By IAN HOLLIDAY
It was a weekend of new leaders and extended leads in Europe's top five leagues, as new leaders emerged in Germany and France, England, Italy and Spain saw consolidation of power at the tops of their tables.
Real Madrid are still undefeated at the top of La Liga, one point ahead of rivals Barcelona. Both clubs' positions were solidified over the weekend when Villareal needed a stoppage-time penalty from Giuseppe Rossi to salvage a point at Sporting Gijon.
In Italy, AC Milan's loss to Juventus paved the way for unexpected leaders Lazio to take a four-point lead, while in England, Chelsea got a late winner from Branislav Ivanovic to stay five points clear of Arsenal and Man Utd.
At the other end of the table in England, Liverpool won its second straight match on an 86th minute goal from Maxi Rodriguez. It was far from a perfect or comprehensive win for the Reds, but it was a result, which is all the struggling club can ask for right now.
In France, promoted Brest defeated suddenly struggling St. Etienne to take the league lead, but former leaders Rennes now have a game in hand, after their match with Marseille was posponed due to heavy rain. In Germany, Dortmund won the battle of the Bundesliga's top two teams, defeating Mainz 2-0 to take the league lead.
Here's a rundown of all the weekend scores from Europe's top leagues:
For more than half an hour on Saturday, things looked like they were going to get interesting at the top of the Premier League. Chelsea was having one of their worst matches of the year against Blackburn, Man City was drawing with Wolves, and West Ham was holding Arsenal scoreless. There was the feeling that if Blackburn could just hold on and create one good chance, the champs might lose for just the second time all season, leaving the door open for one of the clubs tied for second to make up some ground. Instead, City surrendered another goal to Wolves, and the Blues got an 84th minute winner from Branislav Ivanovic, putting the pressure back on the clubs chasing it. Arsenal, and later Man United, were able to keep pace through a late winner from Alex Song and a controversial second goal from Nani, respectively. City, however, couldn't come back to salvage points from their hosts, and now find themselves 8 points off the pace through 10 match-weeks.
Arsenal 1, West Ham United 0
Everton 1, Stoke City 0
Blackburn 1, Chelsea 2
Fulham 2, Wigan Athletic 0
Wolverhampton Wanderers 2, Manchester City 1
Manchester United 2, Tottenham 0
Aston Villa 0, Birmingham City 0
Newcastle United 5, Sunderland 1
Bolton 0, Liverpool 1
Monday: Blackpool V. West Bromwich Albion
It was a good week for goals in La Liga, with several matches seeing three or more for a side, and only three clubs being held scoreless. One of those goose-eggs came for Sevilla at Camp Nou, where Barcelona put together one of its more impressive performances of the season in a 5-0 win. Not to be outdone, Christiano Ronaldo matched Lionel Messi's brace in Real Madrid's 3-1 win at Hercules. Other lopsided matches included a 4-1 win for Racing Santander over Osasuna and a pair of 3-0 results for Deportivo La Coruna and Athletic Bilbao against Espanyol and Getafe, respectively. One match that wasn't a blowout was Villareal's visit to Sporting Gijon, where the hosts held a 1-0 lead into the 94th minute, before Giuseppe Rossi converted a penalty to salvage a draw for the Yellow Submarine.
Valencia 1, Real Zaragoza 1
Hercules 1, Real Madrid 3
Barcelona 5, Sevilla 0
Deportivo La Coruna 3, Espanyol 0
Malaga 1, Real Sociedad 2
Racing Santander 4, Osasuna 1
Sporting Gijon 1, Villareal 1
Atletico Madrid 1, Almeria 1
Athletic Bilbao 3, Getafe 0
Monday: Mallorca v. Levante
It's a tightly packed table in Serie A at the moment, with more than half of the league's teams within four points of the bottom spot. Cagliari climbed slightly out of the cellar with its 2-0 win over Bologna, while scoreless draws between Catania and Fiorentina and Parma and Chievo helped ensure that things stayed close. While the pack is likely to separate considerably as the season wears on, such bunching is a good early indication that Serie A fans can expect a tight relegation battle this year. For comparison, leaders Lazio are four points clear of their nearest rivals Inter after defeating Palermo on Sunday. AC Milan are third after falling 2-1 to Juventus on Saturday.
Genoa 0, Inter Milan 1
AS Roma 2, Lecce 0
AC Milan 1, Juventus 2
Palermo 0, Lazio 1
Bari 0, Udinese 2
Brescia 0, Napoli 1
Parma 0, Chievo 0
Cagliari 2, Bologna 0
Cesena 0, Sampdoria 1
Catania 0, Fiorentina 0
The big match in the Bundesliga this weekend was the table-topping clash between Mainz and Borussia Dortmund, and it lived up to its billing. Dortmund took a 1-0 lead into halftime after 18-year-old Mario Goetze's 26th minute opener, but the hosts looked like they would equalize just minutes into the second half when they were awarded a penalty. Dortmund keeper Roman Weidenfeller saved Eugen Polanski's effort, and Lucas Barrios secured the lead for the visitors in the 67th minute. The win elevates Dortmund to the league's top spot with 25 points, one better than Mainz. The losers won't be pressing the panic button just yet, however, since even with the loss, they remain 6 points clear of third-placed Hoffenheim.
Bayern Munich 4, SC Freiburg 2
Werder Bremen 2, Nurnberg 3
Kaiserslautern 3, Borussia Moenchengladbach 0
FC Cologne 3, Hamburg 2
VfL Wolfsburg 2, VfB Stuttgart 0
St. Pauli 1, Eintracht Frankfurt 3
Schalke 04 0, Bayer Leverkusen 1
FSV Mainz 05 0, Borussia Dortmund 2
Hoffenheim 4, Hannover 96 0
Ligue 1 is almost as tight at the top as Serie A is at the bottom, with six teams within three points of the lead, which is now held by recently promoted Brest, who defeated St. Etienne 2-0 on Saturday. Brest's lead was made possible by the postponement of one of the weekend's marquee matches, Marseille v. Rennes, due to heavy rain and a waterlogged pitch. Monaco v. Bordeaux was also postponed, and as of Sunday neither match had been rescheduled.
Lyon 2, Sochaux 1
AJ Auxerre 2, Nice 0
Lorient 2, Arles 0
Toulouse 1, Lens 1
Caen 2, AS Nancy Lorraine 3
Brest 2, St. Etienne 0
Valenciennes 1, Lille 1
Montpellier 1, Paris St. Germain 1
Postponed: Marseille v. Stade Rennes
Postponed: AS Monaco v. Bordeaux
What did you think of this weekend's results? Impressed by Real Madrid or Barcelona? Glad to see Liverpool string two wins together? Surprised to see a promoted side leading in France?