Team: 1. FC Nürnberg
It only took them until mid-January and their 18th German Bundesliga game of the season, but last Saturday Nürnberg finally achieved a league victory in 2013/14, ending a run of 11 draws and six defeats. Having waited a full half-term for a win, the Franken side thrashed visitors TSG 1899 Hoffenheim 4-0 in their first fixture back after the winter break. Remarkably, this long overdue success was enough to lift Nürnberg off the foot of the table and to within three points of safety.
It also brought blessed relief to the club's Dutch coach Gertjan Verbeek who, when appointed nine matches into the campaign, had vowed not to shave until his new charges won a game. Understandly, the full-time whistle was the cue for the 51-year-old to ditch the dishevelled hobo look – and promptly face the press wearing a fresh complexion.
Player: Fraser Forster (Celtic FC)
Ten out of ten for Celtic's Fraser Forster after the England international goalkeeper took his streak of Scottish Premiership clean sheets into double figures with Wednesday's 4-0 success over Kilmarnock FC in Glasgow. The 25-year-old former Newcastle United FC trainee and Norwich City FC loanee "is in superb form and thoroughly deserves all the accolades that will come his way", said Celtic manager Neil Lennon after his tenth consecutive shutout.
Forster's "fantastic achievement" emulates that of his predecessor in the Hoops' goal, Charlie Shaw, 92 years ago – and has helped the title holders establish an 18-point lead over Aberdeen FC in the championship race. Another two games without conceding and he will have equalled former Dons keeper Bobby Clark's league record of 12 successive matches unbeaten.
Goal: Matija Capar (Croatia)
Spain's bid for a fifth straight UEFA European Futsal Championship crown, and seventh overall, suffered a false start on Wednesday – against opponents they had whacked 10-0 in qualifying. José Venancio López's serial winners trailed Croatia twice on matchday one of UEFA Futsal EURO 2014 in Antwerp before earning a 3-2 advantage in the second half.
However, Spanish hopes of a scrappy Group D victory were dashed when Croatia's flying goalkeeper Matija Capar equalised with two minutes and 22 seconds left on the clock at the Lotto Arena. If Croatia had caused a surprise by reaching the semi-finals as hosts two years ago, this shock result left even Mato Stanković's own players in tears. "I cried like a baby after the game," said Capar, having (temporarily, one would presume) stopped the Spanish juggernaut with his memorable late volley.
Quote: José Mourinho (Chelsea FC)
"This is not the best league in the world; this is football from the 19th century."
Chelsea boss José Mourinho was quick to bemoan West Ham United FC's allegedly defensive approach to Wednesday's Premier League stalemate at Stamford Bridge – a game in which the home team had 39 shots on goal without scoring, the most registered in the English top flight since 2003/04. For the record, West Ham manager Sam Allardyce countered: "He can't take it because we've outwitted him ... Hard luck, José."
Comeback: Klaas Jan Huntelaar (FC Schalke 04)
Schalke striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar returned from a five-month lay-off last Sunday to do precisely what he does best: score goals. The Dutch international, appearing in the Bundesliga for the first time since 17 August, marked his comeback with the 34th-minute header that prefaced fifth-placed Schalke's 3-0 victory at struggling Hamburger SV.
Jefferson Farfán, who provided the cross for the 30-year-old's opener, rued the knee ligament injury that had kept his team-mate out for so long. Hamburg probably lamented the fact he wasn't still sidelined: not only had Huntelaar's first two goals this season come in the reverse fixture, a 3-3 draw; the No25 had also hit a Gelsenkirchen hat-trick against HSV last spring.
Club loyalist: Leighton Baines (Everton FC)
As January's transfer merry-go-round accelerates towards its customarily dramatic – and, depending on your club, fruitful or frustrating – conclusion, Everton's England international Leighton Baines presents a nice counterpoint to all that palaver. Amid reported interest from Manchester United FC, who had two bids for the left-back rejected last summer, Baines signed a new four-year contract with Everton on Monday.
"I've never been one to relish the limelight so I suppose I'm glad the speculation will go away," said the 29-year-old Scouser, who with one inky stroke proved the adage 'home is where the heart is' still applies to top-class football. Since joining the Blues in 2007, Baines has supplied 33 Premier League assists, 14 more than any other defender.
Maltese Premier League pacesetters Birkirkara FC currently boast the longest winning sequence by a club side in world football after Monday's 3-1 triumph at Tarxien Rainbows FC. The defending champions have now posted 13 victories in a row, two more than Forster's Celtic, with Manchester City FC's Under-18s, al-Nassr FC of Saudi Arabia and Olympiacos Volou FC from Greece's second division all on ten.
The next target for Paul Zammit's men must be Floriana FC's Maltese top-flight record of 17 wins on the bounce, set between October 1961 and November 1962. Their 2013/14 statistics of P20 W17 D2 L1 indicate that it is very much on – but second-placed Valletta FC could yet curtail Birkirkara's glory run when the teams meet in Ta' Qali on Sunday.
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