While much of the footballing world’s focus has been Falcao in recent months, Zlatan Ibrahimovic showed exactly why PSG forked out so much for him, with a marvellous display. His fourth goal was a sight to behold, an overhead kick from over 30 yards out. It has to go down as one of the best goals of the 21st century, it was just that sublime. While his third and fourth clearly showed his clinical instincts, with a cleanly hit volley for the Sweden equaliser and a well drilled freekick for the hatrick.

England weren’t abysmal, integrating new players into the squad was the main aim for Roy Hodgson. Raheem Sterling, still only 17 showed the sky holds no limits with his eagerness to impress the manager. Leon Osman, who has took longer than he’s deserved to earn an England cap, showed the sort of performance he puts out for Everton week in week out. Jack Wilshere also made a return to the scene, something that will be a delight to most. The highly rated midfielder’s cameo was perhaps overshadowed by Zlatan’s brilliance, but he did put in a good shift for the most part.

Part had to feel sorry for Ryan Shawcross, the international scene seems to be a step far for him. Outclassed by one of the greatest strikers in the world for the Sweden equaliser. And for the fourth Ibrahimovic made him look foolish as the strike from the overhead kick, looped over him.

It was always going to Ibra’s day, not many times will I say things were ‘written in the stars’. But, to score four goals at the opening game of the Friends Arena, Sweden’s new Stadium, seemed fitting.

Liverpool is never an easy job for any manager to take up, but it provides an exciting prospect in managing a ‘big’ club. It is no different this season, Rodgers has, without little argument has took up one of the more difficult managerial positions in European football with the current state of Liverpool. He’s perhaps struggled since he’s come in, only one home win against Reading makes Anfield not the fortress it once was. But then again, for the past two seasons it hasn’t been as intimidating as it was in the 70s, 80s and 90s and to some extent the 00s. Despite this, he’s still done a good job. He should be give plaudits for bringing in youth players and persistently playing them, Raheem Sterling still only 17 has shown enough to display that he’s ready. Spanish trickster, Suso impressive in the Under 19 championship had warranted a place in the Liverpool squad. Rodgers has brought him in and he’s performed, with his confidence to move the ball about and cause problems for the opposition. Another player that is learning lessons since beginning to break into the Liverpool squad is Andre Wisdom. The young defender has learnt some valuable lessons recently especially against Everton and Anzhi in which he encountered some difficult situations. Of course, he’s shown ability, seeming like the type of player that can take over from Carragher, who does seem on his last legs this season.

The recent performance at Anzhi did impress me, despite Liverpool suffering a 1-0 defeat. For a young squad in a game that might have been surreal for some experienced heads, the youngsters played it well. Anzhi never really controlled the game at any point and they only scored due to some brilliance from Traore. One player that did stand out, was Jonjo Shelvey. The way he seemed to control the game made him look like veteran midfielder. Jordan Henderson has also come good this season after appearing to be lacking last season, he looks like he’s fits in well with Rodgers’ ethos.

Massive steps need to be made in the January transfer market for Liverpool. A new striker shall be top of the bill, so reliance on Luis Suarez can be brought down. Klaas Jan Huntelaar, Pierre Emerick Aubameyang and even the out of favour, Mario Gomez seem like realistic targets.

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With three months of the season gone I thought I’d pick my team of the season so far.

Jussi Jaaskelainen

This signing puzzled me in the summer, but the veteran shotstopper has made a great start to his West Ham career. He needed a change from Bolton after seemingly looking the shadow of his former self in his final years at the club. Evidently his partnership with Allardyce is key for his great performances.

Rafael

While his brother Fabio went off to QPR, Rafael has excelled in the right back position at United. Possibly lacking in his defensive play, he makes up for it in his attacking presence. Scoring against Liverpool in a vital 2-1 at Anfield.

