By JUSTIN FERGUSON
Although the result was much closer than they would have liked, Juventus celebrated their second straight Serie A title with their fans in Turin on Sunday.
Juve narrowly edged relegation-threatened Palermo, 1-0, on an Arturo Vidal penalty. Manager Antonio Conte, whose squad needed at least a draw to clinch, fielded a full-strength squad in hopes of wrapping up the title campaign with three matches to spare.
The Bianconeri pegged the defense of Palermo, who were coming off of a much-needed win over European hopeful Inter Milan, from the opening whistle. But despite their dominant control of possession and clear chances on Stefano Sorrentino’s goal, Juve could not find the back of the net until just before the hour mark.
Palermo’s Massimo Donati conceded a penalty for shoving Mirko Vucinic, and Vidal converted the spot kick with ease. Knowing Palermo had to score two goals to continue the title race, the crowd at Juventus Stadium started celebrating with a half-hour left in the match.
A late red card on Paul Pogba put a bit of a damper on the title celebrations. The midfielder was sent off for spitting at a Palermo player in the 83rd minute. But Juventus were able to see off the Palermo attack for the final few minutes and clinch their 29th official title. Juve, who still claim their stripped titles from the 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons, proudly held up signs that heralded this season’s Scudetto as their 31st league championship.
On Saturday, the two sides that will fight for the upcoming Champions League title in England’s Wembley Stadium played out a thrilling 1-1 draw in Germany.
Even though managers Jupp Heynckes and Jurgen Klopp elected to rest a good portion of their preferred starting lineups, Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich still had some of Europe’s most in-form strikers on the field for them at Signal Iduna Park. Bayern’s Mario Gomez scored his eighth goal in his last six matches to cancel out an opener from Dortmund’s Kevin Großkreutz.
Dortmund missed their chance to take the lead back at the hour mark when Bayern’s Jerome Boateng was whistled for handball in the box. Robert Lewandowski, who has scored 35 goals for Dortmund this season, stepped up to try and beat Manuel Neuer. The Bayern goalkeeper guessed correctly on which way the Polish striker was going to go, and the match stayed level.
The match between bitter rivals ended with some fireworks on and off the field. Shortly after Neuer’s penalty save, teammate Rafinha received two yellow cards in the span of three minutes. Klopp had to be separated from Bayern director of sport Matthias Sammer after engaging in a war of words with the departing Rafinha.
Neither side was able to find a winner in the final minutes, marking the end of Bayern’s record winning streak in Bundesliga play. The two German giants will meet on May 25 for the biggest prize in Europe.
Here is a closer look at the rest of the weekend’s action from the top leagues in Europe:
All three Premier League teams in the hunt for the final two Champions League spots grabbed 1-0 wins this weekend, so the positions stay the same heading into Wednesday’s Chelsea-Tottenham showdown.
Third-place Chelsea grabbed a late winner at champions Manchester United on Sunday after Juan Mata’s shot deflected off of Phil Jones and into David De Gea’s goal. Although United manager Sir Alex Ferguson claimed his side would not slack off after their title win, the hosts failed to create much offensively in an uninspired performance. Chelsea, on the other hand, were on the hunt for points to help their UCL hopes. In the 87th minute, Ramires won the ball from Wayne Rooney and launched a quick counter attack. The ball fell to Mata, whose shot came off of Jones and off the inside of the post for the winner. Chelsea’s win was virtually sealed minutes later when Rafael was sent off for kicking David Luiz.
Fifth-place Tottenham also got a winner towards the end of what was an uninspired performance on their own. Gareth Bale capped off his award-winning week with a fine long-distance goal against former club Southampton on Saturday. The Welsh winger found space and struck a powerful shot, Tottenham’s only one on goal in the entire match, just out of Artur Boruc’s reach. Southampton were unlucky to get a point out of Saturday’s trip to White Hart Lane—the Saints controlled most of the match and forced Spurs goalkeeper Hugo Lloris to make a few big saves.
Fourth-place Arsenal did not wait towards the end of their match to grab their 1-0 win. In fact, Theo Walcott’s goal at the 20 second mark against QPR was the fastest in the Premier League this season. The Gunners held onto their quick lead for the remainder of the match to secure the massive three points. Arsenal trail Chelsea by one point and lead Tottenham by two in the league table. The Chelsea-Tottenham match on Wednesday will make up the difference in matches played between the three clubs.
Here are the results from this weekend’s Premier League action:
Reading 4, Fulham 2
Swansea City 0, Manchester City 0
Tottenham 1, Southampton 0
Aston Villa 2, Norwich City 1
Wigan Athletic 3, West Bromwich Albion 2
West Ham United 0, Newcastle United 0
Arsenal 1, QPR 0
Liverpool 0, Everton 0
Chelsea 1, Manchester United 0
Barcelona are one win away from the La Liga title after a thrilling Lionel Messi-inspired comeback at Camp Nou. The Catalans rallied from a 2-1 halftime deficit to Real Betis to grab a 4-2 win on Sunday. Betis’s Dorlan Pabron and Ruben Perez to open and close a successful half for the visitors, who led in spite of Barcelona’s five shots on goal and domination of possession. David Villa equalized for Barcelona just before coming off for Messi, who netted a brace in his first 15 minutes on the field. Messi’s goals were his 45th and 46th of the season, putting the Argentinian striker four behind the all-time record he set last season. Barcelona can clinch next weekend at Atletico Madrid, who played out a scoreless draw with relegation-bound Deportivo La Coruna on Saturday.
