Photo by Matt West / ISIPhotos.com
By JUSTIN FERGUSON
Two of the biggest leagues in the world had shake-ups at their respective top spots this weekend thanks to a pair of eye-opening results.
In the English Premier League, Arsenal lost their newly reclaimed first-place position Saturday in a demoralizing 5-1 defeat at fourth-place Liverpool. The high-scoring Reds added four goals to their impressive season tally within the first 20 minutes at Anfield to notch their first league win against Arsenal in seven years. Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel scored two goals in the opening 10 minutes off set piece situations, and a pair of quick counter attacks finished by Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge doubled the hosts’ in the following 10 minutes.
Liverpool came out of the break with the same attacking intent from their opening goal fest, and Sterling got his brace in the 52nd minute off a pass from Kolo Toure. Mikel Arteta gave Arsenal their solitary goal in the 69th minute after a foul by Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard, but the Gunners were unable to put together any more scoring offense in the Reds’ rout. While Arsenal’s eight-match unbeaten run came to an end, Liverpool moved three points ahead of their nearest competition for the fourth and final Champions League spot — new fifth-place side Tottenham Hotspur, who dispatched Everton 1-0 the following day.
In the Spanish La Liga, Atletico Madrid’s time in first place came and went in just six days as they shockingly fell 2-0 at struggling Almeria. After falling to crosstown rivals Real Madrid 3-0 in the Copa del Rey earlier in the week, Atletico only mustered one shot on goal against Almeria, who went up in the 80th minute on a bizarre goal from Verza. The Almeria midfielder stepped up to the penalty spot minutes later when Atletico goalkeeper Daniel Aranzubia was sent off for a harsh foul in the box, putting the match away with an 86th-minute conversion.
Here is a closer look at all the weekend’s action from the top leagues in Europe:
After Liverpool’s stunning 5-1 win against Arsenal, Manchester City posted the second surprising result of the weekend when they drew 0-0 with relegation-threatened Norwich City at Carrow Road. Although Norwich were drilled 7-0 by Man City at the Ethiad Stadium earlier this season, defended well and even had a few chances at a potential game-winner at their home stadium Saturday. Manchester City, who had a header from Alvaro Negredo hit the crossbar in the frustrating result, only put two shots on John Ruddy’s goal as they failed to take advantage of Arsenal’s loss at Anfield.
Arsenal’s loss and Man City’s draw opened the door for Chelsea, who started Saturday in third place, to take the league lead. The Blues did just that, notching a commanding 3-0 victory against Newcastle United at Stamford Bridge. Eden Hazard led the way for Jose Mourinho’s side, who had lost to Newcastle earlier in the season, with a pair of first-half goals and a penalty conversion in the second half for a hat trick that pushed his side one point ahead of London rivals Arsenal.
Here are the results from this weekend’s English Premier League action:
Liverpool 5, Arsenal 1
West Ham United 2, Aston Villa 0
Chelsea 3, Newcastle United 0
Crystal Palace 3, West Bromwich Albion 1
Norwich City 0, Manchester City 0
Southampton 2, Stoke City 2
Hull City 2, Sunderland 0
Swansea City 3, Cardiff City 0
Tottenham Hotspur 1, Everton 0
Manchester United 2, Fulham 2
Following Atletico’s shocking loss at Almeria, former league leaders Barcelona reclaimed the top spot in La Liga on Sunday with an impressive 4-1 road victory in a driving rainstorm at Sevilla. Lionel Messi scored on either side of halftime for a much-needed brace after Alexis Sanchez equalized Alberto’s early goal in the 33rd minute. Victor Valdes made several key saves to preserve Barcelona’s lead on the road, and Cesc Fabregas wrapped up the three points for the defending champions two minutes from time with a fine chip of Sevilla goalkeeper Beto.
Atletico’s crosstown rivals Real Madrid also moved ahead of the former first-place outfit Saturday with a 4-2 home victory against European qualification contender Villarreal at the Bernabeu. Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema combined to give Real a 2-0 lead in the opening half-hour, and youngster Jese responded to Villarreal defender Mario’s 43rd-minute goal with an impressive finish midway through the second half. Mexican international Giovani Dos Santos pulled one back in the 69th minute, but the Cristiano Ronaldo-less Real attack grabbed the goal that pushed them ahead of Atletico on goal differential minutes later on another strike from Benzema.
