By JUSTIN FERGUSON
After what was a slow start to the English Premier League campaign for defending champions Manchester United under new manager David Moyes, the Red Devils are closing in on the title contenders thanks to a tight victory against first-place Arsenal.
Manchester United extended their unbeaten league run to five matches as Robin van Persie netted an early match-winner against his former club in a 1-0 win at Old Trafford. The Dutch striker’s 27th-minute header from a Wayne Rooney corner kick was enough to pull the hosts five points behind the Gunners and into fifth place after a crazy couple of days in England.
Both defenses played well in the tightly contested match despite key absences at center back — Arsenal were without Per Mertesacker due to a virus that has been spreading around the club, and Nemanja Vidic missed the second half for Man United after sustaining a head injury. While Arsenal fired off twice as many shots as their hosts, both teams put just two shots on goal. David De Gea made both of his saves in the second half, denying an in-form Aaron Ramsey and Kieran Gibbs from netting an equalizer from distance.
Another team of defending champions were victorious at home this weekend as Juventus pulled just one point behind AS Roma after rolling past Napoli in a 3-0 win. Juve entered Sunday’s match as the lower team in the league table, but they opened up a quick lead through Fernando Llorente’s second-minute goal and did not look back. Andrea Pirlo and Paul Pogba then added second-half goals to secure Juve their fourth straight Serie A win and continue the capital club’s recent success against Napoli.
Here is a closer look at all the weekend’s action from the top leagues in Europe:
Arsenal were not the only title contenders to fall 1-0 on Sunday — Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur were both stunned in their matches against Tyneside opposition. Sunderland notched their second win of the season under new manager Gus Poyet as Phillip Bardsley’s 21st-minute goal handed Man City their fourth straight one-goal loss at the Stadium of Light. Meanwhile, in North London, Tottenham Hotspur were stunned by Newcastle United, who got an early goal from Loic Remy and a spectacular 14 saves from goalkeeper Tim Krul.
On Saturday, Chelsea were close to a home loss against West Bromwich Albion, but a highly controversial penalty decision deep into stoppage time helped the Blues earn a 2-2 draw with the visiting Baggies. Samuel Eto’o's 45th-minute goal was answered by Shane Long and Stephane Sessengon in the second half, giving West Brom a 2-1 lead at Stamford Bridge. But Chelsea midfielder Ramires was shockingly awarded a penalty by referee Andre Mariner after a challenge by Steven Reid, and Eden Hazard equalized from the spot to save Chelsea from their first home loss of the season.
Here are the results from this weekend’s English Premier League action:
Aston Villa 2, Cardiff City 0
Chelsea 2, West Bromwich Albion 2
Crystal Palace 0, Everton 0
Liverpool 4, Fulham 0
Southampton 4, Hull City 1
Norwich City 3, West Ham United 1
Newcastle United 1, Tottenham Hotspur 0
Sunderland 1, Manchester City 0
Swansea City 3, Stoke City 3
First-place Barcelona kept their unbeaten start to the La Liga season going with a 4-1 win at Real Betis on Sunday, but the defending champions were left with a bad taste in their mouths when Lionel Messi left early with another hamstring injury. Messi left the match in the 22nd minute against Real Betis, marking the third time this season the Argentine star has injured his hamstring. After Messi left the field, Neymar and Pedro combined for a quick first-half double, and Cesc Fabregas rounded out the victory with a second-half brace of his own.
Cristiano Ronaldo returned to the Bernabeu in style Saturday with his second consecutive home hat trick. Ronaldo opened and closed the scoring for Real Madrid in their 5-1 home win against Real Sociedad, and the Portuguese star converted a 26th-minute penalty in the middle of a first-half offensive explosion for Los Blancos. He also provided the assist on Real’s second, an 18th-minute goal from Karim Benzema, while Gareth Bale and Sami Khedira connected for the fourth goal on an exciting afternoon in the Spanish capital.
Here are the results from this weekend’s La Liga action:
Almeria 1, Osasuna 0
Granada 3, Malaga 1
Real Madrid 5, Real Sociedad 1
Getafe 1, Elche 1
Athletic Bilbao 2, Levante 1
Rayo Vallecano 2, Celta Vigo 0
Sevilla 3, Espanyol 1
Valencia 2, Real Valladolid 2
Villarreal 1, Atletico Madrid 1
Barcelona 4, Real Betis 1
First-place Bayern Munich set a new Bundesliga record in Saturday’s 3-0 victory against Augsburg. The defending champions are now unbeaten in 37 straight league matches following their relatively easy home win, which included goals from Jerome Boateng, Franck Ribery and Thomas Muller. Augsburg did not have a single shot on goal against a Bayern side that held 71 percent of the match’s possession and fired off 23 shots en route to their new national record.
