LONDON, April 3 (Reuters) - Manchester United, Barcelona and AC Milan ended the weekend with vice-like grips on the title races in England, Spain and Italy.
United came from two goals down to beat West Ham United as Wayne Rooney returned to form while Milan humbled city rivals Inter and Barcelona look unstoppable in La Liga after Real Madrid were surprisingly beaten at home.
Porto wrapped up a 25th Portuguese league title with a 2-1 victory at Benfica while in France Lille strengthened their grip on top spot.
Manchester United stormed seven points clear at the top of the Premier League after a Wayne Rooney hat-trick inspired them to come back from two goals down to beat West Ham United 4-2.
United’s bid for a record 19th English league title was helped by second-placed Arsenal dropping points in a 0-0 home draw with Blackburn Rovers, while Chelsea all but gave up the defence of their title with a 1-1 draw at Stoke City.
The weekend’s other big winners were United’s neighbours Manchester City who leapfrogged Chelsea into third place with a 5-0 hammering of visitors Sunderland after manager Roberto Mancini’s more attacking formation paid dividends.
The only sour note for United was Rooney’s expletive-laden outburst on live television while he was celebrating taking just 14 minutes to notch a treble. He has apologised but will discover on Monday whether he faces FA disciplinary action.
United are top with 66 points from 31 matches, with Arsenal on 59 having played one game fewer. City have 56 points from 31 and Chelsea are on 55 from 30.
Real Madrid’s bid to end Barcelona’s two-year reign as La Liga champions suffered a huge setback when they slumped to a shock 1-0 defeat at home to Sporting Gijon on Saturday and Barca won 1-0 at Villarreal.
Real’s failure at a stunned Bernabeu, three days before they host Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League, spoiled their perfect home record of 14 wins in 14 this season and ended coach Jose Mourinho’s own nine-year unbeaten run in home league games with Porto, Chelsea and Inter and Real.
Barca’s Spain defender Gerard Pique struck to secure three points against Villarreal that stretched their lead to eight points with eight matches left.
Barca have 81 points from 30 games, with Real on 73. Valencia climbed above Villarreal into third after Roberto Soldado struck four times against his former club Getafe in a 4-2 success.
AC Milan’s 3-0 win over arch-rivals Inter Milan, courtesy of two goals from Brazilian Alexandre Pato and one from Antonio Cassano, effectively killed off their opponents’ chances of a sixth successive Serie A title.
The win kept AC Milan top with 65 points from 31 games and moved them five points clear of Inter, who dropped to third.
Uruguayan Edinson Cavani scored a hat-trick in the last half hour to help Napoli come from two goals behind and beat Lazio 4-3 in a thriller. The win moved Napoli into second place and kept them three points behind AC Milan.
Paraguay international Lucas Barrios struck twice as leaders Borussia Dortmund came from a goal down to score four times in 23 minutes and beat Hanover 96 4-1.
The win allowed Dortmund to maintain their seven-point lead at the top as second-placed Bayer Leverkusen stayed in the hunt with a 1-0 win at Kaiserslautern to move up to 58 points with six games left.
Champions Bayern Munich kept their hopes of clinching a Champions League spot alive with a lacklustre 1-0 win over Borussia Moenchengladbach that lifted them to third place.
Lille strengthened their assault on the Ligue 1 title with a 3-1 home win over Caen as two of their rivals drew.
Stade Rennes could only draw 0-0 with lowly Auxerre and Olympique Lyon let in two goals in injury time to draw 2-2 at Nice where visiting defender Pape Diakhate conceded two penalties -- one of which was missed -- and was sent off.
Second-placed Olympique Marseille are four points behind Lille though with nine games to go after Benoit Cheyrou’s second-half strike in a 1-0 win at second-bottom Racing Lens.
Undefeated Porto clinched their 25th Portuguese Premier League title by beating second-placed Benfica 2-1 away at the Luz Stadium in Sunday’s thrilling “classico”.
The win left Porto, unbeaten this season, 16 points ahead of their Lisbon rivals with just five games to go.
A bad error by Benfica’s Spanish keeper Roberto gifted Porto the lead after nine minutes when he fumbled a soft cross by Colombian midfielder Fredy Guarin and touched the ball into his own net.
Benfica levelled from a penalty converted by Argentine forward Javier Saviola in the 15th minute but burly Brazilian forward Hulk also scored from the spot 10 minutes later to give Porto their seventh title in the last 10 years.
Twente Enschede midfielder Theo Janssen struck twice in the second half to seal a 2-0 home win that leapfrogged them above PSV Eindhoven at the top of the standings.
Defending champions Twente moved on top with 63 points with five matches remaining. PSV have 61.
Ajax Amsterdam, 3-0 winners over Heracles Almelo, remain third with 58.
(Editing by Martyn Herman)
To query or comment on this story email email@example.com)