The Bundesliga also resumed while Juventus bounced back in style from their last-week defeat
It was another action-packed weekend across the European continent that witnessed surprise results, history being rewritten and some incredible comebacks.
Blues strengthen title challenge
Chelsea extended their lead at the top of the table to eight points after comfortably taking down Hull City 2-0 at home in the last leg of Premier League fixtures over the weekend. Diego Costa’s return to the fold, after his much spoken-about spat with manager Antonio Conte, made for the leading narrative on an evening marred by poor refereeing decisions at Stamford Bridge.
The Spanish striker could have made a dream comeback to the team after netting the ball with only 10 seconds down on the clock, only to be denied be an errant offside flag against him. It set the tone for the hosts in the first half as they failed to break the deadlock despite dominating much of it. But deep into stoppage time before the interval, Costa had the last laugh as he slotted home a Victor Moses cross after some sloppy defending by the away team.
The second period could have seen Hull restore parity but another error by the ref denied them a clear penalty as Marcos Alonso took down Abel Hernandez inside the area. The men in orange and black then failed to convert a series of free kicks that went in their favour as Gary Cahill eventually killed the game after nodding in an 81st minute Cesc Fabragas dead ball.
Rooney gets the 250th, Arsenal go second
It was long time coming as Wayne Rooney finally broke Sir Bobby Charlton’s all-time goal-scoring record for Manchester United and in the course, rescued a point for his team in their 1-1 draw against Stoke City on Saturday.
The Red Devils almost saw their 16-game unbeaten run across all competitions broken as the hosts held on to their first-half lead, courtesy a Juan Mata own goal, up until the second-half stoppage time. But the skipper stepped up to curl one from an acute angle on the edge of the box to become the club’s top-scorer and share the spoils on what could have been a completely different outcome for his team.
Elsewhere, Liverpool’s title hopes were further dashed after their 3-2 defeat at the hands of Swansea City at Anfield on Saturday. It was the Whites’ first league win at this venue while the home team has now won just one out of their six fixtures in the month so far.
Spanish forward Fernando Llorente sent his team ahead twice while Roberto Firmino brought Liverpool back in the game on both occasions. But the hosts could not respond to Gylfi Sigurdsson’s 74th minute strike to lose more ground in the title race.
Arsenal made the most of this Liverpool slip-up on Sunday as they grabbed a dramatic 2-1 win against Burnley, to replace the Scousers behind Chelsea. The match was headed for a draw as Andre Gray converted a 93rd minute penalty to cancel Shkordan Mustafi’s opener. But the ref blew his whistle for a second time in added time, this time in favour of the home team, and Alexis Sanchez kept his calm to send the Emirates crowd into a frenzy.
In another significant clash for the title race, Tottenham held Man City 2-2 at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday, just as the home team looked set for a much-needed win. Mauricio Pochettino’s side struck twice in the second half to leave Pep Guardiola’s men 12 points adrift of the top of the table.
Ramos hits back, MSN fuel Barca rout
The race for the La Liga continued to be fought neck-to-neck as all of the top three teams, separated by only two points, emerged victorious over the weekend. Table-toppers Real Madrid resumed winning ways after their mid-week 2-1 Copa loss to Celta Vigo with a win over Malaga by the same scoreline at the Bernabeu. Defender Sergio Ramos displayed his goal-scoring prowess once again by bagging a brace as the Los Blancos held their ground despite a second half response from the away side.
On Sunday, Barcelona lived up to their attacking potential in a 4-0 mauling of Eibar. Lionel Messi pulled the strings as the Catalans look for a consistent run of good results in order to propel their title challenge. The Argentinean, along with his usual partners in crime – Neymar and Luis Suarez, were on target as Denis Suarez also joined the party. The Nou Camp outfit are now one point behind second-placed Sevilla who also notched up a hard-fought 4-3 win over the relegation-threatened Osasuna.
Juventus display class, Bayern survive
The Turin club bounced back strongly from last week’s defeat to dispatch Lazio 2-0 over the weekend. Max Allegri fielded a bold lineup for the game, comprising Paulo Dybala, Gonzalo Higuain, Mario Mandzukic and Juan Cuadrado, and it paid dividends as the club went 2-0 up within the first 16 minutes through Dybala and Higuain. In the Serie A, they now remain one point ahead of AS Roma, with a game in hand.
Bayern Munich survived a scare to stage a 2-1 comeback win against Freiburg as the Bundesliga resumed after the winter break this weekend. Robert Lewandowski scored two goals without response to ensure that his club maintain a four-point gap with RB Leipzig, placed second on the table.
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