Milan crowned, trio edge closer
A week on from Borussia Dortmund’s title triumph, it was the turn of AC Milan to uncork the champagne after they ended any lingering suspense with two games to go in Serie A. Manchester United and Barcelona stand on the verge of wrapping up their own domestic competitions as both now require a single point to be crowned champions, while Lille stretched their lead in France following a loss for rivals Marseille at Lyon.
FIFA.com looks back over the all the highlights from the weekend’s action in Europe’s leading leagues.
Premier League: United see off Chelsea challenge
The meeting between Manchester United and Chelsea was as hotly anticipated as any final, the Blues having climbed to within just three points of their hosts after an incredible run of form. It took United just 36 seconds to assert their authority, however, with Javier Hernandez putting the leaders ahead before Nemanja Vidic doubled the deficit. Frank Lampard responded for Chelsea after the break, but Sir Alex Ferguson’s men held on to triumph 2-1 and leave themselves needing just a solitary point to seal their 19th English crown.
In third, Arsenal followed up their win against the champions-in-waiting by succumbing 3-1 at Stoke City, a result that put paid to their faint title hopes. There was disappointment for Tottenham Hotspur too as their UEFA Champions League qualification chances took a blow in a 1-1 home draw against Blackpool, leaving Manchester City favourites to finish fourth despite their 2-1 loss at Everton.
Top three: Manchester United (76), Chelsea (70), Arsenal (67)
Bottom three: Blackpool (36), Wigan Athletic (36), West Ham United (33)
Top scorers: Dimitar Berbatov (21), Carlos Tevez (19), Robin van Persie (16)
Weekend stat: 15 – The number of points by which Chelsea trailed the Red Devils ahead of their previous meeting on 1 March. Carlo Ancelotti’s side won that game 2-1 and took 25 points from the next 27 to catapult themselves right back into the title equation.
La Liga: Madrid delay Barça’s big day
Fresh from their quartet of Clásico matches against Real Madrid, Barcelona took on another traditional rival in the form of city neighbours Espanyol. Josep Guardiola’s charges carved out a relatively straightforward 2-0 victory thanks to goals from Andres Iniesta and Gerard Pique, and now find themselves a point away from securing a third consecutive Spanish title.
The Catalan giants could even have wrapped things up this weekend had Madrid failed to prevail at Sevilla on Saturday. As it was, the capital side cruised to a 6-2 win to delay Barça’s coronation, Cristiano Ronaldo racking up four goals to move ahead of Lionel Messi in the scoring charts. Elsewhere, Valencia strengthened their grip on third by defeating Real Sociedad 3-0, with fourth-placed Villarreal kept at bay in a goalless stalemate with Mallorca on Sunday.
Top three: Barcelona (91), Real Madrid (83), Valencia (66)
Bottom three: Deportivo La Coruna (38) Hercules (33), Almeria (26)
Top scorers: Cristiano Ronaldo (33) Lionel Messi (31), David Villa (18)
Weekend stat: 1 – Dutch striker Ruud van Nistelrooy is the only player to have finished top marksman in both Spain and England, but Ronaldo is currently on course to match his former United team-mate. The Portuguese forward plundered an unrivalled 31 efforts in the 2007/08 Premier League season.
Serie A: Milan cross finishing line
A goalless draw at Roma was enough for Milan to commence their title celebrations, the club having clinched their 18th Scudetto and first since 2004. The club’s supporters will be eager to join in with the festivities when I Rossoneri host Cagliari next time out.
For deposed champions Inter Milan, consolation came in the form of guaranteed Champions League football next term, Leonardo’s men ensuring a podium finish with a 3-1 success against Fiorentina. Third-placed Napoli conceded a late goal in a 2-1 defeat at Lecce, on the other hand, but will look to bounce back when they tackle I Nerazzurri next time out. They will nonetheless have to fare without forward Edinson Cavani after he was dismissed against Lecce, and the Uruguayan international suffered further frustration when he was overtaken in the scoring charts by Antonio di Natale. The Udinese striker registered twice in a 2-1 win over Lazio to lift his side into fourth.
