By JUSTIN FERGUSON
Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur both lost to lower positioned foes this weekend as their rivals gained ground in the Premier League race.
City fell 2-0 on Saturday at Everton, the sixth-place club that has become one of the defending champion’s toughest opponents. After Kevin Mirallas’s early goal was incorrectly ruled offside, Leon Osman put the hosts out in front with a swerving long-range effort. After Everton was unable to add to the early lead, the match swung in Manchester City’s favor as Steven Pienaar was sent off after receiving his second yellow card. But Everton goalkeeper Jan Mucha, who continues to fill in for the injured Tim Howard, held off the surging City offense with eight crucial saves.
Everton sealed the win in stoppage time with a quick counter attack that was spearheaded by Marouane Fellaini. The Belgian midfielder drove down the middle of the field, absorbing defenders before playing the ball out wide to Nikica Jelavic. The forward’s shot was deflected past Joe Hart, putting a cap on Everton’s sixth win in its last eight matches against Man City. The defending champions now sit 15 points back from rival Manchester United, who defeated Reading 1-0 in Saturday’s late match.
Tottenham was defeated 1-0 on Sunday off of a 52nd minute strike from one of the club’s former players. Dimitar Berbatov, who left White Hart Lane in 2008, scored an easy goal against a Tottenham squad that seemed ragged after Thursday’s extra-time marathon with Inter Milan. Even the return of Gareth Bale to the starting 11 was not enough to get an equalizer for Andre Villas-Boas’s squad. Mark Schwarzer’s last-minute save of a Jermain Defoe effort sealed Fulham’s move into the top half and Tottenham’s third straight defeat, the first of the AVB Era.
Elsewhere, Bayern Munich maintained their massive 20-point cushion at the top of the Bundesliga and avenged an early-season loss to Bayer Leverkusen with a 2-1 victory on Saturday. A few normal Bayern starters rested as Mario Gomez gave the club an early road lead. Leverkusen answered back with 15 minutes left in the match as midfielder Simon Rolfes nodded in a corner kick past a busy Manuel Neuer. All signs pointed towards a draw until the 87th minute, when Leverkusen defender Phillipp Wollscheid redirected a Bastian Schweinsteiger free kick into his own net. Bayern are now four points away from securing a record 23rd Bundesliga title.
Here is a closer look at the rest of the weekend’s top European action:
Both Chelsea and Arsenal took advantage of the Manchester City and Tottenham losses this weekend as both London clubs posted 2-0 wins.
The Blues moved into third place in the Premier League table with their Sunday victory over West Ham United, which was highlighted by Frank Lampard’s 200th goal as a Chelsea player. The longtime midfielder, whose future with the club is still in doubt, headed in a deflected Eden Hazard cross in the 19th minute for the landmark score. While former West Ham striker Demba Ba missed multiple chances to add to Chelsea’s lead, Eden Hazard doubled the home side’s advantage five minutes after the second half kickoff. The Blues now head into the international break with 55 points in 29 matches, one point ahead of a Tottenham squad that has played 30.
Although it took them 74 minutes to get on the scoreboard Saturday, the Gunners cruised past Swansea City to keep their Champions League hopes alive. Key Swansea playmaker Michu, who scored both goals in the club’s 2-0 win at the Emirates Stadium earlier this season, was held in check by a tough Arsenal defense. The offense finally broke through with 16 minutes left as Nacho Monreal registered his first goal as a Gunner. Gervinho would later secure the three points for the club in stoppage time, scoring off of a great pass from Aaron Ramsey. Arsenal now sits just four points back from rival Tottenham for the final Champions League spot for next season.
Here is the full list of results from this weekend’s EPL action:
Everton 2, Manchester City 0
Aston Villa 3, QPR 2
Southampton 3, Liverpool 1
Stoke City 0, West Bromwich Albion 0
Arsenal 2, Swansea City 0
Manchester United 1, Reading 0
Sunderland 1, Norwich City 1
Fulham 1, Tottenham 0
Chelsea 2, West Ham United 0
Wigan Athletic 2, Newcastle United 1
Just a few short weeks ago, several media outlets were proclaiming the end of an era—after a 2-0 loss to AC Milan and back-to-back losses to Real Madrid, Barcelona’s run as the best team in the world was ending. Now, following a 4-0 comeback in the AC Milan matchup and a 3-1 win over Rayo Vallecano, Barcelona looks like a team not ready to give up its title just yet. The La Liga leaders kept their 13-point advantage intact on Sunday against a tough Vallecano side that forced Jose Manuel Pinto to make seven saves. David Villa’s opening goal was followed up by two scores from Lionel Messi, whose La Liga scoring streak is now at 18 matches.
Real Madrid maintained its one-point lead over city rival Atletico on Saturday with a 5-2 win over Mallorca. Los Blancos trailed twice in the match before taking over in the second half. Gonzalo Higuain, who led Madrid with a brace, was joined in scoring by Cristiano Ronaldo, Luka Modric and Karim Benzema. Atletico defeated Osasuna 2-0 via a Diego Costa brace on Sunday, keeping pace with Real in the league table.
