BY JUSTIN FERGUSON
Arsenal’s infamous trophy drought grew closer to the dreaded eight seasons mark on Saturday. One of the Gunners’ last–and perhaps their best–chances to win a championship this season ended with a 1-0 home loss to Blackburn Rovers.
In a FA Cup competition filled with upsets through the first few rounds, this weekend’s Fifth Round action had only one shock result.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger made some big changes to the club’s starting eleven ahead of the meeting with Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich on Tuesday. Regular starters Theo Walcott, Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla watched their teammates misfire on several goalscoring chances. Wenger had enough of the misses in the 70th minute and sent the trio in.
But Blackburn would score just two minutes after their insertion into the match. Colin Kazim-Richards followed up Martin Olsson’s shot on goal with a scruffy shot that somehow bounced off the post and in. Arsenal would dominate the rest of the match with more scoring chances, but Blackburn’s defense hung on to the upset and handed Arsenal its first FA Cup loss at the Emirates Stadium.
In Spain, Lionel Messi scored his 300th and 301st club goals to give Barcelona a 2-1 comeback victory at Granada. Odion Ighalo’s 26th minute goal was erased by Messi’s landmark finish in 50th minute. The Argentinian superstar netted the winner in the 73rd minute, a curled free kick from just outside the box. Messi has now scored in his last 14 La Liga matches.
Here is a look back at this weekend’s results from all of Europe’s top leagues:
Chelsea continued its turnaround Sunday with a 4-0 thrashing of Brentford at Stamford Bridge. The match was a Fourth Round replay of the Blues’ 2-2 draw with the League One side in January. It was a slow start for Chelsea as the scoring did not start until Juan Mata’s 54th minute strike. After that opening goal, the floodgates opened up for Rafa Benitez’s squad. Oscar followed up his winner against Sparta Prague last week with a goal in the 68th minute. Club veterans Frank Lampard and John Terry completed the rout in the final 20 minutes, sending Chelsea to a Wednesday FA Cup meeting with Middlesbrough.
Liverpool also got a blowout home win this weekend, smacking Swansea City 5-0 in league play. Former Swansea manager Brendan Rodgers and his squad took advantage of a visiting eleven that was missing some of its best players ahead of next weekend’s Capital One Cup final. New signing Coutinho made his debut a memorable one, giving the Reds their second goal just after the second half began. Penalties from Steven Gerrard and Daniel Sturridge opened and closed the scoring for Liverpool, who ended a four-match winless streak.
The Reds’ Merseyside neighbors were not fortunate enough to skate to victory this weekend. Everton drew 2-2 with Oldham Athletic in their Fifth Round FA Cup tie, forcing a replay on Wednesday. Victor Anichebe and Phil Jagielka combined to give Everton a 2-1 lead, but Oldham hero Matt Smith equalized on a header on the final play of the match. Smith, the former non-league striker who scored twice in Oldham’s 3-2 upset of Liverpool, latched onto the end of a Jonathan Grounds corner kick to reserve a midweek trip to Goodison Park.
Here are the scores from this weekend’s FA Cup and EPL action:
Millwall 3, Luton Town 0
Blackburn Rovers 1, Arsenal 0
Barnsley 3, MK Dons 1
Oldham Athletic 2, Everton 2
Chelsea 4, Brentford 0
Manchester City 4, Leeds United 0
Wigan Athletic 4, Huddersfield Town 1
Liverpool 5, Swansea City 0
Atletico Madrid prevented any more gap-widening from Barcelona on Sunday, defeating Real Valladolid 3-0. Atletico manager Diego Simeone elected to start Diego Costa, who had been suspended for the club’s last two La Liga matches. Costa repaid Simeone with a great goal in the 53rd minute that helped Atletico ease through the finish line. The win snapped the club’s three-match losing streak and provided some momentum heading into this week’s tough second leg with Rubin Kazan.
Atletico’s city rival Real jumped on Rayo Vallecano early and cruised to a 2-0 home victory. Alvaro Morata scored just three minutes into Jose Mourinho’s 100th La Liga match and was joined by Sergio Ramos nine minutes later. However, Ramos received two yellow cards in the span of two minutes, putting Real into a disadvantage for the rest of the match. The home team was able to hold off any shots on goal from Rayo, but Los Blancos failed to add to their lead after Ramos’s dismissal. As a result of the loss, Rayo slipped to 7th place in the league table, just outside of a Europa League spot.
