It was a good weekend for the leaders in Germany, Italy, Spain and England while there was joy for SC Bastia and FC Lorient after they reached the final of the Coupe de France.
In Germany, Bayer 04 Leverkusen stretched their lead at the top of the 1. Bundesliga to four points on Saturday afternoon after a 4-2 victory in an incident-packed match at 1. FC Kaiserslautern. Leverkusen scored the second quickest goal in Bundesliga history when Ulf Kirsten netted after just 12 seconds. Diego Placente was dismissed a minute from the end to tarnish Leverkusen's day, but the win more than compensated, particularly as title rivals BV Borussia Dortmund lost 3-2 at VfB Stuttgart. Elsewhere, champions FC Bayern München lost ground in the title race when they could only manage a goalless draw at Hamburger SV, a result that leaves the Bavarians seven points behind Leverkusen in third place.
Inter maintain lead
A double from Emerson helped AS Roma to a 3-1 win against Bologna FC but their Italian title rivals Internazionale FC also won to maintain their three-point lead at the top. Champions Roma saw off their high-flying opponents with an excellent display at the Olimpico stadium that also featured another goal for Vincenzo Montella, who scored twice for Italy in their 2-1 midweek win over England. Inter's slender hold on pole position continued after Christian Vieri's 61st-minute goal was enough to beat AC Fiorentina 1-0 at the Artemio Franchi stadium. In Saturday's late game, Juventus FC lost ground on the top two after being held to a 1-1 draw at the Delle Alpi stadium. At the other end of the table, AC Venezia became the first team to be relegated from Serie A with a 2-1 defeat at US Lecce.
Deportivo drop back
A goal from Claude Makelele gave Real Madrid CF a 1-0 win at combative Sevilla FC to keep them top of the Primera División in Spain on goal difference from Valencia CF, who also won 1-0 at CD Tenerife. The result means that Madrid lead the table on 59 points, the same points total as Valencia, who have an inferior goal difference to the reigning champions. Third-placed RC Deportivo La Coruña fell further behind leaders Madrid following their 1-1 draw at Real Sociedad, while Real Betis Balompié moved a point clear of FC Barcelona into fifth after a goalless draw at Rayo Vallecano on Sunday.
Liverpool take pole
In England, all three FA Premiership title contenders won on Saturday but Liverpool FC are in pole position again after a 2-0 win over Charlton Athletic FC. Goals from Vladimír Šmicer and Michael Owen saw off Charlton at Anfield, while Arsenal FC stayed third with their 3-0 victory at home against Sunderland AFC. Earlier Manchester United FC had taken a temporary hold on top spot with a 4-3 victory at Leeds United AFC but following Liverpool's success, United drop back to second.
Cup final joy
Bastia and Lorient reached the final of the Coupe de France with victories over the weekend. On Saturday, Bastia earned their place thanks to a 1-0 win against CS Sedan-Ardennes, captain Tony Vairelles hitting the target three minutes into the first period of extra-time. Lorient booked their final berth with a 1-0 home victory over second division Nîmes Olympique SC thanks to a late goal from substitute midfield player Malik Diop on Sunday.
Sporting Clube de Portugal maintained their one-point lead over Boavista FC in the Portuguese first division after a goalless draw between the two sides at the Bessa stadium on Saturday. Sporting had the better of a keenly-fought contest with Mario Jardel hitting the woodwork. In the Netherlands, title-chasing Feyenoord needed an 85th-minute equaliser from Pierre van Hooijdonk to salvage a point from their home clash with RKC Waalwijk on Sunday, a result that keeps them just two points behind leaders AFC Ajax, who lost 3-1 at SBV Vitesse. KRC Genk lost their hold on top spot in Belgium after going down 2-0 against R. Standard de Liège for only their second defeat of the season. Club Brugge KV capitalised on Genk's defeat to take pole position in the table with a 2-0 victory over KFC Lommelse SK.
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