It’s been another successful week for Chelsea’s young loan stars, and we’ll turn the headlines over to one who has today picked up his first winner’s medal in professional football.
Ben Gordon was part of the Kilmarnock side which pulled off an improbable upset in the Scottish League Cup Final, defeating Celtic 1-0 courtesy of Dieter van Tornhout’s 83rd minute winner to secure the trophy for the first time.
Gordon was involved in the winning goal, linking well with Lee Johnson down the left before Johnson crossed to find Van Tornhout at the far post. It marks Killie’s first silverware since lifting the Scottish Cup in 1997. Congratulations go to Ben and the entire Kilmarnock team.
Elswhere, Gael Kakuta was up his usual tricks in France and banged in his fifth goal in just nine appearances for Dijon to secure a 2-1 win over Marseille.
The Burgundy club has had quite the run of fixtures in recent weeks, facing title challengers Montpellier and PSG before travelling away to take on a Marseille side which has rebounded well domestically after a poor start whilst qualifying for the last eight of the Champions League.
Thriving on the big stage, Kakuta played well, looking to create and excite in equal measure, and had both the nerve and composure to step up and score a late penalty to take three huge points away from the Stade Velodrome.
There has been much talk about what the future holds for Kakuta after unsuccessful loan spells at Fulham and at Bolton, and there was certainly a sense that the move to Dijon would be something of a last-chance saloon for the young Frenchman, but he has emerged as one of Ligue Une’s outstanding players in his short stay so far. That in itself is a positive step forwards.
In Spain, Thibaut Courtois recorded his weekly clean sheet in Europa League action as Atlético Madrid comfortably saw themselves past Besiktas and into the last eight of the competition, but there was a rare reverse on Sunday as they went down 2-1 away to Mallorca.
Not for the first time this season, the Belgian was beaten by an own goal, whilst Mallorca’s second effort was a lovely strike by Michael Pereira. Atlético absolutely dominated the match and Courtois had little else to do, but equally can hardly be held accountable for the goals he did concede.
Off to the Netherlands next, where Vitesse Arnhem got the weekend off to a good start with a 2-0 victory over Heracles at the Gelredome. Tomas Kalas and Patrick van Aanholt both featured and lived up to recent billing, the young Czech being generally excellent in his defensive duties whilst Van Aanholt was slightly more inconsistent and was substituted after 63 minutes.
Kalas this week revealed that he would like to stay at Vitesse next season, when he is likely to once again be loaned out. There has been speculation that Hamburg are keen on his services but, given the choice, he would be comfortable remaining in the Eredivisie.
Ulises Dávila was not involved for Jong Vitesse against Jong Ajax in midweek as both sides used the occasion to feature some lesser-utilised first-team squad players, but he should return tomorrow against Jong De Graafschap.
On Sunday, Milan Lalkovic missed ADO’s defeat to Ajax but Kenneth Omeruo once again started at full-back, looking to build upon his excellent first two outings for the green and yellow.
Unfortunately, he wasn’t quite as impressive as before and was easily outmuscled in the build-up to Jan Vertonghen scoring the second and final goal of the game for the visitors. However, simply being involved and earning the manager’s confidence for such a big match so early in his ADO career can be looked upon favourably and the Nigerian seems set to be a regular feature until the end of the season.
Jeffrey Bruma returned to Hamburg’s starting eleven for the first time in over a month and was part of a back four which featured former Chelsea players Michael Mancienne and Slobodan Rajkovic as they hosted Freiburg at the Imtech Arena.
Thorsten Fink’s side continued a recent bad patch of form by losing 3-1 and faced a chorus of boos from home supporters, but despite the result Bruma appears to have come out of the game with some credit for his leadership in a young defensive unit.
In Belgium, Kevin de Bruyne’s Genk side continue to flounder and a 3-2 defeat to Westerlo casts further doubt on their chances of qualifying for the very complicated Belgian playoffs.
They were 3-0 down inside fifteen minutes and despite two second half goals, they suffered defeat and are sixth in the table, three points adrift of Cercle Brugge.
Back on home shores, the hectic Football League calendar meant another double-header of action for goalkeepers Sam Walker and Rhys Taylor this week, but results have been kind to the pair lately and half-continued that way this week.
Walker and Yeovil were a minute away from a midweek victory over Scunthorpe but drew 2-2, and took another three points towards safety by beating Walsall 2-1 at Huish Park on Saturday.
Against Scunthorpe and in ridiculously foggy conditions, Walker could have been a tad quicker off his line for the stoppage time equaliser and some Glovers fans feel he could have done better with Walsall’s goal in the weekend outing, but in general he has been a positive addition to the squad, even if some aspects of his game need work.
For Taylor and Rotherham, however, a pair of defeats to Torquay and Oxford leaves any outside hopes the Millers had of a playoff place much worse off with some ten games to go.