By ADAM TROXTELL
Liverpool owes a morale-boosting result to the head of Martin Skrtel.
Not only did his headed goal give them a 2-2 draw against Arsenal in Sunday’s marquee Premier League match, but an injury to the back of Skrtel’s head resulted in nine minutes of stoppage time. Seven minutes into the added minutes, 10-man Liverpool breathed a sigh of relief.
It’s a wonder they didn’t score more. The Reds put 13 shots on target and produced 27 chances. In contrast, Arsenal were much more efficient with their four chances on goal and used that to maintain a four-point gap between themselves and West Ham in fourth.
After 45 minutes of scoreless soccer, two fell in a minute and a half to end the first half. Philippe Coutinho struck first for Liverpool before Mathieu Debuchy equalized at the other end.
In the 64th minute, a seemingly rejuvenated Santi Cazorla kept a goal chance alive by reaching the end line before Olivier Giroud put away his near-post cross for the lead. Even two yellow cards within two minutes for Fabio Borini couldn’t keep Liverpool down in the end, and they seized potentially crucial momentum ahead of a packed holiday schedule.
In France, Marseille have taken sole possession of first place after a 2-1 win over Lille. Michy Batshuayi scored in the 69th minute for the eventual winner
Inter Milan produced late magic for a 2-2 draw with Lazio, while Atletico Madrid cruised past Athletic Bilbao 4-1 in La Liga.
Here is a look back at all of Sunday’s action from Europe’s top leagues:
ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE
Another late goal provided Sunderland with their fourth consecutive win over Northeast rivals Newcastle. Manager Gus Poyet said afterwards that he was about to take Adam Johnson off before he scored in the 90th minute.
The result leaves Newcastle in ninth and Alan Pardew without a single win over Sunderland during his time at the club. The Black Cats climb to four-points clear of the relegation zone.
FRENCH LIGUE 1
Last weekend, Marseille saw a chance to gain an advantage over PSG in the title race come and go.
This time around, they seized the moment with a 2-1 win over Lille that sees them climb to two points away in first. A Nolan Roux own goal gave them the lead in the 32nd minute, but Lille hit back on the hour mark through Idrissa Gana Gueye.
Nine minutes later, Marseille got their goal. Florian Thauvin found Batshuayi in the box, where he held off the defenders before firing into the top corner. Marseille enter the winter break in France with four wins from their last six games.
Lyon sit second after thrashing Bordeaux 5-0. They were up 2-0 through Alexandre Lacazette and Corentin Tolisso before Bordeaux’s Nicolas Pallois was sent off in the 65th minute.
Lacazette scored a second after Nabil Fekir and Jordan Ferri added to Bordeaux’s misery in the 81st and 85th minute, respectively.
In between those games, St. Etienne topped Evian 3-0.
ITALIAN SERIE A
Felipe Anderson had Lazio’s only two shots on target, but he also had them flying high by halftime.
In the second half, however, Inter finally turned their possession and shots into goals to produce a 2-2 draw at the Gieuseppe Meazza. Mateo Kovacic hit a thunderous volley in the 66th minute before Rodrigo Palacio equalized from close range.
For Lazio it was two points lost as they missed out on gaining a leg-up in the battle for European spots. Inter will be thrilled with the late effort, though it does have them still six points away from fourth place.
Also chasing a UEFA Champions League spot, Sampdoria had to come back to draw 2-2 against Udinese at home. Manolo Gabbiadini struck in the 60th minute to preserve the point.
Here are all of Sunday’s results from Italy:
Hellas Verona 0, Chievo Verona 1
Atalanta 3, Palermo 3
Fiorentina 1, Empoli 1
Sampdoria 2, Udinese 2
Torino 2, Genoa 1
Inter 2, Lazio 1
SPANISH PRIMERA DIVISION
Atletico Madrid are trying to keep it a three-horse race in La Liga, and they’ll have no issues with that if they keep playing like this.
The Spanish champions took a 4-1 win away from Athletic Bilbao to keep pace with Barcelona and Real Madrid at the top. Mikel Rico had Athletic up 1-0 at halftime with a 17th minute goal.
Atletico came out on a mission in the second half, and it was started by Antoine Griezmann’s first of a three-goal evening. Raul Garcia gave them the lead with a penalty before Griezmann struck twice in the final 10 minutes for his hat-trick.
Efficiency was the name of the game for Atletico, scoring on each of their four attempts on goal for the entire game.
Villareal also enter Christmas on a high with a 3-0 win over Deportivo La Coruna. The win keeps them hot on the heals of Valencia in fourth.
Here are all of Sunday’s results from Spain:
Villareal 3, Deportivo La Coruna 0
Granada 1, Getafe 1
Elche 1, Malaga 2
Athletic Bilbao 1, Atletico Madrid 4
Hannover 96 scored twice in the final 10 minutes to secure a 2-2 draw on the road in Freiburg.
Goals from Leonardo Bittencourt and Joselu keep Hannover within reach of the European spots in the Bundesliga. Mike Frantz stuck first for Freiburg before Marc-Oliver Kempf scored just two minutes before Bittencourt sparked the comeback.
In the earlier game, Hoffenheim handed out a 5-0 beat-down to Heartha Berlin.