European Leagues review
Germany crowned its new champions on Saturday, but the top teams in Spain all chose the same weekend to slip up. The leaders also lost in England, while there was a change at the top of the French standings. In Italy, AC Milan placed one hand firmly on the Scudetto, with derbies grabbing the headlines in Turkey and Russia. FIFA.com reviews the weekend action in Europe’s leading leagues.
Premier League: Exciting finish in store
The title race in England took another twist at the weekend, becoming more and more dramatic as the weekend programme unfolded. Second-placed Chelsea came from behind to beat fellow Londoners Tottenham Hotspur, but leaders Manchester United fell 1-0 away to Spurs’ north London rivals Arsenal, who kept alive their faint title hopes in third. United now lead the Gunners by six points, and Chelsea by a mere three. Liverpool made the most of Spurs’ misfortune, easing into the UEFA Europa League spot in fifth with a 3-0 victory over mid-table Newcastle United.
In the relegation struggle, 16th-placed Blackburn Rovers chalked up a vital 1-0 win over Bolton Wanderers, while the teams directly below Blackburn all drew: Blackpool, Wigan and Wolverhampton Wanderers took a point each off Stoke, Everton and Birmingham City respectively. Tail-enders West Ham United were the only losers, falling 2-1 to fourth-placed Manchester City.
Top three: Manchester United (73 points), Chelsea (70), Arsenal (67)
Bottom three: Wigan Athletic (35), Wolverhampton Wanderers (34), West Ham United (32)
Top scorers: Dimitar Berbatov (21 goals), Carlos Tevez (19), Darren Bent, Robin van Persie (both 15)
Weekend stat: 5 – Chelsea have now won five on the trot in the league, and have not tasted defeat since a 1-0 reverse at home to Liverpool on 6 February.
Bundesliga: Dortmund claim the crown
Borussia Dortmund sealed their seventh German championship on Saturday afternoon, moving unassailably clear at the top of the Bundesliga standings with two games to spare thanks to a 2-0 win over Nuremberg, and Bayer Leverkusen’s defeat by the same score away to Cologne. Elsewhere, Bayern Munich thrashed out-of-sorts Schalke 4-1 and recovered third spot, the last of the UEFA Champions League qualifying berths. Hannover had been ahead of Bayern but surprisingly lost at home to Borussia Monchengladbach, whose late dash for safety saw them move off the bottom of the table.
Mainz cemented their grip on fifth and a Europa League spot, moving five points clear of Nuremberg with a 3-0 home win over struggling Eintracht Frankfurt. At the wrong end of the standings, 2008/09 champions Wolfsburg climbed to 15th with a 1-0 win away to Werder Bremen, wresting control of their destiny back into their own hands. Kaiserslautern’s 2-0 victory over doomed St. Pauli all but ensures the Red Devils’ safety.
Top three: Borussia Dortmund (72 points), Bayer Leverkusen (64), Bayern Munich (59)
Bottom three: Eintracht Frankfurt (34), Borussia Monchengladbach (32), St. Pauli (29)
Top scorers: Mario Gomez (24 goals), Papiss Demba Cisse (22), Theofanis Gekas, Milivoje Novakovic (both 16)
Weekend stat: 22 – Both Freiburg goals in a 2-0 win away to Hamburg were scored by Papiss Demba Cisse. The Senegalese hitman is now up to 22 for the campaign, the best-ever total by an African import in the German top flight.
Serie A: Milan on verge of title
AC Milan are poised to claim the honours in Italy, after a 1-0 win over Bologna left I Rossoneri eight points clear of bitter rivals Inter with only three games to play. The defending champions, for their part, scrambled a last-gasp victory over 16th-placed Cesena, with third-placed Napoli edging out Genoa to remain hot on Inter’s heels.
Fifth-placed Roma struck late to secure a 3-2 win away to Bari and keep alive their hopes of Champions League football next term. At the foot of the table, Sampdoria remain in trouble following a 3-3 draw with Brescia; the sides lie 17th and 19th respectively. Catania beat Cagliari 2-0 to move closer to safety in 15th. Fourth meets seventh when Lazio host Juventus on Monday to complete the weekend programme.
Top three: AC Milan (77 points), Inter Milan (69), Napoli (68)
Bottom three: Lecce (35), Brescia (33), Bari (21)
Top scorers: Antonio di Natale, Edinson Cavani (both 26 goals), Samuel Eto’o (20)
Weekend stat: 189 – Italy international Giampaolo Pazzini required just 189 seconds to score both of Inter’s stoppage-time goals in a dramatic late win over Cesena.
La Liga: Simultaneous stumbles for top trio
Leaders Barcelona and second-placed Real Madrid both contrived to lose on Matchday 34 in Spain. The Catalans fell 2-1 away to mid-table Sociedad, while Jose Mourinho’s men suffered a shock 3-2 defeat at home to lowly Zaragoza.
Valencia caught the same virus and lost 1-0 to 16th-placed Osasuna, but Villarreal in fourth underlined their Champions League ambitions with a 2-1 win over struggling Getafe. The battle for Europa League qualifying places continues on Monday evening when Espanyol entertain Athletic Bilbao.
Top three: Barcelona (88 points), Real Madrid (80), Valencia (63)
Bottom three: Getafe (37), Hercules (33), Almeria (26)
Leading scorers: Lionel Messi (31 goals), Cristiano Ronaldo (29), David Villa (18)
Weekend stat: 2 – Barcelona’s reverse in San Sebastian was only their second league defeat of the season. Pep Guardiola’s side last failed to take anything from a match on 10 September 2010, when they lost 2-0 at home to Alicante-based Hercules.
Ligue 1: Lille recover first place
Lille put five past relegated Arles-Avignon and Marseille could only draw with Auxerre, obliging L’OM to surrender top spot to Les Dogues. Lyon lost 2-0 away to mid-table Toulouse but remain third, although they have now been caught on points by Paris St. Germain. PSG beat Valenciennes 3-1 and are very much in the hunt for Champions League football.
Rennes’ bid for Europe stalled in a goalless draw with Bordeaux, themselves treading water in eighth. Aside from bottom club Avignon, the other teams in the dreaded drop zone are Nancy and Lens, both of whom lost.
Top three: Lille (63 points), Marseille (62), Lyon (56)
Bottom three: Nancy (38), Lens (30), Arles-Avignon (14)
Top scorers: Moussa Sow (21 goals), Kevin Gameiro (20), Yousef El-Arabi (17)
Weekend stat: 6 – Avignon have now failed to score in their last six matches. The 5-0 drubbing against Lille was the 22nd match in which the bottom club have failed to find the net this term, and their 16 goals for is the worst attacking record in the French top flight.
In Russia, the Moscow derby ended in a 1-0 victory for Spartak over CSKA, Brazilian schemer Ari firing the only goal of the game. Elsewhere in the capital, Locomotive beat promoted Kuban Krasnodar 2-1 in the clash of second and third, and are now chief pursuers behind leaders Zenit St. Petersburg, who were held 0-0 by top flight newcomers Krasnodar.
A derby was also the focus of attention in Turkey. Istanbul giants Besiktas (5th) entertained Galatasaray (14th), and claimed the points with a 2-0 success. Besiktas remain on course for Europe, but Gala’s alarming slide continues. Fehnerbahce and Trabzonspor jointly lead the standings on 73 points after comfortably overcoming Istanbul BB and Gaziantepspor.