European Weekend Rewind: Tottenham rally to defeat Man City; Juve a step closer to Scudetto; and more

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By JUSTIN FERGUSON

In the span of eight minutes on Sunday, Tottenham Hotspur’s hopes of finishing in the top four this season went from fading to fantastic.

Instead of staying four points back from fourth-place Chelsea with a 1-0 loss against Manchester City, Spurs scored goals in the 75th, 79th and 82nd minutes to stun the defending champions at White Hart Lane.

Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas’s three substitutions and switch to a 4-3-3 formation in the second half provided the spark for the home team, who now sit two points back from third-place rival Arsenal with one fewer match played.

Returning winger Gareth Bale, who looked far from his usual best for the majority of the match, helped bring the match level with a pinpoint pass to the back post for Clint Dempsey. The American midfielder’s tap-in goal erased City’s one-goal lead, which was earned in the fifth minute on a volley from Samir Nasri.

Substitute striker Jermain Defoe gave Spurs the lead four minutes later with a powerful shot that curled right into Joe Hart’s goal. Bale later sealed the massive three points with a chip shot goal, meaning Tottenham still have not won a match without Bale scoring since New Year’s Day.

Sunday’s stunning loss for Manchester City now opens the door for rival United to clinch the Premier League title with a win against Aston Villa on Monday.

Meanwhile, the top team Italy took one step closer to repeating as Serie A champions with a win over third-place AC Milan.

Juventus are now four points away from clinching their 29th league title defeating Champions League hopeful Milan on a 57th-minute penalty from Arturo Vidal. Juve now have five matches against clubs outside the top eight to keep the trophy in Turin.

The two sides traded chances at breaking the scoreless deadlock in the first half on Sunday.  Backup Milan goalkeeper Marco Amelia, who came in for the injured Christian Abbati just 15 minutes into the match, saved Juve’s best chance of the opening frame but was ultimately responsible for giving away the match’s only goal. Amelia’s foul on Kwadwo Asamoah inside the box led to Vidal’s well-struck penalty conversion.

Milan failed to get an equalizer past Gianluigi Buffon on several good second half looks. The Rossoneri now lead Fiorentina by a single point in the battle for the final Champions League spot in Serie A.

Here is a closer look at the action from this weekend’s top action in Europe:

ENGLAND

Sunday’s second Premier League match might have been billed as Chelsea interim manager Rafa Benitez’s return to Liverpool, but striker Luis Suarez stole all of the headlines by the final whistle. Chelsea drew 2-2 with seventh-place Liverpool after some fantastic game action at Anfield that was overshadowed by a 69th-minute incident between Suarez and Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic. The controversial Uruguayan, who was once named “The Cannibal of Ajax” for a similar incident, appeared to reach down and bite Ivanovic’s arm during an off-the-ball tussle. Suarez stayed in the match to record an unbelievable equalizer in the seventh minute of stoppage time, but the post-match attention focused on the bite more than the goal. The striker later apologized to Ivanovic through a statement on Liverpool’s website and his Twitter account.

Thanks to the Chelsea draw with Liverpool, Arsenal kept control of their reclaimed third place position this weekend. The Gunners moved ahead of the Blues on Saturday with a 1-0 win at Fulham. Despite Fulham midfielder Steve Sidwell’s 15th-minute red card, Arsenal had a hard time finding a goal for most of the opening half. Per Mertesacker’s header just before halftime would turn out to be the only goal of the match as Fulham came close on several occasions to snatching a draw. Arsenal lost their man advantage in the 90th minute when Olivier Giroud received a red card for a bad tackle, but the visitors stayed strong in the back to preserve the close victory.

Here are the results from this weekend’s Premier League action:

Arsenal 1, Fulham 0
Norwich City 2, Reading 1
Stoke City 2, QPR 0
Sunderland 1, Everton 0
Swansea City 0, Southampton 0
West Bromwich Albion 1, Newcastle United 1
West Ham United 1, Wigan Athletic 0
Tottenham Hotspur 3, Manchester City 1
Liverpool 2, Chelsea 2

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SPAIN

Even with the likes of Andres Iniesta and David Villa in the starting lineup, Barcelona needed a late goal from Cesc Fabregas to defeat Levante 1-0 at Camp Nou on Saturday. Second-choice Levante goalkeeper Keylor Nevas frustrated the Catalans offense with eight saves, including a first-half denial of a Villa penalty kick. But Barcelona finally got one past Nevas when substitute forward Alexis Sanchez supplied Fabregas with the perfect pass for a game-winner. The win kept Barcelona’s lead at the top of La Liga at 13 points as second-place Real Madrid defeated Real Betis 3-1 on Saturday.

Valencia gained ground on fourth-place Real Sociedad and their opponents’ dreams of a return to the Champions League with a 5-1 home win over Malaga. After 25 minutes of scoreless play in the first half, Valencia scored four times in a stunning six-minute span. Scoring leader Roberto Saldado netted a brace between goals from Daniel Parejo and Sergio Canales, moving Valencia three points ahead of Malaga in the league table. Julio Baptista’s first half stoppage time goal gave Malaga a small amount of hope heading into the locker room, but Ever Bangea’s strike 11 minutes into the second half killed any hopes of a comeback for the visitors. Real Sociedad, who played out a scoreless draw at bottom-half Osasuna on Sunday, now lead Valencia by two points in the fight for the final Champions League spot.