Real Madrid kept themselves mathematically in the title race for one more week with a home win of their own. While most of the buildup to the match focused on manager Jose Mourinho’s future with the club, the fans at the Bernabeu were treated to a good bit of drama on the field. The second-place club defeated Real Valladolid 4-3 in a back-and-forth match on Saturday, extending their lead over rival Atletico to eight points. Cristiano Ronaldo tallied his 198th and 199th Real Madrid goals with two well-placed headers. Valladolid’s Lluis Sastre made the hosts sweat after a fantastic 25-yard volley in the dying moments of the match, but the midtable visitors could not find an equalizer.
Here are the results from this weekend’s La Liga action:
Celta Vigo 1, Athletic Bilbao 1
Valencia 4, Osasuna 0
Granada 1, Malaga 0
Real Madrid 4, Real Valladolid 3
Deportivo La Coruna 0, Atletico Madrid 0
Mallorca 1, Levante 1
Real Zaragoza 3, Rayo Vallecano 0
Sevilla 3, Espanyol 1
Barcelona 4, Real Betis 2
Schalke kicked off the weekend with a tight 1-0 win over Borussia Monchengladbach to keep control of the last Champions League spot from the Bundesliga. The visitors scored the only goal of the match in the 82nd minute. Schalke’s offense kept Marc-Andre ter Stegen busy throughout the match, but it took a point-blank shot from Julian Draxler in the closing moments to hit the back of Monchengladbach’s net. The hosts failed to record a single shot on goal in the match, hurting their chances at a Europa League spot for next season. Schalke still hold a three-point lead over fifth-place Eintracht Frankfurt, who bounced back with a 3-1 victory over Fortuna Dusseldorf.
Hoffenheim kept their slim chances at staying in the top division alive with late rally to draw 2-2 with Werder Bremen. The hosts converted a penalty in the opening minute and scored against the run of play 20 minutes later, but Hoffenheim fought back. The visitors got two goals from substitute striker Sven Schipplock, one in the 85th minute and the other in stoppage time. A win could have put Werder Bremen six points clear of the relegation line, but Hoffenheim pulled to two points back from a relegation playoff spot with their dramatic draw.
Here are the results from this weekend’s Bundesliga action:
Schalke 1, Borussia Monchengladbach 0
Eintracht Frankfurt 3, Fortuna Dusseldorf 1
Hannover 2, Mainz 2
Bayer Leverkusen 2, Nurnberg 0
Greuther Furth 2, Stuttgart 0
Werder Bremen 2, Hoffenheim 2
Borussia Dortmund 1, Bayern Munich 1
Freiburg 2, Augsburg 0
Hamburg 1, Wolfsburg 1
A stoppage-time winner from Pablo Osvaldo dealt a blow to Fiorentina’s Champions League hopes and boosted AS Roma’s Europa League chances on Saturday. Roma defeated fourth-place Fiorentina 1-0 on an Osvaldo header from a Miralem Pjanic corner kick. It was a cruel result for the host Viola, who controlled the possession battle and struck the woodwork on two separate occasions. To make matters worse for Fiorentina, striker Adem Ljajic was suspended for two matches for his verbal abuse of the referee after the match. Roma’s win kept them securely in fifth place as Udinese and Lazio both picked up victories this weekend. Udinese defeated Sampdoria 3-1, and Lazio got a historic five-goal performance from Miroslav Klose in a 6-0 blowout over Bologna.
AC Milan took advantage of Fiorentina’s loss with a late winner of their own on Sunday. Mario Balotelli returned to the Italian spotlight with a 84th-minute goal to give Milan a 1-0 home win over Torino. Phillipe Mexes pulled the ball back for the former Manchester City man, who calmly finished the play and wildly celebrated the goal with his teammates. Both Milan and Torino had great chances to break the deadlock before Balotelli’s goal, but Christian Abbiati and Jean Francois Gillet made some great saves for their respective sides. The win gives Milan a four-point lead over Fiorentina for the last Champions League spot in Serie A with three matches remaining—two of which are road trips to the league’s two worst clubs.
Here are the results from this weekend’s Serie A action:
Chievo Verona 0, Cagliari 0
AS Roma 1, Fiorentina 0
Udinese 3, Sampdoria 1
AC Milan 1, Torino 0
Catania 3, Siena 0
Genoa 4, US Pescara 1
Juventus 1, Palermo 0
Lazio 6, Bologna 0
Parma 2, Atalanta 0
Napoli 3, Inter Milan 1
Paris Saint-Germain are one win away from the Ligue 1 title after escaping a home match against Valenciennes with a 1-1 draw. Gael Danic put the visitors on the board in the 17th minute with a rebound into a wide open net. Valenciennes goalkeeper Nicolas Penneteau kept the Parisians from a quick equalizer, and the league leaders’ hopes of a positive result took a hit when Thiago Silva was red carded for arguing with the officials. PSG scrambled to keep Valenciennes from finishing the match off early in the second half. The home side’s attackers repaid the defenders’ heroics by finding an equalizer seven minutes from full time. Alex’s header from an Ezequiel Lavezzi corner kick brought PSG’s lead over Marseille to seven points with three matches left to play.
Here are the results from this weekend’s Ligue 1 action:
Saint Etienne 0, Bordeaux 0
Marseille 2, Bastia 1
Montpellier 2, Brest 1
Sochaux 1, Lorient 0
Stade de Reims 1, Ajaccio 1
Toulouse 4, Lille 2
Troyes 1, Evian Thonon 0
Nice 3, Stade Rennes 0
Lyon 3, Nancy 0
PSG 1, Valenciennes 1
What do you make of this weekend’s results? Thoughts on Juventus’s title campaign? Excited for the UCL Final after Saturday’s draw between Dortmund and Bayern? Think we will see any more shakeups in the Champions League places across Europe?
Share your comments below.