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Monday, 14 October 2019

Five things we learned in European football this weekend

AFP , Monday 16 Sep 2019
Neymar scored a stunning winner on his return to the PSG side (AFP)
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Neymar returned with a bang for Paris Saint-Germain, while Ansu Fati made sure Barcelona did not miss Lionel Messi, or Neymar for that matter.

As RB Leipzig showed their mettle in the Bundesliga and Ajax warmed up for the start of the Champions League, here are five things we learned in Europe over the weekend.

- Actions speak loudest for Neymar -

The vitriol aimed at Neymar from certain sections of the Paris Saint-Germain support during their game against Strasbourg on Saturday was quite something, as the Brazilian played his first game for the club after his summer-long transfer saga.

The world's most expensive player was booed, whistled and insulted by his own fans, and it was impossible not to watch the game and think that he needed to say something to calm the mood among unhappy fans.

He did speak after the game, but first he gave PSG a 1-0 win with a stunning injury-time overhead kick. Not everyone was won over immediately, but more moments like that one and even the angriest fans of the French champions may be willing to forget how desperate Neymar was to return to Barcelona.

- Fantastic Fati the real deal -

Teenage starlet Ansu Fati continues to marvel for Barcelona, with the 16-year-old starting and scoring the opener in his team's 5-2 demolition of Valencia in La Liga.

That followed a goal from the bench at Osasuna two weeks earlier, and it is easy to see why some in Catalonia think the youngster from Guinea Bissau could be the most exciting talent to emerge at the club since Lionel Messi 15 years ago.

Fati, who was raised in Seville, also set up a goal for Frenkie de Jong, while 21-year-old Carles Perez lined up on the opposite flank for Ernesto Valverde's side with Messi still sidelined.

"Coming to terms with being a Barcelona player is a job for anybody, all the more so for such a young boy," said Valverde.

"We want him to get to know the top level, see how difficult it is and come to terms with how much work he has to put in. He can still bring more to the team."

- Leipzig are title contenders -

Saturday was billed as an early litmus test in the Bundesliga title race as last year's top four met each other in two early season six-pointers.

Borussia Dortmund delivered a statement with a 4-0 thrashing of Bayer Leverkusen, but it was RB Leipzig who made the biggest impression as they held on to top spot with a 1-1 draw at home to Bayern Munich.

Utterly outclassed in the first half, a tactical change and a well-timed penalty saw Leipzig pick up a deserved draw to stay top of the table after four games.

The result saw Julian Nagelsmann's side hailed as genuine title contenders in the German press, though the coach himself warned the team not to get ahead of themselves.

"We are not the only team who want to attack Bayern," he said.

- Mkhitaryan off mark with Roma -

On-loan Arsenal midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan scored on his debut for Roma as the capital side got their first win this season, 4-2 over Sassuolo.

The Armenia international scored the third goal after Bryan Cristante's header and a volley from Edin Dzeko, with Justin Kluivert completing the scoring in a 21-minute first-half spell.

Mkhitaryan failed to meet expectations at both Arsenal and former club Manchester United and is hoping to revive his career at Roma, who are now eighth in Serie A.

"With (Jordan) Veretout and Mkhitaryan in the team, we're better at keeping the ball," said new Roma coach Paulo Fonseca.

- Ajax warm up in style -

Last season's Champions League semi-finalists Ajax begin their group-stage campaign against Lille on Tuesday and the Dutch title-holders warmed up in style with a 4-1 win over Heerenveen.

Nicolas Tagliafico scored twice while Dusan Tadic and Perr Schuurs also netted in Ajax's third straight 4-1 win in the Eredivisie. They are level on points with PSV Eindhoven at the top of the table.

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.) 

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