Here are the results from this weekend’s La Liga action:

Mallorca 1, Rayo Vallecano 1
Granada 1, Real Valladolid 1
Real Madrid 3, Real Betis 1
Barcelona 1, Levante 0
Valencia 5, Malaga 1
Getafe 2, Espanyol 0
Deportivo La Coruna 1, Athletic Bilbao 1
Osasuna 0, Real Sociedad 0
Atletico Madrid 1, Sevilla 0

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GERMANY

Eintracht Frankfurt kept their Champions League dreams alive Saturday with a 1-0 home win over fourth-place Schalke 04. Frankfurt goalkeeper Oka Nikolov turned in a priceless eight-save performance for the Eagles that included a first-half penalty save. Seventeen-year-old Marc Stendera, who came close to giving Frankfurt the lead multiple times in the first half, delivered a curling free kick into the path of defender Marco Russ for a 41st-minute goal. Nikolov protected his club’s slim lead in the second half with several key stops, and Frankfurt’s young offense came close to sealing the win in the final minutes. The close win and Freiburg’s 2-1 loss to Stuttgart move Frankfurt to just one point behind Schalke with four matches left on the schedule.

League champions Bayern Munich continued their complete domination of domestic competition on Saturday with a 6-1 road win at Hannover. Claudio Pizarro and Mario Gomez each scored twice for Bayern, who return to Allianz Arena to face Barcelona in the Champions League semifinal Tuesday. Bayern’s record 26th win of the Bundesliga campaign kept their undefeated road record intact and moved their goal differential to +75, which is one more goal than second-place Borussia Dortmund has scored all season.

Here are the results from this weekend’s Bundesliga action:

Borussia Monchengladbach 1, Augsburg 0
Bayer Leverkusen 5, Hoffenheim 0
Borussia Dortmund 2, Mainz 0
Eintracht Frankfurt 1, Schalke 0
Hamburg 2, Fortuna Dusseldorf 1
Bayern Munich 6, Hannover 1
Wolfsburg 3, Werder Bremen 0
Stuttgart 2, Freiburg 1
Greuther Furth 1, Nurnberg 0

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ITALY

Inter Milan snapped their three-match losing streak Sunday with a 1-0 home win over Parma, moving the injury-riddled club to fifth in the league table. Inter started the match on the front foot, but the visitors began to take control midway through the first half. Samir Handanovic was kept busy at the end of the first and beginning of the second half, and it appeared for the longest time that Inter would have to hope for a scoreless draw. But with eight minutes left in the match, fullback Jonathan found veteran forward Tommaso Rochi, whose mishit shot found its way past Antonio Mirante for the winner. The Nerazzurri now trail rival Milan by six points for the final Champions League spot.

The capital clubs in Serie A had rather disappointing weekends in the hunt for next season’s European spots. Antonio Di Natale’s acrobatic goal in the 19th minute was enough for Udinese to secure a 1-0 win over Lazio and draw level with their Saturday opponents on points. On Sunday, AS Roma played out a disappointing 1-1 draw with last-place US Pescara, who captured only their second point in their last 14 matches. Gianluca Caprari gave the visiting Delfino the surprising lead early in the first half, but Roma’s Mattia Destro scored his fifth goal in his last six appearances shortly after halftime to bring the match level. Pescara goalkeeper Ivan Pelizzoli denied Roma of a winner several times in the final half-hour to keep his side’s slim survival chances intact.

Here are the results from this weekend’s Serie A action:

Genoa 1, Atalanta 1
Udinese 1, Lazio 0
Inter Milan 1, Parma 0
AS Roma 1, US Pescara 1
Bologna 1, Sampdoria 1
Catania 1, Palermo 1
Fiorentina 4, Torino 3
Napoli 3, Cagliari 2
Chievo Verona 2, Siena 1
Juventus 1, AC Milan 0

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FRANCE

Paris Saint-Germain ended their small slide on Sunday with a 3-0 win over Nice. The Parisians are now six points away from their first Ligue 1 title in 19 years. PSG dominated possession and limited the visitors to just one shot on goal the entire match. Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s 65th-minute penalty conversion came between an early goal from Jeremy Menez and a late one from substitute Clement Chantome. PSG could clinch in their next two matches against bottom-half sides, Evian Thonon and Valenciennes, before making the trip to Lyon.

Here are the results from this weekend’s Ligue 1 action:

Lyon 2, Montpellier 1
Marseille 1, Brest 0
Lille 2, Bastia 1
Nancy 3, Evian Thonon 1
Sochaux 2, Bordeaux 2
Valenciennes 1, Stade de Reims 0
Lorient 1, Toulouse 0
PSG 3, Nice 0

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What do you make of this weekend’s results? Think Tottenham will make it into the top four by season’s end? Intrigued by the battles for the final Champions League spots in Spain, Germany and Italy? Any final thoughts on the Suarez biting incident?

Share your comments below.

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