Romelu Lukaku continued his rampaging season at West Bromwich Albion this weekend with two more goals to take him to a total of twelve for what has been a highly successful loan spell.
The Belgian forward put Sunderland to the sword in the reverse fixture at the Stadium of Light as an impact substitute but did all the damage on Saturday from the start. He had a first half goal disallowed then the officials failed to play an advantage in WBA’s favour but didn’t have to wait long to get his name on the scoresheet as he converted a penalty awarded for handball against Craig Gardner.
Lukaku then carried on his one-man demolition of the Black Cats in the second half, drawing a good save from compatriot Simon Mignolet before doubling his tally with a lung-bursting run culminating in blocking the goalkeeper’s clearance and watching the ball career into the net.
He wasn’t the only Belgian loanee to make his mark this weekend either, as Kevin De Bruyne scored his sixth goal of the season away to Bayern Munich. Unfortunately for him and for Werder Bremen, it was scant consolation on the wrong side of a 6-1 hiding to the runaway Bundesliga leaders.
The other Chelsea player on loan in Germany, Jeffrey Bruma, was absent from Hamburg’s matchday squad as they too took a hiding, 5-1 against Hannover.
Back in England, Josh McEachran saw a fourth consecutive start for Middlesbrough and a second consecutive ninety minutes (after playing in a goalless draw at Burnley on Tuesday) as he lined up for the reds against Millwall live on Sky Sports. He played as the deepest man in a narrow diamond midfield, chiefly responsible for distribution of the ball and setting the team’s tempo.
Boro lost 2-1 to continue their woeful 2013 form but McEachran was impressive in spells and certainly showed what he can do at times. He didn’t have a major impact on the match but passed well, did his defensive responsibilities diligently and looked both fitter and stronger than he has for a while. He is likely ineligible to face his parent club in the FA Cup this coming week.
Nathaniel Chalobah and Watford continue to go from strength to strength, however, with the England Under-21 international grabbing his fourth goal of the season in midweek as the Hornets moved into the Championship’s automatic promotion spots.
Moving into the box from his usual midfield position, he showed composure and deftness of touch to latch onto Almen Abdi’s through ball and nudge it into the bottom corner.
He didn’t carry his scoring form into the weekend win over Derby County but remains an integral part of their push for Premier League football.
Sam Hutchinson remains absent for Nottingham Forest through long-term injury but did return to training back at Chelsea this week. Forest manager Billy Davies has indicated that he may be able to recall the young defender to his squad as early as next weekend.
In League One, Sam Walker and Billy Clifford both continued in their roles as starters for Colchester United at home to promotion-chasing Tranmere Rovers but it was a day to forget for the Us as they crashed to a 5-1 home defeat.
Clifford provided the assist for their goal, swinging in a free kick for Magnus Okuonghae, but Walker will want to put this performance behind him as he and defender Josh Thompson contrived to make a series of errors which directly contributed to at least three goals.
Patrick Bamford remains on the injury table for MK Dons but, like Sam Hutchinson, returned to training this week and will be back eligible for selection in the near future.
In the Netherlands, it was a good weekend for Vitesse as they beat Heracles and saw other results go in their favour to stay in touch with PSV at the top of the Eredivisie. Their win was a remarkable 5-3 goalfest away to Heracles featuring a hat-trick for occasional Chelsea target Wilfried Bony.
Tomas Kalas and Patrick van Aanholt played ninety minutes apiece at right and left-back respectively and both played well, with the latter especially contributing in almost every attacking phase. Gael Kakuta, however, missed out on his second game in succession through injury.
Kenneth Omeruo returned to domestic duties for ADO Den Haag as an African Champion and moved back to his usual slot of right-back for the daunting trip to Ajax. Things continue to get better and better for the Nigerian though, as he helped his team to a 1-1 draw in the Amsterdam ArenA.
There has been increased speculation since the end of the African Cup of Nations that Omeruo is likely to be a part of Chelsea’s first team squad next season and whilst that might be premature at this stage, it’s an interesting proposition to consider going forward.
Amin Affane was dropped from the Roda squad which lost 4-0 away to Utrecht as a result of perceived attitude problems by manager Ruud Brood. Having reacted badly to being relegated to the substitute’s bench, the Swedish midfielder reportedly had some choice words (and gestures) for the coaching staff and has been sent to the reserve squad until further notice. With his Chelsea contract expiring at the end of the season, he will be playing elsewhere in 2013-14.
In Spain, Thibaut Courtois sat on the bench as per usual in the Europa League as holders Atlético Madrid were sent packing by Rubin Kazan in Moscow on Thursday, but was restored to the starting eleven at home to Espanyol and duly recorded his 12th club clean sheet of the season in a 1-0 win. He didn’t have to make a save until the 82nd minute, and whilst he was a little dubious in the air at times, he was rarely in real danger of making a mistake.
There was European action for Lucas Piazón for the first time though as he came on for twelve minutes of Málaga’s 1-0 defeat against FC Porto in their first leg on Tuesday. He saw a little more time from the bench on Sunday as they made the short trip across Andalusia to Seville to take on Betis. The Brazilian and his compadres lost 3-0 and with the scoreline at that mark when he entered the fray, there was little he could do affect the outcome in any meaningful way.
Ulises Dávila returned to the Sabadell squad after missing last weekend’s game through hand surgery but didn’t start their match in Xerez. He did come on in the second half and played half an hour as the Harlequinistas won 1-0 with the final kick of the game.
In Segunda B, Jhon Pírez was named on the bench for Leganés after three consecutive starts and remained there for the duration of their 2-1 defeat away to Coruxo.
There was no action for Thorgan Hazard and Zulte Waregem this week as their fixture fell foul of heavy snow in Belgium, but Matej Delac did play the full duration of Inter Zapresic’s 2-2 draw away to Slovan Belupo in Croatian league action.
Finally, in South America, Wallace played no part for Fluminense in their 3-0 defeat to Gremio in the Copa Libertadores, and neither did new signing Cristian Cuevas for Chilean side O’Higgins away to Ñublense.