By JUSTIN FERGUSON
For the last 16 seasons, Arsene Wenger has managed Arsenal to a top-four, Champions League-qualifying spot in the English Premier League table.
After Sunday’s trip to Goodison Park, the Gunners are going to need some outside help if they are to make it 17 straight.
Fifth-place Everton moved one point behind Arsenal with a match in hand Sunday following their 3-0 victory against Wenger’s squad. Steven Naismith put the Toffees ahead after just 14 minutes with a rebound from a Romelu Lukaku effort, and Lukaku got his name on the scoresheet 20 minutes later with a strike on his own.
Arsenal struggled to generate a response as USMNT goalkeeper Tim Howard made five saves in front of a raucous home crowd. The final blow to Arsenal—and their EPL title hopes—came in the 61st minute when former Everton midfielder Mikel Arteta knocked in an own goal past teammate Wojciech Szczesny. The Gunners, who have been outscored 23-4 in road matches against top-five sides this season, have a more favorable finish to the EPL season than Everton, but Roberto Martinez’s side now controls its own fate in the race for a Champions League spot.
In Spain, Atletico Madrid hung onto their narrow lead in their race for the title in La Liga with a narrow 1-0 win at home against Villarreal. Raul Garcia put Atletico ahead in the 14th minute, but the league leaders’ offense was unable to find another goal in a nerve-wracking match at the Vicente Calderon. Although Villarreal only had one shot on Thibaut Courtois’ goal, defender Toby Alderwield’s attempted clearance in the final seconds of the match just flew wide of the post to secure Atletico’s position at the top of the table for at least another week.
Here is a closer look at all the weekend’s action from the top leagues in Europe:
Liverpool maintained their league lead Sunday with a 2-1 victory against West Ham United at Upton Park. Reds captain Steven Gerrard netted a penalty on either side of halftime to lead the visitors to victory against West Ham United and former teammate Andy Carroll, who appeared to foul Simon Mignolet in the buildup to Guy Demel’s equalizer just before halftime. Gerrard’s match-winning penalty was also surrounded in controversy as referee Anthony Taylor whistled Hammers goalkeeper Adrian for a foul on Jon Flanagan midway through the second half of a tight contest.
Chelsea bounced back from their recent slide in form Saturday with a 3-0 victory against Stoke City at Stamford Bridge. Blues winger Mohamed Salah marked his first start as a member of Chelsea with a 32nd-minute goal off a pass from teammate Nemanja Matic. Frank Lampard doubled the lead with a rebound from his saved penalty in the 62nd minute, and Willian wrapped up the easy Chelsea victory in the 72nd minute with a fantastic curling effort past Asmir Begovic from just outside the box.
Here are the results from this weekend’s English Premier League action:
Manchester City 4, Southampton 1
Fulham 2, Aston Villa 1
Crystal Palace 3, Cardiff City 0
Hull City 1, Swansea City 0
Manchester United 4, Newcastle United 0
West Bromwich Albion 1, Norwich City 0
Chelsea 3, Stoke City 0
Everton 3, Arsenal 0
Liverpool 2, West Ham United 1
Second-place Barcelona maintained their pace behind Atletico Madrid on Saturday with a 3-1 home win against last-place Real Betis. Lionel Messi opened the scoring for Barcelona in the 16th minute with a penalty conversion, and Jordi Figueras, whose foul led to Messi’s opener, put the hosts further ahead in the 67th minute with an own goal. Reuben Castro provided an instant response for Betis in the 68th minute, but Messi restored the defending champions’ two-goal lead with a rebounded effort off a saved penalty kick in the final minutes of the match.
Third-place Real Madrid continued their winning ways from their Champions League success against Borussia Dortmund with a 4-0 rout of Real Sociedad. Asier Illaramendi scored in the 45th minute against his old club to put Madrid ahead, and Gareth Bale took advantage of a disastrous blunder from Sociedad goalkeeper Claudio Bravo in the 66th minute. Pepe and Alvaro Morata rounded off the rout in the final minutes with a goal each, keeping Real Madrid three points behind their crosstown rivals and alive in the race for La Liga’s crown.
