By NICK IUELE
When Manchester United and Manchester City square off, the expectation is that an epic battle will ensue, especially with the top spot in the English Premier League on the line.
Like many Manchester derbies past, this one did not disappoint.
In the latest fierce chapter of this storied rivalry, Wayne Rooney struck twice in the opening half to put United way ahead. However, Yaya Toure scored in the 60th minute and Pablo Zabaleta equalized in the 86th to bring City back level. Ninety minutes could not separate the two heavyweights, and just when it looked like a draw was going to be the conclusion, Robin van Persie’s deflected free kick in stoppage time found its way past a sprawling Joe Hart and into the back of the net, putting the Red Devils six points clear of their arch nemesis.
In Spain, Barcelona needed two early goals from Lionel Messi to down Real Betis 2-1 and keep their undefeated record intact. After suffering a knee injury during Champions League play during the week, it was questionable whether or not Messi would play, but the Argentine international gave his club 90 minutes and scored in the 16th and 25th. With the two goals, Messi broke the record for most goals in a calendar year set 40 years ago by Gerd Muller.
In Italy, Inter Milan took a big step forward by defeating second-place Napoli 2-1 at the San Siro. Fredy Guarin opened the scoring in the eighth minute for Inter and Diego Milito hit what would be the winner in the 39th. Edinson Cavani scored for Napoli in the 54th, but the comeback fell short. Inter is now in second place, just four points behind Juventus.
Here’s a look at the rest this weekend’s action from Europe’s top leagues:
Everton moved into fourth place with an epic 2-1 win over Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday. The Toffees went down 1-0 after American international Clint Dempsey beat Tim Howard in the 76th minute. However, Everton is not a club to drop points at home and proved it once more by getting a goal each from Steven Pienaar and Nikica Jelavic in the 90th and 91st minute to swipe all three points.
Liverpool cracked the top 10 with a 3-2 comeback win over in-form West Ham United. Glenn Johnson opened the scoring in the 11th minute with a cracker from distance, but West Ham crawled back with a converted penalty by Mark Noble and a Steven Gerrard own-goal before the end of the first half. Joe Cole’s scored in the 76th minute and James Collins’ own goal three minute later would give the Reds a much-needed victory.
English Premier League scoreboard:
Manchester United 3, Manchester City 2
Everton 2, Tottenham Hotspur 1
Liverpool 3, West Ham United 2
Arsenal 2, West Bromwich Albion 0
Aston Villa 0, Stoke City 0
Southampton 1, Reading 0
Chelsea 3, Sunderland 1
Norwich City 4 Swansea City 3
Wigan Athletic 2, Queens Park Rangers 2
Monday: Fulham v Newcastle
AC Milan took another step in moving up the Serie A table with a 4-2 win over Torino. Robinho scored in the first half, while Antonio Nocerino, Giampaolo Pazzini and Stephan El Shaarawy had a goal each in the second. The recent good form, including three straight league wins, has the Rossoneri back in the Europe conversation.
Juventus’ 1-0 win over lowly Palermo kept them four point ahead of the field. The Old Lady needed a 50th minute goal by Stephan Lichtsteiner to see off a club that is goal differential points away from the relegation zone. With teams like Inter, Napoli and Roma coming, Juve need more convincing performances than this one.
Serie A scoreboard:
Chievo Verona 2, Caglari 0
Juventus 1, Palermo 0
Catania 3, Siena 1
AC Milan 4, Torino 2
US Pescara 2, Genoa 0
Inter Milan 2, Napoli 1
Atalanta 2, Parma 1
AS Roma 4, Fiorentina 2
Monday: Sampdoria v Udinese
Bologna v Lazio
Real Madrid needed a brace from Mesut Ozil to fend off Real Valladolid 3-2. Down 1-0, Karim Benzema equalized in the 12th minute only for Madrid to find themselves down again 10 minutes later. Ozil’s goals in the 45th and 72nd minutes gave Madrid all three points that kept them from losing too much ground on the top two.
Atletico kept pressure on Barcelona with a 6-0 thrashing of Deportivo La Coruna. Falcao was at his very best, scoring five goals for the second-place club. Diego Costa added the other goal to the rout. Atletico is just six points behind Barca and the top two clubs meet in the next round of league matches.
La Liga scoreboard:
Levante 4, Mallorca 0
Athletic Bilbao 1, Celta Vigo 0
Atletico Madrid 6, Deportivo La Coruna 0
Barcelona 2, Real Betis 1
Real Sociedad 1, Getafe 1
Malaga 4, Granada 0
Real Madrid 3, Real Valladolid 2
Valencia 1, Osasuna 0
Espanyol 2, Sevilla FC 2
Monday: Rayo Vallecano v Real Zaragoza
Schalke suffered a setback in their quest to catch Bayern Munich with a 3-1 loss to Stuttgart. Vedad Ibisevic’s hat trick propelled lowly Stuttgart to the win over fourth-place Schalke who has now slipped to fifth. Schalke scored in the 12th minute, but it appeared that they were out of it from the jump.
Borussia Dortmund also wasted an opportunity to gain ground on the top two with a 3-2 loss at the hands of Wolfsburg. Diego had a goal and two assists for Wolfsburg, but it was Bas Dost’s 73rd minute strike that sunk the defending champs. Dortmund remains in third in spite of the loss.
Hamburg SV 2, Hoffenheim 0
Wolfsburg 3, Borussia Dortmund 2
Stuttgart 3, Schalke 04 1
Nurnberg 2, Fortuna Dusseldorf 0
Freiburg 1, Greuther Furth 0
Bayern Munich 2, Augsburg 0
Eintracht Frankfurt 4, Werder Bremen 1
Borussia Monchengladbach 2, Mainz 0
Hannover 96 3, Bayer Leverkusen 2
For the first time in a few weeks, Ligue 1 managed to escape a shakeup in the top five. Lyon downed St. Etienne 1-0 on Michel Bastos’ goal to hold on to the top spot, while Paris Saint-Germain beat Evian Thonon Gaillard 4-0 using four different goal-scorers, including Zlatan Ibrahimovic, to stay in second position. Marseille, however, lost 3-0 to Lorient, but remains in third.
Ligue 1 scoreboard:
Stade de Reims 0, Bordeaux 0
Lorient 3, Marseille 0
Lyon 1, St. Etienne 0
Paris St.-Germain 4, Evian Thonon Gaillard 0
AS Nancy Lorraine 1, Valenciennes 1
Sochaux 1, Lille 1
Montpellier 3, AC Ajaccio 0
Stade Rennes 2, Brest 2
Troyes 1, Nice 1
Toulouse 0, Bastia 0