Bayern’s victory gave them a four-point lead in the Bundesliga after second-place Borussia Dortmund fell 2-1 at fifth-place Wolfsburg. Marco Reus’s first-half stoppage time goal gave Dortmund a lead heading into the break, but Ricardo Rodriguez and Ivica Olic came through for the hosts, who have now won four straight league matches. Dortmund striker Robert Lewandowski came close to equalizing for Dortmund in stoppage time as Diego Benaglio’s impressive save secured the three points for Wolfsburg just before the final whistle.
Here are the results from this weekend’s Bundesliga action:
Hannover 0, Eintracht Braunschweig 0
Bayer Leverkusen 5, Hamburg 3
Bayern Munich 3, Augsburg 0
Schalke 3, Werder Bremen 1
Hertha Berlin 3, Hoffenheim 2
Wolfsburg 3, Borussia Dortmund 2
Borussia Monchengladbach 3, Nurnberg 1
Mainz 1, Eintracht Frankfurt 0
Stuttgart 3, Freiburg 1
After winning 10 straight matches to start the Serie A season, first-place AS Roma have now drawn back-to-back matches and hold just a one-point lead in the league table. Roma drew 1-1 with bottom-half Sassuolo after Domenico Berardi’s 94th-minute goal earned the visitors a point at the Stade Olimpico. The league leaders went up in the 19th minute on an own goal by Alessandro Longhi, but they were left kicking themselves after missing several chances to extend the lead against the visiting relegation candidates.
Inter Milan extended their unbeaten run in league play to five matches following a 2-0 win against Livorno. Goalkeeper Francesco Bardi, who is on loan at Livorno from Inter Milan, put his parent club in front with an own goal at the half-hour mark. Yugo Nagatomo sealed the three points with a second-half stoppage time goal, but the biggest story of the final moments was 40-year-old Javier Zanetti, who returned to action for the first time since rupturing his Achilles tendon in April.
Here are the results from this weekend’s Serie A action:
Catania 1, Udinese 0
Inter Milan 2, Livorno 0
Genoa 2, Hellas Verona 0
AS Roma 1, Sassuolo 1
Atalanta 2, Bologna 1
Cagliari 2, Torino 1
Chievo Verona 0, AC Milan 0
Parma 1, Lazio 1
Fiorentina 2, Sampdoria 1
Juventus 3, Napoli 0
League-leading Paris Saint-Germain recorded a 3-1 home victory against Nice on Saturday thanks to a hat trick from superstar forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The Swede knocked Gregory van der Wiel’s cross home a few minutes before halftime and converted a penalty in the 57th minute to give the Parisians a 2-0 lead. Nemanja Pejcinovic pulled one back for the visitors in the 70th minute by hitting a solid shot into an open net, but Ibrahimovic slammed the door shut five minutes later with an impressive header off a cross from winger Lucas.
Second-place Lille and third-place Monaco both lost ground to the defending Ligue 1 champions this weekend. Monaco started the weekend with a disappointing 1-1 Friday draw against Evian Thonon Gaillard that included several missed opportunities at a late winner. Lille failed to take advantage of the Monaco slip-up on Saturday in a 0-0 draw at Guingamp that was played despite horrendous weather conditions at the Stade Du Roudourou.
Here are the results from this weekend’s Ligue 1 action:
AS Monaco 1, Evian Thonon Gaillard 1
Paris Saint-Germain 3, Nice 1
Bastia 1, Stade Rennes 0
Guingamp 0, Lille 0
Lorient 0, Stade de Reims 0
Toulouse 1, Ajaccio 1
Valenciennes 1, Montpellier 1
Nantes 3, Bordeaux 0
Marseille 2, Sochaux 1
Lyon 2, Saint Etienne 1
What do you think of this weekend’s European league action? Consider Manchester United a title contender after beating Arsenal? Think Juventus will catch up with AS Roma in the coming weeks? Which other performances from Europe caught your eye this weekend?
Share your thoughts below.