Borussia Dortmund enjoyed the best weekend among Europe's leading lights, edging a further point clear at the head of the Bundesliga. Paris Saint-Germain FC were forced to work hard to preserve their advantage at the top of Ligue 1, while the status quo was also preserved in Italy and Spain on a weekend of FA Cup action in England. UEFA.com recaps the best of the action.
The big showdown at the top of Ligue 1 did not disappoint as both PSG and Montpellier Hérault SC hit goals in the closing stages at the Parc des Princes, John Utaka seemingly heading the visitors into first place until Guillaume Hoarau preserved PSG's one-point advantage two minutes from time. "I'm sad, but at the same time I'm happy with the point," said Montpellier president Louis Nicollin. "We showed our club in a positive light." In third, LOSC Lille Métropole posted a 1-0 success at Lorient FC, while fourth-placed Olympique de Marseille could only draw 1-1 with Valenciennes FC and Olympique Lyonnais, in fifth, succumbed to FC Girondins de Bordeaux.
Dortmund enjoy a three-point cushion atop the Bundesliga following a 1-0 win against Hertha BSC Berlin, who later on Saturday announced the appointment of Otto Rehhagel as coach until the end of the season. VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach, meanwhile, jumped a place up to second after they beat 1. FC Kaiserslautern 2-1 and FC Bayern München drew 0-0 with SC Freiburg. "The teams at the top are very consistent so normally you can’t allow yourselves the kind of lapse we’ve suffered today," reflected Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes. Fourth-placed FC Schalke 04 are a point behind Bayern following their 4-0 dismantling of VfL Wolfsburg.
Real Madrid CF remain in pole position thanks to a 4-0 defeat of Real Racing Club on Saturday, Karim Benzema scoring twice, which briefly gave them a 13-point lead over FC Barcelona. "I like the final score, but what I like most is taking another three points and having one game less to play," said Merengues coach José Mourinho. "We won without much brilliance, but without much effort either." Barça responded in kind the following day, coming from behind to beat Valencia CF 5-1 thanks to four efforts from Lionel Messi. That cut the gap at the top back to ten points, with Unai Emery's men another 11 in arrears.
With the leading duo already out, few of the Premier League's remaining powers had it easy in the FA Cup fifth round. Tottenham Hotspur FC, third in the top flight, drew 0-0 with third-tier Stevenage FC, while fourth-placed Arsenal FC do not even have a replay to look forward to after losing 2-0 to resurgent Sunderland AFC. "It is important to show internal strength and resilience and come out with a strong performance in our next game," said Gunners manager Arsène Wenger. Chelsea FC were held 1-1 by Birmingham City FC, but Stoke City FC, Bolton Wanderers FC, Everton FC and Liverpool FC were all able to progress without alarm.
Saturday's meeting between AC Milan and Juventus is superbly poised after the leading duo both triumphed to keep the gap at the top down to a single point. Juve kicked things off by returning top with a 3-1 defeat of Calcio Catania and they still retain a game in hand after Milan rounded off a fine week by posting the same scoreline at bottom side AC Cesena. "Saturday will be a wonderful game – a fascinating game that could decide the title," said Rossoneri coach Massimiliano Allegri. Udinese Calcio climbed back into third despite firing blanks in a goalless stalemate with Cagliari Calcio, their rise helped by S.S. Lazio suffering a 5-1 reverse at US Città di Palermo.
The big winners in the Eredivisie this weekend were third-placed sc Heerenveen, 1-0 victors against NAC Breda on Friday night and now just two points behind leading duo PSV Eindhoven and AZ Alkmaar – who were defeated 3-0 by FC Groningen and FC Utrecht respectively. FC Twente beat Vitesse 4-1 and are only a point further off the pace with a game in hand. In the Northern Irish Premiership, meanwhile, Linfield FC remain four points clear of Portadown FC in the wake of a 1-1 draw against their nearest rivals. Finally, the status quo was preserved at Austrian summit as well, with leaders SK Rapid Wien still two points out in front after they were held 0-0 by second-placed FK Austria Wien.
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