In a weekend of big games and landmarks, Liverpool FC gave real impetus to their Premier League title push with a 3-0 victory at Manchester United FC. In contrast, FC Bayern München stand on the verge of retaining their Bundesliga crown, while Lionel Messi and Zlatan Ibrahimović hit the heights for FC Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain respectively, and Olympiacos FC popped champagne in Greece. UEFA.com recaps the action.
Drama reigned in the Premier League as the title race was blown open once again. Frontrunners Chelsea FC lost both Willian and Ramires to red cards in a 1-0 reverse at Aston Villa FC, and that allowed both Liverpool and Arsenal FC to close within four points, each with a game in hand. "We've shown we're genuine contenders and we'll fight to the end," said Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard, who converted two penalties in a 3-0 win at Manchester United. "The people fighting with us have to believe we're going for it." As for Arsenal, they downed north London derby rivals Tottenham Hotspur FC 1-0, while Manchester City FC – six points shy of Chelsea with three matches in hand – prevailed 2-0 at Hull City AFC.
Bayern enjoyed another telling weekend as they extended their unbeaten run in the Bundesliga to 50 outings with a 2-1 defeat of Bayer 04 Leverkusen, who slipped below FC Schalke 04 into fourth as a result. With closest pursuers Borussia Dortmund losing 2-1 at home to VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach, Bayern now stand 23 points clear – and could even wrap up the title away against 1. FSV Mainz 05 next weekend. "We've won the title in Mainz before," said midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger. "It was brilliant because [the Mainz fans] all celebrated with us. It would be great if we could do it there again, but we really don't mind where we win it."
Andrea Pirlo was the hero for Juventus with an 89th-minute free-kick as the Serie A pacesetters prevailed 1-0 at Genoa CFC to soar 17 points clear at the summit – with second-placed AS Roma due to host Udinese Calcio on Monday. "We knew it would be a tough match," said Pirlo. "It was an important goal. We hope it'll be useful for the Scudetto." SSC Napoli, in third, also face a Monday test, though fourth-placed ACF Fiorentina downed AC Chievo Verona 3-1. Further back, FC Internazionale Milano triumphed 2-0 at Hellas Verona FC and former AC Milan striker Antonio Cassano haunted his old side with a double in a 4-2 success for Parma FC.
The equation remains unchanged at the top of the Liga following wins for each of the leading trio. Real Madrid CF maintained their three-point gap courtesy of Cristiano Ronaldo in a 1-0 victory at Málaga CF, while Diego Costa was on target for closest rivals Club Atlético de Madrid as they beat RCD Espanyol 1-0. "In my opinion, Cristiano is the best player of all time," commented Madrid forward Karim Benzema, who limped off with a thigh injury. "I get the chance to play alongside the best player in the world." A point behind Atlético, Barcelona dismantled CA Osasuna 7-0, Messi hitting a hat-trick to become the club's all-time record scorer, goals in friendlies included.
Paris remain eight points clear in Ligue 1 after dispatching fourth-placed AS Saint-Étienne 2-0, Ibrahimović registering twice to take his club tally this term to 40 goals in all competitions. Despite the result, however, Paris coach Laurent Blanc felt his team were far from their best. "We should have built from the back and spread our lines, but we didn't do it," he said. "That annoyed me a little." In second, AS Monaco FC also clinched a win as they edged a tight 3-2 result at Olympique Lyonnais, leaving their opponents eight points outside the top three in fifth. Third-placed LOSC Lille were held to a goalless draw with FC Nantes, meanwhile.
After back-to-back defeats for the first time this season, Olympiacos wrapped up the Greek Super League title with five matches to spare on Saturday, while FC BATE Borisov kicked off their new season with a 1-0 Belarusian Super Cup victory over FC Minsk. In Russia, PFC CSKA Moskva ran out 1-0 winners against FC Zenit to move within four points of the second-placed St Petersburg club and seven shy of leaders FC Lokomotiv Moskva. Lastly, suspense remains high in the Portuguese title race after Sporting Clube de Portugal beat third-placed FC Porto 1-0 to pull five points clear of their opponents and go just four points adrift of pacesetters SL Benfica.
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