Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By JUSTIN FERGUSON
The old sports adage is that defense wins championships.
Chelsea’s defensive-minded 2-0 victory against league-leading Liverpool might not have earned them an English Premier League title Sunday, but it kept their chances alive in what is now a three-team race once again.
Jose Mourinho’s Blues, weakened by suspension and injury ahead of next week’s Champions League semifinal leg against Atletico Madrid, took full advantage of the counter attack twice to put away the high-scoring Reds at Anfield. Both goals came in stoppage time — Demba Ba capitalized on a bad slip from Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard in the first half, and winger Willian broke away in the 94th minute to seal an eye-opening three points for Chelsea.
Liverpool, who fired 26 shots and had 74 percent of possession in the match, never found a way past Chelsea reserve goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer. The end of Liverpool’s long winning streak also took their title destiny out of their own hands as third-place Manchester City now have the advantage heading into the final two weeks of the season.
In Spain, first-place Atletico Madrid once again were able to grind out a tight result away from home, defeating Valencia 1-0 at the Mestalla. Raul Garcia scored just before halftime with a well-played flick header that bounced off the post and past Valencia goalkeeper Vicente Guaita. Atletico defender Juanfran was sent off in stoppage time, but the visitors were able to hold on away from home to move just two wins away from a stunning La Liga title victory over the two dominant El Clasico rivals.
Here is a closer look at all the weekend’s action from the top leagues in Europe:
Third-place Manchester City took full advantage of Liverpool’s loss to Chelsea on Sunday with a 2-0 road victory against Crystal Palace, who had won six straight English Premier League matches. Edin Dzeko put Man City ahead in the fourth minute of the match off a pass from Yaya Toure, and Toure doubled the lead just before halftime with a goal of his own. Manchester City now trail Liverpool by three points with a match in hand, and their superior goal differential mean the Citizens would secure the league title if they win their final three matches of the season.
Everton’s Champions League hopes were crushed on Saturday with a 2-0 loss at Southampton — and the Toffees were to blame for both of Southampton’s goals. Antolin Alcaraz put a header past teammate and USMNT goalkeeper Tim Howard just 53 seconds into the match, and Seamus Coleman notched another own goal a half-hour later to put Everton in a massive hole. Everton only put two shots on Artur Boruc’s goal at St. Mary’s Stadium, keeping Roberto Martinez’s fifth-place squad one point behind Arsenal, who host Newcastle United on Monday.
Here are the results from this weekend’s English Premier League action:
Southampton 2, Everton 0
Fulham 2, Hull City 2
Tottenham Hotspur 1, Stoke City 0
Swansea City 4, Aston Villa 1
West Bromwich Albion 1, West Ham United 0
Manchester United 4, Norwich City 0
Sunderland 4, Cardiff City 0
Chelsea 2, Liverpool 0
Manchester City 2, Crystal Palace 0
Second-place Barcelona stayed in the hunt for La Liga’s title Sunday with a crucial 3-2 comeback victory against Villarreal. Cani scored in first-half stoppage time, and Manuel Trigueros’ header doubled the hosts’ lead in the 55th minute — but Barcelona would rally thanks to a pair of Valencia own goals midway through the second half. Lionel Messi led the charge for the Barcelona offense down the stretch, and his efforts paid off in the 83rd minute with a match-winning goal off a fine team sequence.
Fourth-place Athletic Bilbao are one win away from a spot in next season’s Champions League thanks to their 3-1 home win against fifth-place Sevilla on Sunday. Markel Susaeta put the hosts ahead in spectacular fashion with a fourth-minute “Olimpico” goal off a corner kick. Iker Muniain and Ander Herrera pushed Bilbao ahead with a pair of second half goals, and Kevin Gameiro’s late goal was nothing more than a consolation prize as Bilbao look destined for a Top-4 finish.
Here are the results from this weekend’s La Liga action:
Elche 1, Levante 1
Rayo Vallecano 3, Granada 0
Getafe 1, Malaga 0
Real Madrid 4, Osasuna 0
Real Sociedad 1, Real Betis 0
Almeria 2, Espanyol 1
Atletico Madrid 1, Valencia 0
Athletic Bilbao 3, Sevilla 1
Barcelona 3, Villarreal 2
Bayern Munich got back to their high-scoring way Saturday at the Allianz Arena, preparing for their return Champions League semifinal leg against Real Madrid with a 5-2 win against 14th-place Werder Bremen. The visitors had a 2-1 halftime lead on the Bundesliga champions, but Bayern roared back to life with four goals in the span of 21 minutes. Claudio Pizarro led off with a quick brace, and Bastian Schweinsteiger and Arjen Robben turned the close match into a comfortable result with goals of their own.
