With the exception of Montpellier, the leaders of the major European championships all won, and either maintained or increased their leads at the top. In Germany, Borussia Dortmund practically have one hand on the Bundesliga trophy, while Manchester United find themselves in a similarly advantageous position in England.
With El Clásico just one week away, Real Madrid and Barcelona both recorded important victories. In Ligue 1, Paris St Germain could only draw at Auxerre, thereby missing the chance to take full advantage of Montpellier’s earlier slip-up at Lorient. In Italy, all games were postponed this weekend following the tragic death of Piermario Morosini, who suffered a cardiac arrest while taking part in a Serie B match.
FIFA.com takes a look back at a suspenseful weekend of football around Europe.
Auxerre 1-1 Paris St Germain, Matchday 32 in Ligue 1
In losing 2-1 at Lorient, Montpellier offered Paris St Germain an ideal opportunity to draw level with them at the top of the French table. PSG’s task appeared manageable on paper, given that opponents Auxerre are currently languishing bottom of Ligue 1. Unfortunately for Carlo Ancelotti’s men, the Burgundy-based side had not read the script, and Anthony le Tallec’s late equaliser keeps the gap between Montpellier and the Parisians at two points.
It had all started so well for the club from the capital, Nene’s strike giving them the lead mid-way through the first half. But PSG were guilty of missing numerous chances to double their lead, and were made to pay for their profligacy three minutes from time. The precious point secured by Auxerre allows them to maintain faint hopes of staying up, but they nevertheless remain five points from safety.
Following a shock 1-0 defeat by Wigan Athletic on Wednesday, Manchester United bounced back in style on Sunday, seeing off Aston Villa 4-0 in a match that featured two goals from Wayne Rooney. The win enabled United to re-establish a five-point lead over rivals Manchester City, who had cut the gap to just two with a remarkable 6-1 triumph at Norwich the previous day. Alex Ferguson’s men control their own destiny, and irrespective of the result of the Manchester derby on 30 April, they will claim a 20th league title if they win their three other matches.
Borussia Dortmund’s week could not have gone much better: after defeating nearest challengers Bayern Munich 1-0 in a match billed as a title decider on Wednesday, Jurgen Klopp’s charges took a further step towards a second successive championship by emerging victorious from the 140th Ruhr derby on Saturday. Dortmund’s 2-1 win over old rivals Schalke helps to maintain an eight-point lead over Munich, who drew 0-0 at home to Mainz, and leaves them one victory away from league glory. In addition, the result extends Die Schwarzgelben’s unbeaten run to 25 matches, breaking a German record hitherto held by the Bayer Leverkusen team of season 2009/2010.
With 13 goals in eight league matches, Lionel Messi’s unerring eye for goal continues to impress. After going 1-0 down to a resolute Levante outfit, Barcelona were on the verge of letting Real Madrid stretch further ahead at the top of La Liga, Los Blancos having beaten Sporting Gijon 3-1 earlier in the evening. The diminutive Argentinian had other plans, however, scoring a second-half brace that keeps the Catalans four points behind Real, a week before El Clásico. The strikes bring Messi level with Cristiano Ronaldo, who also scored this weekend, at the top of the league scoring charts, with 41 goals. Ronaldo has already surpassed his personal record of 40, set last year, and is the first player in Europe to break the 40-goal barrier two seasons in a row.
Having scored four goals and set up two more in his last six matches, Carlos Tevez appears intent on showing Manchester City fans what they were missing during his much-publicised extended absence from the team. The powerful Argentinian followed up his strike against West Bromwich Albion in midweek with a hat-trick versus Norwich, his fourth three-goal haul for City and his first away from home.
In-demand playmaker Eden Hazard was once again instrumental for Lille this weekend, propelling them to a 4-1 victory over Ajaccio. The Belgian’s assist for compatriot Gianni Bruno increased the number of goals he has set up this season to 12, more than any other player in the league. Hazard also notched his 15th goal of the season with a penalty towards the end of the match.
107 – In scoring three times against Sporting, Real Madrid took their league goals tally to 107 this campaign, a total that equals the club record set by Emilio Butragueno and his team-mates in the 1989/90 season.
22 – Shay Given, Aston Villa’s Irish goalkeeper, has faced Manchester United on 22 occasions during his career, with just one victory to show for his efforts. It came 11 years ago, at Newcastle.
2 – The 0-0 draw that Wolverhampton Wanderers secured at Sunderland on Saturday was only the second time that the relegation-threatened side has been involved in a goalless stalemate in 75 Premier League matches.
8 – Freiburg have yet to taste defeat at home since the appointment of new coach Christian Streich. A 0-0 draw with Hoffenheim saw the south-western club extend their unbeaten run to eight games and move eight points clear of the relegation zone.
Five memorable moments
Italy in mourning: Following the tragic death of Livorno midfielder Piermario Morosini, who suffered a cardiac arrest during his club’s Serie B game on Saturday, all league matches in Italy were postponed this weekend as a mark of respect. The news of the death of the 25-year-old former Italy U-21 international, who had sadly lost his parents and brother as a teenager, has shocked the entire country and thrown the football community into mourning. Numerous tributes to the player have been made, while a message of support for his friends and family was published by every Serie A club.
The last dinosaur: By beating Hannover 1-0 and recording their first home win of the year in the process, Hamburg took a giant stride towards maintaining their spot in the German top flight on Saturday. The former European champions are the only club never to have played in the second division since the creation of the Bundesliga in 1963.
Season saved: Marseille lifted the French League Cup for the third consecutive season by defeating Lyon 1-0 after extra time at the Stade de France this weekend. Significantly off the pace in the league and recently eliminated from the Coupe de France as well as the UEFA Champions League, Didier Deschamps’ men not only rescued their campaign by securing this latest trophy, but also brought an end to the worst run in the club’s history: 11 losses and a draw in their last 12 encounters in all competitions.
Soaring Eagles: Benfica won the Portuguese League Cup on Saturday evening, overcoming Gil Vicente 2-1 in a closely contested final. It was the fourth successive triumph for As Águias (The Eagles) in the competition, which has only been running since 2007.
Travel sickness: Away games in Catalonia have proved troublesome for Valencia this season, as demonstrated by their resounding 4-0 reverse at the hands of Espanyol on Sunday. The result is the second heaviest defeat of the season for Unai Emery’s men, after the 5-1 thrashing they received from Barcelona at the Camp Nou in February. Despite the loss, Los Che remain in third place in the Spanish standings.