Offshore drilling, Spain: Barcelona 2, at Levante 1

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Man of the Match: Messi. Next.

Packaged for takeaway:

  • Barcelona continues to dare people to come at them. After three years of teams playing deeper and deeper on them, head coach Pep Guardiola started playing with only three defenders earlier this year. Now, he’s gone to four forwards, a 3-3-4 a formation he used again today.
  • Whether the formation was particularly effective (or, at least more effective than how Barcelona might otherwise play) is hard to say. Levante were playing very deep and very narrow, at one moment having eight players within two steps of the arc. In that regard, it looked like a typical Barcelona game – a bunch of guys trying to break down a bunch of other guys, all hanging around this big box.
  • Levante shouldn’t have had their opener. Sergio Busquets’ arms were drawn into his chest when a Vincente Iborra header hit them, yet Juan Igancio pointed to the spot, booking Busquets. It was less a penalty than activism, implying that every time a ball hits a hand, there should bea  whistle. Some people have always felt that way, but they don’t usually get to officiate top-flight matches.
  • As the teams left the field at halftime, Levante having held their 1-0 lead, you could barely detect Barcelona was trailing. The players were neither happy nor upset as they went down the tunnel. It was just business as usual. If the pressure of a high-intensity, must get all points title race is affecting them, you can’t tell.
  • Barcelona’s first was a typical Messi strike, including how the goal was made. Even before playing the ball to Adriano at the edge of the box, Messi knew where he was going. By the time the ball was at his teammate’s feet, Messi was in space, ready to put home number 62.
  • It’s remarkable you don’t see more teams asking their players to do that. If you want to play more like Barcelona, start with how running more. Messi, Iniesta, Fabregas, Alexis – these players don’t wait to see if their passes are successful. Before they play the ball, they know where they’re moving next. Once they’ve released possession, it’s their job to get to the new spot as soon as possible. It’s not a complicated concept, but for as many teams that claim to want to play like Barça, how many have implemented this basic concept?
  • Last note on Messi’s first goal: For a team that was playing with only three defenders, Adriano (their left defender) was awfully deep into attack.
  • People are going to complain about the final goal, thinking Barcelona was awarded another gift penalty kick. It’s just a shame this particular call doesn’t fit that mold. Pedro Botelho had both his hands on Isaac Cuenca, and while you could argue the contact was incidental were Cuenca running to Botelho, the Levante man was coming in from the side (at best). He was beaten. It’s a clear penalty, and while you hate to see spot kicks decide matches, it seemed like the right call.
  • In case you missed it, here are the match highlights.
  • Barcelona is back within four of Real Madrid at the top of La Liga ahead of next weekend’s Clásico. It’s a must-win match for the defending champions, though they can’t start their preparations yet. Mid-week, Barcelona faces Chelsea in Champions League.

AT HALF: Gabbiadini puts Saints up; Foxes lead (video)

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Five Premier League matches are sandwiched between Manchester United’s early demolition of Swansea City and a 12:30 p.m. ET kickoff between Stoke and Arsenal on NBC.

[ STREAM: 10 a.m. ET matches ]

Southampton 2-1 West Ham United

Saints are up a man and a goal after Nathan Redmond found Manolo Gabbiadini for a classy early finish, and Marko Arnautovic was sent off for a needless elbow to the neck of Jack Stephens.

Dusan Tadic converted a penalty on his 100th Premier League appearance, getting his 15th goal following a Jose Fonte foul on Steven Davis. Call it a gift from the longtime Saints defender to his former club.

Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez netted his first West Ham goal when Fraser Forster pushed Michail Antonio‘s left-footed shot onto the path of the Mexican national team star.

Burnley 0-0 West Bromwich Albion

Ben Foster‘s nice save on Johann Berg Gudmundsson keeps it scoreless at the break.

Liverpool 0-0 Crystal Palace

It’s no surprise that the Reds look the better money for a win, but a finish hasn’t come yet.

Bournemouth 0-0 Watford

Not much cooking at the home of the Cherries.

Leicester City 1-0 Brighton and Hove Albion

It took less than a minute for Shinji Okazaki to put the 2015-16 Premier League champions ahead of the newly-promoted Gulls.

VIDEO: Christian Pulisic scores Dortmund’s first goal of the season

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The kid just can’t help himself, can he?

Christian Pulisc, still just 18 years old, scored Borussia Dortmund’s opening goal of their Bundesliga campaign at Wolfsburg.

[ MORE: Latest USMNT news ]

The U.S. national team star picked up the ball on the edge of the box and smashed home across goal, hitting the far post before the ball hit the back of the net.

Take a look at the video below to see the Pennsylvanian playmaker strutting his stuff for Dortmund.

Who needs Ousmane Dembele anyway?

Jose Mourinho: Man United “let the horses run freely”

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This season we will get used to seeing Jose Mourinho nodding his head in approval as it looks like he has a nasty smell under his nose.

[ VIDEO: United destroy Swansea

The Portuguese coach is feeling his Manchester United team, and rightly so, and images before the game show him pretending to smoke a cigar as he laughed and joked with Swansea boss Paul Clement.

Mourinho watched on as his side won 4-0 for the second-straight game to open the 2017-18 Premier League season, with a flurry of late goals in a three minute and 41 second spell doing the damage.

Speaking after the game Mourinho to BBC, the Red Devils boss is happy to let his side roam free after they dominated the game.

“During almost 90 minutes, I don’t say 90 because there was a moment when they had a chance and we lost a little bit the confidence,” Mourinho said. “They were waiting with class, calm and consistency for the moment to kill the game. Swansea played with five in the back and they had a moment when they felt they had to change and when they did we had more space and killed the game.

“I felt in control, if you had a chance to look at me and my body language I think you could see that. Football is football and when you make a mistake you can concede so I never felt totally relaxed. I had players on the bench who could help me. Happiness in our play. It happened to me so much with my teams, you winning 1-0 and you can can concede. There was no need to close the door, just let the horses run freely.”

One of those horses who galloped gallantly was Paul Pogba who dinked home a wonderful goal late on to make it 3-0 and he put in a dominant display with Romelu Lukaku (four goals in three official games for United) and Anthony Martial also scoring and Marcus Rashford once again impressing.

“We had a very good result. 4-0 again. We carry on this road. We want this and we have to carry on like this,” Pogba told Sky Sports. “We are more confident and we know each other more. First year you have the first year for the manager, you have to train the team, it is not easy but we still won trophies. This season we are more confident and we know the team very well. Everyone knows each other and we work for each other and that is easier for us.”

Henrik Mkhitaryan, who was named the man of the match with two assists late on, believes United are now getting some more luck after they drew plenty of games they should have won last season.

“The team spirit, that’s what we need. Of course we had it last year but now we have a little bit of luck where we are scoring the chances we are creating. We started very well and most important we keep doing the same,” Mkhitaryan added.

VIDEO: Man United score three in less than four minutes

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It took 3 minutes and 41 seconds for Manchester United to totally destroy Swansea City.

Leading 1-0 at Swansea as they entered the final 10 minutes, Jose Mourinho’s side were always in control.

Then they exploded into life.

[ RECAP – United batter Swansea 4-0

Henrikh Mkhitaryan set up Romelu Lukaku (he has three goals in his first two Premier League games for United) and Paul Pogba in a few moments, watch their goals in the video above, then Anthony Martial finished things off with a fine goal.

Click play on the video below to see Martial score for the second-straight game off the bench.