Gary Cahill

With John Terry steeped in controversy then quitting England, Cahill has emerged as his immediate replacement. The former Bolton centre back has surprised me to how quickly he’s settled in, looking the part with defensive play as well as being versatile in his attacking, opening him up for a possible candidate to revive the sweeper role.

Mark Hudson

The first of my Championship players, Mark Hudson has made an excellent start to the season. As well as scoring the first goal of the Championship season, he’s also put in some reliable performances in the Cardiff backline.

George Friend

Forget Joe Bennett, Boro fans can long forget him. George Friend has proved to be a revelation since joining from Doncaster, a constant threat on the flank he burst into the box like a striker who’s looking for a goal or two. Aside from his attacking abilities, he’s also capable at centre back. Keeping at bay, Premier League side, Sunderland in Middlesbrough’s 2-1 win.

Wilfred Zaha

A constant threat on the wing, Wilfred Zaha is the gem of a fine looking Crystal Palace side. Fears he could be prized away have been shunned by Crystal Palace,who claim they financially stable to keep hold of him.

Meourane Fellaini

The big Belgian is having the best season since his arrival on Liverpool, with his large stature and excellent ability of holding up the ball. His goals at Fulham proved he’s more than the appeared battering ram that is displayed, with the second showing great technique.

Peter Whittingham

Again Peter Whittingham is a constant threat for Cardiff, providing goals and assists galore for a free scoring Cardiff side. It’s surprising that he’s never tempted away from the Welsh capital

Steven Pienaar.

Pienaar really suits Everton, failing at Tottenham a loan move to Toffees last season proved to be a great deal for Everton that saw him capture his old form. His link up play with Baines has been well noted by pundits across the land, as it should his missing presence from the Merseyside derby was very clear to see as Everton did lack at times on the left hand side.

Jake Cassidy

From what I’ve seen, Jake Cassidy looks a complete forward who clearly knows where the goal is. On loan from Wolves to Tranmere, Wolves most certainly should not part with him as he appears to have the ability to one day go for 5m plus.

Rene Howe

The Torquay man is a real technical player, constantly providing a goal threat for the Gulls his big stature makes him well worth a tip for the League 2 golden boot.

Bolton head the Riverside for the first time under the guidance of Dougie Freedman as they search for their third straight consecutive win on Teesside. With no injury concerns and after an unbeaten week he’ll be buoyed by the fact they seem to be warming to the division. However, it’ll be no easy task on Teesside, Boro have secured three wins on the bounce after triumphs over Watford, Brighton and Hull. Tony Mowbray could be boosted by the return of Zemmama and Justin Hoyte after both recovering from hamstring injuries. It’ll be interesting to see who Mowbray starts up front. Will he go for Emnes and MIller, both encouraged by their goals week? Or will he return Scott Mcdonald to the starting lineup? Whoever he starts, its going to be a feisty encounter at the Riverside.

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Europa League-English teams.

It’s been a testing week for English football in Europe this week, with only three winners from the seven teams competing in European competition. In Slovenia, Spurs earned what could be a vital point at Maribor, coming from behind to draw 1-1. The Slovenian outfit took the lead in the first half through some poor Tottenham defending as Beric was allowed to scramble the ball home. Tottenham’s equaliser wasn’t particularly glamorous, Sigurdsson poking it into the net after Defoe had his shot charged down. Although a 1-1 scoreline wasn’t ideal, it does keep Tottenham in the hunt, defeat surely would have spelled pressure for AVB’s men. It sets up an interesting final run of fixtures, which should see them qualify with two winnable home games against Maribor and Panathinaikos, top spot may be out of reach, but it still could be possible with a win in Rome.

Brendan Rodgers fielded a strong side as Liverpool ran out 1-0 winners over Russian leader, Anzhi. A solitary goal from Stewart Downing was all that was needed, as he came on to his weaker right foot to fire an explosive effort into the net, it was a mark of his former Middlesbrough days when he was renown for his sweet strike. The win puts Liverpool into command at the top of the group and makes the next game at Anzhi very interesting, as the Russian outfit did pose some threat that could make it difficult for Liverpool. Liverpool could struggle to qualify despite being top, two away games at Anzhi and Udinese could end badly for the Merseysiders, with the latter already getting the upper hand at Anfield.

