European soccer news: Leverkusen charge on, Man United dismal


We are nearing the end of the European season across the major top five leagues in the continent, but we still have matches to decide titles, qualification for European competitions and relegation.

On Sunday in the Premier League, we saw Arsenal edge Manchester United to take the title race to the final day. Elsewhere, Manchester United thumped Tottenham Hotspur to lift their first ever Women’s FA Cup trophy.

In the Bundesliga, champions Bayer Leverkusen continued their march to stay undefeated after making light work of Bochum. And finally, we saw Kylian Mbappé play in his last home game for Paris Saint-Germain.

On Saturday, recently named UEFA Champions League finalists Borussia Dortmund endured a 3-0 loss to Mainz, which also boosts the winner’s chances of escaping relegation from the Bundesliga. In Spain, the other Champions League finalists, Real Madrid, continued their fine form in LaLiga and earned a 4-0 win over Granada.

In Italy, we saw Christian Pulisic continuing to shine for Milan this season, and in England, we saw Burnley become the second team confirmed to be relegated from the Premier League.

Let’s take a look back at what happened all across the continent this weekend.

Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, more (U.S.)

SUNDAY REVIEW

The lead: ‘Neverlusen’ strikes for the 50th time in a row

Bayer Leverkusen, also known as the stoppage-time kings of Europe, did not need their superpowers on Sunday, as they cruised past VfL Bochum on the penultimate matchday of the Bundesliga season and extended their unbeaten streak to 50 games.

Only three points ahead of the relegation zone, Bochum were hoping to add another point and thus stay in the league. But a packed crowd inside Bochum’s Ruhrstadion quickly became disillusioned when Felix Passlack was sent off because of a last-man foul against Nathan Tella, which Passlack committed after misjudging a long ball by Edmond Tapsoba.

For the next 25 minutes, Bochum were fighting vigorously, and goalkeeper Manuel Riemann denied Leverkusen a couple of times. Yet, their breaking point was reached shortly before the half-time break, with Patrik Schick and Victor Boniface each scoring for a comfortable 2-0 lead. It has been rare to see Schick and Boniface playing alongside each other, but manager Xabi Alonso was in the comfortable position to try a few things out and rest a number of players for the two remaining finals in the DFB Pokal and UEFA Europa League in a few weeks.

Leverkusen were quite wasteful during the second half and still managed to score another three goals, not allowing any accusations that the table leaders would go easy on their opponents at this point of the season.

In fact, the 5-0 loss to Leverkusen means that Bochum now have a worse goal difference than Union Berlin, who are currently three points behind them in 16th place, with Mainz sandwiched in between the two. While the title has long been decided, the Bundesliga’s final matchday will see a fierce battle between these three teams, with one of them having to play the relegation playoffs against Fortuna Düsseldorf, the third-placed team in the Bundesliga II standings. — Constantin Eckner


Sunday talking points around the leagues

Worst home form ever in new low for Manchester United

Man United manager Erik Ten Hag can say what he wants. He can try to come up with any excuse to defend himself and blame this bad season on injuries, but it doesn’t matter. The facts don’t lie and if the Dutch manager doesn’t realize this is one of the worst seasons in Manchester United‘s history, he is in total denial.

Their loss to Arsenal was their ninth at Old Trafford this campaign in all competitions, equalling their worst tally ever from 1920-21, 1930-31, 1933-34, 1962-63 and 1973-74. Let’s not forget, either, that 2023 was pretty bad for Ten Hag and United as well, with 21 losses in all competitions, the largest over a calendar year since 1972, which was 51 years earlier!

With another home game against Newcastle coming up on Wednesday, this could get worse for the manager and the players, who are on a terrible run with one win in the past nine matches in all competitions (if we consider the FA Cup semifinal game against Coventry as a draw before the penalty shootout). They have lost 14 times overall in the league (home and away) this season, including against teams like Crystal Palace (twice), Bournemouth, Fulham and Nottingham Forest. Man United now have suffered their most defeats ever in a Premier League season.

Also, they are eighth in the Premier League table, which would be the lowest they have ever finished in their Premier League era, and are at risk of not even qualifying for the Conference League next season. From a third-place finish last year to eighth with a goal difference of minus-4 at the moment is pure embarrassment.

And let’s not remind everyone of the humiliating exit by Copenhagen in the Champions League. This is so mediocre that Ten Hag’s position is now untenable. The new people in charge of the football side at the club, Sir Jim Ratcliffe, Sir Dave Brailsford, Omar Berrada, Jason Wilcox and Dan Ashworth cannot accept this level of management.

United now have three more games this season: against Newcastle and at Brighton in the league and then the FA Cup final against Manchester City at Wembley on May 25. Quite a scary prospect to finish the campaign considering the team’s form. — Julien Laurens

Manchester United rout Spurs to make FA Cup history

In their second FA Cup final appearance in as many years, manager Marc Skinner’s Manchester United leaned into their experience to come out on top as Spurs faded on their Wembley debut in a 4-0 loss.

