European Leagues review
The focus in France was on the cup at the weekend, but the action continued unabated in Europe’s other top leagues. It was a generally good day for the front-runners, as the leaders in Spain, Italy and England all won. And although German top dogs Borussia Dortmund dropped home points, they remain 11 clear at the summit. FIFA.com reviews the action in the top leagues around Europe.
Premier League: Gunners and Red Devils on form
Twenty-two games into the season, Manchester United remain the only undefeated team in England. The Red Devils thrashed Birmingham City 5-0, while Manchester City fell 1-0 to Aston Villa, with £24m man Darren Bent scoring the winner on his debut for the Villains.
Arsenal beat Wigan Athletic 3-0 and remain just two points behind United, while Liverpool ended a three-game winless run and climbed to 11th with a 3-0 victory over struggling Wolverhampton Wanderers, doubling their tally of away wins in the process. Fourth-placed Chelsea meet Bolton Wanderers on Monday.
Top three: Manchester United (48 points), Arsenal (46), Manchester City (45)
Bottom three: Wigan Athletic (22), Wolverhampton Wanderers, West Ham United (both 21)
Leading scorers: Dimitar Berbatov (17 goals), Carlos Tevez (14), Andrew Carroll (11)
Weekend stat: 3 – United striker Dimitar Berbatov fired his third hat-trick of the season. Arsenal hitman Robin van Persie also grabbed a treble.
Bundesliga: Dortmund held, rivals make up ground
Runaway leaders Borussia Dortmund were expected to take maximum points at home to second-from-bottom Stuttgart, but the visitors levelled six minutes from time to seal a not undeserved 1-1 draw.
Michael Ballack returned from a lengthy injury lay-off as Bayer Leverkusen moved up to second with a 3-1 away victory over bottom club Monchengladbach. Mario Gomez fired a third hat-trick of the season as Bayern Munich went fourth with a 5-1 rout of Kaiserslautern, the champions’ biggest win of the season so far. Hamburg and Schalke maintained recent improvements with 1-0 wins over Eintracht Frankfurt and Hannover, but Werder Bremen’s dismal run continued with a 3-0 defeat in Cologne.
Top three: Borussia Dortmund (47 points), Bayer Leverkusen (36), Hannover (34)
Bottom three: St. Pauli (19), VfB Stuttgart (16), Borussia Monchengladbach (13)
Leading scorers: Papiss Demba Cisse, Mario Gomez (both 15 goals), Theofanis Gekas (14)
Weekend stat: 100 – After the 19th round of matches, Borussia Dortmund are top of the Bundesliga for the 100th time in their history.
Serie A: Mixed bag for top teams
Lazio and champions Inter Milan in fourth and fifth both suffered setbacks with 3-1 away defeats to Bologna and Udinese respectively. Sixth-placed Juventus were held to a goalless draw by Sampdoria and missed the chance to go fourth.
By contrast, the top three all won. Leaders AC Milan beat Cesena 2-0 and remain four points clear of Napoli, themselves 2-0 winners away to Bari. Roma seized third spot from city rivals Lazio with a 3-0 victory over Cagliari.
Top three: AC Milan (44 points), Napoli (40), Roma (38)
Bottom three: Cesena (19), Brescia (18), Bari (14)
Leading scorers: Antonio di Natale (15 goals), Edinson Cavani (14), Marco di Vaio (13)
Weekend stat: 6 – Inter’s six-game undefeated run since the arrival of new boss Leonardo came to an end.
La Liga: Real and Barça march on
It was a case of ‘as you were’ in Spain at the start of the second half of the league programme. Leaders Barcelona beat Racing Santander 3-0 to make it 18 wins in 20 league fixtures and maintain their four-point lead over Real Madrid, who narrowly beat Mallorca courtesy of Karim Benzema’s second-half strike.
Fourth-placed Valencia made heavy weather of second-from-bottom Malaga, Aritz Aduriz netting a stoppage-time winner in a seven-goal thriller. Third-placed Villarreal beat Real Sociedad 2-1 and remain 13 points off top spot.
Top three: Barcelona (55 points), Real Madrid (51), Villarreal (42)
Bottom three: Almeria, Malaga (both 17), Levante (15)
Leading scorers: Cristiano Ronaldo (22 goals), Lionel Messi (19), David Villa (14)
Weekend stat: 14 – Barcelona have now won their last 14 league games on the bounce.
In Turkey, SuperLig champions Bursaspor missed out on the chance to claw back ground from front-runners Trabzonspor. Ankaragucu took a point off the leaders in a 1-1 draw, but the men from Bursa were held to a goalless stalemate by Konyaspor. The Istanbul trio made up ground: Fenerbahce beat Antalyaspor 1-0, Besiktas trounced Bucaspor 5-1, and Galatasaray beat Sivasspor 1-0. The big three are now third, fifth and seventh.
Porto maintained their eight-point lead in Portugal with a tight 1-0 success away to promoted Beira-Mar. Champions Benfica kept up the chase with a 4-2 victory against Nacional in Madeira, but the Lisbon giants require slip-ups from the men from the north.
The focus in France was on the last 32 of the domestic cup. There were upsets too, as lower league Chambery and Angers dumped Ligue 1 sides Brest and Bordeaux out of the competition. However, the top flight is still amply represented in the last 16 as Rennes, Paris Saint-Germain, Nancy, Lille, Nice and Lorient all made it through.