By JUSTIN FERGUSON
On paper, Atletico Madrid had their best chance to defeat rival Real for the first time in 14 years. Real manager Jose Mourinho started only three players from the first-choice side that lost 4-1 at Dortmund earlier in the week, and Real were probably looking ahead to Tuesday’s return leg at the Bernabeu.
On the field, Atletico looked like the better side for the majority of the match. Scoring machine Radamel Falcao sent the Vicente Calderon into a frenzy four minutes into the match with a fine header.
But on the scoreboard, Real won the match 2-1 as Atletico were once again denied their first Madrid derby win of the 21st century.
The visitors equalized nine minutes after Falcao’s opener on an own goal from Atletico defender Francisco Juanfran. Real struggled to get any offense going after the gifted goal, but Atletico failed to take advantage. When Real pieced together their first attack of the second half at the hour mark, it was enough for the winner. Karim Benzema found Angel Di Maria down the wing, and the Argentinian winger slotted a ball just out of the reach of Thibaut Courtois to silence the rowdy home crowd.
The Atletico loss, their second one at home this season, allowed Real to open a six-point lead over their rivals in the race for second place in La Liga. Real will hope the derby win gives them a boost for Tuesday’s return leg against Dortmund, where they will need at least three goals to survive in the Champions League.
In England, Chelsea made the move past Arsenal and back into third place in the Premier League with a 2-0 win over Swansea. The Blues scored both of their goals in the span of four minutes on Sunday thanks to the play of first-half substitute Frank Lampard. The veteran midfielder combined with captain John Terry and laid a pass off to Oscar, who drilled his shot past Michel Vorm for a 43rd-minute goal.
A few minutes later, in stoppage time, Juan Mata was fouled in the box by Leon Britton. Lampard converted the ensuing penalty for his 201st Chelsea goal, just one behind the club record held by Bobby Tambling.
Chelsea held off the Swansea attack in the second half and moved ahead Arsenal, who followed Chelsea on Sunday with a 1-1 draw against Manchester United. After taking the field at his former home stadium in the champions’ guard of honor before the game, Robin van Persie played a hand in both goals at the Emirates Stadium.
The Dutch striker gave the ball away in the second minute of the match, and his former club raced up the field on a counter attack. As United shouted for offside, Arsenal winger Theo Walcott tucked a ball right under the grasp of David De Gea for the opener. The visitors, not at their usual best, held off the Arsenal attack for the rest of a physical first half.
But right before the halftime whistle, van Persie found a chance to bring the match level. Bacary Sagna was penalized for a rough slide tackle on his former teammate in the box, and van Persie converted the spot kick for his 25th Premier League goal of the season.
Both teams failed to convert their scoring chances in the second half, and Arsenal were forced to stay behind Chelsea in the race for third place. The Gunners trail Chelsea by one point and lead Tottenham by two points—but both of their London rivals have an extra game in hand over Arsenal.
Here is a closer look at the weekend’s action from the top leagues in Europe:
Wigan Athletic were minutes away from a 2-1 home win over Tottenham and three huge points in their fight to avoid relegation. But in the 89th minute, a low cross sent into a chaotic box deflected off of Wigan defender Emmerson Boyce to round out a 2-2 draw. It was an unlucky break for Boyce, who scored an equalizer for Wigan in the 11th minute on a well-placed header. Boyce’s goal came two minutes after Gareth Bale scored off of some miscommunication between Wigan goalkeeper Joel Robles and his back line. After a hesitant backpass from defender Maynor Figueroa, Robles rushed to blast a last-gasp clearance. The kick only went a few feet before rebounding straight into Robles’s net off of a deflection from Bale. Wigan remain two points behind Aston Villa in the race to avoid the final relegation spot in the Premier League—QPR and Reading played out a scoreless draw this weekend to secure both clubs’ trips back into the Championship.
The Newcastle United-Liverpool match made headlines on Saturday because of the Reds’ incredible offensive performance. Liverpool scored six goals in a road shutout win over Newcastle, who are not out of the relegation fight just yet. Daniel Sturridge and Jordan Henderson each recorded a brace for Liverpool, who were playing in their first match without leading scorer Luis Suarez. The only negative to come out of Saturday’s blowout win for Liverpool was the early exit by captain Steven Gerrard. The midfielder, who was aiming to be the first player to play every minute of the Premier League season, took a knock halfway through the second half and had to come off. His replacement, Fabio Borini, scored two minutes after coming on.
Here are the results from this weekend’s Premier League action:
Manchester City 2, West Ham United 1
Everton 1, Fulham 0
Wigan Athletic 2, Tottenham 2
Stoke City 1, Norwich City 0
West Bromwich Albion 3, Southampton 0
Liverpool 6, Newcastle United 0
Reading 0, QPR 0
Chelsea 2, Swansea City 0
Arsenal 1, Manchester United 1
Barcelona’s title celebrations were delayed one week after Athletic Bilbao snatched a 2-2 draw in the very last minute of regular time. The visiting Catalans started the match in disappointing fashion, generating little offense and allowing a Markel Susaeta goal before the half hour mark. But the introduction of second-half substitute Lionel Messi changed the match for Barcelona. The Argentinian’s appearance provided new life for the Barcelona offense, which began peppering the Bilbao goal. Messi leveled the match in the 67th minute and assisted Alexis’s goal two minutes later. All signs pointed to a Barcelona win that would have pressured Real to defeat Atletico, but Ander Herrera found an equalizer in the 90th minute to give Bilbao back-to-back results for the first time since early March.