Here is the full list of results from this weekend’s La Liga action:
Real Sociedad 4, Real Valldolid 1
Getafe 1, Athletic Bilbao 0
Real Madrid 5, Mallorca 2
Valencia 3, Real Betis 2
Espanyol 2, Malaga 0
Sevilla 4, Real Zaragoza 0
Atletico Madrid 2, Osasuna 0
Barcelona 3, Rayo Vallecano 1
Granada 1, Levante 1
Borussia Dortmund scored five goals in the final 50 minutes of its match with Freiburg, giving the club a four-point lead over Bayer Leverkusen for second place in the Bundesliga. After Freiburg’s Jonathan Schmid opened scoring in the 28th minute, Dortmund rattled off three goals in the final five minutes of the first half. Robert Lewandowski scored twice in that span for goals 18 and 19 on the season. Dortmund will now look to maintain its lead over Leverkusen with three straight matches against bottom-half sides.
The battle for the final Champions League spot in the Bundesliga stayed even after this weekend’s action. Fourth-place Eintracht Frankfurt extended its winless streak to six matches on Sunday in a 2-1 loss to Stuttgart. After an excellent 2012, last year’s 2. Bundesliga runners-up have struggled in 2013, scoring only two goals in their current skid. Fifth-place Schalke remained tied with Frankfurt in points despite falling 3-0 to 11th-place Nurnberg on Saturday. Just like in the club’s Champions League loss to Galatasaray earlier in the week, Schalke dominated possession but failed to cash in on the scoring opportunities.
Here is the full list of results from this weekend’s Bundesliga action:
Borussia Dortmund 5, Freiburg 1
Augsburg 1, Hamburg 0
Nurnberg 3, Schalke 0
Hoffenheim 0, Mainz 0
Werder Bremen 2, Greuther Furth 2
Bayern Munich 2, Bayer Leverkusen 1
Stuttgart 2, Eintracht Frankfurt 1
Borussia Monchengladbach 1, Hannover 96 0
The top of the Serie A table stayed the same after this weekend’s play as Juventus, Napoli, AC Milan, Fiorentina and AS Roma all recorded victories.
Second-place Napoli’s dramatic 3-2 win over Atalanta ended the club’s five-match winless streak in the league. Napoli striker Edinson Cavani got out of his own personal slump in the win, scoring the first two goals for the home side. Atalanta’s German Denis broke through Napoli’s offside trap in the 73rd minute for the equalizer, but Napoli would jump back in front nine minutes from time. Goran Pandev’s winning left-footed volley came just before his coach Walter Mazzarri’s ejection for arguing with an official.
AS Roma jumped to fifth place in Serie A with a 2-0 win over Parma on Sunday, extending the club’s undefeated streak to five matches. Francesco Totti’s match-sealing goal in the 70th minute made him the second-highest goalscorer in Serie A history. Roma, now 4-1-1 under interim manager Aurelio Andreazzoli, is starting to make some noise in the race for the league’s final Champions League spot. City rival Torino’s loss to Torino and Inter Milan’s postponed match with Sampdoria allowed Roma to move to just four points back from fourth-place Fiorentina.
Here is the full list of results from this weekend’s Serie A action:
Catania 3, Udinese 1
Juventus 2, Bologna 0
Siena 0, Cagliari 0
AC Milan 2, Palermo 0
Fiorentina 3, Genoa 0
Napoli 3, Atalanta 2
Chievo Verona 2, US Pescara 0
AS Roma 2, Parma 0
Torino 1, Lazio 0
Sampdoria vs. Inter Milan (POSTPONED)
The top three teams in Ligue 1 recorded less than ideal results in a upset-filled French weekend. League-leading PSG was able to extend its lead over second-place Lyon to five points, but it would come after blowing a two-goal lead at St Etienne. Javier Pastore and Zlatan Ibrahimovic each scored in the opening 20 minutes of the match, but the lead was quickly reduced after an Alex own goal. Francois Clerc equalized 17 minutes from time for St Etienne, pushing the club to a Europa League-qualifying fourth place in the standings.
Lyon had fallen 4-1 to relegation candidate Bastia on Saturday. The second-place club was never really in the road match as Lisandro Lopez’s 54th minute equalizer was the only shot on target for OL. Bastia’s Anthony Modeste would give his club the lead again just two minutes later. Florian Thauvin scored his second five minutes later, and Wahbi Khazri sealed the upset with three minutes left in the match.
Here is the full list of results from this weekend’s Ligue 1 action:
Bastia 4, Lyon 1
Evian Thonon 2, Lille 1
Lorient 4, Brest 0
Montpellier 1, Troyes 1
Sochaux 1, Valenciennes 1
Stade de Reims 1, Stade Rennes 0
Nancy 1, Nice 0
Toulouse 0, Bordeaux 0
St Etienne 2, PSG 2