Two days of sporting action, full of birthday celebrations, a fine set of muscles and the marvellous impetuosity of youth – what’s not to like? Here are 11 sporty sights that caught our eye this weekend…
1. City get a Rash
Marcus Rashford’s Roy Of The Rovers-style start to his Manchester United career carried on at the home of his side’s noisy neighbours, Manchester City. Rashford displayed stunning maturity to turn veteran City defender Martín Demichelis (a player nearly twice Rashford’s age) inside out before calmly slotting past dandruff-free City ’keeper Joe Hart. In doing so, the 18-year-old became the youngest player to score in a Manchester derby.
2. Bellerín’s birthday brilliance
Most chaps celebrate their 21st birthday by indulging in one too many lemonade sherbets. Not Arsenal’s Héctor Bellerín. The Spanish right back marked his coming of age by putting in another towering performance at Everton; providing an assist for Alex Iwobi’s debut goal and helping Arsenal keep another clean sheet – their 13th of the campaign. Barcelona – his old club – must be watching.
3. Cesc finally shows up
Let’s talk about Cesc, baby. The Spaniard appears to have rediscovered his mojo. Before Christmas, he had managed zero goals and just two assists. Since the turn of the year, normal service has resumed. Against West Ham, an all-action display (he had more passes, shots and touches than anyone else on the field) was rounded off with his third and fourth goals of the season.
4. Asthma attack, what asthma attack?
Sportsmen and women are used to dealing in the sort of extraordinary feats unknown to us mere mortals. But coming down with an asthma attack before going on to bag a 7th world title is beyond most people’s comprehension. It’s all in a day’s cycling for 11-time Paralympic champion Dame Sarah Storey though. Storey suffered the attack in qualifying for the C5 3km individual pursuit final – a final she went onto win, maintaining her unbeaten record in the event. Not too shabby.
5. Mahrez the difference yet again
The universe is running out of superlatives to describe Riyad Mahrez’s performances for Leicester City. Yet again, his goal at Crystal Palace was the difference as Leicester’s title charge stayed on track. Mahrez’s winner was the seventh time this campaign that one of his goals has proved decisive. No wonder the Leicester fans chanted "We’re going to win the league" for a full 15 minutes after the final whistle.
6. Billy’s boots roar England home
Confirmation of England’s first Grand Slam since 2003 was doubly sweet because it was achieved on French soil. Even better was the performance of England’s ball-carrying No.8 Billy Vunipola. The human wrecking ball carried for 70 metres and beat four defenders on his way to another Man of the Match award (his third of this Six Nations). If this English rebirth is to be sustained then coach Eddie Jones needs to build his team around the Saracens star.
7. Jarvis flies again
Wingers who don’t provide assists are as much use as a chocolate fireguard. And so it has been for England one-cap wonder (a substitute appearance against Ghana back in 2011 – in case you were wondering) Matt Jarvis recently. Before this weekend, the Norwich City winger last laid on an assist in January 2014. Granted his "pass" for Robbie Brady to slot home at the Hawthorns was more of a shot, but when you’re looking to get a monkey off your back…
8. Walters walks tall
Stoke City’s transformation into a mini Barcelona – complete with the tiki-taka exploits of Bojan Krkić, Xherdan Shaqiri and Marko Arnautović – has been one of the revelations of the season. It has, however, marginalised the more in-your-face style of Jonathan Walters. Yet with both Krkić and Shaqiri absent at Watford, the big Irishman made the most of his recall, finishing off a flowing 13-pass move to net the opener, then laying on the assist for Joselu’s winner.
9. Rosberg’s tyre gamble pays off
Going into the opening race of the new Formula One season, Nico Rosberg could have been forgiven for getting that familiar second-place feeling. His Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton was in pole position. Like the last two World Championships, the German was, you guessed it: second. But a poor Hamilton start meant Rosberg was duelling with Sebastian Vettel for race supremacy. Ferrari’s decision to keep Vettel on super-soft tyres backfired, as Rosberg, now on medium tyres, didn’t need to stop again. He went on to take the chequered flag and make the perfect start to the season.
10. Sadio’s second-half show
Spring officially arrived over the weekend, so it was fitting that Southampton’s lesser-spotted Sadio Mané should emerge from his winter hibernation. Before the clocks went back last October, the Senegalese playmaker was one of the Premier League’s star performers. And then… nothing. So, with his side 2-0 down at home to Liverpool at half-time, Sadio sprung into action. Coming on for the second-half, Mané managed to miss a penalty, grab a goal back and then net an improbable last-gasp winner.
11. Mitrović’s muscles
The archetypal image of a Newcastle United fan with their top off is mesmerising for all the wrong reasons. So it was a pleasant surprise to see the iconic black and white strip being peeled off to reveal a stunning six-pack on Sunday. That image came courtesy of United’s Serbian forward Aleksandar Mitrović, who earned his side a priceless point in the Tyne-Wear derby. More of that and the Toon will retain Premier League status. Then it’ll be tops off all-round…
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