Well well … Man City’s victory in London was a match with multiple connotations that certainly stirred the Premiership pot, tightening things at the top. Manchester United celebrated its first trophy of 2010, the Carling Cup, with a 2-1 win over Aston Villa, while Liverpool managed to keep pace with Tottenham and City. In Catalonia, Barcelona salvaged its slim lead at the top, barely but deservedly. Drama in Italy, both at the top of the table and at the bottom, with great matches in Genova, Napoli and Udine. In Germany, Bayern Munich took over sole possession of first place with a narrow win over old northern rivals, Hamburg SV, on the club’s 110th anniversary. The biggest match in France, PSG – Marseille, was a dud.
The match of the week in Spain took place in Madrid between Atletico and Valencia, the colchonerros coming off a sensational triumph in Istanbul knocking out Galatasaray in Europa League. Valencia scored first and the final score (4-1 Atletico), including two late goals by Forlan and Jurado, was not an accurate reflection of the game. Still, this is what is frustrating for Atletico supporters: winning against Barcelona, Valencia and Galatasaray in the same time frame as losing to Malaga at home and to Almeria. As inconsistent as it has been, the season may be salvageable with a push for the top eight and a run in Europe.
Barca dominated and displayed its beautiful game, especially in the second half, but a quick Malaga counter left them with ten minutes to get the three points. That they did, possibly with the goal of the week-end, a spectacular Xavi-Alves-Messi combination with the Argentine tapping in the winner. Ibra still sub-par, but his confidence does not seem to be suffering. Henry’s is, however, as he seems to have fallen behind Pedro and Bojan in Guardiola’s options and his lack of playing fitness might become a problem for the French.
Real Madrid trounced lowly Tenerife, Cristiano Ronaldo once again as the protagonist, keeping the pressure on Barcelona. Both clubs have tough encounters ahead, Barca up against Valencia and Madrid meeting Sevilla next Saturday. Two fantastic matches, should be tremendous. Zaragoza won three precious points away at Getafe to lift their relegation battle hopes.
Liverpool looked very Latin on Sunday, with Maxi, Mascherano, Torres, Insua, Lucas, Pepe Reina in the first 11 for Rafa Benitez. It wasn’t the most polished performance, but the pieces are there and, provided no more injuries to Torres or Esteban Gerrardo, the Pool can challenge ably for the fourth spot. Otherwise, it will be Europa League in the fall. Arsenal is sitting pretty after their win at Stoke. Here is a club that was soundly beaten head to head by both Man Utd and Chelsea, seemed out of the race of the first two spots not so long ago, yet now only three points behind the leader it has much to smile about. Reason: Arsenal’s schedule for the next six weeks is much lighter than Chelsea’s or Utd’s. This amounts to a real chance to challenge for the Premiership title, an outlook Arsene will imprint into his players heads continuously.
Match of the week in England, Chelsea-Man City, featured some pre-game handshakes, as paesanos from Inter (Mancini) and Milan (Ancelotti) exchanged auguri, as did most of the players. The game itself went City’s way, though it was an odd afternoon encounter. Chelsea, fresh off their trip to Milano, lacked crispness and now must rise after successive defeats. Ancelotti seems to have a few big problems at the moment – the absence of Essien and Cech and the modest play of Ballack and Terry. Chelsea’s roster is deep, though. Ancelotti has a tough job to keep his players very focused for Inter’s visit to Stamford Bridge and a very tough Premiership schedule ahead. For Mancini, this was an affirmation of sorts, a big away victory that solidifies his status, for the moment at least. Nice day for proud new papa Tevez on his return from Argentina. Man City is well positioned for its target: the final Champions League spot.
A seven goal thriller between Genoa and Bologna went the visitors’ way, Adailton scoring three times in the precious 4-3 away win that gives Bologna some breathing separation from the bottom three Serie A places. Lazio’s home draw with Fiorentina provided little comfort, as the club now stands in the relegation zone with fans boycotting home matches. The other side of Rome is riding high, despite the Europa League exit. Roma traveled to Napoli for the “Derby of the Sun” and took a two goal lead into the final 20 minutes of the game, but a dynamic Napoli team salvaged a point with an injury time penalty converted by their talisman Marek Hamsik. Another exciting affair was Inter’s 3-2 win away at Udinese, never an easy place to take points. With Mourinho watching from the stands (suspended), Inter played an excellent first half and then typically hung on for dear life. Udinese hit the cross-bar near the end. Inter’s points were golden, as Milan’s victory over Atalanta kept the spread between the two very tight. Roma-Milan next week-end. In the posticcipo, Palermo registered a resounding away victory at Juventus, surpassing them in fourth place. What a goal by Fabrizio Miccoli. The Palermo captain has been sensational this year. Juve’s fans set a section of the stadium on fire, though it was not in celebration of Miccoli’s goal.
How do you say lucky in German? Bayern are passing through a very fortunate phase, first the gift against Fiorentina, then benefiting on this occasion from Hamburg’s misfortune. It should have ended 1-1, but let’s say that the Bavarians got their present on a festive day – happy 110th anniversary!
PSG, what a mess. No matter who operates the club, no matter what manager, no matter what players come to put on the revered PSG shirt, the results are the same. OM traveled north without their passionate supporters, in an effort to avert clashes between the fans. No worries, clashes were arranged – two factions of PSG supporters that bitterly hate each other, the classic Boulogne Boys and newcomers Tigris Mystic, took care of the combat. Ironically, had OM’s people come up to Paris, the two PSG factions might have fought on the same side. In therms of the match, PSG – Marseille 0-3. Enough said.