Lionel Messi saved Barcelona again as they returned to the winners’ list while little changed at the top in Italy and Germany, but the FA Cup threw up plenty of drama and a touch of romance.>
Italian Serie A
It’s as you where for the top four in Italy, as AC Milan accounted for Chievo Verona 2-1, although they needed Alexandre Pato’s 81st-minute goal to clinch the win. Inter Milan combined their midweek win at Fiorentina with a 1-0 win over Cagliari on Saturday to move into third spot.
The big story was at AS Roma, as they let slip a 3-0 lead to lose 4-3 to Genoa. It also saw boss Claudio Ranieri quit his post, after Roma’s fourth consecutive defeat in all competitions as they slide down to eighth in Serie A.
Lecce boosted their survival hopes with a big 3-0 win over Juventus who had keeper Gianluigi Buffon sent off early. Struggling Brescia claimed a commendable 0-0 draw at Udinese, while bottom-club Bari look doomed after a 1-0 loss at Lazio.
Spanish La Liga
> |Pos|Team|Pts| |—|—-|—| |1|FC Barcelona|65| |2|Real Madrid|60| |3|Valencia|48| |4|Villarreal|46| |5|Athletic Bilbao|38|
Leaders FC Barcelona got back to winning ways but they left it late to defeat Athletic Bilbao 2-1 with Lionel Messi scoring the decisive goal on 78 minutes. Real Madrid maintained the pressure with their comfortable 2-0 triumph over Levante.
Third-placed Valencia were frustrated as they were held to a goalless home draw with Gijon, while fourth-placed Villarreal made it three games without a win after conceding late to draw 1-1 with Malaga. Fifth-placed Bilbao lost at Barcelona, while sixth-placed Espanyol lost their fourth game in a row, 4-0 at Osasuna.
Osasuna’s crushing 4-0 win over Espanyol sent them out of trouble and up to 15th with Javad Nekounam grabbing a brace. Gijon showed resilience against a lofty opponent for the second straight week, after their draw at Valencia, while bottom-placed Malaga’s draw at Villarreal made it three consecutive draws.
> |Pos|Team|Pts| |—|—-|—| |1|Borussia Dortmund|55| |2|Bayer Leverkusen|45| |3|Bayern Munich|42| |4|Hannover 96|41| |5|FSV Mainz|37|
Borussia Dortmund brushed aside their recent run of one win in four matches, to maintain their 10-point advantage in the Bundesliga with a 2-0 win over St Pauli, thanks to Lucas Barrios causing all sorts of problems. Leverkusen kept up the pressure with a hard-fought 4-2 win over Stuttgart with Stefan Kiessling scoring twice.
Bayern Munich stay in contention after a routine 3-1 win at FSV Mainz, while Hannover 96 kept alive their UEFA Champions League hopes with an impressive 3-0 victory over Kaiserslautern. In-form FC Nurnberg> recorded their fourth straight win, 3-0 over Eintracht Frankfurt, to move into eighth and two points of fifth-placed Mainz.
It wasn’t a weekend of good news for the strugglers in Germany, except for bottom-club Moenchengladbach who got a much-needed 2-1 win over Schalke 04. VfL Wolfsburg, who sacked Steve McClaren recently, lost their fourth consecutive match, 2-1 at Freiburg, and are in real trouble.
English FA Cup
> Key 5th round results
Manchester United didn’t do it easy against non-league Crawley but one Wes Brown goal was enough to see them through. Arsenal face a replay against third tier Leyton Orient after conceding late to draw 1-1.
Key 4th round results
Holders Chelsea had their disastrous season go from bad to worse after conceding in the 119th minute of the match before bowing out on penalties to Everton. Manchester City cruised past Notts County with Patrick Vieira scoring a brace before three late goals sealed the win.
Random League: Greek Super League
> |Pos|Team|Pts| |—|—-|—| |1|Olympiacos|60| |2|Panathinaikos|50| |3|PAOK|34| |4|AEK Athens|34| |5|Kavala|32|
Olympiacos took a giant stride towards the Greek title after defeating Panathinaikos 2-1 this weekend, but it did take Rafik Djebbour’s injury-time goal to clinch the victory. Pana are now 10 points behind their rivals and it seems an impossible task.