GAME OF THE WEEK: Manchester United vs. Liverpool in a cauldron of raw emotion.
Liverpool may have slipped from the ranks of the traditional "big four" in England, but there is still no bigger club rivalry in the country than Liverpool-Manchester United. They're still the two most successful teams historically, and there's been some bad blood brewing over the last few weeks, which have been particularly devastating for Liverpool.
If you don't follow soccer closely, you probably have never heard of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, when a crowd crush at an overpacked stadium took the lives of 96 Liverpool fans. For years after the disaster, local police laid blame for the incident on the fans involved, but a recently released report of an independent panel exonerated the victims. The disaster is a seminal moment in Liverpool's history, and emotions were running high with such deep wounds reopened.
Groups of Manchester United fans have done their part to stoke the fire between the two sides by disrespecting victims of the tragedy at every turn. During a home game in Manchester last week, fans chanted "Always the victims, never your fault," in reference to Liverpool supporters, causing a disturbed Sir Alex Ferguson, manager of Manchester United, to send an email this week telling United fans to behave themselves.
Here's how the game went, in 3 GIFS and a video:
39th minute: Jonjo Shelvey (yes, that is his real name) gets a straight red card.
46th minute: Steven Gerrard makes it 1-0 Liverpool.
51st minute: Rafael equalizes.
Immediately after going down 1-0, United finally woke up and began to play. Shinji Kagawa's feed to Rafael was perfect, and the Brazilian scored the best goal of his career — from a near-impossible angle. Goal of the week candidate.
81st minute: Robin van Persie scores a penalty, Man United wins 2-1.
The aftermath: Liverpool now has zero wins, two draws and three losses in its first five Premier League games. That's the worst start for the club since the year before the Titanic sailed. Manchester United has now won four straight after a loss in the opener to Everton, and is just one point shy of Chelsea at the top of the standings. And United fans mocked the Hillsborough victims again, remaining behind after the match to chant "murderers!"
GOAL OF THE WEEK: Xavi vs. Granada.
Commentator Ray Hudson said that Xavi "caressed" it into the post. That's about right. Xavi's goal with three minutes left to play and an own-goal two minutes into stoppage saved Barcelona's perfect start to its La Liga campaign.
HONORABLE MENTION: Bayern Munich's Thomas Müller makes Schalke defenders look very, very foolish.
HOOLIGANS OF THE WEEK: The floodlight saboteurs that postponed the Real Madrid-Rayo Vallecano match.
WEIRD REVELATION OF THE WEEK: Patrice Evra drinks through his eye.
LANCE ARMSTRONG OF THE WEEK: John Terry, who retired from international competition.
HONORABLE MENTION: A.C. Milan lost its third game out of four in the Serie A in a 2-1 away defeat to Udinese. If you look through Italian headlines (go ahead, try La Repubblica), there's a 70% chance you see the words "Milan" and "crisi" (meaning: crisis) in the same sentence.