Here are the results from this weekend’s La Liga action:
Espanyol 1, Granada 0
Valencia 5, Real Betis 0
Rayo Vallecano 4, Malaga 1
Real Madrid 4, Villarreal 2
Almeria 2, Atletico Madrid 0
Osasuna 2, Getafe 0
Real Valladolid 2, Elche 2
Real Sociedad 0, Levante 0
Barcelona 4, Sevilla 1
First-place Bayern Munich extended their unbeaten run to 45 matches with a 2-0 victory against nearby rivals Nurnberg at the EasyCredit Stadion. A pair of early first-half injuries hurt Nurnberg’s chances at a much-needed point against the defending champions, and their woes worsened when Mario Mandzukic volleyed in a cross from David Alaba. Phillip Lahm, who started out as a midfielder for Pep Guardiola on Saturday, scored his first Bundesliga goal since late 2010 early in the second half to secure all three points for a Bayern side that is just cruising through domestic play this season.
South Korean forward Heung-Min Son was the hero for second-place Bayer Leverkusen on Friday when his 62nd-minute goal earned his team a crucial 1-0 win at fifth-place Borussia Monchengladbach. The hosts started off on the front foot, but Bernd Leno was able to turn away their early chances to keep the match level through the first hour. A Monchengladbach turnover near midfield sent Sidney Sam through on goal, and the winger found Son for a fine finish to keep Leverkusen four points ahead of third-place Borussia Dortmund.
Here are the results from this weekend’s Bundesliga action:
Bayer Leverkusen 1, Borussia Monchengladbach 0
Eintracht Frankfurt 3, Eintracht Braunschweig 0
Bayern Munich 2, Nurnberg 0
Freiburg 1, Hoffenheim 1
Wolfsburg 3, Mainz 0
Borussia Dortmund 5, Werder Bremen 1
Hertha Berlin 3, Hamburg 0
Augsburg 4, Stuttgart 1
Schalke 2, Hannover 0
First-place Juventus blew a two-goal lead in the second half of their road match at sixth-place Hellas Verona, who scored a dramatic equalizer in stoppage time to earn a 2-2 draw. Carlos Tevez scored his first Serie A goals since December in the first half, notching a brace in the opening 21 minutes at the Stadio Marc’ Antonio Bentegodi. Veteran striker Luca Toni pulled one back for Hellas early in the second half, but all signs pointed toward a Juventus victory until Gomez headed Romulo’s cross past Gianluigi Buffon in the 94th minute for the precious point.
Second-place AS Roma missed a golden opportunity to make up ground on Juventus and get another important derby victory against Lazio, but the two capital clubs drew 0-0 at their shared home of the Stadio Olimpico. The Lazio offense did not put a single shot on Morgan De Sanctis’ goal the entire match, but Roma were not able to find a breakthrough they needed on the other end. Lazio defender Abdoulay Konko cleared a shot from Roma substitute Michel Bastos that seemed destined for the back of the net, and both sides were forced to share points with their hated rivals.
Here are the results from this weekend’s Serie A action:
Fiorentina 2, Atalanta 0
Udinese 3, Chievo Verona 0
Napoli 3, AC Milan 1
Bologna 2, Torino 1
Hellas Verona 2, Juventus 2
Lazio 0, AS Roma 0
Genoa 1, Livorno 0
Parma 0, Catania 0
Sampdoria 1, Cagliari 0
Inter Milan 1, Sassuolo 0
The top-two battle between the big-money powers in Ligue 1, Paris Saint-Germain and AS Monaco, finished level for the second time this season with a 1-1 draw at the Stade Louis II. Javier Pastore opened the scoring for first-place PSG in the eighth minute with a header, and the two sides exchanged quality chances on goal for the rest of the match. Monaco finally got the equalizer they were searching for in the 74th minute as Fabinho’s cross was mistakenly played past Salvatore Sirigu by PSG defender Thiago Silva.
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? Surprised with Liverpool’s rout of first-place Arsenal? See Chelsea maintaining their lead atop the EPL? Think Atletico Madrid can get back to the top this season with rivals Barcelona and Real Madrid now ahead of them in the race?
Share your thoughts below.