Friday 21 July 2017, 08:54

Big cats, Red Devils and a Gallic goblin

  • Why you should know the rules when elves are lurking

Lionesses reaching new heights under a medieval tower **

A son helping one of his father’s records disappear **

34 matches is what Al Ahly navigated to become the first side to finish an Egyptian Premier League season undefeated since it began featuring more than 14 sides. The Red Devils, whom Mohamed Aboutrika propelled to bronze at the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2006, beat their arch-rivals 2-0 on the final day to keep their 24th clean sheet of the campaign and end Zamalek’s ten-match unbeaten run. Nigerian forward Junior Ajayi, 21, duly became the first player to score in two Cairo derbies in the same season since Aboutrika in 2004/05.

33 goals in six matches is the mammoth total Spain scored at the Star Sixes – the second-most was 20 from Brazil – with Michel Salgado, who failed to score in 48 internationals at 11-a-side, finishing as the tournament’s unlikely nine-goal leading marksman. Spain nevertheless lost in the semi-finals after two goals in three seconds from Ludovic Giuly propelled France to victory. After ‘The Magic Elf’ had scored past him, Spain goalkeeper Pedro Contreras kicked the ball back out – forgetting that is how play resumed – and Giuly stroked it back into the net. France then edged Denmark in the final.

20 years had passed without a hat-trick at the UEFA Women’s EURO until England’s Jodie Taylor hit just the fourth in its history on Wednesday. Sweden’s Lena Videkull netted the first in 1995, with Marianne Pettersen of Norway and Angelique Roujas following suit two years later. Taylor’s treble helped England thrash Scotland 6-0 to record the competition’s all-time biggest victory, surpassing Norway’s win over Denmark in 1997, Germany’s reverse of Russia four years later, and Sweden’s thumping of Finland in 2013 (all 5-0).

14 years: that is how long Vardar had gone without winning a match in a major European competition until they produced a come-from-behind 3-1 upset of Malmo on Wednesday. Since a stunning 2-1 win away to CSKA Moscow in a UEFA Champions League qualifier in 2003, FYR Macedonia’s record champions had gone 22 appearances without victory in that competition and the UEFA Cup.

13 matches: that is what has given Bruce Arena the longest undefeated start to a reign as USA coach, breaking the record held by Bob Bradley. The 2-0 reverse of El Salvador in the CONCACAF Gold Cup quarter-finals saw the 65-year-old Brooklynite make it seven wins and five draws since his November 2016 appointment to surpass Bradley, before the same scoreline against Costa Rica extended the record. Michael Bradley’s cannily-clipped fee-kick set up Omar Gonzalez for the opener, sending the 29-year-old midfielder joint-second on USA’s all-time assists chart alongside Cobi Jones (22) and behind Landon Donovan (58).

10 years is the Liverpool tenure that came to an end for Brazilian Lucas Leiva, making him the club’s joint-third-longest-serving foreigner alongside Finn Sami Hyypia. Only Zimbabwean Bruce Grobbelaar (13 years) and Dane Jan Molby (12) spent longer at Anfield.

9 games without victory in the Campeonato Brasileiro – the third-longest in their history – was the run Sao Paulo ended with a 1-0 defeat of Vasco da Gama on Wednesday. A side decorated by the incomparable Rai went ten without triumphing between the 1988 and ’89 tournaments, while one comprising Rogerio Ceni, Rodrigo Caio, Jadson, Ganso and Luis Fabiano went 12 winless in 2013.

6 successive years have now passed with a foreigner winning the ESPY Award for the Best Major League Soccer Player after David Villa emulated David Beckham, Thierry Henry, Tim Cahill, Robbie Keane and Sebastian Giovinco. Landon Donovan claimed the crown for USA in five of its first six instalments.