European Leagues review
It proved to be a difficult weekend for the leaders in Europe’s major league championships, with AC Milan and Barcelona held to draws, Bundesliga pacesetters Borussia Dortmund losing, and French top dogs Lille being made to sweat for their three points. Manchester United, meanwhile, took a break from their title push, beating Premier League challengers Arsenal in the FA Cup quarter-finals to tee up a semi-final meeting with neighbours Manchester City.
FIFA.com has the details on those stories and more in its latest round-up of the European scene.
Bundesliga: Bayern turn on the style
Borussia Dortmund’s lead in Germany is down to single figures after they lost 1-0 to Hoffenheim and Bayer Leverkusen overcame Mainz by the same scoreline. Bayer are now nine points adrift of Die Schwarzgelben.
Bayern Munich ran riot against Hamburg, with flying Dutch winger Arjen Robben hitting a hat-trick in a 6-0 win that moved the Bavarian giants up to fourth, two points behind Hannover, who slumped to a 4-0 defeat at Cologne.
Wolfsburg’s woes continued when they lost 2-1 at home to Nuremberg, while Borussia Monchengladbach, the only side below Die Wölfe in the table, drew 1-1 at Werder Bremen. Stuttgart won 2-1 at fellow strugglers St-Pauli to pull away from the drop zone.
Top three: Borussia Dortmund (61 pts), Bayer Leverkusen (52), Hannover 96 (47)
Bottom three: St. Pauli (28), Wolfsburg (26), Borussia Monchengladbach (23)
Leading scorers: Mario Gomez (18 goals), Papiss Cisse (17), Theofanis Gekas (14)
Weekend stat: 15 - The number of goals leaders Dortmund have conceded in 26 games this season, the best defensive record in the Bundesliga.
La Liga: Real back in the hunt
In-form Frenchman Karim Benzema struck another double as Real Madrid cantered to a 2-0 home win against Hercules. Barcelona’s 1-1 draw at Sevilla on Sunday evening means Los Merengues are now only five points off the lead.
Ousted from the UEFA Champions League by Schalke, Valencia ended a black week on a disastrous note when struggling Zaragoza put four goals past them without reply. Fourth-placed Villarreal failed to take full advantage, however, conceding a late goal to allow Sporting Gijon a share of the spoils at the Madrigal.
Top three: Barcelona (75 pts), Real Madrid (70), Valencia (54)
Bottom three: Hercules (26), Almeria (26), Malaga (26)
Leading scorers: Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo (27 goals), David Villa (17)
Weekend stat: 6 - The number of goals scored by Karim Benzema in his last three league outings.
Serie A: Milan pair misfire
It proved to be a frustrating weekend for AC Milan and city rivals Inter, who played out 1-1 draws with Bari and Brescia respectibely, allowing Napoli to cut the gap on both thanks to a 3-1 triumph at Parma.
Elsewhere, Francesco Totti scored both Roma’s goals as they beat city rivals Lazio for the second time this season. Udinese, meanwhile, continued their fine form with another exhibition on the road, beating Cagliari 4-0, one of the goals coming from Chilean forward Alexis Sanchez and two from Serie A's current top scorer, Antonio Di Natale.
Top three: AC Milan (62 pts), Inter Milan (57), Napoli (56)
Bottom three: Lecce (28), Brescia (26), Bari (17)
Leading scorers: Antonio Di Natale (24 goals), Edinson Cavani (20), Samuel Eto’o (19)
Weekend stat: 14 - The number of goals Udinese have racked up in their last three away games.
Ligue 1: Close shave for Lille
Marseille stayed firmly in the title race with a 2-0 win at Rennes, who nevertheless held on to second. L’OM’s win allowed Lille to break three points clear, but only after a last-minute goal from their Belgian hot property Eden Hazard secured them a 2-1 win over Valenciennes.
Lyon won 2-0 at Sochaux to stay four points off the pace, while Paris Saint-Germain lost ground after relinquishing a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 at home to Montpellier. Saint-Etienne moved up to seventh by seeing off Brest 2-0, while Lens’ relegation worries deepened with a damaging 1-0 reverse at home to Toulouse.
Top three: Lille (52 pts), Rennes (49), Lyon, Marseille (48)
Bottom three: Monaco, Auxerre (29), Lens (25), Arles-Avignon (12)
Leading scorers: Moussa Sow (18 goals), Kevin Gameiro (16), Nene, Yousseff el Arabi (13)
Weekend stat: 1 - The number of games bottom side Arles-Avignon have lost in their last six matches, and the number of games they have won all season.
In Greece leaders Olympiakos went down 2-1 at PAOK Salonika but still hold a comfortable ten-point cushion over second-placed Panathinaikos, who boosted won 3-1 at Iraklis. Down in the relegation zone, bottom club Panserraikos maintained their flickering survival hopes by downing Skoda Xanthi 2-1 at home.
The three-horse race continued in the Netherlands, with reigning champions Twente and Ajax closing the gap on frontrunners PSV, who fell behind and then shipped a late equaliser in drawing 2-2 at NEC Nijmegen. The men from Enschede conceded early against VVV Venlo before recovering to win 2-1 and move to within a point of PSV, while Ajax, two points further back, also came from behind to overcome Willem II 3-1.
There was no Premier League action in England this weekend, with the FA Cup quarter-finals taking centre stage. Beaten in the League Cup final a fortnight ago and knocked out of the UEFA Champions League by Barcelona in the week, Arsenal bade farewell to another trophy when they lost 2-0 at Manchester United despite dominating for long periods. Bolton Wanderers, Stoke City and Manchester City were the weekend’s other winners, with the Manchester duo set to face off in the semi-finals.
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