European Football Roundup : Barcelona stutter as Manchester United and Bayern surge on
LONDON: Stuttering La Liga leaders Barcelona suffered their second defeat by Real Madrid in five days when they went down 2-1 at the Bernabeu in Saturday’s “Classico”. However, there was no such slip-up for Manchester United who hammered Norwich City 4-0 to maintain their firm grip on the Premier League or Bayern Munich who stayed 17 points clear in the Bundesliga with a 1-0 win over Hoffenheim.
Spain: The damage to Barcelona was limited after second-placed Atletico Madrid were held to a 0-0 draw at Malaga on Sunday in a tight game featuring two of the meanest defences in the Spanish top flight. After Real dumped holders Barca out of the King’s Cup 4-2 on aggregate, they underlined their recent superiority over their arch-rivals when a depleted team inflicted only a second league defeat of the campaign on the Catalan club. Lionel Messi cancelled out Karim Benzema’s early strike, equalling Real great Alfredo Di Stefano “Classico” scoring record of 18 goals, before Sergio Ramos nodded a late winner for Real from a Luka Modric corner. Barca have 68 points from 26 matches with Atletico on 57 and Real 55 ahead of their Champions League last-16 second leg at Manchester United on Tuesday.
England: Manchester United moved 15 points clear at the top of the Premier League as Shinji Kagawa’s hat-trick inspired them to a 4-0 win over Norwich City on Saturday. Wayne Rooney grabbed a spectacular fourth goal to leave United in good heart for the game against Real with the teams locked at 1-1 after the first leg in Madrid. Tottenham Hotspur stayed third after beating north London rivals Arsenal 2-1 on Sunday, two points above Chelsea who eased the pressure on troubled interim manager Rafael Benitez with a scrappy 1-0 home win over West Bromwich Albion. Second-placed Manchester City travel to Aston Villa on Monday.
Germany: Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich kept their title bid firmly on track after a largely second-string team beat Hoffenheim 1-0 to protect their 17-point lead. Mario Gomez, making a rare start after losing his spot to Bayern top scorer Mario Mandzukic this season, flicked in from close range after Franck Ribery’s headed lay off in the 38th minute. Bastian Schweinsteiger twice rattled the woodwork with free kicks as Bayern may have lacked pace but never relinquished control. Champions Borussia Dortmund bounced back from their midweek German Cup exit to Bayern with a confidence-boosting 3-1 victory over Hanover 96 with Robert Lewandowski, reportedly close to a deal with Bayern, netting twice to lift them to 46 points. Bayer Leverkusen are a point behind on 45 after scoring twice in the final eight minutes to beat VfB Stuttgart 2-1.
Italy: Leaders Juventus stayed six points clear of second-placed Napoli at the top of Serie A after the two sides drew 1-1 on Friday. Giorgio Chiellini gave visitors Juventus a 10th-minute lead and Switzerland captain Gokhan Inler equalised for Napoli two minutes before halftime in a match played Friday evening. Titleholders Juventus have 59 points and Napoli 53. AC Milan moved into third place by beating Lazio 3-0, helped by two goals from Giampaolo Pazzini. They have 48 points, one ahead of Lazio and arch-rivals Inter Milan who won 3-2 at Cagliari, helped by two goals from halftime substitute Rodrigo Palacio.
France: Ligue 1 leaders Paris St Germain suffered an unexpected 1-0 defeat at 10-man Stade Reims on Saturday but second-placed Olympique Lyon failed to take full advantage when they were held 1-1 at Stade Brest on Sunday. They now trail PSG by two points after 27 games with Olympique Marseille back in third, five points off the pace, after leaving it late to beat bottom club Troyes 2-1. St Etienne continued their unbeaten run in 2013 when they demolished Nice 4-0 but midfielder Jeremy Clement suffered a broken ankle and fibula after a tackle by Valentin Eysseric who was sent off. Five red cards were handed out during the Corsican derby between Bastia and Ajaccio as the match ended with a mass brawl. Bastia won the game 1-0.
Netherlands: Ajax Amsterdam and Feyenoord registered away wins at Twente Enschede and NEC Nijmegen respectively to keep the pressure on leaders PSV Eindhoven in the Dutch league. PSV beat VVV Venlo 2-0, while first-half goals from central defenders Niklas Moisander and Toby Alderweireld earned Ajax a 2-0 win at Twente, who are without a coach after Steve McClaren resigned last Tuesday. Teenager Jean-Paul Boetius struck twice to inspire Feyenoord to a comfortable 3-0 win in Nijmegen.
Portugal: Benfica went clear at the top of the Portuguese Premier League with a 1-0 win at Beira Mar that made the most of a slip up by reigning champions Porto, who were held to a goalless draw at Sporting. After being level on points at the top of the table for weeks, Benfica’s victory put them on 55 from 21 matches, two ahead of second-placed Porto. The Lisbon club did just enough to fend off Beira Mar, with Paraguayan striker Oscar Cardozo converting from the spot early in the first half. Porto put on a lacklustre performance at Sporting where they failed to beat in-form keeper Rui Patricio and top Colombian striker Jackson Martinez was deprived of chances. reuters