By IAN HOLLIDAY
Since their meeting in the UEFA Champions League final last season, Inter Milan and Bayern Munich have been on similar paths. Both clubs started slowly in their respective leagues, both clubs have been climbing their respective tables in recent weeks and both clubs earned wins this Saturday ahead of their Round of 16 matchup in this year's Champions League on Wednesday.
Inter got a bit of luck to earn a 1-0 home win over feisty Cagliari, with the visitors' Michele Canini appearing to deflect Houssine Khaja's shot into his own net in the seventh minute. Bayern's win was more convincing, with the Bavarian club getting goals from stars Bastian Schweinsteiger, Thomas Muller and Mario Gomez en route to a 3-1 triumph over hosts Mainz.
In England, FA Cup matches dominated the schedule, with Manchester United's match against non-league Crawley Town garnering most of the headlines. Crawley more than held its own at Old Trafford, managing more shots and more possession than their Premier League hosts and having a late chance hit the crossbar. In the end, however, the non-league side was unable convert their strong showing into a positive result, losing 1-0 on Wes Brown's 28th minute header.
In Spain, Barcelona got a 78th minute winner from Lionel Messi on the Argentine's 250th appearance for the club to defeat Athletic Bilbao, 2-1, and stay five points clear of Real Madrid, which defeated Levante 2-0 on Saturday.
Here is a rundown of all the weekend scores from Europe's top leagues:
The only real surprise in FA Cup action this weekend was Arsenal's 1-1 draw at League One side Leyton Orient. The Gunners took the lead through Tomas Rosicky in the 53rd minute, only to allow their hosts to equalize in the 89th and force a replay at the Emirates. In addition to the five FA Cup fifth round fixtures, there were two fourth round replays and a regular Premier League match to be settled this weekend. Manchester City easily disposed of Notts County 5-0 on Sunday, while Chelsea's penalty kick woes continued against Everton.
The Blues looked like they would defeat the Toffees in extra time after Frank Lampard's goal made it 1-0 in the 104th minute, but Leighton Baines equalized for the visitors in the 119th minute. Chelsea also took the lead in the penalty shootout, but Tim Howard saved Nicolas Anelka's spot kick and Ashley Cole put the club's fifth penalty over the bar, giving way for Phil Neville to score Everton the win. In the weekend's only Premier League game, on-loan Mexican striker Carlos Vela scored in the 90th minute to salvage a 1-1 draw for West Brom at home against Wolves.
Manchester City 5, Notts County 0 (fourth round replay)
Chelsea 1, Everton 1, Everton advance on penalties 4-3 (fourth round replay)
Fulham 0, Bolton 1 (fifth round)
Leyton Orient 1, Arsenal 1 (fifth round)
Birmingham City 3, Sheffield Wednesday 0 (fifth round)
Stoke City 3, Brighton 0 (fifth round)
Manchester United 1, Crawley Town 0 (fifth round)
Monday: West Ham United v. Burnley
West Bromwich Albion 1, Wolverhampton Wanderers 1
It was a quiet weekend in Spain in terms of goals scored. Only two matches featured more than two total goals. One of those matches was Barca's 2-1 win over Athletic. The other was Osasuna's surprise 4-0 blowout of Espanyol. Coming into the weekend, Osasuna was 18th in La Liga, occupying the league's final relegation spot, while Espanyol was in sixth, occupying one of the league's two UEFA Europa League qualification spots. The win raised the hosts to 14th, while the visitors suffered their fourth straight league defeat. Espanyol didn't fall out of position, but things aren't looking good for Barcelona's other club right now.
Almeria 1, Deportivo La Coruna 1
Getafe 0, Racing Santander 1
Osasuna 4, Espanyol 0
Villarreal 1, Malaga 1
Sevilla 1, Hercules 0
Barcelona 2, Athletic Bilbao 1
Valencia 0, Sporting Gijon 0
Real Madrid 2, Levante 0
Real Zaragoza 0, Atletico Madrid 1
Monday: Real Sociedad v. Mallorca
Inter's win raised the club temporarily to second place in Serie A on Saturday until Napoli, which defeated Catania on Sunday, took over that spot. Inter's recent run of form may be opening a gap between Italy's top three teams and the rest of the league. Inter is on 50 points, two behind Napoli and five behind leaders AC Milan. Behind Inter is Lazio, which has 48 points after its win over struggling Bari. No other club is within six points of Inter, and traditional challengers Juventus and AS Roma are mired in up-and-down seasons. This weekend, both clubs fell: Juve in surprising fashion to strugglers Lecce, and Roma in a 4-3 barnburner against mid-table Genoa. The Roman club built a 3-0 lead on Francesco Totti's 51st minute goal before the hosts launched a stunning comeback to win 4-3.
Lecce 2, Juventus 0
Chievo 1, AC Milan 2
Fiorentina 0, Sampdoria 0
Genoa 4, AS Roma 3
Lazio 1, Bari 0
Parma 2, Cesena 2
Udinese 0, Brescia 0
Napoli 1, Catania 0
Bologna 1, Palermo 0
Inter Milan 1, Cagliari 0
Wins have been hard to come by for Borussia Moenchengladbach this season. On Sunday, however, the club showed the kind of resiliency it has lacked for much of the year, shaking off an early deficit and managing the game well in a rare 2-1 victory over Schalke. One victory isn't enough to rescue Michael Bradley's parent club, which has held the inverse poll position in the Bundesliga for months; however, the win does raise the club into a tie for points (19) with Stuttgart. Of course, 'Gladbach's goal differential is a league-worst -23, and the side has allowed a whopping 57 goals, nine more than any other Bundesliga team, so staying in the top flight will be a difficult task.
Bayer Leverkusen 4, VfB Stuttgart 2
Borussia Moenchengladbach 2, Schalke 04 1
Borussia Dortmund 2, St. Pauli 0
Hamburg 4, Werder Bremen 0
Hannover 96 3, Kaiserslautern 0
SC Freiburg 2, VfL Wolfsburg 1
Hoffenheim 1, FC Cologne 1
Mainz 05 1, Bayern Munich 3
Nurnberg 3, Eintracht Frankfurt 0
If 'Gladbach's cause is nearly a lost one, Ligue 1 side Arles' cause has been missing for months. In a French season dominated by parity, Arles has been almost impressively terrible. The Avignon-based side has earned only 10 points in 24 matches, all while giving up a league-leading 44 goals and scoring just 12, three of which came in the club's only victory of the season, a 3-2 win over Caen on Nov. 6. Arles' only other points this season have come through draws, one of which the club earned this weekend at AJ Auxerre. It was the club's second draw in as many weeks, which for a side so hapless may as well be considered a winning streak.
At the top of the table, leaders Lille fell 1-0 at Montpellier, opening the door for second-place Stade Rennes to climb within two points of the top spot after the club's 2-1 win at Toulouse.
Montpellier 1, Lille 0
Nice 0, Paris St. Germain 3
Toulouse 1, Stade Rennes 2
AJ Auxerre 1, Arles 1
Brest 2, AS Monaco 0
Caen 2, Valenciennes 2
Lens 2, Sochaux 3
Marseille 2, St. Etienne 1
Lorient 5, Bordeaux 1
Lyon 4, AS Nancy Lorraine 0
What did you think of this weekend's results? Surprised Crawley was able to hang with Manchester United? Looking forward to the Inter-Bayern rematch on Wednesday?
Share your thoughts below.
Ah how much I was hoping that Barca would drop points yesterday. I’m still holding out hope that the rematch on April 17 will see the winner take 1st place in La Liga. La Liga has become boring to follow.