European Leagues review
This weekend saw the leaders’ title credentials put to the test across Europe, with clubs experiencing varying degrees of success. Some, like Rennes and Chelsea, maintained their lofty positions in spite of both being held to scoreless draws away from home, while others, such as Valencia and Mainz, were defeated and knocked from their respective perches in the process. Only Lazio passed the examination with flying colours, winning 2-0 at Bari. FIFA.com reviews all the latest developments across the continent.
Premier League: United stumble, Everton win derby
They may still be unbeaten, but fourth-placed Manchester United let two precious points slip through their grasp against West Bromwich Albion, despite leading by two goals at half-time. Leaders Chelsea were unable to take advantage, sharing the spoils with Aston Villa. Arsenal and Manchester City, on the other hand, did not let slip the chance to cut the gap, beating lowly Birmingham City and mid-table Blackpool respectively. Carlos Tevez was in fine form, netting twice in a 3-2 victory that moved Roberto Mancini's men two points off the pace.
After their impressive 2-1 win away to Fulham, Tottenham Hotspur find themselves right on the edge of the chasing pack in fifth. Meanwhile, for the first time in four years, Everton supporters finally have a post-derby smile on their faces following a 2-0 defeat of Liverpool at Goodison Park. The result lifted the Toffees to 11th, and left the Reds level on points with rock-bottom West Ham United.
Top three: Chelsea (19 points), Manchester City (17), Arsenal (14)
Bottom three: Wolverhampton Wanderers, Liverpool, West Ham (all 6)
Top scorers: Carlos Tevez (7 goals,) Florent Malouda, Didier Drogba, Dimitar Berbatov (all 6)
Weekend stat: 800 – the number of games that Arsene Wenger has now overseen as Arsenal manager in all competitions.
La Liga: Barça victory allows Real to go top
Following Barcelona’s tight 2-1 defeat of erstwhile table-toppers Valencia, Real Madrid’s players were aware that a positive result in Malaga in Saturday’s late match would lift them a point clear of both sides and into pole position in the process. Braces for both Cristiano Ronaldo and Gonzalo Higuain went on to serve up a resounding 4-1 triumph for the away team.
But Villarreal, lying fourth, may well have the last word of this round, as a win over Hercules tonight will allow them to overtake Los Merengues at the summit. Elsewhere, in seeing off city rivals Getafe 2-0, Atletico Madrid moved back up to fifth, while Espanyol jumped to sixth after securing their first away win of the season at Mallorca. Sevilla’s quest for consistency continues, their 2-0 loss to Sporting Gijon leaving them six points behind the pacesetters.
Top three: Real Madrid (17 points), Barcelona (16), Valencia (16)
Bottom three: Osasuna (6), Deportivo (4), Zaragoza (3)
Top scorers: Nilmar, Cristiano Ronaldo (both 5 goals), Gonzalo Higuain, Giuseppe Rossi (both 4)
Weekend stat: 1 – Valencia’s first reverse of the season was welcome news for Real Madrid, who promptly replaced Los Che at the top of the table. Jose Mourinho’s men can also boast the most miserly defence and prolific attack in the league, having conceded three and scored 16.
Bundesliga: Mainz stumble; Bayern bounce back
Late goals were highly influential in Germany this weekend: Nuri Sahin’s injury-time strike for Borussia Dortmund against Cologne earned the former a 2-1 win that sent them top at the expense of Mainz, sunk at home by Jose Guerrero’s 89th-minute winner for Hamburg. Bayer Leverkusen sit third after a pulsating 3-2 success at Wolfsburg.
Hoffenheim remain in touch in fourth after beating Monchengladbach 3-2, while sixth-placed St Pauli continued their remarkable start to the season by overcoming Nuremberg by the same scoreline. A Mario Gomez-inspired 3-0 victory over Hannover allowed Bayern Munich fans to breathe a collective sigh of relief, but Stuttgart supporters cannot yet say the same, their draw with fellow strugglers Schalke leaving the 2007 champions languishing at the foot of the table.
