As the leading sides in England, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands all edged closer to their domestic league titles, the race for the Primera División in Spain took another twist at the weekend.
Real Madrid CF had survived the dismissal of Francisco Pavón to hold out for a 2-1 win against city rivals Club Atlético de Madrid on Saturday night thanks to goals from Santiago Solari and Iván Helguera, which moved Carlos Queiroz's side temporarily top of the pile. But Valencia reclaimed the leadership - if only by virtue of their superior head-to-head record - in dramatic fashion on Sunday evening.
Rafael Benítez's UEFA Cup semi-finalists seemed set for their sixth league defeat of the campaign as they trailed visitors Real Sociedad de Fútbol 2-0 with little over 15 minutes to play in the Mestalla. But Vicente Rodríguez halved the deficit and Mista's 18th strike of the season in added time salvaged the draw which moved his side level on points with Madrid. At the other end of the table, Real Murcia CF became the first side to be relegated following a 1-0 defeat at home by Real Betis Balompié.
Unbeaten in 33 Premiership games since the start of the campaign, Arsenal FC's relentless march to the title continued on Friday night with a 5-0 demolition of relegation-threatened Leeds United AFC. Thierry Henry stood out in a typically swashbuckling display from the Highbury outfit, scoring four goals to take his tally for the season to 29. Arsène Wenger's side could clinch the title as soon as next weekend when they visit north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur FC, after the best of the chasing pack, Chelsea FC and Manchester United FC, both failed to win. Chelsea drew 0-0 at home against Everton FC and visitors United lost 1-0 against Portsmouth FC.
SV Werder Bremen struggled to a frustrating goalless draw at home against Hannover 96 but still moved eight points clear at the Bundesliga summit thanks to FC Bayern München's 2-0 defeat against BV Borussia Dortmund. Ewerthon opened the scoring for Dortmund from the penalty spot ten minutes into the second half and Christian Wörns doubled the lead six minutes later. Two bookable offences meant playmaker Michael Ballack was later sent off for Bayern, who face Bremen in a potential title decider at the Olympiastadion on 8 May.
In Italy, Igor Tudor's last-gasp strike may have rescued a draw for Juventus FC away against Parma AC but the Turin club's failure to win means they have all but lost any hope of retaining their Serie A title. Marcello Lippi's side now sit 12 points adrift of leaders AC Milan, for whom Andriy Shevchenko and Kaká secured a 2-1 win against AC Siena. The only realistic threat to Milan's title ambitions comes from AS Roma, who defeated Modena FC in Sunday's late game thanks to a single Francesco Totti goal to move within nine points of Carlo Ancelotti's men, with a game in hand. The two clubs meet at the San Siro in a fortnight's time.
AFC Ajax's run of 23 consecutive home wins in the Dutch Eredivisie came to an end with a 1-1 draw against RBC Roosendaal in the Amsterdam ArenA, meaning their lead was cut to eight points by PSV Eindhoven, who defeated NEC Nijmegen 3-0. Elsewhere, a late goal from Panathinaikos FC's Giannis Goumas ensured the Athens derby finished 2-2 and prevented Olympiacos CFP joining their rivals at the top of the table. In Turkey, Trabzonspor moved to within two points of leaders Fenerbahçe SK, who could only draw at home.
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