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Cup clashes claim the limelight

Published: Monday 26 January 2009, 14.00CET
AZ Alkmaar, Olympiacos CFP and Celtic FC all fortified their positions at the summits of their league tables, but in England and France cup glory was the focus, the action including a hard-fought Merseyside derby at Anfield.
Cup clashes claim the limelight
Liverpool's Fernando Torres battles for the ball with Phil Jagielka of Everton ©Getty Images
Published: Monday 26 January 2009, 14.00CET

Cup clashes claim the limelight

AZ Alkmaar, Olympiacos CFP and Celtic FC all fortified their positions at the summits of their league tables, but in England and France cup glory was the focus, the action including a hard-fought Merseyside derby at Anfield.

The weekend's action in Europe saw the continent's clubs divided between league and cup duties, with fans in England and France engrossed by knockout competitions while their counterparts elsewhere followed the continuing race for championship honours.

Derby honours even
No question about the headline encounter in England, with the second Merseyside derby at Anfield in the space of six days producing a second 1-1 draw. Liverpool FC needed a second-half goal from Steven Gerrard on Sunday to secure an FA Cup fourth-round replay with rivals Everton FC at Goodison Park on 4 February. Arsenal FC will also have to have a second bite at their tie as they were held to a 0-0 draw at Cardiff City FC. A day earlier Chelsea FC had made lighter work of second-tier opponents, beating Ipswich Town FC 3-1, and Manchester United FC dug deep to earn a 2-1 comeback win over visitors Tottenham Hotspur FC. The competition is over for holders Portsmouth FC, however, as they suffered a 2-0 defeat at home to second-division Swansea City FC.

Boulogne buoyant
The French Cup last-32 action was largely free of shocks, although Ligue 2's US Boulogne Côte d'Opale ended SM Caen's ambitions with a 3-1 triumph. Elsewhere, Stade Rennais FC, AS Monaco FC and Le Mans UC 72 all came out on top against fellow top-flight opposition – AS Saint-Etienne, OGC Nice and Le Havre AC respectively – while Paris Saint-Germain FC and Toulouse FC eased past lower-league rivals. Holders Olympique Lyonnais could not match the eight unanswered strikes Toulouse put past amateur side ES Schirrhein, but they could have few complaints after defeating fifth-tier US Concarnoise 6-0 in their postponed tie from the last round. Wednesday's contest at home against Olympique de Marseille for a place in the last 16 ought to be a different matter altogether, however.

AZ surge clear
Leaders AZ Alkmaar show no signs of faltering in the Netherlands after extendeding their cushion at the summit to six points with a 2-0 home victory over De Graafschap. "Before we were playing well but failing to score and now we're not playing well but converting our chances," lamented AZ coach Louis van Gaal, yet he had far more to cheer than AFC Ajax trainer Marco van Basten, sent to the stands as the second-placed side slumped 1-0 at FC Groningen on Sunday. The Amsterdam outfit are now just a point ahead of third-placed FC Twente, who closed in with a 2-1 derby success at Heracles Almelo. Defending champions PSV Eindhoven could only draw 2-2 at home against NAC Breda and lie fifth.

Porto back on top
Portuguese titleholders FC Porto enjoyed a more satisfying weekend, as they returned to the Liga summit courtesy of a 2-0 victory at SC Braga on Saturday. UEFA Cup contenders Braga made life difficult for the visitors but were ultimately undone by first-half strikes from Cristián Rodríguez and Lisandro. Porto now boast 31 points, one more than SL Benfica, held to a goalless draw at CF Os Belenenses on Friday, and Sporting Clube de Portugal, who needed Simon Vukčević's equaliser to salvage a point away to CD Nacional the following day.

Sivasspor seize chance
Turkey boasted not one high-profile encounter at the weekend but two, with leaders Sivasspor taking advantage to open up a two-point gap. Bülent Uygun's charges boosted their hopes of a first ever title with 2-0 victory over third-placed Galatasaray AŞ, Abdurrahman Dereli and Sezer Badur contributing second-half goals. "With a limited squad we're trying to achieve things which have not been done in the 50-year history of the Turkish Süper Lig," Uygun explained. "The title is surely about to come back to Anatolia." Second-placed Trabzonspor could have moved back level on Sunday but played out a goalless draw at Fenerbahçe SK, their opponents dropping to fifth folowing Ankaraspor AS's 3-0 home victory over Konyaspor.

Celtic prosper
Celtic FC stretched their lead at the Scottish Premier League summit to four points as they beat Hibernians FC 3-1 in Glasgow, while closest rivals Rangers FC could only draw 0-0 at Aberdeen FC. Greek Super League frontrunners Olympiacos CFP moved into an even healthier position, meanwhile, building an eleven-point lead as they beat OFI Crete FC 2-0 while nearest rivals PAOK FC could only draw at city neighbours Aris Thessaloniki FC. There was change at the top in Belgium, though, R. Standard de Liège making the most of a postponed game for RSC Anderlecht to win 1-0 at KVC Westerlo and climb two points above their rivals from the capital. The big match between Valletta FC and Birkirkara FC in Malta also succumbed to the weather, but, in Cyprus, AC Omonia moved level with leaders APOEL FC after prevailing 2-1 at third-placed Anorthosis Famagusta FC.

Last updated: 29/01/12 7.05CET

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