Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images
By JUSTIN FERGUSON
Although the Premier League title looks like it will make the move to the red side of Manchester next month, Manchester City are on the verge of bringing another major domestic trophy back to the Ethiad Stadium in the month of May.
City jumped out to a hot start and held off Chelsea for the final 30 minutes in a 2-1 FA Cup semifinal win at Wembley Stadium on Sunday. The winners of the 2011 competition will return to the famous London stadium and face fellow Premier League club Wigan Athletic, who continued their historic Cup run with a 2-0 win over Championship side Millwall on Saturday.
Sunday turned out to be Sergio Aguero’s day in more ways than one. The Manchester City striker doubled his side’s lead shortly after the second half began, sending a floating header into Petr Cech’s goal. Embattled City midfielder Samir Nasri joined the Argentinian on the scoreboard with a 35th-minute strike that Aguero assisted.
But the Aguero play that made headlines after the match was not a scoring one. After Chelsea started a late charge off of an acrobatic Demba Ba shot in the 65th minute, Aguero somehow avoided a red card for a lunging two-footed challenge on a fallen David Luiz.
Manchester City avoided another dangerous foul in the dying moments of the match. Chelsea substitute Fernando Torres, whose substitution helped spark the Blues’ rally, shouted for a penalty on a Vincent Kompany challenge in the final minutes of regular time. Referee Chris Foy waved off the protests, and City held on for the victory.
When Chelsea resume their Premier League campaign this Wednesday at Fulham, they will find themselves one point behind London rival Arsenal in the league standings. The Gunners scored three goals after the 85th minute in a 3-1 home win over bottom-half Norwich City on Saturday.
The wild comeback at Emirates Stadium started in controversial fashion. After Arsenal were awarded a corner kick on a close call, former Sporting Kansas City man Kei Kamara was whistled for pulling Olivier Giroud’s jersey inside the box. Mikel Arteta slotted his penalty try past a diving Mark Bunn, who had received a yellow card seconds earlier for his protests of the Kamara penalty.
Arsenal grabbed the lead three minute later when substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s low cross was deflected into Bunn’s net by Sebastien Bassong. Lukas Podolski finished the late rally two minutes into stoppage time with a fine goal from just outside the box, sending the Gunners above rivals Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur in the fight for Champions League qualification.
Here is a closer look at all of this weekend’s action from Europe’s top leagues:
Manchester United are now seven points away from their 20th Premier League title after a 2-0 road win at struggling Stoke City. Robin van Persie ended his 10-match goalless streak in domestic competition with a 66th-minute penalty conversion to clinch all three points. The Potters were hoping to recreate the magic that gave them their first-ever point against United last season, but Michael Carrick’s fourth-minute goal put them on the back foot from the beginning. The loss extended Stoke’s winless skid to seven matches and dropped the club to 16th place, tied with Aston Villa and Sunderland just above the relegation line.
Everton kept their dreams of a spot in continental competition alive on Saturday with a 2-0 win over woeful QPR, who are looking like locks to return to the Championship next season. The visiting Rangers did not put up much of a fight in their trip to Goodison Park and are now seven points from safety with only five matches left in the season. Darren Gibson opened the scoring with a late first half strike that took a favorable deflection off of Clint Hill. And instead of Harry Redknapp’s QPR squad coming out of the locker room for the second half ready to snatch a crucial equalizer, Everton was the side that improved their play out of halftime. After Sylvain Distin’s header was kept out by Julio Cesar, Victor Anchiebe curled in a shot in the 56th minute for the home team’s second and final goal.
Here are the results from this weekend’s Premier League action:
Arsenal 3, Norwich City 1
Aston Villa 1, Fulham 1
Everton 2, Queens Park Rangers 0
Reading 0, Liverpool 0
Southampton 1, West Ham United 1
Sunderland 3, Newcastle United 0
Manchester United 2, Stoke City 0
Barcelona resumed their march to the La Liga title on Sunday with a 3-0 win at relegation-zoned Real Zaragoza. Tito Vilanova made seven changes to the lineup that held off PSG last Wednesday in the Champions League quarterfinal, giving several younger Barcelona players a chance to shine in a league match. After 22-year-old midfielder Thiago put the Catalans out in front in the 20th minute, 21-year-old forward Cristian Tello registered a brace to round out a complete performance for the La Masia products.
The Madrid clubs also enjoyed big shutout wins on Sunday as they kept pace with each other and Barcelona. Cristiano Ronaldo wasted no time in putting his mark on Real’s 3-0 win over Athletic Bilbao, curling in a free kick in the second minute of the match. The talented winger headed in another goal in the 68th minute before providing an assist for Gonzalo Higuain’s strike. Atletico remained three points behind their city rivals by returning to their winning ways at Estadio Vicente Calderon. Radamel Falcao scored twice in Atletico’s 5-0 rout of Granada, the third-place club’s 14th win in 16 matches at their home ground.
Real Sociedad maintained their hold on fourth place in La Liga with a 2-0 win at Rayo Vallecano. Forward Imanol Agirretxe scored twice in the first 14 minutes in Sociedad’s fifth win in their last seven matches. The Champions League hopefuls are now four points ahead of both Valencia and this year’s UCL quarterfinalists Malaga, who bounced back from the disappointing loss at Borussia Dortmund with a 1-0 win over Osasuna.
