BY JUSTIN FERGUSON
AC Milan had high hopes for Mario Balotelli when they signed the troubled Italian striker away from Manchester City, but even the ‘Rossoneri’ couldn’t have expected him to make such an immediate impact.
Balotelli enjoyed a dream debut for his new club, scoring both goals in AC’s 2-1 win over Udinese on Sunday.
Balotelli scored just 25 minutes into his first match in the red and black, getting on the end of a fine pass from Stephen El Shaarawy. Giampiero Pinzi’s equalizer in the 55th minute looked like it was going to be the final goal at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, but all eyes returned to Balotelli when El Shaarawy won a controversial penalty in the last minute of stoppage time. The Italian stepped up and converted the spot kick, moving his new club into fourth place.
In Spain, this weekend’s headlines were dominated by Cristiano Ronaldo’s winning goal in Real Madrid’s match with Granada.
Unfortunately for Real, Ronaldo’s winner went into his own net, helping Granada get out of the relegation zone with a 1-0 win. Granada, led by new manager Lucas Alcaraz, became the first La Liga team in more than 10 seasons to win a match without a single shot on goal. Madrid is now 15 points back from rivals FC Barcelona in what has been a frustrating season for Jose Mourinho’s club.
Here is a rundown of the rest of this weekend’s results from Europe’s top leagues:
When Manchester City entered Tuesday’s match with QPR, the defending champions were only five points back from Manchester United for the Premier League lead. After Sunday’s 2-2 home draw with Liverpool, the Citizens find themselves nine points behind their bitter in-city rivals.
A red-hot Liverpool offense went head-to-head with a Manchester City defense that did not allow a goal in the entire month of January. The home side struck first with a goal from Edin Dzeko, but watched their first conceded goal in six straight matches come off the boot of former player Daniel Sturridge minutes later.
Liverpool would go ahead with 17 minutes remaining on a vintage Steven Gerrard shot from long range. However, Pepe Reina’s ill-timed charge five minutes later allowed the ball to run to Sergio Aguero, who took advantage of the open net with a tight-angled strike.
Manchester United defeated Fulham 1-0 at Craven Cottage on Saturday to stretch out their lead over Manchester City. Wayne Rooney scored the lone goal, his 10th in 10 straight matches, after Fulham defender Philippe Senderos misjudged David De Gea’s long ball in the 79th minute. The Cottagers had their chances to get on the scoreboard in a free-flowing match, but like the floodlights at the end of the first half, the finishing was off for Fulham.
Demba Ba made his anticipated return to St James’ Park on Saturday, finishing on the wrong end of a 3-2 loss to his old club. Shortly after former teammate Jonas Gutierrez opened the scoring in the 41st minute, Ba left the match, nose broken and bloodied following a kick to the face from Fabricio Coloccini. Chelsea would turn it around in the second half, capturing the lead off of goals from Frank Lampard and Juan Mata. But Moussa Sissoko would have the last laugh against the slumping Blues, scoring two goals in the final 22 minutes to give the Magpies a big win.
Here is the full list of results from this weekend’s EPL action:
Queens Park Rangers 0, Norwich City 0
Arsenal 1, Stoke City 0
Everton 3, Aston Villa 3
Newcastle United 3, Chelsea 2
Reading 2, Sunderland 1
West Ham United 1, Swansea City 0
Wigan Athletic 2, Southampton 2
Manchester United 1, Fulham 0
Tottenham 1, West Bromwich Albion 0
Manchester City 2, Liverpool 2
FC Barcelona drew 1-1 at Valencia on Sunday in a match that the league leaders were lucky to get a point. Lionel Messi’s penalty conversion in the 39th minute was one of only two shots on goal the visiting Barcelona side had on Sunday. Messi has now scored in 12 straight La Liga matches. Victor Valdes came up with two great saves late to keep a hungry Valencia from getting all three points.
The Barcelona draw allowed Atletico Madrid to cut the league deficit to nine as Diego Costa’s second-half header was enough to knock off Real Betis, 1-0. The win was Atletico’s 20th straight victory at Vicente Calderon, continuing the club’s perfect home record this season. Betis has now dropped back-to-back matches, pushing them down to fifth in the league table.
Here is the full list of results from this weekend’s La Liga action:
Osasuna 1, Celta Vigo 0
Getafe 3, Deportivo La Coruna 1
Espanyol 3, Levante 2
Granada 1, Real Madrid 0
Malaga 1, Real Zaragoza 1
Sevilla 2, Rayo Vallecano
Valencia 1, Barcelona 1
Atletico Madrid 1, Real Betis 0
Real Sociedad 3, Mallorca 0
Borussia Dortmund took complete control of second place in the Bundesliga on Sunday, defeating former second-place club Bayer Leverkusen, 3-2. Dortmund jumped out to an early two-goal lead in the first ten minutes. Hosts Leverkusen turned it around with a second-half double by Stefan Reinartz. The tie score would last for only a minute as Robert Lewandowski fired home the game-winner on the ensuing possession.
Dortmund now sits 12 points behind runaway leaders Bayern Munich, who handled 5th-place Mainz 3-0 on Saturday. Bayern scored all three of its goals in 20 minutes of game time, with two of them registered by on-form Mario Mandzukic.
Here is the full list of results from this weekend’s Bundesliga action:
Werder Bremen 2, Hannover 96 0
Fortuna Dusseldorf 3, Stuttgart 1
Bayern Munich 3, Mainz 0
Greuther Furth 2, Schalke 1
Hoffenheim 2, Freiburg 1
Wolfsburg 1, Augsburg 1
Eintracht Frankfurt 2, Hamburg 0
Nurnberg 2, Borussia Monchengladbach 1
Borussia Dortmund 3, Bayer Leverkusen 2
The weekend in Italy started with fireworks two days earlier when Cagliari routed AS Roma 4-2 at the Stadio Olimpico. After the disappointing loss to the 16th-place team in the league, Roma fired manager Zdenek Zeman only a few days after the Czech received “a vote of confidence” from the board.
Here is the full list of results from this weekend’s Serie A action:
Cagliari 4, AS Roma 2
Torino 0, Sampdoria 0
Napoli 2, Catania 0
Juventus 2, Chievo Verona 1
Fiorentina 2, Parma 0
Genoa 3, Lazio 2
Atalanta 2, Palermo 1
Siena 3, Inter Milan 1
Bologna 3, US Pescara 2
AC Milan 2, Udinese 1
PSG took a three-point lead in the Ligue 1 standings after its 4-0 win over Toulouse and Lyon’s 3-1 loss to Ajaccio. The team clubs were tied at the top of the table heading into this weekend. Lyon scored the opening goal in its match on Sunday, but host Ajaccio quickly turned the match around, dominating the final half-hour.
After a shocking upset of Lorient last week, last-place Nancy got another big win, taking down title hopefuls Marseille 1-0. Joey Barton was sent off for two quick yellow cards in the second half and Andre Ayew put the ball into his own net. Nancy is now four points away from escaping the relegation zone.
Here is the full list of results from this weekend’s Ligue 1 action:
PSG 4, Toulouse 0
Lorient 2, Stade Rennes 2
Bordeaux 2, Valenciennes 0
Nice 2, Brest 0
Lille 1, Troyes 1
St Etienne 2, Sochaux 1
Ajaccio 3, Lyon 1
Montpellier 3, Stade de Reims 1
Nancy 1, Marseille 0
What do you think of these results? See Balotelli having a breakout run with AC Milan? See the race in the Premier League being over? Starting to wonder if Barcelona is vulnerable?
Share your thoughts below.