Ella Toone’s sublime strike from range, just on the stroke of half-time, would have been a worthy FA Cup winner but rather than being the rare spark of magic, it was the key to completely dismantling the Lilywhites. Rachel Williams’ towering header made it two just after the break and before a defensive lapse saw Becky Spencer pass the ball straight to Lucía García for the Spanish international to tuck home. Garcia fired in the fourth with 15 minutes left on the clock to add the gloss to a comprehensive win for the Red Devils.

For Spurs, who had carried a threat on the counter in the first half, it was a regrettable and forgettable second half strewn with some less than forgivable defensive errors that made things far too easy for their opposition. The word from head coach Robert Vilahamn ahead of the match was that the team were, essentially, ahead of schedule and under Wembley’s iconic arc, the Lilywhites looked embryonic, too soon in their development for the occasion against a seasoned United team.

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How women’s FA Cup final went ‘perfectly’ for Manchester United

Sophie Lawson breaks down Manchester United’s 4-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur to claim the women’s FA Cup trophy.

For Skinner, who has faced heavy criticism this season, the third time has proved to be the charm — the United boss having lost the FA Cup final when he was still managing Birmingham City back in 2017 before losing to Chelsea this time last year. Looking the more dangerous throughout the game, Skinner’s team selection and substitutes all justified themselves, his tactics on point to overload and overwhelm the Spurs defense, forcing it to buckle.

For those keeping a closer eye on the league and the noise around both teams, the trophy that is heading to Manchester is unlikely to change too much going into next season, Skinner’s job reportedly safe with or without success Sunday and Spurs still early on their journey under Vilahamn. But for today, United get to celebrate their triumph, their name the first new one to be etched onto the cup since Manchester City in 2017. — Sophie Lawson


Americans Abroad: McKennie subbed off in draw, Balogun notches assist in win

With USMNT teammate Timothy Weah suspended for yellow card accumulation, Weston McKennie started for Juventus in their fight to ensure Champions League football next season. However, the 25-year-old midfielder was taken off at half-time after finding his side trailing to Salernitana, who are in last place. Adrien Rabiot equalized for la Vecchia Signora in injury time, though, saving their blushes. McKennie has been brilliant all season, but it wasn’t his night.

In Ligue 1, Folarin Balogun came off the bench in the 44th minute of AS Monaco‘s 2-0 win over Montpellier to assist on a goal by Kassoum Ouattara. The 22-year-old Balogun has scored eight goals this season, compared with 22 last season, when he seemingly couldn’t stop scoring. The U.S. striker will hope this is the spark to rediscover his form for Copa America this summer. — SherShah Atif


News of the day

  • Real Madrid celebrated their 36th LaLiga title with an open-top bus parade on Sunday in Madrid. They clinched the title with four games to go, and have a chance to add the Champions League trophy to their collection when they face Borussia Dortmund in the final on June 1.

  • Inter Miami’s Lionel Messi expressed his anger over the new Major League Soccer rule that forces an injured player to the sideline for two minutes, saying, “These types of rules … it’s going bad,” after exiting the pitch during a 3-2 victory over host Montréal on Saturday night. Messi was forced to leave the pitch after being fouled and was unable to take a free kick from a dangerous position.

  • Neymar said he is “impatient” to return to action after celebrating Al Hilal’s Saudi Pro League title with his teammates on Saturday. “Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to give them the happiness they deserve but you can be sure that next season we are going to have a lot of fun,” he said.


And finally, on Sunday…

In Mbappe’s final home game for PSG, the club’s top scorer (256) found the back of the net once again, but couldn’t help secure the win in his side’s 3-1 loss to Toulouse. The World Cup winner announced he will leave Paris at the end of the season, with ESPN reporting a move to Real Madrid is likely.

It’s the end of a bittersweet romance, with the homegrown forward bringing six Ligue 1 titles and three French Cups to the capital. However, a maiden Champions League trophy eluded the 25-year-old, as PSG suffered their latest exit at the hands of Borussia Dortmund, after which Mbappe blamed himself.

Regardless, Mbappe leaves PSG a legend, and is sure to collect many more club and individual accolades over his career. — Atif

SATURDAY REVIEW

The lead: Mainz earn huge win to shock Champions League finalists Dortmund

After another magic Champions League night a few days earlier, Borussia Dortmund showed their ugly faces once again, as they were embarrassed by Mainz in a 3-0 loss at the Mewa Arena.

Leandro Barreiro and Lee Jae-Sung shocked the guests by scoring three goals in the first 23 minutes, with the latter recording a brace. While Mainz are in the midst of a battle against relegation, they did not look like a team that are deemed to play in the 2. Bundesliga next season. Plus, Dortmund are becoming one of their favorite opponents in Germany’s top flight. As a reminder, Mainz ended Dortmund’s title quest on the final matchday of the 2023-24 campaign.