Newcastle look like they’ll cruise through Group D, a single goal from Obertan just after half time was all that was needed. The win makes it seven points from the first nine in the Group, an ideal start for any side in European competition. Although it does seem very positive for Newcastle now, tides could change with away defeats in Bordeaux and Brugge, still a win against Martimo would practically seal their knockout stage pass.

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The crowd observed a minute silence for the late, Kevin Law, former South Shields treasurer ahead of a game that could have been billed as an early ‘six pointer’ between Billingham Town and South Shields.

When the action got underway, South Shields were the more dangerous of the two, with Chris Feasey and Shaun Sweeney at the heart of the action. Sweeney took the first meaningful effort on goal after controlling a Paul Talbot freekick in the area. Chris Feasey was causing problems for the Billingham defence in the opening exchanges and he caused Craig Perry to receive the first yellow card of the game after tempting him into a risky challenge. Billingham did have answers to South Shields’ pressure, Nicky Martyn was equally causing problems, first linking up with Craig Norman before he had his strike closed down and then firing wide after cutting wide from the left. Stephen Alison then had the next chance on goal, as he swivelled and struck over, failing to find the technique on his half volley. Billingham were then forced into their first change of the game as Craig Norman stayed down following a challenge on the edge of the area, from the following freekick Michael Dunwell hammered it into the wall before having his second attempt deflected over the bar. As the half wore on neither side could find a breakthrough as a real midfield battle occurred with the crowd on the players backs for every misplaced pass they conjured up. The South Shields bench was left frustrated as they wasted two decent opportunities, first Shaun Sweeney fired over after being played in and Wightman decided to go for goal despite having plenty of options. On 37th minutes the deadlock was finally broken as substitute Danny O’Brian kept his composure following a fantastic double save from Tom Courtney in the South Shields goal. Billingham nearly doubled their lead minutes later as Michael Dunwell was found in the box from long ball, however he failed to find his feet as South Shields cleared. South Shields were getting frustrated as they lacked cutting edge in the middle, this was shown when Chris Feasey made his thoughts heard on the touchline before receiving a few words from the gaffer. Subsequently, half time couldn’t have come sooner for South Shields as Glen Butterworth tried his luck from at least thirty yards out, striking just over after cutting inside. Despite Billingham’s domination, there was still time for South Shields to get a final effort on goal, as Shaun Sweeney burst into the box, forcing the save from Danny Molyneux with his effort.

HT- Billingham Town 1-0 South Shields

South Shields made their intentions bold at beginning of second half as they made a double substitution, bringing on Glen Ford and Peter Kane for Gilberto Chapim and Chris Feasey. And they upped the pressure on the Billingham goal, as Wightman drew a save from Molyneux and Shaun Sweeney had his head in his hands after heading over from point blank from a corner. South Shields’ pressure was eventually rewarded as substitute, Peter Kane played a telling ball to Shaun Sweeney who finished emphatically for 1-1. However their efforts were nearly made futile as Nicky Martyn came close after twisting and turning in the area. Nicky Martyn did eventually get his goal on 68 minutes as he reacted to a low cross from the right, tucking the ball low into the corner past the despairing dive of Tom Courtney. Times called for desperate measures for South Shields as they looked to exploit a Billingham backline that has looked shaky all season, bringing on the tall stature of Anthony Burnell for Stephen Alison. South Shields began to play some desperate football as they pumped ball after ball into the Billingham penalty area without reward as Billingham managed to ride their luck. It wasn’t till stoppage time South Shields had an excellent opportunity, Glen Ford was denied by Molyneux after being found free in the area and Anthony Burnell had the last chance at the death, striking the post following a goal mouth scramble, much to the relief of the Billingham crowd.