BY JUSTIN FERGUSON
While it most likely will not make a huge difference in the La Liga championship picture, Real Madrid’s league win over Barcelona could make an impact in the upcoming Champions League ties.
Madrid defeated its biggest rival 2-1 on Saturday, giving the club its second win over Barcelona in five days and its first league Clasico win at home in five years. After a 31-3-5 start in all competitions, Barcelona has now lost three of its last four matches.
With his club just three days from Madrid’s second leg with Manchester United in the Champions League Round of 16, manager Jose Mourinho elected to place starters Cristiano Ronaldo, Mesut Ozil, Gonzalo Higuain and Sami Khedira on the bench for the match. Barcelona, led by assistant coach Jordi Roura, only made two changes from Tuesday’s Copa del Rey defeat, substituting Thiago Alacantra and David Villa for Cesc Fabregas and injured Xavi.
The “weakened” Madrid squad got on the scoreboard quickly as Karim Benzema tapped in a low cross from Alvaro Morata. Barcelona equalized 12 minutes later when Lionel Messi drove a low shot past Diego Lopez for the score. The goal extended Messi’s La Liga scoring streak to 16 games and tied fellow Argentinian Alfredo Di Stefano for the most career El Clasico goals.
The unusual daytime Clasico sparked back to life after Ronaldo’s entrance in the 58th minute. Both sides had great goalscoring opportunities during the second half as both Messi and Ronaldo tested the opposing goalkeepers. Sergio Ramos finally made the breakthrough eight minutes from time off of a corner kick, scoring with a header that just got under the crossbar. Madrid held onto its slim lead for some testy final minutes that included a controversial waving-off of a Barcelona penalty shout.
This weekend’s North London Derby also finished 2-1 with home side Tottenham Hotspur emerging victorious over rival Arsenal.
After a back and forth start to the match, Tottenham jumped out to a two-goal lead thanks to a quick double from Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon. Both men knifed their way through a shaky Arsenal back four and past goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny. Only 140 seconds separated Bale and Lennon’s goals, which were scored just before the 40th minute.
Arsenal won the possession battle handily but only managed to generate two shots on goal. The one that managed to find its way past Tottenham Hugo goalkeeper Hugo Lloris was a fine header from Per Mertesacker in the 51st minute. The Gunners pressed hard to find an equalizer for the final minutes but could not hit the target, dooming them to a five-point gap from now fourth-place Chelsea. Tottenham’s win moves the club back into third place and just two points back from Manchester City.
Here is a closer look at the rest of this weekend’s action from Europe’s top leagues:
While Real Madrid was fighting for a dramatic win over rival Barcelona, upcoming opponent Manchester United was cruising to a 4-0 win over Norwich City. The Premier League leaders got revenge on the visiting Canaries for November’s 1-0 loss at Carrow Road, the last time the Red Devils lost a league contest. Shinji Kagawa became the first Asian player to record a hat trick in Premier League history and Wayne Rooney capped the dominant performance off with a sensational 90th minute strike. The win extended United’s league lead back to 15 points over rival City, which faces Aston Villa on Monday night.
Chelsea also gathered three points on Saturday, defeating West Bromwich Albion 1-0. As expected, interim manager Rafael Benitez was showered with abusive chants and fan-made displays at the start of the contest. However, there seemed to be more encouragement for the Chelsea players throughout the match—something that Benitez criticized fans for not doing enough after the midweek win at Middlesbrough. Demba Ba scored the match’s lone goal in the 28th minute, making for some nervy last minutes at Stamford Bridge. To the delight of both Benitez and Chelsea fans, goalkeeper Petr Cech came up with a few crucial saves late to preserve the victory.
Here is the full list of results from this weekend’s Premier League action:
Chelsea 1, West Bromwich Albion 0
Everton 3, Reading 1
Manchester United 4, Norwich City 0
QPR 2, Southampton 1
West Ham United 1, Stoke City 0
Sunderland 2, Fulham 2
Swansea City 1, Newcastle United 0
Liverpool 4, Wigan Athletic 0
Tottenham Hotspur 2, Arsenal 1
Second-place Atletico Madrid failed to capitalize on Barcelona’s loss to city rival Real on Sunday, playing out a scoreless draw with fourth-place Malaga. The hosts were close to getting three points and giving themselves some breathing room around that final Champions League spot, but Atletico’s Thibaut Courtois fought off any solid chances. An open and entertaining first half faded into a largely uneventful second, marked by a few off-target distance shots from both sides.
Malaga was fortunate that fifth-place Valencia was unable to jump up in the table thanks to a late equalizer from Levante’s Jose Barkero. Host Valencia pushed two first half goals across to give the club a 2-1 lead, but Barkero was there to take advantage of some slow reactions from the Valencia back line. Valencia came close to a stoppage time winner when a deflected free kick landed at the feet of Sofiane Feghouli, but the follow-up sailed over the bar.
