A top-of-the-table clash in Portugal was among the weekend highlights as title ambitions were tested across Europe. AZ Alkmaar went eleven points clear in the Netherlands, a healthy cushion trumped only by Olympiacos CFP, who are now 12 points ahead of the rest after a slip by their nearest rivals.
FC Porto's lead is still a solitary point after coming from behind to claim a draw against second-placed SL Benfica at home on Sunday. In the 150th meeting between the Liga giants, Hassan Yebda's header put the visitors in front on the stroke of half-time, only for a Lucho penalty 18 minutes from the end to divide the spoils. With the top two meeting, Sporting Clube de Portugal had a perfect opportunity to rein in their rivals, but let it slip by losing 3-2 at home against UEFA Cup aspirants SC Braga and they are now four points off the pace, along with Leixões SC, who overcame struggling CD Trofense 2-0 on Friday.
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FC Twente had more trouble against lowly opposition as they needed a late Blaise Nkufo strike – his second of the game – to earn a 2-2 draw at second-from-bottom De Graafschap. The slip allowed AZ to move an imposing eleven points clear at the summit after they won 3-1 against Willem II to make it eleven wins in as many Eredivisie outings, in though goalkeeper Sergio Romero's run without conceding finally came to an end after 955 minutes. Defences elsewhere were less parsimonious as third-placed AFC Ajax suffered a 4-1 setback at BV Vitesse, while PSV Eindhoven claimed fourth spot from SC Heerenveen thanks to a 5-3 win at bottom side FC Volendam.
Trabzonspor enjoyed 24 hours at the Turkish summit after a stoppage-time Umut Bulut effort earned a 2-1 home win against MKE Ankaragücü on Friday, but Sivasspor promptly reclaimed top spot on goal difference. Yannick Kamanan and Pini Balili were on target in a 2-0 success at home to lowly Kocaelispor. Galatasaray AŞ lost ground on the top two after they could only manage a 1-1 home draw against Kayserispor, despite taking the lead through Shabani Nonda. Beşiktaş JK edged into fourth after drawing 0-0 away at Konyaspor as Fenerbahçe SK lost 2-0 at Istanbul BB SK.
The big game on Sunday ended in a comfortable 3-0 victory for Panathinaikos FC at home to PAOK FC that allowed the victors to leapfrog their opponents into second place in the Super League. Loukas Vintra struck twice for Panathinaikos to give his side a two-point edge in the contest for a UEFA Champions League place, but they still lie a daunting 12 points shy of runaway leaders Olympiacos, who triumphed 2-0 at Panthrakikos FC the previous day. Fourth-placed AEK Athens FC drew 1-1 at Larissa FC.
Celtic FC, Hamilton Academical FC, Inverness Caledonian Thistle FC and Falkirk FC all progressed from the fifth round of the Scottish Cup, the latter at the expense of Heart of Midlothian FC. Holders Rangers FC must wait to face Forfar Athletic FC, however, as their tie fell victim to the weather.
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