By JUSTIN FERGUSON
Lionel Messi may have notched another landmark goal Saturday, but the superstar forward and his Barcelona teammates were unable to hold onto their league lead at the end of 90 more tough minutes at the Anoeta.
Barcelona fell 3-1 to fifth-place Real Sociedad on Saturday as the defending champions surrendered their lead atop the La Liga table. Sociedad took an early lead at their home stadium, where they defeated Barcelona 3-2 in league play last season, off an early own goal from Barcelona midfielder Alex Song. Although Messi netted his 229th La Liga goal, one that moved him past Real Madrid legend Raul for third place in the all-time league scoring charts, the second half was all Real Sociedad.
After Barcelona manager Gerardo Martino was ejected at halftime, Antoine Griezmann latched on a pass from Mexican winger Carlos Vela and put it past Victor Valdes for the lead in the 54th minute. Griezmann played a part in doubling Sociedad’s lead five minutes later as his cross found a wide-open David Zurutuza for an easy finish. Sociedad came closer to adding to their advantage than Barcelona came to starting a comeback, and the home team were soon celebrating a surprise win against the former league leaders.
In England, league-leading Chelsea needed some last-second heroics to keep a hold of the top spot as they defeated Everton 1-0 at Stamford Bridge. A back-and-forth match between the two sets of Blues seemed destined for a scoreless draw until second-half stoppage time, when Chelsea midfielder Ramires drew a foul just outside of Everton and USMNT goalkeeper Tim Howard’s box. Frank Lampard’s free kick into the area was tapped past Howard by a sliding John Terry, giving Jose Mourinho’s squad the three points it needed to stay in first place in the English Premier League.
Here is a closer look at all the weekend’s action from the top leagues in Europe:
Olivier Giroud returned to the Arsenal starting lineup in style Saturday as he fired a first-half brace in a 4-1 Gunners victory against 18th-place Sunderland. The French forward opened the scoring quickly with a fifth-minute strike, and he doubled his tallied shortly after the half-hour mark off a poor back pass from Sunderland’s Santiago Vergini. Tomas Rosicky and Laurent Koscielny each scored to make it 4-0 before the hour mark, making substitute Emanuele Giaccherini’s impressive 81st-minute strike nothing more than a consolation prize for relegation-zoned Sunderland.
Fourth-place Liverpool strengthened their grip on a Champions League spot with a thrilling 4-3 victory against Swansea City at Anfield on Sunday. Daniel Sturridge and Jordan Henderson put the Reds up 2-0 in the opening 20 minutes, but former teammate Jonjo Shelvey and Swansea striker Wilfried Bony each scored in the span of five minutes to bring the match level. Sturridge and Bony traded goals on either side of halftime, while Henderson secured his brace in the 74th minute with a match winner for the high-scoring Liverpool squad.
Here are the results from this weekend’s English Premier League action:
Chelsea 1, Everton 0
Arsenal 4, Sunderland 1
Hull City 4, Cardiff City 0
Manchester City 1, Stoke City 0
West Bromwich Albion 1, Fulham 1
West Ham United 3, Southampton 1
Manchester United 2, Cardiff City 0
Liverpool 4, Swansea City 3
Newcastle United 1, Aston Villa 0
Norwich City 1, Tottenham Hotspur 0
With Barcelona’s loss at Real Sociedad, Real Madrid were able to take control of the top spot in La Liga on Saturday with a 3-0 home win against Elche. Asier Illarramendi notched a first-half goal for Los Blancos, who had a hard time getting chances against the Elche defense. But Gareth Bale doubled his side’s lead with an incredible long-range strike in the 71st minute, and substitute Isco put the match out of reach for the visitors 10 minutes later with a third goal for Real Madrid, who now look forward to facing Schalke 04 in Champions League play after returning to the La Liga summit.
Perhaps the most shocking result of the entire European weekend was found on Sunday at El Sadar, where Osasuna scored three first-half goals en route to an eye-opening 3-0 victory against third-place title contenders Atletico Madrid. Atletico had struggled in domestic play in recent weeks, but Alvaro Cejudo and Emiliano Armenteros put hosts Osasuna ahead in stunning fashion just 21 minutes into the contest. Roberto Torres headed home a third for the hosts just before halftime thanks to poor defending from Atletico, who only had three shots on goals in the loss.