Here are the scores from this weekend’s La Liga action:
Getafe 3, Celta Vigo 1
Malaga 1, Athletic Bilbao 0
Barcelona 2, Granada 1
Osasuna 1, Real Zaragoza 0
Real Sociedad 1, Levante 1
Valencia 2, Mallorca 0
Atletico Madrid 3, Real Valladolid 0
Espanyol 1, Real Betis 0
Real Madrid 2, Rayo Vallecano 0
Marco Reus completed a hat trick as second-place Borussia Dortmund bounced back with a 3-0 win over fourth-place Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday. Reus slotted home a fine pass from Mario Gotze in the eighth minute to put the defending champions on top. While the home crowd was still celebrating the first goal, Reus knocked in a ninth minute goal. Eintracht was boosted in the 31st minute when Dortmund’s Julian Schieber was sent off for two yellow cards, but the impressive home team did not allow a single shot on goal with the disadvantage. Reus completed his hat trick in the 65th minute, ending any comeback hopes for the upset-minded Eagles.
Bundesliga-leading Bayern Munich kept its 15-point lead over Dortmund intact, defeating Wolfsburg 2-0 on Friday. Former Wolf Mario Mandzukic scored his sixth goal in his last four appearances for Bayern in the 36th minute. A card-filled second half was capped off by Arjen Robben’s stoppage time clincher. Bayern will take a break this week from its unstoppable Bundesliga campaign to face Arsenal on Tuesday in Champions League action.
Here are the scores from this weekend’s Bundesliga action:
Bayern Munich 2, Wolfsburg 0
Bayer Leverkusen 2, Augsburg 1
Fortuna Dusseldorf 1, Greuther Furth 0
Hamburg 1, Borussia Monchengladbach 0
Mainz 2, Schalke 2
Freiburg 3, Werder Bremen 2
Borussia Dortmund 3, Eintracht Frankfurt 0
Nurnberg 2, Hannover 96 2
Stuttgart 1, Hoffenheim 0
AS Roma shocked league-leading Juventus on Saturday with a 1-0 home win. Francesco Totti smashed a shot in the 58th minute that Gianluigi Buffon had no chance at stopping. After being dominated in the first hour of the match, Juventus snapped into action for the final 30 minutes. But Juve could not beat Maarten Steklenburg, who made a superb save on an Andrea Pirlo free kick in the second half. The win was AS Roma’s first in eight league matches, a skid that dated back to mid-December.
Second-place Napoli was not able to take full advantage of Juventus’s slip on Sunday as the club drew 0-0 with Sampdoria on Sunday. Sampdoria goalkeeper Sergio Romero’s heroics gave his side another crucial point in the quest to stay in Serie A. Napoli now sits four points back from the league leaders.
Here are the scores from this weekend’s Serie A action:
AC Milan 2, Parma 1
Chievo Verona 1, Palermo 1
AS Roma 1, Juventus 0
Catania 1, Bologna 0
Genoa 1, Udinese 0
Napoli 0, Sampdoria 0
Torino 2, Atalanta 1
Cagliari 2, US Pescara 0
Fiorentina 4, Inter Milan 1
PSG saw its lead slip to just three points over Lyon on Sunday after losing 3-2 at bottom-half Sochaux. The surprisingly inefficient Parisians equalized in the 76th minute, but Cedric Bakambu’s dramatic winner eight minutes later completed a famous victory for the hosts. Two Zlatan Ibrahimovic penalty appeals were waved off in the final moments of the match, and the striker saw yellow for arguing right before the final whistle.
It was a result that Lyon hoped for after its 4-0 drubbing of Bordeaux earlier in the day. Despite the heartbreaking 2-1 first leg loss against Tottenham on Thursday, OL bounced right back with a dominating victory. Clement Grenier was the star for the visitors, scoring off of a perfect counter attack in the 15th minute and converting a spot kick in the 73rd.
Here are the scores from this weekend’s Ligue 1 action:
Lille 2, Stade Rennes 0
Marseille 1, Valenciennes 0
Nice 1, Bastia 0
Brest 1, Ajaccio 1
Lorient 2, Evian Thonon 1
Montpellier 1, Nancy 0
Toulouse 2, Troyes 2
Lyon 4, Bordeaux 0
Stade de Reims 1, St Etienne 1
Sochaux 3, PSG 2