Photo by Joe Toth/ISIPhotos.com
By JUSTIN FERGUSON
Chelsea may still have a lead atop the English Premier League, but the title momentum is no longer sitting with the Blues after a disastrous weekend trip to Villa Park.
A pair of second-half red cards and a fantastic back heel goal from Fabian Delph doomed first-place Chelsea to a 1-0 loss at Aston Villa on Saturday. Chelsea’s failure to secure any points at Villa Park left them just six points ahead of fourth-place Manchester City, who have played three fewer matches than the Blues and two fewer matches than fellow contenders Liverpool and Arsenal.
After a largely uneventful first half, Chelsea came close to a go-ahead goal several times but were denied by American goalkeeper Brad Guzan and his Villa defense. The match’s momentum turned in the 68th minute when Chelsea’s Willian was sent off for his second yellow card foul, and Delph took full advantage 14 minutes later with a back heel flick past a helpless Petr Cech. To make matters worse for Chelsea, Ramires received a straight red for his tackle on Karim El Ahmadi, and Jose Mourinho was sent off by Chris Foy after the Blues manager ran onto the field to protest.
In Spain, Lionel Messi became the all-time leading goalscorer for world powerhouse Barcelona after his hat trick in a 7-0 rout of Osasuna at Camp Nou. Messi, who now has 369 club goals in all competitions and friendly matches, opened Barcelona’s big day in the 18th minute, tied the club record in the 63rd minute, and moved to the top of the charts with an easy 88th-minute tap-in.
After a pair of troubling road losses in La Liga, Messi and Barcelona will head into next weekend’s El Clasico with first-place Real Madrid on the heels of another home rout, their second 7-0 victory of the season.
Here is a closer look at all the weekend’s action from the top leagues in Europe:
Second-place Liverpool grabbed a rare road win Sunday at rivals Manchester United to move four points behind Chelsea with a game in hand. Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard converted two penalties and missed another in the 3-0 victory against the host Red Devils, who lost their ninth match of the season and their first home derby match against Liverpool since March 2009. Golden Boot leader Luis Suarez scored his 25th goal of the season in the 84th minute to put away a Manchester United squad that only mustered one shot on Simon Mignolet’s goal in another poor performance at Old Trafford.
Tomas Rosicky’s excellent long-range goal just 72 seconds into Sunday’s North London Derby was enough for third-place Arsenal to put away fifth-place Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane. Tottenham Hotspur recovered well enough to put together a few chances at an equalizer, but they were unable to take advantage of those opportunities and some second-half errors from Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny. The 1-0 victory for Arsenal, their second against Tottenham this season, puts the Gunners just four points behind first-place Chelsea ahead of their matchup next weekend at Stamford Bridge.
Here are the results from this weekend’s English Premier League action:
Manchester City 2, Hull City 0
Everton 2, Cardiff City 1
Fulham 1, Newcastle United 0
Southampton 4, Norwich City 2
Stoke City 3, West Ham United 1
Sunderland 0, Crystal Palace 0
West Bromwich Albion 2, Swansea City 1
Aston Villa 1, Chelsea 0
Liverpool 3, Manchester United 0
Arsenal 1, Tottenham Hotspur 0
Another superb individual effort from Cristiano Ronaldo was enough for first-place Real Madrid to claim a 1-0 victory against 13th-place Malaga at the Rosaleda on Saturday. In the 23rd minute, Ronaldo took a pass from fellow winger Gareth Bale and sidestepped three Malaga defenders before firing a fine low shot past Willy Cabellero for the match’s lone goal. While the result kept Real Madrid on top of the league table, Malaga still sit just three points above the drop zone with the loss to the league leaders.
Second-place Atletico Madrid also kept up their pace Saturday with a 1-0 victory of their own, a home win against Espanyol at the Vicente Calderon. In the 55th minute, Diego Costa scored on one of only two Atletico shots on goal in the match, giving the newest Spanish international 29 goals on the season. Sergio Garcia and David Lopez came close to equalizing for visiting Espanyol after Costa’s strike, but neither were able to get one past Thibaut Courtois as Atletico remained three points behind Real for the overall league lead.
