League round-up: Real Madrid close in on Barcelona

Real Madrid were in blistering form in a 6-1 hammering of Real Betis as they closed the gap on leaders Barcelona,who were tripped up by Espanyol.

Written by Reuters | London | Published: February 23, 2009 2:32 pm

Real Madrid were in blistering form in a 6-1 hammering of Real Betis as they closed the gap on leaders Barcelona,who were tripped up by Espanyol.

Manchester United’s run of 14 consecutive clean sheets was ended but that did not stop the champions from extending their lead in the Premier League.

Hamburg SV went top of the Bundesliga while champions Olympique Lyon stretched their Ligue 1 advantage to six points after their closest rivals dropped points.

SPAIN

Leaders Barcelona were stunned 2-1 at home by city rivals Espanyol,giving chasing Real Madrid further reason to believe they can retain their Primera Liga title as they closed to within seven points.

Barca had Seydou Keita sent off before the break and Espanyol’s Ivan de la Pena struck twice just after the restart as the hosts struggled for any kind of fluency. Yaya Toure pulled one back for Barca.

Champions Real Madrid finished off Real Betis with a blistering first-half display which included two each from Raul and Klaas Jan Huntelaar in a 6-1 win. It was their ninth consecutive victory.

Sevilla beat direct rivals Atletico Madrid 1-0 to stay a distant third,while Villarreal climbed up to fourth with a 2-1 win at home to Sporting Gijon.

ENGLAND

Manchester United took a stranglehold of the Premier League,moving seven points clear of closest rivals Liverpool after a ragged 2-1 victory over Blackburn Rovers.

United were far from their best and even conceded a goal,their first in the league after 14 consecutive clean sheets,but Cristiano Ronaldo’s scorching free kick earned the points.

Liverpool could only draw 1-1 at home to Manchester City. They have 55 points with United on 62.

Chelsea began life under Guus Hiddink with an impressive 1-0 win at Aston Villa to move into third spot with 52 points. Nicolas Anelka’s 21st goal of the season inflicted Villa’s first defeat since November.

Villa are fourth while Arsenal are six points outside the Champions League slots after a 0-0 draw with Sunderland.

ITALY

Substitute Mario Balotelli scored a fluke goal to help leaders Inter Milan to a 2-1 win at Bologna. With Serie A’s top six teams claiming wins,Inter stayed nine points clear.

David Trezeguet slotted his first league goal since missing five months with a knee injury to help second-placed Juventus to a 2-0 win at Palermo. Juventus have 50 points from 25 matches.

Clarence Seedorf was on target as AC Milan,who are two points further back in third,overcame an injury crisis in attack to beat Cagliari 1-0 at the San Siro.

Fourth-placed Fiorentina came from behind to beat struggling Chievo Verona 2-1 thanks to an Alberto Gilardino header and Adrian Mutu’s stoppage-time strike.

Genoa beat Napoli 1-0,while AS Roma beat Siena at home by the same scoreline.

GERMANY

Hamburg SV moved two points clear at the top of the table after defender Marcell Jansen struck twice in their 2-1 win at Bayer Leverkusen.

Hoffenheim striker Demba Ba single-handedly kept his team in the title hunt with a hat-trick in their 3-3 draw at VfB Stuttgart. Sejad Salihovic missed a stoppage time penalty for Hoffenheim,who are second with 40 points.

Lacklustre Hertha Berlin dropped to third on goal difference after their 2-1 defeat away to VfL Wolfsburg courtesy of a second-half Edin Dzeko brace.

Bayern Munich’s run of poor results continued with a 2-1 home defeat against Cologne. The champions lie fourth.

FRANCE

Champions Olympique Lyon beat AS Nancy 2-0 to extend their lead to six points after their four closest challengers all drew their Ligue 1 matches over the weekend.

With second-placed Paris St Germain drawing 0-0 with Grenoble on Saturday,Olympique Marseille missed their chance to leapfrog PSG when they laboured to a 0-0 draw with lowly Le Mans and were booed off by their supporters.

Lyon lead the table with 52 points,PSG have 46 while Marseille are a further point adrift.

Fourth-placed Toulouse drew 0-0 with Valenciennes,while Girondins Bordeaux only managed a 1-1 draw with strugglers St Etienne.

NETHERLANDS

Mounir El Hamdaoui hit a second-half double to earn leaders AZ Alkmaar a 2-0 victory at Heracles Almelo to stay nine points clear with 10 matches remaining.

Theo Janssen’s last-minute strike earned second-placed Twente Enschede a 2-1 win at Sparta Rotterdam,ensuring Steve McClaren’s side did not lose any further ground with the leaders. Ajax Amsterdam,a further three points adrift,came from behind to beat bottom side Volendam 2-1.

PSV Eindhoven and Heerenveen registered wins against Groningen and Willem II Tilburg respectively. Both stayed 15 points behind the leaders.

PORTUGAL

Porto extended their lead at the top of the Portuguese Premier League by beating Pacos de Ferreira 2-0 while Sporting beat local rivals Benfica 3-2 to draw level with them in second.

Porto lead on 41 points from 19 matches,followed by Sporting and Benfica on 37 points. Leixoes will catch the Lisbon clubs if they win their home match against Beleneses on Monday.

Goals by Brazilian striker Hulk and defender Bruno Alves earned Porto their away win on Friday.

In the Lisbon derby,Sporting opened the scoring against visitors Benfica in the 11th minute with a powerful shot by Liedson from just inside the box,but Jose Antonio Reyes levelled after 37 minutes with a penalty.

Substitute Derlei gave Sporting the lead again after the break,beating defender David Luiz to rifle in from close range.

Liedson scored a second goal with a header and Oscar Cardozo pulled one back for Benfica in the dying seconds.

GREECE

Olympiakos Piraeus remained 11 points clear at the top of the Greek Super League despite suffering only their second defeat of the season after being beaten 1-0 by Ergotelis.

Olympiakos,who received a midweek mauling in the UEFA Cup from French side St Etienne,had another bad night after Vassilis Koutsianikoulis scored the only goal of the match for Ergotelis.

Olympiakos are still well on course to capture their fifth successive championship and their 12th in 13 years. With seven rounds remaining,they top the table with 57 points. Panathinaikos and PAOK Salonika both have 46 points.

SCOTLAND

Celtic’s recent stutter continued as they were knocked off the top of the SPL after drawing 1-1 at Motherwell.

They now trail Rangers on goal difference after they came from a goal down to beat Kilmarnock 3-1 thanks to a couple of goals from Kenny Miller.

The two Glasgow giants both have 57 points from 26 matches with Hearts a distant third on 42 after a 1-1 draw with St Mirren.

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