duty as no fewer than 18 of the 32 hopefuls failed to clinch wins, with leading lights FC Barcelona, AC Milan and AS Roma consigned to defeats and Manchester United FC pegged back in added time. UEFA.com rounds up the action.
The most stunning result of the weekend came at the Camp Nou, where Liga newcomers Hercules CF inflicted a first home defeat in more than a year on champions Barcelona. Nelson Valdez hit both goals in a 2-0 win that left beaten coach Josep Guardiola congratulating the victors. "They made it difficult for us and got their reward," he said. There were no such troubles for Real Madrid CF as they saw off CA Osasuna 1-0 on José Mourinho's home debut, while fellow UEFA Champions League hopefuls Valencia CF downed Real Racing Club 1-0 and Málaga CF edged an eight-goal thriller at Real Zaragoza. Sevilla FC are third following a goalless draw with RC Deportivo La Coruña.
Three games in and a pair of surprise candidates lead the way in the Bundesliga, with 1. FSV Mainz 05 joining TSG 1899 Hoffenheim as the only other team with a perfect record after defeating 1. FC Kaiserslautern 2-1. Hoffenheim set the standard by downing FC Schalke 04 2-0 on Friday, and that result left Felix Magath's men still chasing their first points of the season. "We lacked harmony on the pitch," said Magath. "We've had too little training time to integrate our new arrivals." Schalke's fellow UEFA Champions League contenders FC Bayern München and SV Werder Bremen drew 0-0 in their meeting.
Chelsea FC's seamless start to their Premier League title defence continued apace on Saturday, Michael Essien scoring twice to help Carlo Ancelotti's side to a 3-1 win at point-less West Ham United FC. The Blues are the top flight's only team with a 100% record, but are being keenly pursued by Arsenal FC, who are two points adrift after beating Bolton Wanderers FC 4-1. Manchester United are two points further back after Everton struck twice in added time to secure a dramatic 3-3 draw at Goodison Park. "From a completely comfortable position we've thrown it away, simple as that," said manager Sir Alex Ferguson.
The Serie A summit has an unexpected look to it after Roma and Milan were both defeated on Saturday. Claudio Ranieri's side suffered the most spectacular reverse, 5-1 at Cagliari Calcio – who are second with four points – while the Rossoneri fell to a 2-0 loss at fourth-placed AC Cesena. Milan's city rivals, FC Internazionale Milano, warmed up for the start of their UEFA Champions League title defence with a 2-1 win against Udinese Calcio but remain well off the pace in fifth. Leading the way are AC Chievo Verona – the only top-flight side with a 100% record after just two fixtures – following their 3-1 triumph at Genoa CFC on Sunday. UC Sampdoria are third after drawing 3-3 with Juventus.
The problems persist for Ligue 1's big names, with UEFA Champions League trio Olympique de Marseille, Olympique Lyonnais and AJ Auxerre all held to draws. Champions Marseille twice fell behind in their 2-2 stalemate with AS Monaco FC, while Lyon drew 1-1 with Valenciennes FC and Auxerre are still winless after recording the same scoreline with SM Caen. They at least fared better than FC Girondins de Bordeaux, who suffered their third loss this season, 2-1 at OGC Nice. "It was a very worrying evening," said Bordeaux coach Jean Tigana. Also defeated were leaders Toulouse FC, their unblemished start coming to an end with a 1-0 reverse at the hands of AS Saint-Etienne.
It was not only the likes of Milan, Barça and Roma who suffered morale-sapping defeats over the weekend – Friday night threw up a host of losses for UEFA Champions League contenders. Portuguese Liga champions SL Benfica were in the midst of a miserable start to the season even before a 2-1 reverse at Vitória SC left them with just three points from four games. SC Braga stay in the top four despite losing 3-2 at FC Porto on Saturday, while FC Shakhtar Donetsk hung on to their lead in Ukraine despite a 1-0 loss at FC Obolon Kyiv. CFR 1907 Cluj are 11th in the Romanian First Divison after succumbing 2-0 to FC Rapid Bucureşti.
You can check all the results across Europe this weekend in UEFA.com's MatchCentre.
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