By NICK IUELE
The English Premier League is fast becoming a two-horse race, and the same contenders who fought to the finish last year appear ready for another tight race this season.
Manchester United pulled three points clear of the pack in the EPL with a dramatic 4-3 victory against Reading on Saturday. The Red Devils battled back from deficits on two occasions in a match that saw all seven goals scored in the first 34 minutes of the match.
Man City fell three points back of Man United after being held to a 1-1 draw against Everton. City remain unbeaten, but six draws on the season have the Citizens in second place in the EPL.
In Spain, Real Madrid made a big statement by downing second-place Atletico Madrid 2-0 on Saturday. Cristiano Ronaldo opened the scoring for the title holders and Mesut Ozil struck in the 66th to seal the win. Atletico, however, remains in the second position by five points.
In Italy, AC Milan continued a push up the table with a 3-1 win over Catania. Nicola Legrottaglie struck first for Catania in the 11th minute, but a second half brace from the red-hot Stephan El Shaarawy and a goal by Kevin-Prince Boateng gave Milan all three points and the seventh spot in the standings.
Here’s a look at the results from this weekend’s action in Europe’s top leagues:
Manchester City was able to keep pace with Manchester United, holding off Everton for a 1-1 draw at home. Marouane Fellaini scored for Everton in the 33rd minute, but the defending champs equalized 10 minutes later with a Carlos Tevez converted penalty. City trails United by three points, while the Toffees remain three point out of the Europa League spot.
Chelsea fell ten points off the pace after an embarrassing 3-1 loss to West Ham. The result means three straight matches without a win for the Blues since Rafa Benitez took over for Roberto DiMatteo as interim head coach.
English Premier League Scoreboard:
Norwich City 2, Sunderland 1
West Ham United 3, Chelsea 1
Swansea City 2, Arsenal 0
Tottenham Hotspur 3, Fulham 0
Liverpool 1, Southampton 0
Manchester City 1, Everton 1
Queens Park Rangers 1, Aston Villa 1
Stoke City 1, West Bromwich Albion 0
Manchester United 4, Reading 3
Monday: Newcastle v Wigan Athletic
Third-place Inter Milan was lucky to come out with all three points in a 1-0 win over lowly Palermo. After Inter played poorly the majority of the match, Palermo defender Santiago Garcia’s own goal in the 74th minute sunk the away side. Inter is four points out of first.
Napoli held on to second place in impressive fashion, downing Pescara 5-1. Gokhan Inler and Edinson Cavani had a brace each and Marek Hamsik added another. Napoli has hit a streak of good form and are only two points behind first-place Juventus.
Serie A Scoreboard:
Napoli 5, US Pescara 1
Bologna 2, Atalanta 1
Chievo Verona 4, Genoa 2
Inter Milan 1, Palermo 0
Lazio 2, Parma 1
AS Roma 3, Siena 1
Udinese 4, Cagliari 1
Fiorentina 2, Sampdoria 2
Juventus 3, Torino 0
AC Milan 3, Catania 1
First-place Barcelona took advantage on Athletico Madrid’s loss and went up seven point on the La Liga field with their 5-1 thrashing of Athletico Bilbao. Leonel Messi was at the double, while Barca also found goals from Gerard Pique, Adriano and Cesc Fabregas. The brace puts Messi one goal shy of Gerd Muller’s record of 85 goals in a calendar year.
Malaga continued to struggle with a 1-0 loss to Getafe. Alberto Lopo hit the winner for Getafe, who moved into a Europa League spot with the win. Despite being in fifth place, Malaga’s bad form of late has them slipping down the table.
La Liga Scoreboard:
Granada 0, Espanyol 0
Real Betis 3, Deportivo La Coruna 2
Celta Vigo 1, Levante 1
Mallorca 1, Real Zaragoza 1
Getafe 1, Malaga 0
Real Sociedad 5, Valencia 2
Barcelona 5, Athletic Bilbao 1
Real Madrid 2, Athletico Madrid 0
Osasuna 1, Rayo Vallecano 0
Monday: Sevilla FC v Valladolid
Table-toppers Bayern Munich held on for a 1-1 draw against Borussia Dortmund in this weekend’s marquee matchup in the Bundesliga. Toni Kroos opened the scoring in the 67th minute, and Mario Gotze equalized for the defending champs in the 74th. Munich still have a commanding eight point lead over the field.
Eintracht Frankfurt continued to slip down the table after being upset by Fortuna Dusseldorf 4-0. Stefan Reisinger, Oliver Fink, Nando Rafael and Axel Bellinghausen had a goal each for Dusseldorf. Frankfurt, once in second place, is not barely hanging on to fifth.
Werder Bremen 4, TSG Hoffenheim 1
VfL Wolfsburg 1, Hamburg SV 1
Bayer Leverkusen 1, Nurnberg 0
FC Augsburg 1, SC Freiburg 1
Mainz 2, Hannover 96 1
Schalke 04 1, Borussia Monchengladbach 1
VfB Stuttgart 1, SpVgg Greuther Furth 0
Bayern Munich 1, Borussia Dortmund 1
Fortuna Dusseldorf 4, Eintracht Frankfurt 0
Another week, another shuffle at the top of Ligue 1. Paris Saint-Germain fell to Nice 2-1. Zlatan Ibrahimovic equalized the match at ones in the 82nd minute, but Nice’s Valentin Eysseric hit the winner four minute later spring the upset. PSG is now in fourth place.
Lyon took advantage of PSG’s loss a downed Montpellier 1-0 to take back first place. Bafetimbi Gomis’ goal in the 26th minute proved to be the winner.
Ligue 1 Scoreboard:
Marseille 2, Brest 1
Stade Rennes 3, Troyes 2
Lorient 1, Toulouse 0
Lyon 1, Montpellier 0
Bordeaux 2, Sochaux 2
Evian Thonon Gaillard 1, AS Nancy Lorraine 1
Lille 0, Bastia 0
Nice 2, Paris St.-Germain 1
Valenciennes 1, Stade de Reims 0
AC Ajaccio 0, St. Etienne 0