By JUSTIN FERGUSON
Bayern Munich’s dominating march toward the Bundesliga title has picked up right where it left off last month.
After a month-long winter break from Bundesliga action, the defending champions of Europe and Germany traveled to third-place Borussia Mönchengladbach. Bayern handed Monchengladbach their first loss of the season at Borussia Park, prevailing by a score of 2-0 to open up a 10-point lead in the league table.
Mario Gotze got things going for Bayern in the seventh minute of the match when he drilled a pass from Thomas Muller into the corner of fellow German international Marc-Andre ter Stegen’s net. Although Mönchengladbach came close to an equalizer several times with shots that troubled Manuel Neuer and others that hit the woodwork, Bayern had a tight grip on possession while firing 13 shots on goal. Muller doubled the visitors’ lead in the 53rd minute with a penalty conversion, which was enough to send Bayern back to Munich with another shutout victory.
In England, Manchester City’s dominant run of form at Ethiad Stadium continued in FA Cup action, but their 4-2 victory against Watford was not always a sure thing on Saturday. Watford’s Fernando Forestieri and Troy Deeney combined to give the underdogs a shocking 2-0 lead, one that they maintained into halftime. But some key substitutions by manager Manuel Pellegrini helped turn the tide in favor of the Citizens, and Sergio Aguero came off the bench to net a hat trick in the final half-hour as Man City’s unbeaten home streak continued.
Here is a closer look at all the weekend’s action from the top leagues in Europe:
Arsenal kept up their good run of form by opening up the FA Cup weekend with an easy 4-0 victory against Coventry City at Emirates Stadium. The Gunners got a double in the first half-hour from Lukas Podolski, and Olivier Giroud teamed up with Santi Cazorla to double their lead just before the final whistle. Arsenal, who debuted 16-year-old Gedion Zedelem late in the second half, will have a much tougher test in the next round of the FA Cup when they face Liverpool, who defeated AFC Bournemouth 2-0 in Saturday’s early match.
Chelsea defended Stamford Bridge from Stoke City on Sunday, getting a little revenge on the Potters with a 1-0 victory to wrap up the weekend’s action. Oscar led the way for the Blues in the tight victory, curling a free kick past Asmir Begovic in the 27th minute and coming close to another goal with a shot that struck the frame of Begovic’s goal. Stoke City’s defense kept the match close all the way to the final whistle, but they only were able to get one shot on goal as the Blues advanced to the next round, where they will face fellow title contender Manchester City.
Here are the results from this weekend’s FA Cup Fourth Round action:
Arsenal 4, Coventry City 0
Nottingham Forest 0, Preston North End 0
Liverpool 2, AFC Bournemouth 0
Swansea City 2, Birmingham City 1
Cardiff City 1, Bolton Wanderers 0
Charlton Athletic 1, Huddersfield Town 0
Manchester City 4, Watford 2
Brighton & Hove Albion 3, Port Vale 1
Sheffield Wednesday 2, Rochdale 1
Southampton 2, Yeovil Town 0
Hull City 2, Southend United 0
Sunderland 1, Kidderminster Harriers 0
Wigan Athletic 2, Crystal Palace 1
Everton 4, Stevenage 0
Sheffield United 1, Fulham 1
Chelsea 1, Stoke City 0
Real Madrid took the La Liga lead for a few hours following their 2-0 Saturday win against Granada, but Los Blancos were knocked back down to third place Sunday after Barcelona and Atletico Madrid took care of business. After a week of off-the-field drama, Barcelona defeated Malaga 3-0 in a match that could have been by a larger margin if not for a few good saves from Willy Caballero. Gerard Pique scored just before halftime to give the defending champions a narrow lead, and Pedro and Alexis Sanchez each scored early in the second half to reinstate Barcelona’s reign atop the La Liga table.
Second-place Atletico Madrid stayed level on points with Barcelona with a 4-2 road victory at struggling Rayo Vallecano. Arda Turan doubled the lead from David Villa’s 8th-minute opener at the half-hour mark, and the Turkish international scored once more before halftime after Jonathan Viera pulled one back for the hosts. Saul Nignuez Esclapez accidentally tapped a shot from Diego Costa past his own goalkeeper in the 74th minute, making Joaquin Larrivey’s effort two minutes later nothing more than a consolation goal for Rayo.