Here is the full list of results from this weekend’s La Liga action:
Getafe 2, Real Zaragoza 0
Real Madrid 2, Barcelona 1
Deportivo La Coruna 0, Rayo Vallecano 0
Athletic Bilbao 1, Osasuna 0
Valencia 2, Levante 2
Mallorca 2, Granada 1
Espanyol 0, Real Valladolid 0
Malaga 0, Atletico Madrid 0
Real Sociedad 3, Real Betis 3
Bayern Munich’s victory at 17th place Hoffenheim was surprisingly tough as the league leaders could only score once on Sunday. Jerome Boateng’s 38th minute cross met the head of Franck Ribery, who nodded it to an open Mario Gomez for the match’s only goal. Hoffenheim pushed hard for an equalizer, but debuting goalkeeper Tom Starke kept his old club off the board. Ribery, David Alaba, Thomas Muller and Mario Mandzukic all missed chances to seal the match in the second half.
The close Bayern win kept the club’s Bundesliga lead at 17 points as Borussia Dortmund secured three points on Saturday. The defending champions raced past Hannover 96 by a score of 3-1 at home. Striker Robert Lewandowski shook off the growing speculation about his future at Dortmund with two first half goals, and teammate Julian Schieber sealed the win in the 72nd minute. The loss kept Hannover in 10th place but still not out of a Europa League spot—the club is still only three points back from fifth-place Freiburg.
Here is the full list of results from this weekend’s Bundesliga action:
Borussia Monchengladbach 1, Eintracht Frankfurt 0
Borussia Dortmund 3, Hannover 96 1
Hamburg 1, Greuther Furth 1
Nurnberg 1, Freiburg 1
Schalke 4, Wolfsburg 1
Augsburg 1, Werder Bremen 0
Bayer Leverkusen 2, Stuttgart 1
Bayern Munich 1, Hoffenheim 0
Fortuna Dusseldorf 1, Mainz 1
Juventus kept its six-point lead in Serie A intact on Friday with a 1-1 draw at Napoli. The top team in Italy surged out to an early lead thanks to a 10th minute header from Giorgio Chiellini but was unable to cash in any other early opportunities. Napoli caught a big break just before half when Gohkan Inler’s shot took a favorable deflection off Juve defender Leonardo Bonucci and into the goal. The hosts peppered Gianluigi Buffon’s goal throughout the second half but never found a way past him for a second goal. Juventus would walk away from the San Paolo somewhat happy with the draw as the club prepares to take care of business against Celtic on Wednesday.
AC Milan cruised past Lazio into third place on Friday with a dominant 3-0 win at the San Siro. Lazio’s Antonio Candreva saw red for yanking down a wide-open Stephan El Shaarawy in just the 16th minute of the match. It took Milan 24 more minutes to make its man advantage count as Giampaolo Pazzini tapped in a pass from El Shaarawy for the opening goal. Pazzini, who would score again in the second half, was joined by Kevin Prince-Boateng on the score sheet four minutes later after knocking in a rebounded effort.
Milan’s city rival Inter also ended the weekend above Lazio in the league table. Inter strung together three second half goals in a 3-2 comeback victory at Catania. The hosts scored twice in the opening 20 minutes and kept the visitors silent in the first half. Ricardo Alvarez started the comeback in the 52nd minute with a header that was assisted by substitute Rodrigo Palacio. The super sub later equalized in the 70th minute and won the match for Inter in stoppage time, latching himself onto the end of a fine pass from Esteban Cambiasso. Inter is now in fourth place, ahead of Lazio on goal differential.
Here is the full list of results from this weekend’s Serie A action:
Napoli 1, Juventus 1
AC Milan 3, Lazio 0
Torino 0, Palermo 0
Bologna 3, Cagliari 0
Inter Milan 3, Catania 2
Fiorentina 2, Chievo Verona 1
Sampdoria 1, Parma 0
Atalanta 2, Siena 0
Udinese 1, US Pescara 0
AS Roma 3, Genoa 1
After posting back-to-back 2-0 wins over rival Marseille, PSG was stunned 1-0 to relegation candidate Stade de Reims on Saturday. The capital club wasted several scoring chances in the road loss to Reims, which recorded only its second win of 2013. The hosts found themselves down a man in the 59th minute after Christopher Glombard was sent off with a second yellow card. PSG failed to capitalize on the advantage, and Reims made its guests pay by way of a Grzegorz Krychowiak goal. David Beckham entered the game shortly after the goal to try to change the outcome, but Reims withstood the storm and recorded the shock win. This marks the second time in three Ligue 1 matches that PSG has fallen to a team in the bottom fourth of the table.
But second-place Lyon was unable to force a deadlock at the top of the league table on Sunday after a 1-1 draw to low-lying Brest. The home team got out to a lead in the eighth minute but gave away the equalizer by way of an own goal. Brest, who only had one shot on goal the entire match, roughed OL up throughout the match and kept the visitors out of rhythm offensively. Goalkeeper Alex Thebaux made five saves in the draw that pushed the home team farther away from the relegation zone.
Here is the full list of results from this weekend’s Ligue 1 action:
Montpellier 2, Stade Rennes 0
Stade de Reims 1, PSG 0
Bastia 1, Ajaccio 0
Lorient 1, Valenciennes 1
Nancy 2, Sochaux 1
St Etienne 4, Nice 0
Toulouse 0, Evian Thonon 0
Brest 1, Lyon 1
Marseille 2, Troyes 1
Lille 2, Bordeaux 1