European Leagues review
Wolfsburg may only boast 120,000 citizens, but it became the capital of German football at the weekend. In Bordeaux, the title party is on hold for a week. The dominant emotion in Turin is relief, but anguish and frustration are the order of the day in Newcastle. At the opposite end of the scale, Barcelona and Manchester United warmed up for the UEFA Champions League final in contrasting style. FIFA.com reviews the weekend action from around Europe’s top leagues.
Premier League: Newcastle hit rock bottom
Iconic club Newcastle United were relegated to the second tier of English football after losing 1-0 away to UEFA Europa League qualifiers Aston Villa. The Magpies, who dropped out of the top flight for the first time since 1993, will be joined in the Championship next season by Middlesbrough, beaten 2-1 at West Ham, and West Bromwich Albion, who played out a scoreless draw away to Blackburn.
Despite a 1-0 home defeat to champions United, promoted Hull City retained their place in the Premier League due to results elsewhere. Tottenham Hotspur missed out on the Europa League with a 3-1 defeat away to runners-up Liverpool. Third-placed Chelsea won 3-2 away to Sunderland, while fourth-placed Arsenal rounded off the campaign with a 4-1 victory over Stoke.
Top three: Manchester United (90 points), Liverpool (86), Chelsea (83)
Bottom three: Newcastle United (34), Middlesbrough, West Bromwich Albion (both 32)
Leading scorers: Nicolas Anelka (19 goals), Cristiano Ronaldo (18), Steven Gerrard (16)
Weekend stat: 90 – United amassed 90 points in winning the league this term, the highest points total in the Premier League since 1999/00.
La Liga: Villarreal triumph in derby
It was smiles all round for Villarreal after their 3-1 derby victory over Valencia sealed a place in the Europa League. With a game still to play, it could get even better for Manuel Pellegrini’s men, as they are still only two points adrift of fourth-placed Atletico Madrid, who won 4-1 away to Athletic Bilbao.
Barcelona's thoughts were patently elsewhere as the champions fell 1-0 at home to Osasuna, but third-placed Sevilla beat Deportivo La Coruna by the same score. Looming relegation was finally confirmed for Recreativo Huelva, beaten 1-0 by Racing Santander, and Numancia, losers by the same score away to Getafe. In the late game on Sunday, runners-up Real Madrid fell 3-1 at the Bernabeu to resurgent Mallorca.
Top three: Barcelona (86 points), Real Madrid (78), Sevilla (67)
Bottom three: Osasuna (40), Numancia (35), Recreativo Huelva (33)
Leading scorers: Diego Forlan (31 goals), Samuel Eto'o (29), David Villa (26)
Weekend stat: 3 - Forlan fired a hat-trick in Bilbao to overtake Eto'o in the scorers' list. It was the Uruguay hitman’s first three-goal haul of the season.
Serie A: Sigh of relief for Juventus
A faint smile played over Ciro Ferrara’s lips on Sunday. The Juventus caretaker boss saw his men beat Siena 3-0 in his first game in charge, as La Vecchia Signora chalked up a first win in eight matches. Juve move up to second and can no longer be dislodged from a direct qualifying spot for the Champions League; they are still only three points clear of fourth-placed Fiorentina, but hold the upper hand in the direct comparison between the sides.
Third-placed AC Milan are now level on points with Juventus following a 3-2 defeat at home to Roma, Francesco Totti sealing the win with an 85th-minute free kick. Milan now face a last-day showdown with Fiorentina, who made their own lives more difficult with a 1-1 draw away to bottom club Lecce. The point was not enough to save the strugglers from Apulia, who are definitely relegated along with Reggina, defeated 1-0 away to Lazio. Champions Inter lost 2-1 away to Cagliari.