Top three: AC Milan (78), Inter Milan (72), Napoli (68)
Bottom three: Sampdoria (36), Brescia (31), Bari (21)
Top scorers: Antonio di Natale (28), Edinson Cavani (26), Samuel Eto'o (20)
Weekend stat: 6 – The number of current Milan players on the club’s books when they last won the league in 2003/04 (Clarence Seedorf, Alessandro Nesta, Gennaro Gattuso, Andrea Pirlo, Massimo Ambrosini and Christian Abbiati). The San Siro side were facing Roma when they completed that title win too, beating I Giallorossi 1-0 with two games to go in May 2004.
Ligue 1: Lifts for Lille and Lyon
Lille helped their championship bid along with a 1-0 success at Nancy on Saturday as Eden Hazard made the difference from a free kick. Rudi Garcia’s men have at last begun to discuss their title ambitions in public and will have been delighted to see closest pursuers Marseille come unstuck in a 3-2 loss at Lyon the following day. That result moved the victors up to third and left OM four points shy of the summit.
Paris Saint-Germain had to settle for a 1-1 draw from their trip to Monaco, while Bordeaux slumped to a heavy 4-0 reverse at home to Sochaux, after which coach Jean Tigana tendered his resignation. For their part, Rennes have yet to rediscover their winning formula and suffered another setback, 2-0 at Valenciennes.
Top three: Lille (66), Marseille (62), Lyon (59)
Bottom three: Nancy (38), Lens (31), Arles-Avignon (14)
Top scorers: Moussa Sow (21), Kevin Gameiro (20), Youssef El-Arabi (17)
Weekend stat: 4 – The number of goals scored by Lyon’s Lisandro Lopez in four meetings with Marseille. This season, the forward has found the net every 133 minutes and required fewer than five chances to notch each of his strikes.
Bundesliga: Bayern save their season
A week on from securing the Bundesliga crown, Borussia Dortmund took their foot off the pedal as they slumped to a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Werder Bremen, for whom three points guaranteed top-flight survival. Second-placed Bayer Leverkusen could only draw 1-1 with Hamburg, meanwhile, and will need at least a point in their last outing of the season to keep Bayern Munich at arm’s length.
The Bavarian giants will go into their own final fixture in high spirits after engineering an 8-1 victory at St. Pauli, who are now destined for relegation. Mario Gomez hit a hat-trick and Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery both notched doubles to boost the club’s goal difference, which could prove crucial if Bayern see off Stuttgart and Leverkusen lose at Freiburg on Saturday. Whatever happens, the third-placed side are now certain to compete in the Champions League next term.
Top three: Borussia Dortmund (72), Bayer Leverkusen (65), Bayern Munich (62)
Bottom three: Borussia Monchengladbach (26), Eintracht Frankfurt (34), St. Pauli (29)
Top scorers: Mario Gomez (27) Papiss Cisse (22), Theofanis Gekas (16)
Weekend stat: 27 – The Bundesliga’s leading scorer, Mario Gomez, has now beaten his previous best goal haul in a single season, his treble against St. Pauli taking him past the 24 strikes he put away for Stuttgart in 2008/09.
In Scotland, the perennial tussle continues between Glasgow powers Celtic and Rangers. The two clubs have shared the Scottish title between them for the last 25 years and both won comfortably at the weekend, meaning Rangers remain a point clear with two fixtures remaining. Celtic can no longer afford the slightest stumble as they cling to their hopes of preventing their old rivals claiming a third consecutive championship.
Shakhtar Donetsk have won the race for glory in Ukraine, finally, after they downed derby rivals Metalurh Donetsk 2-0. The Champions League quarter-finalists thus moved beyond the reach of Dynamo Kiev, who lie eight points back with two games left to play.
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