Here are the results from this weekend’s La Liga action:
Celta Vigo 4, Real Betis 2
Real Madrid 2, Granada 0
Real Valladolid 1, Villarreal 0
Valencia 2, Espanyol 2
Levante 3, Sevilla 2
Almeria 1, Getafe 0
Athletic Bilbao 5, Osasuna 1
Atletico Madrid 4, Rayo Vallecano 2
Barcelona 3, Malaga 0
After beating Monchengladbach 2-0 Friday, Bayern Munich’s good weekend continued when Freiburg stunned second-place Bayer Leverkusen 3-2 at the Mage Solar Stadion. Lars Bender and Simon Rolfes each scored in the opening 35 minutes to give Leverkusen a 2-1 lead, but Jonathan Schmid equalized for the hosts in the 53rd minute when his free kick clipped off Stefan Kiessling and past Bernd Leno. The match seemed to be destined for a hard-fought draw until the final minute of regular time, when Felix Klaus scored to move Freiburg out of the bottom three and keep Leverkusen 10 points behind Bayern.
Borussia Dortmund picked up where they left off in Bundesliga play, which was exactly what they were hoping to avoid. Dortmund blew a pair of one-goal leads in a 2-2 draw with ninth-place Augsburg at the Signal Iduna Park. Nuri Sahin put the hosts up 2-1 in the 66th minute with a fantastic free kick, but Ji Dong-Won, who will join Dortmund this summer, gave his future club a disappointing result with a header six minutes after Sahin’s strike.
Here are the results from this weekend’s Bundesliga action:
Bayern Munich 2, Borussia Monchengladbach 0
Borussia Dortmund 2, Augsburg 2
Nurnberg 4, Hoffenheim 0
Freiburg 3, Bayer Leverkusen 2
Mainz 2, Stuttgart 1
Hannover 3, Wolfsburg 1
Eintracht Frankfurt 1, Hertha Berlin 0
Werder Bremen 0, Eintracht Braunschweig 0
Schalke 3, Hamburg 0
First-place Juventus’ long winning streak in Serie A play came to a bitter end at the Stadio Olimpico on Saturday when hosts Lazio drew 1-1 with the defending champions. Antonio Candreva gave Lazio the lead in the 27th minute with a penalty conversion, and it took Juve all the way to the hour mark before they could find an equalizer from the head of Fernando Llorente. Both sides traded solid chances at a winner during the final half-hour, but the match would finish level as Juventus were denied a 13th consecutive win in their hunt for a third consecutive title.
AC Milan rebounded from a midweek loss to Udinese in Coppa Italia with a thriling 2-1 comeback victory at Cagliari on Sunday. Marco Sau put the hosts ahead just before the half-hour mark, and Milan seemed unable to break through the Cagliari defense for the longest time. But Mario Balotelli equalized for Milan in the 87th minute, setting up an 89th-minute winner for substitute striker Giampaolo Pazzini, who notched his first goal of the Serie A season off a corner from January signing Keisuke Honda.
Here are the results from this weekend’s Serie A action:
Napoli 1, Chievo Verona 1
Lazio 1, Juventus 1
AS Roma 3, Hellas Verona 1
AC Milan 2, Cagliari 1
Inter Milan 0, Catania 0
Livorno 3, Sassuolo 1
Parma 1, Udinese 0
Sampdoria 1, Bologna 1
Torino 1, Atalanta 0
Fiorentina 3, Genoa 3
First-place Paris Saint-Germain avoided a second consecutive defeat in domestic play Saturday with a late 1-1 draw with Guingamp at Du Roudourou. Although PSG dominated the match with 76 percent possession, the match’s first goal did not come until the 84th minute — and it wasn’t from the Parisians. Mustapha Yatabare scored for Guingamp to give them hope of a shocking upset, but Alex saved PSG with a clutch equalizer three minutes later.
Second-place AS Monaco took advantage of PSG’s draw Sunday with a 2-0 home victory against Marseille. Even without star striker Radamel Falcao, Monaco were on the front foot from the opening whistle and grabbed a goal from Valere Germain right before halftime. Emmanuel Riviere doubled the hosts’ lead in the 57th minute, and Danijel Subasic made a few key saves to keep Marseille off the score board and move Monaco to just three points behind PSG in the Ligue 1 race.
Here are the results from this weekend’s Ligue 1 action:
Lille 1, Stade Rennes 1
Guingamp 1, Paris Saint-Germain 1
Ajaccio 1, Sochaux 1
Montpellier 3, Nice 1
Nantes 0, Stade de Reims 0
Toulouse vs. Bastia (POSTPONED)
Valenciennes 1, Lorient 1
Lyon 3, Evian Thonon Gaillard 0
Bordeaux 2, Saint Etienne 0
AS Monaco 2, Marseille 0
What did you think of this weekend’s European league action? Think Bayern can go through the entire Bundesliga season without a loss? Surprised with Manchester City’s comeback against Watford? Excited for the next round of the FA Cup? Which other results caught your eye?
Share your thoughts below.