The marvellous move that led to a Manchester United goal, the phenomenal prolificacy of Real Madridand Sporting Kansas City hitting the ground running feature in FIFA.com’s latest stats review, along with Shane Smeltz making history and relief for Liedson.
100 league goals for the season was what Real Madrid reached in just their 30th outing on Saturday, breaking the previous La Liga record of 34 games set by Barcelona in 2008/09. The century barrier had been broken only twice in Spanish top-flight history up until three years ago – 38-goal Hugo Sanchez had helped Real manage 107 in 1989/90, while a 34-goal haul from Ronaldo had propelledBarça to finish on 102 in 1996/97 – yet, incredibly, it has now been surpassed in each of the past four seasons. Gonzalo Higuain, with his second of the game, scored the landmark goal and sealed a 5-1 victory, but the principal star of the show was Cristiano Ronaldo. The 27-year-old was on target for the first time at the Reyno de Navarra with a stupendous 40-yard strike, before ending a run of 39 free-kicks without scoring to move on to 37 goals for the league campaign, one clear of Lionel Messi in the Pichichi standings. Ronaldo also set two goals up against Osasuna, meaning he has assisted or scored 47 of Real’s century this term. The Portuguese attacker and Real Madrid now require just five and eight goals respectively to break their own records for individual and team goals in a La Liga season.
37 passes was the incredible total Manchester United strung together in the move leading to Ashley Young’s goal in the 2-0 win over Blackburn Rovers two days ago, equalling the 21st-century record Egypt recorded in the run-up to Mohamed Abdel-Shafy’s effort against Algeria in the CAF Africa Cup of Nations 2010 semi-finals. Ball retention was something Sir Alex Ferguson’s side did impeccably at Ewood Park, with their 91 per cent pass completion rate ranking as the best of any away side in the Premier League this season. The clean sheet was the Red Devils’ fourth in succession, and means they haven’t conceded a goal on a Monday for 736 minutes, while the victory took them on to an exceptional 31 points from a possible 33 since the return from retirement of Paul Scholes. That sequence has propelled Sir Alex Ferguson’s side, who trailed Manchester City by five points in early December, five points clear of their local rivals at the summit with seven rounds remaining.
13 matches without scoring – all of which he started – was the drought Corinthians striker Liedsonbrought to an end with a brace on Sunday. The Brazil-born former Portugal international’s last goal had been the only one in a victory at Figueirense in the penultimate round of the Campeonato Brasileiro 2011 in November – a result that kept O Timão two points clear of Vasco da Gama and proved crucial to them winning the title. Thereafter, Liedson, 34, drew blanks in nine Campeonato Paulista and four Copa Libertadores games, before he finally repaid coach Tite for keeping faith in him by scoring twice in a 3-0 win at Oeste in Round 17 of 19 in the state championship’s regular season. The outcome kept Corinthians level on points with leaders Sao Paulo, who beat Ituano 4-2 for their seventh successive win, in the race to qualify for quarter-finals in first place.
12 points from four matches has given Sporting Kansas City the best start to a season in their 17-year history, and left them as the only team with a 100 per cent record four rounds into the Major League Soccer 2012. C.J. Sapong, who took just two minutes to score on his professional debut against Chivas USA one year ago, netted the only goal against the same opponents on Sunday. It was the reigning MLS Rookie of the Year’s third goal of the campaign, but he’s not the only player to whom Sporting’s form is indebted. Indeed midfielder Graham Zusi has a division-high five assists, while goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen and his defence have conceded just once this term and kept seven clean sheets in their last nine matches.
7 goals in 2 matches have established Shane Smeltz as the leading marksman in A-League history, and inspired Perth Glory to their first-ever win in the play-offs. Ironically, the New Zealand striker broke Archie Thompson’s 60-goal record when the two squared off in the last round of the regular season, with the Melbourne Victory No10 drawing a blank and Smeltz scoring all his side’s goals in a 4-2 success that secured them home advantage in their elimination final against Melbourne Heart. That clash was goalless until the 65th minute, but a Smeltz treble thereafter – it was only the second hat-trick in A-League play-off history after Thompson hit five in the Victory’s 6-0 rout of Adelaide United in the 2007 Grand Final – earned the Glory a 3-0 win and left their No9 on 65 goals from 98 appearances in the competition. Perth will now host Wellington Phoenix, whom Smeltz starred for between 2007 and 2009, in the minor semi-final.