Here are the results from this weekend’s La Liga action:
Getafe 3, Granada 3
Celta Vigo 1, Levante 0
Rayo Vallecano 3, Almeria 1
Real Madrid 1, Malaga 0
Atletico Madrid 1, Espanyol 0
Elche 0, Real Betis 0
Barcelona 7, Osasuna 0
Sevilla 4, Real Valladolid 1
Real Sociedad 1, Valencia 0
Bayern Munich avenged one of their two draws of their unbeaten run through the Bundesliga Saturday with a 2-1 home victory against third-place Bayer Leverkusen. Mario Mandzukic and Bastian Schweinsteiger scored on either side of halftime for Bayern, who fired off 23 shots and held 78 percent of the possession in the win. Leverkusen pulled one back in stoppage time via forward Stefan Kießling, but the visitors did not have enough time to grab an equalizer in the final seconds at the Allianz Arena.
A pair of first-half goals paved the way for seventh-place Borussia Monchengladbach’s first victory of 2014, a 2-1 win at third-place Borussia Dortmund. After an early stretch of dominance from Dortmund, Monchengladbach forward Raffael and Max Kruse combined for a goal each in the span of nine minutes to put the visitors ahead. Milos Jojic cut Dortmund’s deficit midway through the second half on a fine volley, but a late equalizer from substitute Marvin Duksch was ruled out due to a Robert Lewandowski foul on Monchengladbach goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
Here are the results from this weekend’s Bundesliga action:
Schalke 2, Augsburg 1
Borussia Monchengladbach 2, Borussia Dortmund 1
Hannover 3, Hertha Berlin 0
Mainz 4, Hoffenheim 2
Eintracht Braunschweig 1, Wolfsburg 1
Werder Bremen 1, Stuttgart 1
Bayern Munich 2, Bayer Leverkusen 1
Hamburg 2, Nurnberg 1
Freiburg 4, Eintracht Frankfurt 1
First-place Juventus extended their Serie A winning streak to five games Sunday, but the 1-0 victory at Genoa did not come easy as it took a last-minute Andrea Pirlo goal to give the defending champions the three points. Emanuele Calaio’s penalty kick in the 72nd minute was saved by Gianluigi Buffon, and the Italian goalkeeper’s veteran teammate made Genoa pay minutes later. Pirlo’s 89th-minute free kick was Juve’s only recorded shot on Mattia Perin’s goal after on-loan striker Pablo Osvaldo saw two goals disallowed for offside.
Fifth-place Inter Milan strengthened their grip on a Europa League spot Saturday with a 2-0 win against now 8th-place Hellas Verona. Rodrigo Palacio finished a cross from Jonathan in the 13th minute, and Jonathan would grab a goal of his own 50 minutes of game time later with a close-range effort. Inter Milan controlled the flow of the match from the opening minute, and a few late shots from Hellas Verona’s offense were not enough to beat Samir Handanovic and spark a comeback for the hosts.
Here are the results from this weekend’s Serie A action:
Inter Milan 2, Hellas Verona 0
Atalanta 3, Sampdoria 0
Parma 4, AC Milan 2
Lazio 2, Cagliari 0
Livorno 2, Bologna 1
Sassuolo 3, Catania 1
Fiorentina 3, Chievo Verona 1
Juventus 1, Genoa 0
First-place Paris Saint-Germain kept their momentum going in Ligue 1 Sunday with their 2-0 home win against Saint Etienne. Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored both goals for the defending champions, netting a bizarre opener in the 14th minute and volleying another ball past Stephane Ruffier in the 41st minute to double PSG’s lead before the halftime whistle. Both sides had opportunities to put more points on the scoreboard in the second half, but Ibrahimovic’s first-half brace was enough to earn all three points for the capital club.
Second-place AS Monaco held onto a narrow lead away from home and earned a 3-2 win against Lyon at the Stade de Gerland on Sunday. Valere Germain and James Rodriguez combined to put Monaco up 2-0 in the opening half-hour, but Jimmy Briand pulled one back for Lyon in the 32nd minute. Briand scored another goal in the second half after Dimitar Berbatov’s 52nd-minute strike, but the striker was unable to pull off the hat trick as Monaco stayed eight points behind first-place PSG and nine points ahead of third-place Lille.
Here are the results from this weekend’s Ligue 1 action:
Stade de Reims 1, Marseille 1
Lille 0, Nantes 0
Guingamp 2, Ajaccio 1
Valenciennes 1, Evian Thonon Gaillard 0
Nice 2, Bastia 0
Sochaux 2, Lorient 0
Toulouse 3, Stade Rennes 2
Montpellier 1, Bordeaux 1
AS Monaco 3, Lyon 2
Paris Saint-Germain 2, Saint Etienne 0
What did you think of this weekend’s European league action? Think Chelsea will be able to hold onto the league lead after their loss at Aston Villa? Who do you think will win the EPL title this season? What are your thoughts on Messi’s record-breaking day against Osasuna?
Share your thoughts below.