Real Sociedad extended their lead in the race for the final Champions League spot in La Liga with a thrilling 4-2 win over Valencia on Sunday. Roberto Soldado and Inigo Martinez each grabbed a goal for their sides in the first half. In the second half, Sociedad opened up a late flurry of scoring with a perfect counter attack goal from a missed Valencia free kick. Imanol Agirretxe seemed to have put the game away for the hosts with a goal three minutes from time, but Valencia’s Jonas added some late drama by pulling one back before stoppage time. Agirretxe sealed the three points with a stoppage time stunner, giving Sociedad a five-point lead over Valencia and Malaga with five matches remaining.
Here are the results from this weekend’s La Liga action:
Rayo Vallecano 2, Osasuna 2
Celta Vigo 1, Levante 0
Athletic Bilbao 2, Barcelona 2
Real Madrid 2, Atletico Madrid 1
Real Zaragoza 3, Mallorca 2
Granada 1, Espanyol 0
Malaga 2, Getafe 1
Real Valladolid 1, Sevilla 1
Real Sociedad 4, Valencia 2
Although they still have three matches left to go in their Bundesliga campaign, Bayern Munich have set an all-time points record after their 1-0 win over Freiburg on Saturday. Even though Jupp Heynckes fielded only one starter from their massive 4-0 midweek win over Barcelona, Bayern still had enough to see off a European hopeful at the Allianz Arena. Tom Starke, who has yet to concede a goal as a Bayern player, kept a clean sheet as Xherdan Shaqiri’s 35th-minute free kick was enough for the victory. Bayern now have 84 points through 31 matches—an unbelievable 27-3-1 record. The champions travel to the Nou Camp to finish the job against Barca and book a trip to next month’s Champions League Final at Wembley.
After fifth-place Eintracht Frankfurt played out a disappointing scoreless draw at Mainz on Sunday, Schalke opened up a three-point lead in the race for the final Champions League spot with a 4-1 win over Europa League candidate Hamburg. Klaas-Jan Huntleaar, making his first appearance since March’s win over Dortmund, netted a hat trick after assisting on Michel Bastos opener. Hamburg took an early 1-0 lead off of a Marcell Jansen header, but it was all Schalke after Bastos’s equalizer. Rene Adler’s six saves kept the match from being a complete disaster for visiting Hamburg, who trail Freiburg by one point for a spot in Europe’s second-biggest competition.
Here are the results from this weekend’s Bundesliga action:
Hannover 3, Greuther Furth 2
Bayer Leverkusen 1, Werder Bremen 0
Bayern Munich 1, Freiburg 0
Augsburg 3, Stuttgart 2
Hoffenheim 2, Nurnberg 1
Wolfsburg 3, Borussia Monchengladbach 1
Borussia Dortmund 2, Fortuna Dusseldorf 1
Mainz 0, Eintracht Frankfurt 0
Schalke 4, Hamburg 1
Juventus are one result away from the Scudetto after grinding out a late 2-0 win over rival Torino on Sunday. Although they out-shot Torino and controlled most of the possession, Juve were close to giving away the match in the dying moments. After the hosts were denied a penalty, Arturo Vidal scored an 86th-minute goal. Torino defender Kamil Glik received his second yellow card minutes later, opening the door for Andrea Pirlo to serve up a free kick assist to Claudio Marchisio’s header. Juve can clinch their second straight Serie A title next weekend against relegation-threatened Palermo.
AC Milan kept their one-point lead over Fiorentina for the final Champions League spot in Serie A with a 4-2 comeback victory over Catania. Milan shot the ball 38 times to Catania’s seven, but the visitors made most of their early chances. Nicola Legrottaglie headed Catania into the lead at the half hour mark, and Gonzalo Bergessio scored in the 65th minute for a 2-1 Catania advantage. Giampaolo Pazzini entered the match shortly after Catania’s second goal, and “The Madman” went right to work with a quickfire brace. Mario Balotelli sealed the three points for the Rossoneri deep into stoppage time with a penalty conversion.
Here are the results from this weekend’s Serie A action:
Atalanta 1, Bologna 1
Udinese 1, Cagliari 0
Napoli 3, US Pescara 0
AS Roma 4, Siena 0
Genoa 1, Chievo Verona 0
Palermo 1, Inter Milan 0
Parma 0, Lazio 0
Fiorentina 3, Sampdoria 0
Juventus 2, Torino 0
AC Milan 4, Catania 2
Paris Saint-Germain also inched closer to their domestic title this weekend, but the Parisians will have to pay the price for a chaotic ending at Evian Thonon. PSG won 1-0 to keep their nine-point lead over Marseille, who defeated Lorient on Saturday by the same scoreline. Javier Pastore scored the winner early in a wild second half that featured red cards for both David Beckham and Marco Veratti. Blaise Matuidi taunted the Evian bench shortly after the final whistle, and PSG goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu later received a red card for fighting with some of his opponents. Despite the loss, Evian are still above the drop zone in Ligue 1, edging out 18th-place Sochaux on goal differential.
Here are the results from this weekend’s Ligue 1 action:
Lille 3, Sochaux 3
Marseille 1, Lorient 0
Ajaccio 2, Montpellier 1
Bastia 0, Toulouse 0
Bordeaux 0, Stade de Reims 0
Stade Rennes 2, Brest 0
Valenciennes 0, Nancy 0
Lyon 1, Saint Etienne 1
Nice 3, Troyes 1
PSG 1, Evian Thonon 0
What do you make of these results? Surprised at Real’s win over Atletico with the weakened lineup? Think Chelsea will stay in front of Arsenal in the race for third place? Impressed with Bayern’s record-setting season so far?
Share your comments below.