Romelu Lukaku returned from injury this weekend and needed little more than twenty minutes to make his presence felt. His tenth goal of Everton’s season was also the 93rd produced by a Chelsea player away on loan and was enough to not only secure a 1-0 win over West Ham United, but also ensured the loanee goalscoring streak continued for a 28th successive week of the 2013-14 season.
Lukaku had missed the Toffees’ last four matches since hurting his ankle in the Merseyside derby away to Liverpool at the end of January, but was able to be included in Roberto Martinez’s squad for the visit of West Ham on Saturday. He came off the bench after an hour of play with the score still 0-0, and made good on his comeback by stroking home the only goal of the game ten minutes from time:
It was a rare highlight of a week which otherwise lacked for considerable headlines amongst Chelsea’s 30-strong contingent scattered around the world, although there was at least consistent involvement from a number of familiar faces.
Victor Moses was an unused substitute for Liverpool as they beat Southampton 3-0 to move into second place in the Premier League. Ryan Bertrand played the duration of Aston Villa’s 4-1 win over Norwich City.
In The Championship, Middlesbrough duo Nathaniel Chalobah and Kenneth Omeruo both started again as they took on Sheffield Wednesday and Sam Hutchinson at Hillsborough. They all played a full 90 minutes but it was Hutchinson – again featuring in central midfield – who claimed the bragging rights against his Blues colleagues as the Owls triumphed 1-0 from a stoppage time penalty won following a cross into the box by the 24 year-old.
Boro have now failed to score in seven matches (although Jacob Butterfield did have a goal denied due to the lack of goal line technology), but Chalobah and Omeruo at least have become regular features in a team that has looked secure defensively and they should continue to be a big part of Aitor Karanka’s plans.
Patrick Bamford was on the bench for Derby after a couple of quiet outings but was pressed into second half action during their defeat at Burnley, largely because of a controversial red card dished out to striker Chris Martin. Bamford played half an hour in a losing cause and if Martin’s one-match suspension holds up, should get his first chance to lead the Rams’ line and stake his claim for a regular place there.
Todd Kane was a late substitute for Blackburn in their heavy 4-0 defeat at Bolton, replacing the injured Matthew Kilgallon, whilst Josh McEachran was an unused substitute as Wigan won 4-1 at Nottingham Forest. Any suggestions that Josh – who turned 21 this weekend – may have been in line for more starts following Ben Watson’s unfortunate broken leg were scuppered midweek when the Latics signed Ryan Tunnicliffe on loan.
In League One, George Saville and Brentford dropped two more points away to Carlisle in a goalless draw, but the Chelsea man did receive his customary ninety minutes. Milan Lalkovic and Walsall, meanwhile, lost 2-1 at Preston; the Slovakian playing 81 minutes.
Vitesse Arnhem’s 3-0 victory over Roda JC on Saturday evening was one of their most comfortable of the season and was due in large part to a terrific individual performance by Ghanaian winger Christian Atsu. He was the only one of the club’s four Chelsea loanees to start – Lucas Piazon and Bertrand Traore were substitutes and Patrick van Aanholt suspended again – and in their absence staked his claim for a regular place on the left wing; a position held by Piazon for most of the season so far.
Atsu terrorised his opponents from the first minute, laying on the first goal for Mike Havenaar and providing the cross which led to the free kick for Vitesse’s second, and a red card for Roda defender Roly Bonevacia in the process. He was afforded a standing ovation when he went off late in the game for Traore, who like Piazon got some time from the bench in the second half of what largely amounted to a training exercise for Peter Bosz’ side.
Stipe Perica was also serving the second match of his suspension for NAC Breda against ADO following a dismissal against Feyenoord, but he’ll be back next week.
In the second tier, Cristian Cuevas started again for FC Eindhoven and played for the duration of their 4-0 mauling away to FC Oss.
Thibaut Courtois played the full match for Atlético Madrid in their 2-2 draw against Real Madrid. He had little chance with either goal conceded but did make one or two important saves, as he tends to do on these bigger occasions.
Marko Marin played fifteen minutes for Sevilla in the Europa League as they beat NK Maribor to set up a last sixteen derby against fierce rivals Betis. He didn’t even get that far on Sunday against Real Sociedad, remaining as an unused substitute.
Oriol Romeu is still back at Cobham rehabilitating following recent knee surgery.
Uli Dávila was an unused substitute for the second successive week as Córdoba beat Girona, and Jhon Pírez was again absent for Leganés as they beat Huesca 2-0.
Gael Kakuta was an unused substitute for Lazio in their 3-3 draw at Ludogorets in the UEFA Europa League, and was the same once again away to Fiorentina on Sunday. He’s played just 20 minutes for the Biancocelesti in a month.
Wallace didn’t play for Inter away to Roma, naturally.
Thorgan Hazard returned to something close to his better form in Zulte Waregem’s 2-2 draw at Waasland-Beveren on Saturday night, including a peach of a cross to provide an assist for Idrissa Sylla to score.
Billy Clifford was a sub as usual for Royal Antwerp at home to Sint-Truidense on Saturday but the match was abandoned midway through the first half following crowd trouble.
For the second successive outing, Kurt Zouma was on the bench for Saint Etienne and only received token seconds in stoppage time as they beat Monaco 2-0.
Mario Pašalić featured as usual as Hadjuk beat Slaven Belupo 3-0, although he didn’t find the back of the net this week.
The Bosnian league returned from winter exile this weekend, allowing goalkeeper Matej Delač to make his debut for FK Sarajevo at home to Čelik. It was a losing start for the Croatian stopper as his new side went down 1-0, and unfortunately, the goal was his fault: