By JUSTIN FERGUSON
With one flick of the back of his heel, Inter Milan’s Rodrigo Palacio turned what would have been a frustrating scoreless draw for his side into a dramatic, much-needed victory against their bitter city rivals.
Inter defeated AC Milan 1-0 at their shared home of San Siro on Sunday thanks to a sublime 86th-minute goal from Palacio, who now has 11 goals in 17 Serie A matches. The two sides went back and forth for the majority of the match, but neither were able to pull out in front thanks to some solid goalkeeping. Palacio backheeled a low cross from Fredy Guarin past Christian Abbiati for the victory, which moved Inter back into fifth place and ended Milan’s seven-match unbeaten run.
Milan’s woes continued after Palacio’s backheel goal as midfielder Sulley Muntari was given a straight red card at the end of a scuffle between the two sides. The Rossoneri now sit in 13th-place in Serie A, and they have lost four of their last five Milan Derby matches.
In France, first-place Paris Saint-Germain and third-place Lille played out a thrliling 2-2 draw at the Parc des Princes, keeping PSG’s lead intact heading into the Ligue 1 winter break. Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored yet another goal for the Parisians, but his first-half strike was canceled out by a Rio Mavuba goal just before halftime. Salomon Kalou gave the visitors a lead on a 53rd-minute penalty conversion, but teammate Marko Basa’s own goal in the 72nd minute earned a point for the defending champions.
Here is a closer look at all the weekend’s action from the top leagues in Europe:
Liverpool reached the top of the English Premier League table for at least a temporary basis Saturday following their 3-1 home victory against Cardiff City, who are trying to stay above the drop zone during a rift between owner Vincent Tan and manager Malky Mackay. Once again, Luis Suarez was the star for the Reds as the Uruguayan striker notched two goals and an assist one day after signing a new contract to stay at Anfield. Suarez now has 10 goals in his last four EPL matches, giving him a runaway league-leading 19 goals in just 11 league appearances so far this season for Liverpool.
Emmanuel Adebayor played the unlikely hero role Sunday for Tottenham Hotspur, who notched a 3-2 win at Southampton in their first EPL match since the firing of Andre Villas-Boas. Adebayor scored a fantastic volley in the 25th minute to cancel out the Saints’ early lead from Adam Lallana’s goal, and the Togolese forward netted the match-winner in the 64th minute off a quick throw-in. Sunday’s victory at St. Mary’s Stadium was the third consecutive road win for Spurs, while former Top-4 club Southampton had their winless skid extended to six matches.
Here are the results from this weekend’s English Premier League action:
Liverpool 3, Cardiff City 1
Newcastle United 3, Crystal Palace 0
Manchester City 4, Fulham 2
Manchester United 3, West Ham United 1
Stoke City 2, Aston Villa 1
Sunderland 0, Norwich City 0
West Bromwich Albion 1, Hull City 1
Tottenham Hotspur 3, Southampton 2
Everton 2, Swansea City 1
After falling behind 2-0 on the road to Getafe, Barcelona rallied for five unanswered goals Sunday to earn the win and maintain their hold of the top spot in La Liga. Sergio Escundero and Lisandro Lopez hit Barcelona’s defense for a quick double early in the first half, but Pedro responded with an unbelievable hat trick — three goals in eight minutes to give the visitors a lead just before halftime. Cesc Fabregas added two second-half goals to make it a 5-2 Barcelona win, which gives the defending champions a +2 advantage in goal differential on second-place Atletico Madrid.
Atletico got all they could handle in Levante’s visit to the Vicente Calderon on Saturday, but in-form striker Diego Costa notched a brace to lead his club to a 3-2 victory and their ninth win in nine home matches this season. Andreas Ivanschnitz scored a goal for Levante within the first minute of action, and Atletico fired back with goals from Diego Godin and Costa. Although Tomas Rios’ equalizer for Levante in the 56th minute put a perfect home record and dreams of first place in jeopardy for Atletico, Costa rifled home a 77th-minute winner from the penalty spot to send the fans home happy in Madrid.
Here are the results from this weekend’s La Liga action:
Malaga 1, Elche 0
Sevilla 2, Villarreal 1
Almeria 1, Real Betis 0
Atletico Madrid 3, Levante 2
Real Sociedad 3, Granada 1
Espanyol 4, Real Valladolid 2
Barcelona 5, Getafe 2
Athletic Bilbao 2, Rayo Vallecano 1
Celta Vigo 1, Osasuna 1
Real Madrid 3, Valencia 2
Both Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Dortmund failed to put the slightest bit of pressure on league leaders Bayern Munich, who were away from Bundesliga action at the FIFA Club World Cup. Second-place Leverkusen fell 1-0 on the road to Werder Bremen, a team that was on a five-match winless skid before Saturday’s meeting at the Weserstadion. While Leverkusen were off-target in the loss with 22 shots and only five on goal, Werder Bremen got the breakthrough they desperately needed in the 74th minute on a Santiago Garcia goal.
Third-place Borussia Dortmund’s lackluster run of form continued Saturday in their 2-1 loss to Hertha Berlin, who have now won three consecutive matches on their way to a sixth-place standing in the Bundesliga. Marco Reus opened the scoring for Dortmund in the seventh minute, but the hosts surrendered a pair of goals before the halftime whistle. Adrian Ramos and Sami Allaugi took full advantage of defensive mistakes by Dortmund, and Hertha fought off any hopes of a comeback to secure all three road points.
Here are the results from this weekend’s Bundesliga action:
Eintracht Frankfurt 1, Augsburg 1
Hertha Berlin 2, Werder Bremen 1
Mainz 3, Hamburg 2
Freiburg 2, Hannover 1
Eintracht Braunschweig 1, Hoffenheim 0
Werder Bremen 1, Bayer Leverkusen 0
Nurnberg 0, Schalke 0
Eintracht Frankfurt 1, Augsburg 1
Juventus kept their five-match lead atop the Serie A table intact Sunday with a 4-1 road victory at 15th-place Atalanta. Carlos Tevez’s opener at the Atleti Azzurri D’Italia was quickly canceled out by Maximiliano Moralez, who became the first player to score on Gianluigi Buffon and the Juventus defense in more than seven league matches. After going into halftime tied, the second half belonged to the two-time defending champions, as Paul Pogba, Fernando Llorente and Arturo Vidal each found the back of the net to give Juve an overall team victory on the road.
Second-place AS Roma maintained their pace behind Juventus with a dominating 4-0 performance at home against last place Catania. Mehdi Benatia scored in both halves for the hosts, and Mattia Destro and Gervinho joined him on the score sheet in the second half to round out the rout at the Stadio Olimpico. Catania, who entered Sunday’s match on a four-match winless skid, only had one shot on goal in what was their seventh goalless match of the Serie A season.
Here are the results from this weekend’s Serie A action:
Udinese 2, Livorno 1
Cagliari 1, Napoli 1
Bologna 1, Genoa 0
AS Roma 4, Catania 0
Juventus 4, Atalanta 1
Hellas Verona 4, Lazio 1
Sampdoria 1, Parma 1
Fiorentina 1, Sassuolo 0
Torino 4, Chievo Verona 1
Inter Milan 1, AC Milan 0
AS Monaco missed a golden opportunity to become the Ligue 1 leaders Friday when they fell 2-1 to relegation-zoned Valenciennes at the Stade Louis II. Despite losing the possession battle 71 to 29 percent, Valenciennes got a gift at the half-hour mark by way of an Eric Abidal own goal. After a couple of close calls, Valenciennes doubled their lead in the 58th minute off a David Ducourtioux goal, and James Rodriguez’s late strike for Monaco would be nothing more than a consolation prize in what was a shocking upset to kick off the weekend in France.
Here are the results from this weekend’s Ligue 1 action:
Valenciennes 2, AS Monaco 1
Saint Etienne 2, Nantes 0
Bastia 0, Montpellier 0
Nice 3, Evian Thonon Gaillard 1
Sochaux 2, Stade Rennes 1
Stade de Reims 4, Ajaccio 1
Toulouse 0, Guingamp 0
Marseille 2, Bordeaux 2
Lorient 2, Lyon 2
Paris Saint-Germain 2, Lille 2
What did you think of this weekend’s European league action? Impressed with Inter’s late victory against AC Milan? Think Lille can stay in the hunt for the Ligue 1 title after their road draw with PSG? Which other results caught your eye?
Share your thoughts below.