A slight quirk of fate in this week’s Loan Report saw two Chelsea youngsters appear in a league match for the first time in their native countries.
Patrick van Aanholt’s maiden Eredivisie experience was all the sweeter as it came away to PSV Eindhoven, the club at which he spent his formative years before moving to England. Gael Kakuta, meanwhile, made his Ligue Une bow away to Lyon as a second half substitute after a goalscoring debut in the Cup last weekend.
Van Aanholt started as a substitute for Vitesse’s trip to Eindhoven on Friday night but came on with a little more than fifteen minutes remaining on the clock, replacing Jan-Arie van der Heijden. His team were 1-0 down at the time and he came on to offer attacking impetus, but Vitesse soon went 2-1 down before losing by a final margin of 3-1.
He was his usual attacking self and whilst he was partly at fault for one of PSV’s goals, it was as part of a unit caught short on the break, and fellow Blues loanee Tomas Kalas was also involved in the goal conceded. Kalas, as ever, played from the start and the full 90 minutes, displaying his usual brand of decisive play mixed in with remarkable pace to make up for any mistakes.
Van Aanholt is likely to start in the KNVB Cup match this Tuesday due to injury and suspension, and should be able to force his way into a regular starting place within the next few games.
Over in France, Kakuta saw more ample time to make an impact for Dijon away to perennial title contenders Lyon, replacing Benjamin Corgnet shortly before the hour. His team too were 1-0 down when he entered the fray and they also fell to a 3-1 final score, with the attacking midfielder struggling to make an impact.
Remaining in continental Europe but heading to Germany, Jeffrey Bruma and Hamburg returned to winning ways with a 2-1 win away to Hertha Berlin on Saturday.
A very much first choice at centre-back these days, Bruma was quietly efficient as HSV played well, securing three points to shoot them up to eleventh in the Bundesliga standings whilst consigning their defeated foes to 15th, just a place outside of the relegation zone.
In the same match, former Chelsea youngster Jacopo Sala made his full senior debut, making a perfect five-for-five on players Frank Arnesen took with him last summer. Gokhan Tore, Slobodan Rajkovic, and Michael Mancienne have each started league matches in Germany since their move, alongside Bruma and now Sala.
Thibaut Courtois’s 2012 has been proficient in Spain, where he kept a fourth consecutive clean sheet and remains perfect since returning from the winter break in a 1-0 win over Osasuna.
Osasuna offered more than many of Atléti’s recent opponents but Courtois was on hand to keep them out and affirm his status as perhaps the finest young goalkeeper in La Liga.
Ben Gordon, meanwhile, continues to experience the good times at Kilmarmock and is now set to play in a first career cup final after helping the Ayrshire side past local rivals Ayr United in the Semi Finals of the Scottish Communities League Cup on Saturday.
As he was in his first spell north of the border, Gordon has become an immediate regular in the blue and white stripes and is very much amongst the fans favourites at Rugby Park. Killie now face Celtic in the Final next month.
Back on domestic shores in England, the FA Cup afforded Josh McEachran a chance for a first start in Swansea colours, and he duly completed his first ninety minutes in some months in an eventual 2-1 defeat away to Bolton.
The Swans played an almost entirely backup team and it certainly showed in their below-par performance. McEachran had a quiet first half but came into his own in the second, but the team lacked a killer instinct in front of goal which may have been more evident with their usual, potent attacking options.
In League One, Sam Walker’s home debut for Yeovil came with a win as the Glovers defeated Preston North End 2-1 at Huish Park. Walker had almost nothing to do as Preston were reduced to ten men after just three minutes and scored with their only shot on target.
Two second-half own goals were Rhys Taylor’s undoing for Rotherham as the Millers were upset 3-2 away to Dagenham & Redbridge in League Two action on the same day. The Welshman appears to have played well enough but, as has been the case for much of his professional career, was let down by some terrible defending (as is self evident in two own goals).
Finally, whilst Matej Delac remains on a winter break with Ceske Budejovice, the Czech club have been playing their fair share of friendlies to remain match fit. They’ve afforded the Croatian custodian a chance to get some much-needed playing time and he’s duly impressed.
A week after keeping a first-half clean sheet (before being replaced and watching his teammates lose 4-2) he played a full 90 minutes in a 3-0 defeat to Dynamo Drážďany before sitting out a 4-1 loss to Erzgebirge Aue. At the very least, he’s showing that he should be in consideration for some league starts instead of sitting on the bench.