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Stiff tests in Spain while Inter seal derby spoils

Published: Monday 16 January 2012, 0.45CET
Real Madrid CF and FC Barcelona had to work hard to produce wins in the Liga on a weekend that featured a derby success for FC Internazionale Milano and a goal for Paul Scholes.

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Published: Monday 16 January 2012, 0.45CET

Stiff tests in Spain while Inter seal derby spoils

Real Madrid CF and FC Barcelona had to work hard to produce wins in the Liga on a weekend that featured a derby success for FC Internazionale Milano and a goal for Paul Scholes.

Tenacity was required by the top two in Spain as Real Madrid CF and FC Barcelona both produced hard-fought victories, and battling qualities were to the fore in Italy as well as FC Internazionale Milano continued their impressive revival by edging city neighbours AC Milan 1-0. Paul Scholes earned his share of headlines too, as now recaps.

The leading duo were both tested in the Liga this weekend and that was especially true of Real Madrid, who preserved their five-point advantage by fighting back to prevail 2-1 at RCD Mallorca on Saturday, José Callejón notching the winner six minutes from time. "We faced a team with a great coach that organised itself perfectly in defence," said Madrid boss José Mourinho. "Sometimes you have to credit to the opposition." The following day, Barcelona let a two-goal lead slip at home against Real Betis Balompié before running out 4-2 winners, helped by the 70th-minute dismissal of visiting defender Mario. Elsewhere, third-placed Valencia CF succumbed 1-0 to Real Sociedad de Fútbol and Athletic Club climbed to fifth via a 3-0 success against Levante UD.

Juventus must have thought they had blown their chance to take sole charge of Serie A when they drew 1-1 against Cagliari Calcio, but that was before Inter ended AC Milan's 12-match unbeaten run with a 1-0 triumph in the Milan derby that left the Bianconeri a point clear at the top. Thanks to a sixth straight victory, Inter can now count themselves right back in the shake-up too. "We're making huge strides," said Claudio Ranieri after watching Diego Milito produce his side's winner. "It was important to beat Milan; it gives us great confidence." Meanwhile, Udinese Calcio passed up the chance to join Juve on 38 points, losing 3-2 at Genoa CFC, and S.S. Lazio stayed a point clear of Inter with a 2-0 defeat of Atalanta BC.

After Thierry Henry scored on his surprise return to Arsenal in the FA Cup on Monday, Manchester United favourite Scholes did likewise in a 3-0 home win for his side against Bolton Wanderers FC. That lifted United level with leaders Manchester City FC, who visit Wigan Athletic FC on Monday, with Tottenham Hotspur FC two points back after they drew 1-1 with Wolverhampton Wanderers FC. "It's only one game," commented Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp. "One draw doesn't suddenly mean we're not going to do this or we're not going to do that. We're still on a great run." Chelsea FC beat Sunderland AFC 1-0 to tighten their grip on fourth spot as fifth-placed Arsenal lost 3-2 at Swansea City AFC.

Paris Saint-Germain FC continue to enjoy a three-point cushion at the Ligue 1 summit after recording their sixth win in seven games in all competitions, a 3-1 defeat of Toulouse FC that gave new coach Carlo Ancelotti a victory in his first match at the Parc des Princes. Montpellier Hérault SC remain their closest challengers after their impressive 1-0 win against Olympique Lyonnais, in fourth, and Olympique de Marseille continued their fine recovery with a 2-0 triumph against third-placed LOSC Lille Métropole, Loïc Rémy hitting both goals. "We started the season badly, but we have to keep picking up points wherever we can," said OM defender Nicolas N'Koulou.

RSC Anderlecht have pulled four points clear in Belgium after posting a 3-0 win against third-placed title rivals Club Brugge KV, while closest pursuers KAA Gent slumped to a 2-1 reverse at K. Lierse SK. There was a high-profile meeting in Cyprus too, where frontrunners AC Omonia triumphed 3-0 at AEL Limassol FC to surge three points ahead of AEL and second-placed Anorthosis Famagusta FC. SL Benfica remain two points ahead of FC Porto in Portugal after both won, meanwhile, and the same gap still separates leaders Celtic FC and neighbours Rangers FC in Scotland. In Turkey finally, Galatasaray AŞ dismantled Kardemir Karabükspor 5-1 to protect their seven-point cushion.

Last updated: 16/01/12 11.12CET