LONDON, April 3 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
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
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