The winter break now beckons for teams in Spain, Italy and France after a weekend in which Real Madrid CF slipped even further behind FC Barcelona, Juventus stretched their Serie A lead to eight points and the top three all triumphed in Ligue 1. In England, meanwhile, Manchester City FC pulled themselves closer to frontrunners Manchester United FC and Chelsea FC racked up an incredible eight goals. UEFA.com recaps the action.
Manchester United's Premier League lead has been cut to four points after the frontrunners could only muster a 1-1 draw at Swansea City AFC in response to a 1-0 victory against Reading FC for Manchester City. The champions looked set for frustration themselves on Saturday, until Gareth Barry sealed the win deep in added time. "You have got to [keep going] at this level," said the England midfielder. "We scored so many late goals last season and a few this year. Those late goals can be so important at the end of the season." Seven points behind City in third, Chelsea subjected Aston Villa FC to an 8-0 defeat, while Arsenal FC climbed to fourth courtesy of their narrow 1-0 success at third-bottom Wigan Athletic FC.
Barcelona continue to dazzle atop the Liga standings after recording their 16th win in 17 outings by prevailing 3-1 at Real Valladolid CF. Lionel Messi struck his 91st goal of 2012 as Barça headed into the winter break nine points clear of Club Atlético de Madrid, who returned to winning ways by toppling RC Celta de Vigo 1-0. As for Madrid, they now lie 16 points adrift of the leaders following their fourth league reverse this term, succumbing 3-2 at fourth-placed Málaga CF after coach José Mourinho opted to bench goalkeeper Iker Casillas. "I analysed the players I had available and picked the team to play," said Mourinho afterwards. "You can invent the story you want, but it is a purely technical decision and nothing more."
It remains tight at the top in Ligue 1 in the wake of victories for the leading trio, with Olympique de Marseille keeping pace with Paris Saint-Germain FC and Olympique Lyonnais by defeating AS Saint-Étienne 1-0 on Sunday. Before that, Lyon swept aside OGC Nice 3-0 to rejoin PSG at the summit, the leaders on goal difference having beaten Stade Brestois 29 by the same scoreline on Friday. "It's never easy to play these last games at home before the winter break," explained Lyon forward Bafétimbi Gomis. "There's lots of tiredness, but we were able to bounce back, remain focused and make up for our loss at PSG [last weekend]."
Juventus will begin 2013 cradling an eight-point advantage in Serie A after their 3-1 win at ten-man Cagliari Calcio was followed up by FC Internazionale Milano's 1-1 home draw with Genoa CFC. Alessandro Matri registered twice in Juve's triumph and he could hardly have been more delighted to end a barren spell stretching back to September. "I've been looking for those goals for a long time," he said. "Morale goes down when you haven't found the net, but the team has helped me a lot." Inter's failure to prevail means that S.S. Lazio are now the team closest to the champions, the Biancocelesti moving into second spot thanks to a 1-0 victory at UC Sampdoria, while ACF Fiorentina went third by downing US Città di Palermo 3-0 and AS Roma defeated AC Milan 4-2.
AFC Ajax's run of six consecutive Eredivisie victories came to an end as they were held to a goalless stalemate at FC Utrecht, a result that allowed PSV Eindhoven and FC Twente to pull three points clear. Top on goal difference, PSV demolished NAC Breda 6-1, after Twente ran out 3-0 victors at AZ Alkmaar on Friday. Over the border, Club Brugge KV won the big game in Belgium 3-1 against R. Standard de Liège to haul themselves up to third, 11 points shy of leaders RSC Anderlecht, while, in Turkey, Galatasaray AŞ's lead has been cut to three points. The pacesetters were held 0-0 at Trabzonspor AŞ, whereas closest pursuers Beşiktaş JK overcame Kayserispor 3-1 and third-placed Antalyaspor edged Eskişehirspor 2-1.
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