The top dogs in Germany, France and Italy all drew, while Manchester United stumbled to their first league defeat this term against bottom club Wolverhampton Wanderers on a remarkable weekend in England. Barcelona were the solitary winners among the leaders in Europe’s major leagues, the Catalan giants chalking up a record 16th successive victory.
Lionel Messi added another three goals to his account for the runaway Spanish leaders, but it was not all bad news for the others. Despite United’s loss and Borussia Dortmund, Lille and AC Milan’s failure to win, none were knocked off top spot in their respective leagues. FIFA.com reviews the weekend action around Europe.
Premier League: United’s unbeaten run ends
Manchester United went into their 25th match of the campaign undefeated, but that proud record ended in a 2-1 defeat away to relegation-threatened Wolves. Second-placed Arsenal made up a point on the leaders but will be in no mood to celebrate: the Gunners were 4-0 up and cruising at half-time away to Newcastle United, only to draw 4-4 in an extraordinary finish to the game.
Manchester City made up ground in third with a routine 3-0 dismissal of West Bromwich Albion, after which the Baggies, defeated in 13 of their last 18 games, sacked manager Roberto Di Matteo. Chelsea paraded marquee signing Fernando Torres at Stamford Bridge, but the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ winner’s former club Liverpool pooped the party with a 1-0 win. The Blues are now ten points off United, with the Reds moving up to sixth spot. At the wrong end of the standings, Birmingham City clambered out of the drop zone with a narrow 1-0 win away to bottom club West Ham United.
Top three: Manchester United (54 points), Arsenal (50), Manchester City (49)
Bottom three: Wigan Athletic (26), Wolverhampton Wanderers, West Ham United (both 24)
Leading scorers: Dimitar Berbatov (19 goals), Carlos Tevez (18), Andrew Carroll (11)
Weekend stat: 19 – Newcastle turned around a four-goal deficit at home to Arsenal in the space of 19 breathless second-half minutes.
Bundesliga: Borussia held but still stretch lead
Wayward finishing and on-fire Germany keeper Manuel Neuer prevented leaders Borussia Dortmund winning the Ruhr derby against bitter rivals Schalke, but the point from a goalless draw proved enough for the league leaders to extend their advantage. Second-placed Bayer Leverkusen lost 1-0 in Nuremberg, and third-placed Mainz were held 1-1 by Werder Bremen, Claudio Pizarro netting for Werder with the last kick of the game. Hannover beat Lower Saxony foes Wolfsburg 1-0 to go fourth.
Bayern Munich slipped to fifth after another mishap on their travels. The champions tossed away a 2-0 lead for the first time in 13 years, falling 3-2 in Cologne with Slovenia hitman Milivoje Novakovic firing a brace for the Rhineland side. Down at the bottom, Borussia Monchengladbach also led 2-0 in the relegation six-pointer at home to Stuttgart and contrived to lose 3-2. The clubs are last and second-from-bottom respectively.
Top three: Borussia Dortmund (51 points), Bayer Leverkusen (39), Mainz (37)
Bottom three: Cologne (22), Stuttgart (19), Borussia Monchengladbach (16)
Leading scorers: Mario Gomez (16 goals), Papiss Demba Cisse (15), Theofanis Gekas (14)
Weekend stat: 2 – A two-day downpour in Hamburg prompted the postponement of the eagerly-awaited derby between HSV and St. Pauli.
Serie A: Chasers gnaw at Milan’s lead
In the 24th round of matches in Italy, leaders AC Milan were held 1-1 away to mid-table Genoa and are now only three points clear of Napoli, who had little difficulty seeing off second-from-bottom Cesena 2-0. Resurgent Inter climbed to an ominous third with Sunday’s spectacular 5-3 home win over Roma, which meant the capital outfit slid to seventh and outside the European qualifying spots.
Palermo and Udinese both overtook Roma and are now just two points off fourth-placed Lazio, who were held 1-1 by Chievo. Udinese beat Sampdoria 2-0, while Palermo travelled to promoted Lecce and won 4-2.
Top three: AC Milan (49 points), Napoli (46), Inter (44)
Bottom three: Brescia (22), Cesena (21), Bari (14)
Leading scorers: Edinson Cavani (18 goals), Antonio di Natale (16), Samuel Eto'o (15)
Weekend stat: 100 – Juventus striker Luca Toni reached his Serie A century with his side’s third goal in a 3-1 victory away to Cagliari.
La Liga: Triple dose of Messi
Argentinian superstar and winner of the FIFA Ballon d'Or Lionel Messi fired Barcelona to a 16th league win on the bounce, a new record in the Spanish top flight. Messi scored all three and moved onto 24 goals for the campaign as the leaders beat Atletico Madrid 3-0. Second-placed Real Madrid also won by a three-goal margin, seeing off Real Sociedad 4-1.
There was a setback for third-placed Villarreal in the shape of a 1-0 home defeat to lowly Levante, while Athletic Bilbao and Espanyol swapped places in fifth and sixth. Los Leones beat Sporting Gijon 3-0, but the Catalan club fell 3-2 to second-from-bottom Almeria.
Top three: Barcelona (61 points), Real Madrid (54), Villarreal (45)
Bottom three: Levante (21), Almeria (20), Malaga (18)
Leading scorers: Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo (both 24 goals), David Villa (14)
Weekend stat: 1.26 – Lionel Messi’s 24 goals in 19 appearances mean his goals-per-game average this term is a remarkable 1.26.
Ligue 1: Frontrunners thwarted, PSG fall to closest rivals
Top two Lille and Paris Saint-Germain both failed to win. Lille were held 1-1 by struggling Auxerre and PSG fell 1-0 to Rennes, who are now level on points with the men from the capital. Marseille made extremely heavy weather of doomed Arles-Avignon, but the champions eked out a 1-0 win and are now fourth.
Brest remain Ligue 1’s best-placed promoted club after beating Nancy 2-0. At the other end of the scale, fallen giants Monaco are languishing in 19th and staring the threat of relegation full in the face following a 2-0 defeat to Toulouse. The last match of the weekend was a goalless stalemate between Lyon and Bordeaux.
Top three: Lille (42 points), Paris Saint-Germain, Rennes (both 37)
Bottom three: Lens (23), Monaco (21), Arles-Avignon (8)
Leading scorers: Moussa Sow (16 goals), Nene (13), Youssef El-Arabi, Kevin Gameiro (both 11)
Weekend stat: 11 – Miserly Rennes kept a clean sheet for the 11th time this season and boast the best defence in France with just 17 goals against.
In Switzerland, the Super League action resumed after the long mid-season break. In the big clash of the weekend, second-placed Zurich beat nearest pursuers Lucerne 2-0. Basel beat promoted Thun 3-2 and go top while BSC Young Boys rattled up the biggest win of the weekend: a 5-1 thrashing of Bellinzona.
In Belgium, RSC Anderlecht continue to set the pace in the Jupiler League. The Brussels outfit beat Sint-Truidense 2-0 to maintain their three-point lead in the standings. Second-placed Genk beat Club Brugge 2-0 and remain in hot pursuit, with Gent in third pulling four points clear of Brugge after a 4-1 victory over strugglers Lierse.