By ADAM TROXTELL
The door is open for Barcelona.
A surprise 1-0 win for Athletic Bilbao against Real Madrid ensured that in the standout result of Saturday’s action. Even with a healthy Karim Benzema, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Gareth Bale bearing down on the Athletic goal for the majority of the game, there was no decisive moment for the league leaders.
That honor fell to Athletic in the 27th minute, reward for the risk of a fairly open attacking set-up. Artiz Aduriz sent San Mames Barria into a frenzy when Mikel Rico found him on a curved run into the box.
Aduriz’s header curved as it sailed into the upper right corner, well out of reach from a diving Iker Casillas. Suddenly, Real was in trouble of losing to Bilbao for just the second time in 20 meetings.
The second half was full of intent from Los Blancos, but they failed to click in the final third to produce just two shots on goal. The closest they came to equalizing occurred when Gareth Bale’s lobbed shot from midfield rattled the post, and the rebound was just out of Javier Hernandez’s reach.
With a win tomorrow, Barcelona can take top spot in La Liga from Real who sits two points ahead of them currently.
Aston Villa will continue its English FA Cup run after a win against West Brom. There were also wins for Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich elsewhere in Europe.
Here are some more recaps from the action across Europe’s top leagues on Saturday:
ENGLISH FA CUP
Brad Guzan and Aston Villa are going to Wembley.
After beating their Midlands neighbors West Brom with a late goal in the middle of the week, the Villains made it two-for-two and advanced to the FA Cup semifinals with a 2-0 win. It is the first time since early December that Villa recorded back-to-back wins.
Fabian Delph opened the scoring in the 51st minute when Charles N’Zogbia cut inside on his left foot to find the midfielder wide open in the left corner of the box. He finished at the near post, past Boaz Myhill to send Villa on the victory path.
It could have been so different had Brown Ideye continued his recent form. The striker was set up six yards away from goal in the first half, but his strike was blazed inches over the cross bar.
Scott Sinclair concluded West Brom’s FA Cup run as the Baggies were pushing for a late equalizer. He was sent sprinting down the left side before cutting inside for a curled finish to the back post. Fans filled the Villa Park pitch after the final whistle, further illustrating how big of a win this was for the relegation-threatened club.
Bradford’s FA Cup run will continue for at least one more game, but not in the way that the League One club had hoped. The Bantams will play Reading in a replay after the clubs ended their Saturday quarterfinal in a goalless draw.
In the only league game of the day, Harry Kane took the opportunity to shine once again.
Two goals from Kane handed Tottenham a 2-1 win against London-rivals QPR. Kane has now scored 26 goals for Spurs in all competitions this season, and the club is now three points behind the fourth and final UEFA Champions League spot.
Kane began another fine afternoon with his head. Andros Townsend’s cross to the far post where the tall English striker powered it into the net to spark what was so far a quiet affair into life.
Sitting in the relegation zone, QPR was desperate for any opportunity to come its way. Shortly after Kane scored, Mauricio Isla appeared to be fouled inside the Spurs box in the first of two denied penalty appeals.
The latter was more controversial. Searching for an equalizer, Charlie Austin’s awkward shot toward goal appeared to hit Nabil Benatleb in both arms. Once again, the referee’s whistle stayed silent.
Sandro’s low shot inside the near-right post was the only answer QPR provided. It came seven minutes after the defense was left baffled by a lobbed pass to Kane who rounded Rob Green and dispatched goal number two for Spurs.
SPANISH PRIMERA DIVISION
Sevilla is narrowly holding on in the race for Champions League spots after emerging victorious from a seven-goal thriller.
Five goals were scored in the second half of a 4-3 win against Deportivo La Coruna. Unfortunately for Deportivo’s Sidnei, it was his own goal in the 83rd minute that made the biggest difference.
Deportivo opened the scoring through the first of Oriol Riera’s two goals in the 28th minute. Back-to-Back strikes either side of halftime from Vitolo handed Sevilla the lead, and Kevin Gameiro’s converted penalty in the 65th minute made it 3-1.
Riera’s second handed Deportivo a lifeline, but Sidnei’s misfortune seven minutes from the end condemned them to a fourth straight game without a win. Sevilla climbed to within four points of Valencia in fourth place.
Bayern Munich’s bid to retain the Bundesliga title just got a little stronger.
The German champions now sit 11 points clear at the top of the standings after a 3-1 win against Hannover. Thomas Mueller scored twice, including a 61st minute penalty that gave Bayern the lead after initially going down a goal.
Perhaps with one eye on Wednesday’s Champions League second leg, the Bayern defense fell asleep when Hiroshi Kiyotake struck for Hannover in the 25th minute. The recoil was fast, however, as Xabi Alonso had Bayern equal again just three minutes later.
Just after 60 minutes, Bayern got a penalty when Robert Lewandowski was kicked in the face while attempting a header by Marcelo. Mueller converted before heading in Bayern’s third goal off a cross from Franck Ribery in the 72nd minute.
That win took Bayern further ahead after Wolfsburg lost its first game in 15 outings, 1-0 to Augsburg. Tobbias Werner’s penalty kick was saved by Diego Benaglio, but Dominik Kohr scored on the rebound for a 63rd minute lead.
Here is a full look at the results from Germany:
Augsburg 1, Wolfsburg 0
Freiburg 1, Werder Bremen 0
Hamburg 0, Dortmund 0
Hannover 1, Bayern Munich 3
Schalke 3, Hoffenheim 1
Mainz , Borussia M’gladbach
FRENCH LIGUE 1
The French title charge from Paris Saint-Germain is in full swing.
The defending champions eased past Lens 4-1 to take the top spot in Ligue 1, at least for a moment. Lyon can retake it with a win against Montpellier when the teams meet Sunday.
But PSG used its encounter with relegation candidates Lens to make a statement. They put 15 shots on goal, taking the lead through a 30-yard free kick from David Luiz that bounced into the bottom corner in the 44th minute.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic doubled the lead in the 60th minute by converting his penalty kick, and he led PSG to their next two. The Swede sparked the counter-attack that led to Blaise Matuidi’s back-post finish in the 80th minute.
Three minutes later, the provider of that goal, Javier Pastore, got one of his own when he finished off Ibrahimovic’s lob over the Lens defense with a volley into the net.