Fourth-place Bayer Leverkusen were unable to take full advantage of fifth-place Wolfsburg’s draw with Freiburg on Saturday in their 2-2 draw with second-place Borussia Dortmund. All four goals came before halftime with Leverkusen’s Lars Bender and Gonzalo Castro trading strikes with Dortmund’s Oliver Kirch and Marco Reus. The two sides also traded crucial chances on goal in the second half, but the German powers were forced to share points after failing to find the back of the net again.
Here are the results from this weekend’s Bundesliga action:
Hannover 0, Stuttgart 0
Bayern Munich 5, Werder Bremen 2
Hertha Berlin 2, Eintracht Braunschweig 0
Mainz 2, Nurnberg 0
Hoffenheim 0, Eintracht Frankfurt 0
Wolfsburg 2, Freiburg 2
Bayer Leverkusen 2, Borussia Dortmund 2
Augsburg 3, Hamburg 1
Borussia Monchengladbach 1, Schalke 0
Second-place AS Roma once again pulled five points behind league-leading Juventus this weekend thanks to their 2-0 home victory against AC Milan. Miralem Pjanic opened the scoring for AS Roma just before halftime with a fantastic individual move on the Milan defense, and Gervinho struck again for the capital club midway through the second half. Roma’s ninth consecutive victory in Serie A will keep their slim title hopes alive, while Milan’s loss will most likely put them out of contention for a spot in next season’s Europa League.
Fifth-place Inter Milan were held to another draw at the San Siro on Saturday as finished scoreless with third-place Napoli, who could have clinched a Champions League spot with a victory. Inter put six shots on Pepe Reina’s goal in the even match, but the former Liverpool goalkeeper was able to keep a clean sheet away from home. Napoli received a scare late when Gonzalo Higuain left the field on a stretcher, putting his status in doubt for next weekend’s Coppa Italia final against Fiorentina.
Here are the results from this weekend’s Serie A action:
AS Roma 2, AC Milan 0
Fiorentina 3, Bologna 0
Inter Milan 0, Napoli 0
Hellas Verona 4, Catania 0
Cagliari 1, Parma 0
Lazio 2, Livorno 0
Sampdoria 2, Chievo Verona 1
Torino 2, Udinese 0
Atalanta 1, Genoa 1
The title celebrations in the French capital were delayed Sunday because of Paris Saint-Germain’s 1-1 draw at relegation-zoned Sochaux. Edinson Cavani put the dominant visitors ahead in the 24th minute, but an own goal from Thiago Silva was enough to earn Sochaux a much-needed point in front of their home fans. PSG will now have to wait until May 7 to get another chance at securing their second consecutive Ligue 1 title as they will face Stade Rennes at the Parc des Princes.
Former Manchester United striker Dimitar Berbatov inspired second-place AS Monaco to a second-half explosion against AC Ajaccio, who already know they will spend next season in Ligue 2. Berbatov netted Monaco’s first two goals of the match in the 52nd and 74th minutes, shortly before Junior Tallo pulled one back for the hosts. Geoffrey Kondogbia and Lucas Ocampos each scored just before the final whistle to seal all three points for the visitors, who are headed to next season’s Champions League.
Here are the results from this weekend’s Ligue 1 action:
Nantes 1, Marseille 1
AS Monaco 4, AC Ajaccio 1
Saint Etienne 2, Evian Thonon Gaillard 1
Guingamp 1, Valenciennes 0
Montpellier 2, Toulouse 1
Nice 1, Stade de Reims 0
Stade Rennes 1, Lorient 1
Sochaux 1, Paris Saint-Germain 1
Lyon 4, Bastia 1
Lille 2, Bordeaux 1
What did you think of this weekend’s European league action? Shocked at Chelsea’s 2-0 victory at Anfield? Who do you think will win the EPL title now? See Bayer Leverkusen staying in the running for a Champions League spot?
Share your thoughts below.