Top three: Inter (81 points), Juventus, AC Milan (both 71)
Bottom three: Torino (34), Reggina, Lecce (both 30)
Leading scorers: Marco di Vaio, Zlatan Ibrahimovic (both 23), Diego Milito (22)
Weekend stat: 24 – Living legend Paolo Maldini of AC Milan bade farewell to the Guiseppe Meazza faithful after an astonishing 24 seasons in the famous red and black stripes. It was the 40-year-old’s final home appearance before officially ending his playing career next week.
Ligue 1: Bordeaux forced to wait
The French title race will go down to the wire on the last day. Leaders Bordeaux did the necessary with a narrow but deserved 1-0 home win over Monaco, but sole remaining rivals Marseille remained right behind Laurent Blanc’s side with a 2-1 success away to Nancy. Although Bordeaux hold a three-point advantage over OM, the final matchday promises tension through to the final whistle.
Outgoing champions Lyon made absolutely sure of third spot with a 3-1 home win over Caen, but Paris Saint-Germain blundered with potentially severe consequences. The men from the capital lost 2-1 away to Valenciennes and tumbled to fifth, out of the Europa League qualifying places. Down at the bottom, Nantes lost 2-1 away to Sochaux and now need a minor miracle to avoid the drop.
Top three: Girondins Bordeaux (77 points), Olympique Marseille (74), Olympique Lyon (70)
Bottom three: Saint-Etienne (37), Nantes (34), Le Havre (25)
Leading scorers: Andre-Pierre Gignac (24 goals), Karim Benzema, Guillaume Hoarau (both 17)
Weekend stat: 75 - Juninho scored from the spot, chalking up his 75th goal in a Lyon shirt. It could well be the star midfielder’s last. He is suspended for the final day, and was also quoted on the official Ligue 1 website as saying: "It’s highly possible I’ll be moving on. You should always know when it’s time to leave."
Bundesliga: Unbounded joy in Wolfsburg
The Wolfsburg fairytale became reality on Saturday. The marauding Wolves spectacularly devoured Werder Bremen 5-1, as coach Felix Magath steered his unfancied side to their maiden league title. Outgoing champions Bayern Munich were among the first to congratulate Magath and his men on a stunning second half of the campaign, the mood in Bavaria mollified by a 2-1 home win over Stuttgart to seal the runners-up spot and a berth in the Champions League.
Stuttgart finished third and now have a shot at qualifying for Europe’s top club competition. Hertha BSC Berlin came fourth after losing 4-0 to Karlsruhe, and Hamburg ran up a last-gasp 3-2 victory away to Eintracht Frankfurt to claim the second Europa League spot. Karlsruhe’s impressive display came too late to stave off relegation. They are joined in the second division by Arminia Bielefeld, held 2-2 at home by Hannover. Energie Cottbus beat Bayer Leverkusen 3-0 and can still salvage their top flight status in a play-off.
Top three: Wolfsburg (69 points), Bayern (67), VfB Stuttgart (64)
Bottom three: Energie Cottbus (30), Karlsruhe (29), Bielefeld (28)
Leading scorers: Grafite (28 goals), Edin Dzeko (26), Mario Gomez (24)
Weekend stat: 54 – Lethal Wolfsburg strike pair Grafite and Dzeko netted a combined total of 54 goals this term. That represents a new Bundesliga record, beating the 53 set by Bayern legends Gerd Muller (40 goals) and Uli Hoeness (13) from 1971-2.
In Scotland, Rangers sealed a 52nd domestic title with a commanding 3-0 victory away to Dundee United. In Switzerland, FC Zurich beat Bellinzona by the only goal of the game and were crowned champions thanks to the neighbourly assistance of Grasshoppers Zurich, who thrashed Basel 4-1.
Copenhagen took the title in Denmark with a 1-0 win away to Esbjerg, as nearest rivals and city foes Brondby lost by the same score away to Aarhus. And in Belgium, Standard Liege retained the title in a championship play-off against Anderlecht. Standard secured a tenth domestic crown courtesy of a 1-1 draw in Brussels last Thursday, and a decisive 1-0 win in Sunday’s return on home turf.
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