Valdez is Hercules' hero

Michael Ballack, returning from injury, fractured his left knee-cap and limped off the field during Leverkusen's match against Hannover. The 33-year-old German captain has been ruled out for at least six weeks. This means he will miss Germany's Euro 2012 Qualifiers against Turkey and Kazakhstan next month.-AP

Barcelona's 2-0 defeat at home was a real shocker. The likes of Lionel Messi, David Villa and Andres Iniesta looked out of sorts against the newly-promoted Hercules.

Scintillating action and surprise finishes marked the weekend (September 11-12) in the European leagues. While Chievo, with a 3-1 away win against Genoa, lodged itself on top of the Serie A table, Hoffenheim kept up the good work by posting its third straight victory in the Bundesliga.

In Ligue 1, Toulouse, after a sensational start to the season, hit a roadblock, losing 1-0 to Saint Etienne. The team, however, managed to stay on top.

In La Liga, Pep Guardiola's Barcelona suffered a humiliating 2-0 defeat at home to the newly-promoted Hercules.


European and Italian champion Inter Milan recorded its first win under new manager Rafa Benitez, defeating Udinese 2-1 with strikes from Brazilian defender Lucio and Cameroonian Samuel Eto'o. The Milan side went ahead in the sixth minute following a mistake from the Udinese goalkeeper, Samir Handanovic, who fumbled a Wesley Sneijder corner. Lucio duly bundled the ball home. But just past the half-hour mark Antonio Floro Flores out-jumped the Inter defence and headed home from the edge of the six-yard box to restore parity for Udinese.

A listless Inter, however, got a breather when Udinese defender Gabriele Angella blatantly handled Sneijder's cross inside the box in the 66th minute. Although Eto'o saw his initial shot parried away by Handanovic, he coolly tucked home the rebound to secure full points for Inter.

Inter's city rival AC Milan was a little less fortunate, as goals from Erjon Bogdani (31st minute) and Emanuele Giaccherni (44th minute) gave the promoted Cesena its first win of the season.

Another Italian powerhouse, Roma, too, suffered a shock 5-1 defeat against Cagliari.

A 3-1 away win against Genoa saw Chievo surprisingly take the top spot with six points. Incidentally, Chievo is the only side with a 100 per cent success in the league so far. Mattia Destro scored on his Serie A debut for Genoa, but Davide Moscardelli levelled the score at the stroke of half-time before further strikes from Michele Marcolini and Sergio Pellissier secured Chievo a comfortable victory.


Hoffenheim continued its good start to the season, winning its third straight game, 2-0 against Schalke at home. The 22-year-old Ghanaian defender Isaac Vorsah's first-half header gave the host an early lead before a howler from German international Manuel Neuer in the final minutes added to Schalke's misery. Well into the extra time, Neuer was left stranded as the ball ricocheted off his chest into the net after Hoffenheim midfielder Sejad Salihovic had clattered the Schalke goalpost with a rasping free-kick.

Mainz, however, continued to pile on the pressure on the table-topper (Hoffenheim) with its third win of the season, a 2-1 effort over local rival Kaiserslautern. Mainz and Hoffenheim are now separated at the top by a goal-difference of just two.

Elsewhere defending champion Bayern Munich was held to a dull goalless draw by Bremen, while Bayer Leverkusen failed to take advantage of a 10-man Hanover, drawing 2-2.

Leverkusen suffered a further blow when its playmaker Michael Ballack, returning from injury, fractured his left knee-cap and limped off the field. The 33-year-old German captain had to leave the field after just 30 minutes following a heavy tackle and has been ruled out for at least six weeks. This means Ballack will miss Germany's Euro 2012 qualifiers against Turkey and Kazakhstan next month.


After a sensational start to the season, Toulouse came to grief against Saint Etienne, losing 1-0. The club, however, continued to top the table with 12 points from five matches.

Rennes capitalised on Toulouse's misfortune with a win over Sochaux to close in a point behind the leader. Kader Mangane's injury-time winner saw Rennes brush past a stubborn Sochaux after Damien Perquis (35th minute) had cancelled out Kevin Theophile-Catherine's fifth minute strike.

Earlier, Toulouse came crashing down to earth when Laurent Batlles scored the only goal of the game in the 34th minute. The goal not only pushed Etienne up the table, to the third spot with 10 points, but also ended Toulouse's four-match winning streak.

Olympique Lyon's disappointing start to the season continued as it was forced to settle for a 1-1 draw with lowly Valenciennes at the Stade de Gerland. It failed to hold on to Jeremy Pied's 27th minute strike as a sloppy defence saw Gaetan Bong score the equaliser in the 69th minute.

Elsewhere Lille won 4-1 away against northern rival Lens as the host played the final 33 minutes of an eventful contest with nine men, while PSG brushed aside the top-flight new boys, Arles, 4-0 in the capital.


Pep Guardiola's Barcelona suffered a humiliating 2-0 home defeat to newly-promoted Hercules at Camp Nou. The likes of Lionel Messi, David Villa and Andres Iniesta looked out of sorts as Nelson Valdez scored with a left-footed shot from the centre of the box in the 27th minute for Hercules. A double substitution by the Barca coach at the start of the second half, when he brought in Xavi and Pedro in place of Javier Mascherano and Bojan, failed to have the necessary impact and Valdez struck again, this time unleashing a strong right-footer that crashed into the top left corner of the net. The new signing and former Juventus and France forward David Trezeguet should have made it three for Hercules with a minute to go, but Victor Valdes denied him with an acrobatic save.

For league leader Atletico Madrid, World Cup hero Diego Forlan struck as early as the 11th minute against Athletic Bilbao.

Atletico then doubled its advantage 10 minutes from time when Tiago Motta headed home after a swift counter-attack. Although Fernando Llorente set up a possible grandstand finish by tapping home late from close range, it proved nothing more than a mere consolation.

Real Madrid, under Jose Mourinho, secured its first win of the season, defeating Osasuna comfortably with a 48th minute strike from Portuguese international Ricardo Carvalho.

Compiled by Ayon Sengupta