By JUSTIN FERGUSON
For the first time this season, we have a new leader in La Liga.
Since their 7-0 blowout victory against Levante on the first weekend of the Spanish league season, defending champions Barcelona have been atop the league table for 21 consecutive matchdays. That all changed Saturday as Barcelona suffered a stunning 3-2 loss to eighth-place Valencia at Camp Nou, where they had previously posted 10 wins in 10 matches against La Liga competition.
Alexis Sanchez put the hosts ahead in the 7th minute off a cross from star forward Lionel Messi, but Barcelona failed to capitalize on their next few chances. Valencia made Barcelona pay on either side of halftime — Daniel Parejo finished a one-two with Jeremy Mathieu in the 44th minute, and Pablo Piatti gave Los Che a shock lead in the 48th minute with a header just out of Victor Valdes’ grasp. Although Messi converted a controversial penalty minutes later to tie it up, Paco Alcacer made the shaky Barcelona defense, which lost Jordi Alba to a red card in the 78th minute, pay one final time with a game-winning strike just before the hour mark.
Barcelona’s stunning loss opened the door for Atletico Madrid to seize the league lead for the first time since 1996. Atletico defeated Real Sociedad 4-0 Sunday on an emotional evening at the Vicente Calderon, the former home stadium of the legendary Luis Aragones, who died Saturday. David Villa put his new club on its way to taking the league lead from his former club in the 38th minute, and the Atletico attack sealed the deal in the second half with three more goals in the span of 15 minutes.
Here is a closer look at all the weekend’s action from the top leagues in Europe:
Arsenal reclaimed the top spot in the English Premier League for at least a temporary basis Sunday when they defeated Crystal Palace 2-0 at Emirates Stadium. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain tallied two goals in his first EPL start since his opening day knee injury, scoring in the 47th and 73rd minutes of a match the Gunners controlled from the opening whistle. Arsenal now hold a two-point advantage over second-place Manchester City, who face third-place Chelsea in an important match on Monday at the Ethiad Stadium.
Seventh-place Manchester United’s rough EPL campaign took another hit Saturday as they fell 2-1 to Stoke City at the Britannia. The Potters had never defeated Manchester United in EPL play and had lost four consecutive matches across all competitions, but a unorthodox Charlie Adam brace was enough to put away the injury-ravaged Red Devils. Adam’s long 38th-minute free kick took a favorable deflection off Michael Carrick for a go-ahead score, and the midfielder put the Potters back up early in the second half with a fantastic curling shot — just minutes after new Man United signing Juan Mata setup Robin van Persie for an equalizer.
Here are the results from this weekend’s English Premier League action:
Sunderland 3, Newcastle United 0
West Ham United 2, Swansea City 0
Cardiff City 2, Norwich City 1
Everton 2, Aston Villa 1
Southampton 3, Fulham 0
Hull City 1, Tottenham Hotspur 1
Stoke City 2, Manchester United 1
West Bromwich Albion 1, Liverpool 1
Arsenal 2, Crystal Palace 0
Third-place Real Madrid dropped precious points Sunday in a 1-1 road draw at Athletic Bilbao, but it was a red card for Cristiano Ronaldo that stole most of the postmatch headlines from the new San Mames. Jese put Real ahead in the 65th minute on a pass from Ronaldo, but Ibai Gomez made an instant impact for Bilbao eight minutes later by scoring a goal just seconds after being subbed on for Iker Muniain. Ronaldo was sent off two minutes after Gomez’s equalizer for his reaction to a Carlos Gurpegi shove and ensuing confrontation with Ander Iturraspe, forcing Real to hold onto the draw with only 10 men.
Here are the results from this weekend’s La Liga action:
Celta Vigo 2, Granada 1
Valencia 3, Barcelona 2
Levante 0, Rayo Vallecano 0
Getafe 0, Real Valladolid 0
Malaga 3, Sevilla 2
Elche 1, Almeria 0
Real Betis 2, Espanyol 0
Atletico Madrid 4, Real Sociedad 0
Athletic Bilbao 1, Real Madrid 1
Bayern Munich kept a hold of their massive 13-point lead in the Bundesliga race with a 5-0 drubbing of Eintracht Frankurt at the Allianz Arena. The defending champions put 14 shots on Kevin Trapp’s goal in the rout, with five different players finding the back of his net in a match that was all Bayern from the beginning. Franck Ribery, Mario Gotze and Mario Manduzkic all tallied a goal and assist in the blowout victory for Bayern, who improved to a perfect 10-for-10 at home in Bundesliga play this season.
