We start in Spain where Girona had heads turning last week after beating Manchester City in a pre-season friendly ahead of their tie against Atlético Madrid. Saturday night’s match marked a historic occasion for the Catalonian club as they made their debut appearance in La Liga. The eagerly anticipated match didn’t fail to live up to expectations as supporters got to enjoy a thriller at the Estadi Montivili. After his brilliant performance in the mid-week friendly, it was no surprise that Pablo Maffeo started the game, however, it was disappointing to see that other Manchester City loanees – Aleix Garcia, Douglas Luiz, Marlos Moreno and Olarenwaju Kayode – only made the bench.
The hosts flew into a 2-0 lead in the first half over the 2014 La Liga champions thanks to a brace from former Middlesbrough attacker Cristhian Stuani. Unfortunately, Antoine Griezmann’s dismissal for foul and abusive language sparked a late comeback from Los Rojiblancos. The newly promoted side had looked set for a memorable victory on the opening weekend until Ángel Correa and José Giménez struck for the away side within the last 12 minutes to break the hearts of 12,000 Girona supporters. Kayode was brought on for the final few minutes but struggled to make an impact as Girona were forced to settle for a point.
In Holland, there is cause for concern after NAC Breda’s poor start to the Eredivisie campaign. Pablo Mari, Angelino, Manu Garcia, Paolo Fernandes and Thierry Ambrose all started as they fell to a 4-1 defeat at home to current champions PSV Eindhoven. City’s affiliate club have found life back in the top flight challenging, conceding eight goals in their first two games and find themselves rooted to the bottom of the table. However, the form of Thierry Ambrose is certainly encouraging. The young forward was brought in to replace star striker Cyriel Dessers who left for Utrecht this summer and he has started brightly with 2 goals from his first 2 competitive league appearances. Hopefully, the Frenchman can emulate the form of former City forward Enes Unal, who enjoyed a successful loan spell at FC Twente last season. Meanwhile, Twente have started the season in similarly slow fashion. Isaac Buckley-Ricketts watched from the bench as his side fell to a 2-1 home defeat to VV Venlo.
— B-Side Rats (@BSideRats) August 20, 2017
Back in England, Joe Hart’s struggles continue. The England international is out on loan at West Ham, and the Hammers suffered a 3-2 defeat away at Southampton on Saturday afternoon. West Ham had valiantly fought back to 2-2 despite being down to ten men, before Pablo Zabaleta’s challenge on Maya Yoshida led to Charlie Austin subsequently slotting his penalty comfortably past Hart in the 93rd minute. The defeat marked yet another game where Hart has failed to keep a clean sheet, a remarkable record running from January of this year. In the Championship, Bersant Celina watched on from the bench as Ipswich made it four wins from four with a comfortable 2-0 victory over Brentford, while Angus Gunn kept goal for Norwich City as they were defeated 4-2 away at Aston Villa. In League 1, Rodney Kongolo came off the bench for Doncaster Rovers as they drew 3-3 at the Keepmoat Stadium against Blackpool.
The last 27 shots on target Joe Hart has faced in the league for Torino and West Ham:
17 goals conceded ⚽️
10 saves made ❌
Leaking goals. pic.twitter.com/HSWwQ8lIrk
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) August 19, 2017
In Scotland, it is believed that Patrick Roberts could be on his way back to Celtic for another loan spell. Several outlets have reported that the young English winger has rejected moves to both Southampton and Nice in the last few weeks in favour of a return to the Scottish champions. A deal is expected to be finalised this coming week. Should the deal go through, Roberts will gain further Champions League experience with Celtic, but it raises the question of whether it is the right decision for his development and future at Manchester City. It was somewhat surprising to find that Roberts had reportedly rejected the opportunity to play in the Premier League, as, should he wish to succeed and reach the top, he needs to be playing at a more competitive level than the SPL. Over the weekend, Manchester City had two stars on the bench for their respective clubs in the SPL. The first being Brandon Barker, who recently signed for Hibernian on a season-long loan. He came off the bench for the final 38 minutes as Hibs lost 3-1 at home to Hamilton. Ashley Smith Brown, who spent last season on loan at NAC Breda, is yet to make an appearance for Hearts, who picked up a point away at Rangers on Saturday.