Arsenal FC's lead in the English Premiership was cut after their first defeat of 2003 as their UEFA Champions League opponents next Wednesday, Valencia CF, saw their grip on the Spanish title loosen.
Blackburn Rovers FC became the first side to inflict defeat on Arsenal since December as they gained a 2-0 win at Ewood Park. The champions lost at home to Blackburn earlier this season, and their 12-game run without Premiership loss ended as Damien Duff and Tugay Kerimoglu scored.
Second-placed Manchester United FC reduced the gap to two points with a 1-0 victory at Aston Villa, David Beckham scoring on 12 minutes. Newcastle United FC are a further three points behind after beating Charlton Athletic FC 2-0. Sunderland AFC played their first match under new manager Mick McCarthy, but still look doomed to relegation after a 2-0 home defeat by Bolton Wanderers FC.
Valencia, who must beat Arsenal if they are to make the Champions League quarter-finals, had a far from ideal warm-up on Sunday as they lost 1-0 at Athletic Club Bilbao. Anthony Réveillère's 36th-minute penalty miss was costly, as Joseba Etxeberría soon scored at the other end. Mista was sent off early in the second half, as Valencia fell eight points off the lead.
Madrid edge win
Real Madrid CF held on to first place with a 1-0 win at Villarreal CF. However, only a goal from Iván Helguera a minute from the end ensured they remained a point ahead of Real Sociedad, who came from behind to beat Real Racing Club Santander 2-1. RC Deportivo La Coruña, having departed the Champions League on Wednesday at the hands of Juventus FC, are still only three points off the Primera División lead thanks to a 2-0 victory against Rayo Vallecano.
FC Bayern München moved closer to regaining the 1. Bundesliga title as they overcame VfL Bochum 1848 4-1. Claudio Pizarro, Giovane Elber, Niko Kovac, and Willy Sagnol were Bayern's scorers as they kept their cushion over BV Borussia Dortmund at 13 points. Reigning champions Dortmund beat Hannover 96 2-0 to keep their slim hopes alive and stay level on points with third-placed VfB Stuttgart, who 1-0 at TSV 1860 München.
Having virtually ensured their Champions League progress with a last-minute winner against Deportivo, Juventus kept their three-point Serie A lead as they overcame Modena FC 3-0. Second-placed Internazionale FC gained a 4-0 win against Como Calcio, Christian Vieri recovering from a first-half penalty miss to score twice after the break, taking him to 23 goals this season. AC Milan lost ground, though, held 0-0 by Reggina Calcio as Paolo Maldini made his 500th Serie A appearance.
Top flight dominate
FC Lorient's attempt to defend the French Cup from the second division ended as they were knocked out at the quarter-final stage by FC Girondins de Bordeaux as Ligue 1 sides took control of the competition. Bordeaux won 2-0 to be joined in the semi-finals by Stade Rennais FC, who edged out fifth-division side Schiltigheim SC 2-1, Paris Saint-Germain FC, 1-0 victors at third-division FC Martigues, and AJ Auxerre, taken to penalties by AS Angoulême-Charente 92 only for the third-divison outfit to lose 4-2. FC Nantes Atlantique won 1-0 at RC Lens in the only Ligue 1 match to go fifth, four points behind leaders Olympique de Marseille.
Belgian First Division leaders Club Brugge KV had their eleven-game winning streak ended with a 2-1 home defeat by relegation-threatened R. Charleroi SC. However, even though RSC Anderlecht won, Brugge remain 14 points clear with nine games left.
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