Wayne Rooney’s late show kept Manchester United on top in England, while David Villa salvaged a point for Liga pacesetters Barcelona at one of his old stamping grounds. Borussia Dortmund also dropped two points, breathing renewed life into the battle for the Bundesliga, though there were no such problems for the top dogs in Italy or France, as AC Milan and Lille recorded convincing wins.
Rounding up those stories and more, FIFA.com looks back at the weekend’s events in Europe’s major leagues.
Premier League: Derby spoils for battling United
Frontrunners Manchester United bounced back from last Saturday’s loss at bottom-placed Wolverhampton Wanderers – their first of the season – by beating crosstown rivals and championship challengers Manchester City 2-1 at Old Trafford. United’s winner was worthy of the occasion too, Wayne Rooney securing the points with a magnificent overhead kick. Having let slip a 4-0 lead at Newcastle United seven days earlier, Arsenal were anxious for a speedy reconciliation with their disbelieving fans, a task they achieved with a deserved 2-0 victory at home to Wolves.
Tottenham Hotspur stayed in touch with the leading trio after coming from behind to prevail 2-1 at Sunderland, while Wigan Athletic spoiled Kenny Dalglish’s honeymoon period at Liverpool by snatching a 1-1 draw at Anfield, a result that ended the Reds run of four wins in a row. Having dropped to fifth, defending champions Chelsea can climb back into the UEFA Champions League qualification slots if they beat neighbours Fulham on Monday evening.
Top three: Manchester United (57 pts), Arsenal (53), Manchester City (49)
Bottom three: Wigan Athletic (27), West Ham United (25), Wolverhampton Wanderers (24)
Leading scorers: Dimitar Berbatov (19 goals), Carlos Tevez (18), Andy Carroll (11)
Weekend stat: 3 - With Newcastle United’s stirring fightback against Arsenal still fresh in the memory, it was West Ham United’s turn to produce some comeback heroics. Trailing 3-0 at the interval at West Bromwich Albion, the Hammers struck three times in a frantic second half to snatch an unlikely point.
La Liga: Real close on Barça
Barcelona’s record-breaking run of 16 wins on the trot came to an end at El Molinon on Saturday when a battling Sporting Gijon side restricted them to a 1-1 draw, David Villa scoring Barça’s equaliser against one of his former clubs. Real Madrid made the most of the leaders’ stumble to cut the gap to five points following a 1-0 win at Espanyol. Los Merengues had to dig deep, however, playing virtually the entire game with ten men following an early red card for goalkeeper Iker Casillas.
Ten points behind Madrid in third are Valencia, who were thankful for a Joaquin brace as they recovered from a goal down to win at Atletico Madrid. Enjoying less luck on the road were Villarreal and Sevilla. The Yellow Submarine lost 1-0 at Deportivo La Coruna and the Andalusians went down to an eventful 3-2 defeat at Racing Santander.
Top three: Barcelona (62 pts), Real Madrid (57), Valencia (47)
Bottom three: Osasuna (22), Almeria (20), Malaga (19)
Leading scorers: Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo (24 goals), David Villa (15)
Weekend stat: 30 - Barcelona have collected 30 per cent less points in games immediately following midweek international matches.
Bundesliga: Dortmund give chasers a chance
Runaway leaders Borussia Dortmund have given their title rivals a glimmer of hope in the last few days. Held to a draw by Schalke 04 last weekend, Die Schwarzgelben dropped two more points against Kaiserslautern, allowing Bayer Leverkusen to slice their lead to ten points with a handsome 3-0 victory over Eintracht Frankfurt.
The restoration of the Arjen Robben-Franck Ribery tandem brought instant benefits for the improving Bayern Munich as they strolled to a 4-0 defeat of Hoffenheim to move up to third. Hannover lie one place below the Bavarians following their 1-1 draw with Werder Bremen. Down at the other end of the table Wolfsburg, who last week sacked Steve McClaren, dropped ever closer to the relegation zone after going down 1-0 at home to Hamburg.
Top three: Borussia Dortmund (52 pts), Bayer Leverkusen (42), Bayern Munich (39)
Bottom three: Kaiserslautern (23), Stuttgart (19), Borussia Monchengladbach (16)
Leading scorers: Mario Gomez (17 goals), Papiss Cisse (15), Theofanis Gekas (14)
Weekend stat: 84 - Appearing for the first time together since May 2010, Messrs Ribery and Robben needed just 84 seconds to work their magic together, combining to great effect to set up Mario Gomez for Bayern’s opener against Hoffenheim.
Serie A: Napoli keep the pressure on
Leaders AC Milan got back to winning ways after two consecutive draws, downing Parma 4-0 at the San Siro to stay three points clear of the field. Second-placed Napoli maintained their title push with a 2-0 win at Roma, both goals coming from their talismanic Uruguayan striker Edinson Cavani. Completing the top three are Lazio, 2-0 winners at Brescia.
Inter Milan started the day in third only to slump to a 1-0 Derby d’Italia defeat to a Juventus side working hard to turn their season around. The men from Turin are now up to sixth, one place behind Udinese, who ran out comfortable 3-0 winners at Cesena. Palermo’s mini crisis deepened when they suffered a 4-2 reverse at home to Fiorentina, consigning them to seventh place.
Top three: AC Milan (52 pts), Napoli (49), Lazio (45)
Bottom three: Brescia (22), Cesena (21), Bari (15)
Leading scorers: Edinson Cavani (20 goals), Antonio di Natale (18), Samuel Eto’o (15)
Weekend stat: 3 - Sampdoria had lost three straight games following the departure of star striker Giampaolo Pazzini, a run they brought to an end with a 3-1 defeat of Bologna.
Ligue 1: Lille maintain comfortable cushion
Lille continued their dream season with a 2-0 defeat of Toulouse to stay five points ahead of the pack, which is being led by Rennes, who downed Nice by the same scoreline. A point further back in third are Marseille, who were indebted to Andre-Pierre Gignac’s double as they overcame Sochaux 2-1.
Lyon thrashed local adversaries Saint-Etienne 4-1 to move up to fourth, ahead of Paris Saint-Germain, who played out a goalless stalemate with lowly Lens. The two sides are tied on points and goal difference, with Lyon ranked above PSG thanks to their better fair play record. Bordeaux’s woes continued as they lost 2-1 at home to Caen to slide to ninth, increasing the pressure on coach Jean Tigana.
Top three: Lille (45 pts), Rennes (40), Marseille (39)
Bottom three: Monaco (24), Lens (24), Arles-Avignon (9)
Leading scorers: Moussa Sow (16 goals), Nene (13), Kevin Gameiro (12)
Weekend stat: 500 - Lille goalkeeper Mickael Landreau celebrated his 500th appearance in the elite in the best possible fashion, keeping a clean sheet as the leaders won again.
In the Netherlands, PSV Eindhoven and FC Twente remain locked together at the summit after respective wins over AZ Alkmaar and Vitesse Arnhem. Third-placed Ajax lost further ground after their latest slip-up, a 2-2 draw with Roda JC. The Amsterdam giants are now five points off the pace.
The situation is even tighter in Austria. Beaten 1-0 by Austria Vienna, who now lie third, leaders Ried hold a slender one-point advantage over Sturm Graz, 3-0 victors at home to Kapfenberg. Three points behind Ried in fourth are title holders Red Bull Salzburg, who drew 1-1 at Wacker Innsbruck.