Here are the results from this weekend’s La Liga action:
Osasuna 2, Almeria 1
Atletico Madrid 1, Villarreal 0
Barcelona 3, Real Betis 1
Real Madrid 4, Real Sociedad 0
Rayo Vallecano 3, Celta Vigo 0
Malaga 4, Granada 1
Elche 1, Getafe 0
Sevilla 4, Espanyol 1
Real Valladolid 0, Valencia 0
Bayern Munich may have already won the Bundesliga title this season, but their long unbeaten run in Germany’s top division ended Saturday with a 1-0 loss at Augsburg. Pep Guardiola rested a few starters ahead of Bayern’s second quarterfinal leg with Manchester United next week in the Champions League, but Sascha Molders’ 31st-minute goal was enough to end Bayern’s unbeaten run at 53 league matches. Even with the addition of Mario Gotze and Thomas Muller in the second half, Bayern’s offense only came up with two shots on goal in their stunning loss.
Former Bundesliga giants Hamburg moved out of the relegation zone and forced the end of Sami Hyppia’s reign at Bayer Leverkusen with a 2-1 home victory Friday. Hakan Calhanoglu put Hamburg out in front in the fourth minute of the match, and Heiko Westermann drilled a match-winning volley in the 82nd minute to give the hosts a much-needed win. Leverkusen have now won just once in their last nine league matches and have fallen out of the Champions League spots, which led to Hyppia’s firing as manager on Saturday.
Here are the results from this weekend’s Bundesliga action:
Hamburg 2, Bayer Leverkusen 1
Eintracht Frankfurt 2, Mainz 0
Augsburg 1, Bayern Munich 0
Borussia Monchengladbach 2, Nurnberg 0
Stuttgart 2, Freiburg 0
Werder Bremen 1, Schalke 1
Borussia Dortmund 2, Wolfsburg 1
Eintracht Braunschweig 3, Hannover 0
Hertha Berlin 1, Hoffenheim 1
Second-place AS Roma moved to five points behind league-leading Juventus on Sunday with an important 3-1 road victory at Cagliari. Mattia Destro was the hero for the capital club, netting a hat trick with his team’s only three shots on goal during the entire match—a 32nd-minute counter-attacking finish, a 56th-minute strike off a Radja Nainggolan cross and a 73rd-minute effort from Alessandro Florenzi’s assist. Mauricio Pinilla put Cagliari on the scoreboard in the 89th minute with a penalty conversion, but it would nothing more than a consolation goal for the hosts.
Sixth-place Parma ended their three-match losing skid and secured an important win for their Europa League title hopes Sunday when they defeated third-place Napoli 1-0 at the Stadio Ennio Tardini. Marco Parolo scored the match’s only goal in the 55th minute by launching a fantastic strike just under the crossbar of Napoli goalie Pepe Reina’s goal. Both sides had only one shot on goal each in the match, but Parma were the only ones to find the back of the net as Napoli misfired on several scoring opportunities.
Here are the results from this weekend’s Serie A action:
Hellas Verona 1, Chievo Verona 0
Inter Milan 2, Bologna 2
Lazio 2, Sampdoria 0
Sassuolo 2, Atalanta 0
AS Roma 3, Cagliari 1
Torino 2, Catania 1
Fiorentina 2, Udinese 1
Parma 1, Napoli 0
First-place Paris Saint-Germain are closing in on another Ligue 1 title after their 3-0 win against Stade de Reims at the Parc des Princes on Saturday. PSG fielded a less than full-strength side against Stade de Reims, but it was enough to ease by the visitors as the capital club looks ahead to the second Champions League quarterfinal leg against Chelsea. Edinson Cavani scored just before halftime to put the defending champions ahead, and Stade de Reims defender Aissa Mandi knocked in two own goals to seal the visitors fate against PSG.
Second-place AS Monaco kept their small Ligue 1 title hopes alive Sunday with a 3-1 victory against Nantes. James Rodriguez netted a brace for Monaco, netting a beautiful shot in the 18th minute and sealing the three points for the hosts with a 76th-minute penalty. Andrea Raggi headed in a Joao Moutinho corner kick just before the penalty conversion from Rodriguez, but American midfielder Alejandro Bedoya was able to give Nantes a consolation prize in the 78th minute of an important Monaco win.
Here are the results from this weekend’s Ligue 1 action:
Marseille 3, AC Ajaccio 1
Paris Saint-Germain 3, Stade de Reims 1
Bastia 2, Sochaux 2
Bordeaux 2, Stade Rennes 2
Montpellier 2, Guingamp 1
Lorient 1, Evian Thonon Gaillard 1
Lille 2, Toulouse 1
Saint Etienne 1, Nice 1
Lyon 2, Valenciennes 1
AS Monaco 3, Nantes 1
What did you think of this weekend’s European league action? Surprised at Everton’s shutout victory against Arsenal? Think Arsenal will be able to hold onto a Champions League spot this season? Impressed with Atletico Madrid’s ability to hang onto close wins in their race for La Liga’s title?
Share your thoughts below.