Here are the results from this weekend’s La Liga action:
Real Valladolid 1, Levante 1
Real Madrid 3, Elche 0
Celta Vigo 1, Getafe 1
Real Sociedad 3, Barcelona 1
Almeria 0, Malaga 0
Sevilla 1, Rayo Vallecano 0
Athletic Bilbao 2, Real Betis 0
Valencia 2, Granada 1
Osasuna 3, Atletico Madrid 0
Bayern Munich moved a stunning 19 points ahead of the pack in the Bundesliga race Sunday with a dominant 4-0 victory at Hannover 96. Thomas Muller notched a brace in the opening hour of play, and he was joined on the score sheet by Thiago and Mario Mandzukic in Bayern’s sixth shutout victory across all competitions. The defending champions of Germany and Europe now have won 20 of their 22 league matches and average almost three goals per contest in their unbeaten Bundesliga run.
Third-place Borussia Dortmund’s disappointing season reached a new low Saturday when they fell 3-0 at relegation-threatened Hamburg. New Hamburg manager Mirko Slomka made an instant impact at the Imtech Arena as the former German giants outshot visiting Dortmund, who face Zenit St. Petersburg in Champions League action this week. Petr Jiracek and Pierre-Michel Lasogga scored midway through the contest to give the hosts a shock 2-0 lead, and Hakan Calhanoglu added a third in stoppage time to put an end to Hamburg’s eight-match losing skid across all competitions.
Here are the results from this weekend’s Bundesliga action:
Schalke 0, Mainz 0
Borussia Monchengladbach 2, Hoffenheim 2
Hamburg 3, Borussia Dortmund 0
Nurnberg 2, Eintracht Braunschweig 1
Augsburg 4, Freiburg 2
Hertha Berlin 2, Stuttgart 1
Wolfsburg 3, Bayer Leverkusen 1
Eintracht Frankfurt 0, Werder Bremen 0
Bayern Munich 4, Hannover 0
Juventus stayed nine points clear atop the Serie A table Sunday with a 1-0 derby victory against Torino at Juventus Stadium. Carlos Tevez was the difference maker for Juventus at the half-hour mark as he struck a volley off a pass from Kwadwo Asamoah for his 14th league goal of the season. Torino had several chances on Gianluigi Buffon’s goal during the match, but they left their massive rivals’ home stadium with their 10th consecutive goalless performance in the one-sided Turin Derby.
Second-place AS Roma also needed just one first-half goal to secure a victory in Serie A action this weekend. Radja Nainggolan scored his first goal since joining the capital club from Cagliari in the 37th minute of Roma’s 1-0 victory against Bologna at the Renato Dell’Ara. Both sides were surprisingly off-target on a large majority of their shots in the Sunday match, but Nainggolan pulled off a nifty strike from Miralem Pjanic’s over-the-top pass a few minutes before the halftime whistle to give Roma what they needed for a win.
Here are the results from this weekend’s Serie A action:
AS Roma 1, Bologna 0
Hellas Verona 3, Livorno 2
Chievo Verona 2, Catania 0
Inter Milan 1, Cagliari 1
AC Milan 2, Sampdoria 0
Udinese 1, Atalanta 1
Juventus 1, Torino 0
Lazio 3, Sassuolo 2
Zlatan Ibrahimovic led the way for the Paris Saint-Germain offense with a superb hat trick in a 4-2 road victory at Toulouse. Ibrahimovic converted a first-half penalty that Toulouse Ben Yedder equalized just before the break, and PSG teammate Ezequiel Lavezzi brought the visitors back in front 10 minutes into the second half with a strike of his own. The Swedish striker headed his second goal home in the 68th minute and rebounded a saved Panenka penalty try just before the final whistle to restore the Parisians’ two-goal lead and nine-point lead atop Ligue 1.
Second-place AS Monaco opened the weekend in France with an exciting victory Friday, a 3-2 home win against Stade de Reims. The visitors’ Prince Oniangue tied up the match two separate times in the second half, but a late red card on teammate Aissa Mandi swung the momentum back into Monaco’s direction. Defender Layvin Kurazawa was the hero for Monaco in second-half stoppage time as he successfully rebounded an effort from James Rodriguez that struck the post before falling in his path.
Here are the results from this weekend’s Ligue 1 action:
AS Monaco 3, Stade de Reims 2
Marseille 1, Lorient 0
Saint Etienne 2, Bastia 0
Bordeaux 2, Evian Thonon Gaillard 0
Guingamp 1, Nice 0
Montpellier 2, Ajaccio 0
Valenciennes 2, Sochaux 2
Paris Saint-Germain 4, Toulouse 2
Stade Rennes 3, Nantes 0
Lille 0, Lyon 0
What did you think of this weekend’s European league action? How long do you see Real Madrid staying on top of La Liga after Barcelona and Atletico Madrid’s upset losses? Impressed with Chelsea’s victory against Everton? Which other results caught your eye this weekend?
Share your thoughts below.