Mainz manager Bo Henriksen was counting on the good vibes, saying “They are great opponents and there is the feeling that the entire city is behind us.” Scoring a win over Dortmund means that Mainz have escaped the relegation zone, while Union Berlin have dropped to 16th place after suffering a defeat at Cologne, despite leading the game 2-0 after 19 minutes.

Contrary to Union giving away their lead and losing 3-2 against Cologne, Mainz managed to keep a clean sheet against a rather disillusioned Dortmund side. The visitors’ manager Edin Terzic brought on his best-attacking performers, Julian Brandt, Ian Maatsen and Jadon Sancho, at halftime, but these substitutions did not make a difference in terms of the result.

Luckily for Dortmund, their fifth place in the Bundesliga table is already secured, meaning that they are qualified for next year’s Champions League regardless of the outcome of the final against Real Madrid at Wembley Stadium in three weeks. Still, games like the one at Mainz should be used to gain confidence, not to make them doubt themselves again. — Constantin Eckner


Saturday talking points around the leagues

Díaz stars in Madrid’s Champions League final audition in Granada

Real Madrid’s s 4-0 LaLiga win at Granada on Saturday had little riding on it, in truth: Madrid, already confirmed as champions, going up against a Granada side whose relegation had been assured by results earlier in the day.

Still, Madrid’s players do have something to play for: a place in the starting lineup for the Champions League final against Borussia Dortmund. Coach Carlo Ancelotti has said he’ll use Madrid’s remaining league fixtures to give minutes to the players who need them and rest those who don’t. Against Granada, he made ten changes to the team that beat Bayern Munich 2-1 in midweek. One of those players is Thibaut Courtois, who has missed much of the season with an ACL injury.

Ancelotti has said he plans to give Courtois a chance between now and the end of the campaign to show that he deserves to be considered for a place in the team at Wembley, ahead of Andriy Lunin. In Granada, two sharp first-half saves suggested Courtois isn’t far away. But more evidence is required, and up against better forward lines than Granada’s.

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Brahim Díaz’s brace leads Real Madrid past relegated Granada

Real Madrid extend their unbeated run to 28 games with a victory over Granada, whose relegation was confirmed earlier on Saturday.

There’s also a potential spot in midfield up for grabs, with Aurélien Tchouaméni a doubt with a foot injury. Eduardo Camavinga made his case here with a dominant display in midfield.

The game’s undoubted star was Brahim Diaz, who scored twice — his first a dazzling solo effort, carrying the ball from the halfway line — and played a role in the build-up to the team’s other two goals, finished off by Fran García and Arda Güler.

Diaz has shown this season that he has a part to play in a stacked Real Madrid attack, whether it’s starting games like this, or making an impact off the bench. The latter is the role he’s most likely to be given in the Champions League final on June 1. — Alex Kirkland


Americans Abroad: Pulisic gets two goals in Milan win over Caliglari

With the end of the season nearly coming to a close across all of Europe, all eyes will be on the American players abroad to see what form they’ll be in heading into the Copa América happening next month on home soil. The USMNT‘s very own “Captain America” impressed in Milan’s 5-1 win over Cagliari as he scored two goals for the Rossoneri as they look to finish in second place behind rivals and Serie A champions Inter.

With this goal, Pulisic now has 24 goal contributions in all competitions (15 goals and nine assists) in his debut season for manager Stefano Pioli, putting him tied for second for the most goal contributions by a male American player in Europe in the last 30 seasons with Folarin Balogun and four goals contributions behind Clint Dempsey.

Meanwhile, in the Premier League, defender Chris Richards continues his fine form for Crystal Palace as he played all 90 minutes in a 3-1 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers. With this win, Richards’ last 10 matches for the Eagles go as follows: five wins, four draws, and one loss. While he has shown great form on the pitch, he has also been showing his wit recently by going viral in the last week for his impressive geography skills.

All in all, the form of Pulisic and Richards comes at a great time for USMNT manager Gregg Berhalter who will rely on both of them to be crucial players in the Copa starting next month. — Roberto Rojas


News of the day


And finally, on Saturday …

Vincent Kompany’s dream of keeping last season’s EFL Championship winners Burnley in the Premier League has come to an end after a 2-1 loss to Tottenham Hotspur, despite taking the lead 25 minutes into the match. Burnley return to the Championship after just one season and go to the final day against Nottingham Forest with a record of five wins, nine draws, and 23 losses.

Burnley and already Sheffield United are likely to be joined by Luton Town, whose Premier League status is dependent on other results going their way. If Rob Edwards’ side are unable to beat the drop, it will be the first time since the 1997-98 season that all three promoted teams from the Championship go straight back down.

Leicester City and Ipswich Town will replace both Sheffield United and Burnley while we’ll find out who will be the third team to make the jump to the Premier League after the end of the Championship play-offs at the end of the month.

Burnley minority owner J.J Watt took to social media to express his disappointment at the Clarets’ relegation and issued a rallying call for the following season. — Rojas





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