United excel as leaders falter
The top teams around the continent produced a mixed bag of results at the weekend. League leaders Liverpool, Inter Milan and Lyon all failed to muster a win, allowing their pursuers to close in at the top. In the weekend's biggest match, meanwhile, FIFA Club World Cup winners Manchester United cruised past rivals Chelsea.
FIFA.com reviews the weekend action in Europe’s biggest leagues.
Premier League: Chelsea sink without a trace
The Premier League’s first battle of the titans in 2009 ended in an unexpectedly comfortable victory for Manchester United at home to Chelsea. Goals from Nemanja Vidic, Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov eased the champions to a 3-0 victory over their out-of-sorts rivals. The Red Devils move to within a point of the Blues, and can overtake them in a couple of days when they play the first of two games in hand, the second of which could take Sir Alex Ferguson's side top.
For the moment, Liverpool remain in pole, but they suffered a setback in a goalless draw away to promoted Stoke City. The chasing teams profited and made up ground in the standings. Aston Villa beat bottom club West Brom 2-1 in the West Midlands derby, while Arsenal scraped past Bolton by the only goal of the game.
Top three: Liverpool (46 points), Chelsea (42), Manchester United (41)
Bottom three: Tottenham Hotspur (20 points), Blackburn Rovers, West Bromwich Albion (both 18)
Leading scorers: Nicolas Anelka (14 goals), Robinho (11), Amr Zaki (10)
Weekend stat: 20 - Chelsea lost on their travels for the first time in 20 matches. The Blues were previously unbeaten away from home since December 2007 (16 wins, 4 draws)
La Liga: Real up to second as Barca march on
Leaders Barcelona stretched their unbeaten run in La Liga to 16 games, winning 3-2 in Osasuna to move a yawning 12 points clear at the top. The Catalans were 2-1 down with just ten minutes remaining on Sunday, but Xavi (80) and Lionel Messi (85) struck late to turn the contest on its head.
Real Madrid had a double reason to celebrate earlier in the day, chalking up a 3-0 win away to Mallorca courtesy of Arjen Robben, Raul and Sergio Ramos, and also accelerating up to second in the table. The men from the capital benefited from slip-ups among their rivals. Valencia were held 3-3 by Villarreal and Atletico Madrid fell 3-2 to Bilbao. Sevilla moved up to third with a 3-1 success in La Coruna.
Top three: Barcelona (47 points), Real Madrid, Sevilla (35)
Bottom three: Espanyol (15 points), RCD Mallorca (14), CA Osasuna (13)
Leading scorers: Samuel Eto'o (16 goals), David Villa (14), Diego Forlan (12)
Weekend stat: 2 - Real Madrid finished a matchday in second spot for only the second time this term.
Serie A: Juve make up ground
The big two in Milan suffered a frustrating weekend. Superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic salvaged a point for leaders Inter in a 1-1 draw with Cagliari, while AC Milan had to be content with a 2-2 draw on David Beckham’s debut away to AS Roma. The match featured a brace apiece for Romes’s Mirko Vucinic and Milan’s Alexandre Pato.
Juventus made the most of their opportunity, the evergreen Alessandro del Piero striking the only goal of the game after half-an-hour to see off Siena and move the Turin outfit to within four points of Inter. AC Milan remain third ahead of Napoli, 1-0 winners over Catania.
Top three: Inter (43 points), Juventus (39), AC Milan (34)
Bottom three: Torino (15 points), Reggina (13), Chievo Verona (10)
Leading scorers: Marco di Vaio (13 goals), Alberto Gilardino, Diego Milito (both 12)
Weekend stat: 8 - Inter finally dropped Serie A points as an eight-game winning streak came to an end.
Ligue 1: Bordeaux close in as Lyon stumble
Lyon’s lead in the French standings is down to a solitary point after the champions were surprisingly held 1-1 at home by Lorient. Ederson fired the leaders into a ninth-minute lead, but Fabrice Abriel levelled with half-time approaching.
In the weekend’s biggest fixture, Bordeaux moved into second after trouncing Paris St. Germain 4-0. The win heaps the pressure on Lyon, while the men from the capital slip back to sixth. Rennes and Marseille also made up ground with a 1-0 win over Grenoble and a 2-0 success away to Auxerre respectively.
Top three: Lyon (39 points), Bordeaux (38), Rennes (37)
Bottom three: Sochaux (17 points), Valenciennes (15), Le Havre (12)
Leading scorers: Fernando Cavenaghi, Andre-Pierre Gignac (both 12 goals), Guillaume Hoarau (11)
Weekend stat: 3 – Leaders Lyon have drawn all of their last three home games. The 1-1 draw with Lorient followed consecutive goalless stalemates.
In the Greek Super League, AEK Athens, in fourth, beat second-placed PAOK Saloniki 1-0. Champions Olympiakos Piraeus defeated AO Xanthi 2-1 to maintain a nine-point cushion at the top.