Third-place Borussia Dortmund got back to their winning ways Friday with a 2-1 road victory at last-place Eintracht Braunschweig. Gabonese forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was the star for Dortmund, who secured a Bundesliga victory for the first time since late November with the result at Eintracht-Stadion. Aubameyang headed in a fine pass from Robert Lewandowski for a goal in the 31st minute of the match, and he netted the game-winner in the 65th minute after receiving a pass from Marco Reus.
Here are the results from this weekend’s Bundesliga action:
Borussia Dortmund 2, Eintracht Braunschweig 1
Bayer Leverkusen 2, Stuttgart 1
Augsburg 3, Werder Bremen 1
Mainz 2, Freiburg 0
Schalke 2, Wolfsburg 1
Hoffenheim 3, Hamburg 0
Hannover 3, Borussia Monchengladbach 1
Nurnberg 3, Hertha Berlin 1
Bayern Munich 5, Eintracht Frankfurt 0
Because the match between second-place Roma and eighth-place Parma was suspended after eight minutes of play Sunday due to weather, Juventus were able to go nine points clear on top of the Serie A table with their 3-1 Derby d’Italia victory against Inter Milan. Stephan Lichtensteiner put hosts Juve on their way to a victory in the 15th minute with a fine finish off a pass from Andrea Pirlo. Giorgio Chiellini and Arturo Vidal quickly turned the match into a rout early into the second half, making Inter defender Rolando’s 71st-minute goal a mere consolation prize it what is becoming a one-sided derby between two traditional Italian powerhouses.
Third-place Napoli’s historical woes at Atalanta continued Sunday as they suffered a 3-0 defeat at the Atleti Azzurri d’Italia. German Denis notched a second-half brace off two defensive errors from Napoli, who have now lost five of their last eight road matches at Atalanta. Maximiliano Moralez burned the Napoli back line one last time in the 70th minute, rounding helpless goalkeeper Pepe Reina and putting his stamp on an eye-opening shutout victory against the Serie A title contenders.
Here are the results from this weekend’s Serie A action:
Udinese 2, Bologna 0
Cagliari 1, Fiorentina 0
AC Milan 1, Torino 1
AS Roma, Parma (Suspended due to weather)
Atalanta 3, Napoli 1
Catania 3, Livorno 3
Lazio 2, Chievo Verona 0
Hellas Verona 2, Sassuolo 1
Juventus 3, Inter Milan 1
First-place Paris Saint-Germain extended their Ligue 1 lead Friday with a hard-fought 2-0 victory against Bordeaux at the Parc des Princes. Although PSG fired 21 shots in the victory, only four of them were on goal — and it took until the second half for the Parisians to break through the Bordeaux defense. Zlatan Ibrahimovic continued his fine goalscoring record by slotting home a wide-open pass from Lucas Moura in the 58th minute, and Alex sealed the three points for PSG two minutes from time with a good finish off another pinpoint pass from Moura.
Second-place AS Monaco could not maintain their pace with Paris Saint-Germain on Saturday as they had to rescue a 2-2 draw from midtable club Lorient at the Stade du Moustoir. Vincent Aboubakar put the hosts out in front with a 12th-minute strike, but Valere Germain equalized for Monaco minutes before the halftime whistle. Jeremie Aliadiere put Lorient back out in front in the 72nd minute, and Monaco could only settle for a point from Layvin Kurzawa’s left-footed shot past a busy Florent Chaigneau in the 87th minute.
Here are the results from this weekend’s Ligue 1 action:
Paris Saint-Germain 2, Bordeaux 0
Lorient 2, AS Monaco 2
Bastia 3, Guingamp 2
Evian Thonon Gaillard 1, Ajaccio 1
Sochaux 1, Nantes 0
Saint Etienne 3, Valenciennes 0
Montpellier 4, Stade de Reims 2
Nice 1, Lille 0
Stade Reims 2, Lyon 0
Marseille 2, Toulouse 2
What did you think of this weekend’s European league action? Shocked at Barcelona’s home loss to Valencia? How long do you think Atletico Madrid will stay on top of La Liga? Which other results caught your eye?
Share your thoughts below.