Top three: Borussia Dortmund, Mainz (both 21 points), Bayer Leverkusen (15)
Bottom three: Schalke, Cologne (both 5), Stuttgart (4)
Top scorers: Papiss Cisse, Theofanis Gekas (both 7 goals), Edin Dzeko, Pavel Pogrebnyak, Grafite, Srdan Lakic, Hugo Almeida, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (all 5)
Weekend stat: 7 – Undone 1-0 by Hamburg, Mainz were unable to set a new Bundesliga record, after registering seven victories from their first seven matches. To make matters worse, they also relinquished the leadership to the Dortmund side, the first time the Westphalians have been in such an elevated position since August 2003.
Serie A: Lazio show grit
Lazio emerged victorious from their tricky trip to Bari, consolidating first place in Serie A at the same time. AC Milan lead the chase in second, goals from Alexandre Pato and Robinho securing a 3-1 success versus Chievo. Inter Milan are third by virtue of having scored two fewer than their great rivals. Fourth-placed Napoli are two points back after only managing a 1-1 draw with mid-table Catania.
Juventus confirmed that their return to form is indeed genuine by disposing of Lecce 4-0. The Turin giants are joint fifth with Palermo, equally effective in their 4-1 dismantling of Bologna. Roma, now 13th, gave themselves some breathing room by beating Genoa 2-1, while Fiorentina took over the mantle of ‘crisis club’ by losing by the same scoreline to Sampdoria, thereby slipping to last place.
Top three: Lazio (16 points), AC Milan, Inter Milan (both 14)
Bottom three: Udinese (7), Parma (6), Fiorentina (5)
Top scorers: Samuel Eto’o, Edinson Cavani (both 6 goals), Marco Di Vaio (5)
Weekend stat: 178 – the record number of goals scored by a Juventus player in Serie A, achieved by Giampiero Boniperti, and, as of this weekend, Alessandro Del Piero. The veteran forward came off the bench in his club’s game with Lecce to net the final goal in a 4-0 win.
Ligue 1: Rennes keep the reins
Despite their unconvincing draw with lowly Lens, Rennes can be pleased with their weekend’s work. Due to Saint-Etienne’s 2-1 loss to Nice, the Breton side’s lead at the summit ended up increasing. Below the leading pair, things are starting to heat up, with Paris Saint-Germain’s 2-0 win over Toulouse helping them claim third place. A Loic Remy goal saw Marseille defeat Nancy 1-0, propelling the reigning champions to fourth.
Bordeaux are three spots further down the table, having continued their recent revival by beating Auxerre 1-0 away. Lyon followed suit by turning on the style to overcome Lille 3-1. Finally, in a mid-table clash where the clubs’ suspended coaches were both conspicuous by their absence, Montpellier saw off Sochaux 2-0.
Top three: Rennes (19 points), Saint-Etienne (17), Paris Saint-Germain (15)
Bottom three: Nancy (8), Lens (6), Arles-Avignon (1)
Top scorers: Dimitri Payet (8 goals), Youssef El-Arabi, Moussa Sow (5)
Weekend stat: 1 – By drawing 0-0 with Brest on Saturday, Arles-Avignon claimed the very first Ligue 1 point in the history of the club.
In Ukraine, the Donetsk derby between Metalurg and Shakhtar went the way of the latter by a score of 2-0. Mircea Lucescu’s men thus maintained a five-point lead over closest challengers Dynamo Kiev, 1-0 winners over Karpaty Lviv.
Finally, in Scotland, the Old Firm appear to be playing in a league of their own again this season. Rangers’ 4-1 win over Motherwell and Celtic’s 2-1 defeat of Dundee United extended the gap between the Glasgow giants, who are level on points at the top, and the SPL’s third-placed team – Motherwell – to a hefty 11 points.