Here are the results from this weekend’s La Liga action:
Real Betis 3, Sevilla 3
Real Valladolid 2, Getafe 1
Deportivo La Coruna 4, Levante 0
Espanyol 3, Valencia 3
Malaga 1, Osasuna 0
Real Sociedad 2, Rayo Vallecano 0
Atletico Madrid 5, Granada 0
Barcelona 3, Real Zaragoza 0
Real Madrid 3, Athletic Bilbao 0
How do you follow up one of the greatest comebacks in Champions League history? If you are Borussia Dortmund, you hit the road and demolish your next opponent 6-1. Second-place Dortmund scored five times in the opening half against last-place Greuther Furth, who managed to push one across with 19 minutes left in the match. Ilkay Gundogan and Mario Gotze each recorded two goals for the dominant visitors on Sunday, who are showing no signs of relinquishing their runner-up spot to Bayer Leverkusen.
Leverkusen lost a two-goal lead to fourth-place Schalke 04 on Saturday in a disappointing draw at Veltins Arena. Simon Rolfes and Stefan Kiessling both scored before the hour mark for the visitors, who looked well on their way to a victory before the entrance of Teemu Pukki. The Finnish substitute cut Leverkusen’s lead in half five minutes into his appearance and drew a crucial penalty in the 87th minute. Raffael Araujo buried the spot kick to bring the match level and maintain Schalke’s one-point lead over Freiburg for the final Champions League spot in the Bundesliga.
Here are the results from this weekend’s Bundesliga action:
Freiburg 3, Hannover 1
Bayern Munich 4, Nurnberg 0
Fortuna Dusseldorf 2, Werder Bremen 2
Hamburg 2, Mainz 1
Borussia Dortmund 6, Greuther Furth 1
Wolfsburg 2, Hoffenheim 2
Schalke 2, Bayer Leverkusen 2
Stuttgart 2, Borussia Monchengladbach 0
Augsburg 2, Eintracht Frankfurt 0
Third-place AC Milan held off second-place Napoli at San Siro on Sunday to preserve a 1-1 draw. Mathieu Flamini put the home side up in the 29th minute with a low shot into the corner of the goal, but Napoli’s Goran Pandev brought the match back level just four minutes later with an excellent finish after a great move from teammate Marek Hamsik. After missing on several chances to take another lead, Milan’s chances at a result were in danger after Flamini received a straight red card for a wild challenge on Juan Zuniga. But Milan held on in the final minutes as Napoli were denied a handball penalty call on Christian Zapata.
Milan’s city rivals received a crushing blow to their chances at European qualification on Sunday with a shock 2-0 loss at midtable Cagliari, who were playing 600 miles away from their unsafe home stadium in Sardinia. A second straight league loss puts Inter Milan at seventh place in the Serie A table, one point back from Europa League-qualifying Lazio. Inter officials gathered more fuel for their midweek verbal attacks on Italian referees when Mauricio Pinilla put Cagliari up in the 63rd minute on a controversial penalty decision. Pinilla sealed the victory 13 minutes later with a hard strike into the roof of the net, extending the club’s unbeaten streak to five matches.
Here are the results from this weekend’s Serie A action:
Siena 3, US Pescara 2
Fiorentina 2, Atalanta 0
Palermo 1, Bologna 1
Cagliari 2, Inter Milan 0
Chievo Verona 0, Catania 0
Genoa 1, Sampdoria 1
Udinese 3, Parma 0
AS Roma 2, Torino 1
AC Milan 1, Napoli 1
First-place PSG surprisingly struggled with last-place Troyes for the majority of their match on Saturday, but Blaise Matuidi found the net against his old club to give the Parisians a 1-0 victory. Troyes, seven points from safety with six matches left, needed a result against the league leaders and attacked from the beginning of the match. PSG turned the momentum in their favor in the second half, and Matuidi’s volley with 25 minutes left in the match seemed to kill off the home team’s chances. PSG is now nine points ahead of second-place Marseille, who played out a scoreless draw at Lille on Sunday.
Lyon reclaimed third place this weekend with a 3-1 win over Toulouse. It was a hard-fought victory for OL, who entered Sunday’s contest on a three-match losing streak. But a return to the Champions League spots was in sight for the home team on Sunday as former third-place team St Etienne were unable to score at Valenciennes on Friday. Bakary Kone and Bafetemi Gomis netted two huge second half goals for Lyon, who now lead St Etienne by two points for the coveted third position.
Here are the results from this weekend’s Ligue 1 action:
Valenciennes 0, St Etienne 0
PSG 1, Troyes 0
Ajaccio 1, Nancy 1
Bordeaux 4, Montpellier 2
Stade de Reims 2, Brest 0
Evian Thonon 4, Stade Rennes 2
Lorient 4, Bastia 1
Nice 3, Sochaux 0
Lyon 3, Toulouse 1
Lille 0, Marseille 0
What are your thoughts on this weekend’s results? Are City a lock to win the FA Cup next month? How do you think the semifinal loss will affect Chelsea as they head into the final matches of their campaign? See Arsenal staying in the top four? Are Inter Milan’s chances at European qualification done now?
Share your comments below.