European football roundup: Barcelona move closer to title, tragedy in Italy
Lionel Messi reaches a personal milestone in Barcelona’s win over Atletico Madrid, while there was tragedy in Italy with the death of Davide Astori
Lionel Messi reaches a personal milestone in Barcelona’s win over Atletico Madrid, while Arsenal suffer more misery but there was tragedy in Italy with the death of Davide Astori. Mint rounds up the last weekend of European football:
Manchester City took another decisive step towards the league title after defeating Chelsea 1-0 at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday. Bernardo Silva’s goal proved the difference between the two sides as Pep Guardiola’s side did the double on Chelsea this season. There is now a gaping 18-point lead between Manchester City and second-placed Liverpool. Just four wins from their remaining nine games will seal the title for Guardiola’s men and at their current pace there is a strong possibility that they will do it in the next four outings.
The defeat for Chelsea pushed them five points behind fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur—who were 2-0 winners against Huddersfield—in the race for a spot in the Champions League and potentially save manager Antonio Conte the axe. Arsenal drifted further away from the top four with a 2-1 defeat against Brighton and are now 13 behind Spurs. Mohamed Salah scored his 24th goal of the league campaign to help Liverpool to a 2-0 win and second place in the table before Manchester United play Crystal Palace on Monday.
At the bottom end of the table, West Bromwich Albion are now eight points adrift of safety after a 1-0 loss to Watford. Stoke City, who played out a scoreless draw against Southampton, and Crystal Palace are the other two sides in the bottom three.
A brilliant Lionel Messi free-kick—his 600th career goal—proved the difference between Barcelona and Atletico Madrid as the Catalans took home all three points from the top of the table fixture at the Camp Nou. The Madrid outfit had clawed back into title contention with the gap between the two sides reduced to five points before kick-off but a win for Barcelona puts them in a commanding position for the league title. However, there was an injury blow for Ernesto Valverde’s side as Andres Iniesta came off in the first half owing to a hamstring issue and will be in doubt for the Champions League clash against Chelsea on 14 March.
Cristiano Ronaldo grabbed a brace for Real Madrid on Saturday as they dispatched Getafe 3-1 at the Santiago Bernabeu and consolidated their spot in third in the league standings. Girona continued their superlative debut in the top flight with a 2-0 defeat of Villarreal and are now just a point behind their vanquished rivals in seventh in their quest for a spot in the Europa League. Sevilla also won 2-0 against Athletic Bilbao and sit fifth in the table.
There was no change at the other end of the table with Malaga rooted to the bottom and moving ever closer to relegation. Deportivo La Coruna and Las Palmas, who have a game in hand over their fellow strugglers, make the bottom three.
There was tragic news in Italy as Fiorentina captain and Italy international Davide Astori passed away in his sleep. “Fiorentina is deeply shocked, and has to communicate that its captain Davide Astori has passed away,” the Florence club said in a tweet. “Because of the terrible and delicate situation, and most of all for the respect due to his family, we make an appeal to everybody’s sensitiveness.” At the time of his death, the 31-year-old was in the team hotel in Udine ahead of the Sunday game against Udinese. His death has been attributed to sudden illness.
Astori’s demise led to postponement of all seven Serie A matches on Sunday.
However, on Saturday, table toppers Napoli and Juventus were both in action. The Old Lady found it hard to overcome Lazio’s defence and it ultimately took an injury time goal from Paulo Dybala to secure all three points for Massimiliano Allegri’s side. Later in the night, Napoli lost 4-2 at home against Roma to blow open the league title race. Napoli are a point ahead of Juventus but the latter have a game in hand. With 11 games to go this season, Serie A is set up for a nail-biting finish.
The Bayern Munich juggernaut rolls on in Germany as they hammered Freiburg 4-0 at the Allianz Arena on Sunday to maintain their iron-grip on the league title with 20 points separating them from second-placed Schalke, who were 1-0 winners against Hertha Berlin. Corentin Tolisso, Sandro Wagner and Thomas Muller scored a goal apiece for Bayern after an Alexander Schwolow own goal had opened the scoring.
Borussia Dortmund had a chance to go ahead of their Ruhr rivals Schalke with a win over RB Leipzig but they were held to a 1-1 draw at the Red Bull Arena. Marco Reus’ goal in the 38th minute cancelled out the Jean-Kevin Augustin opener around the hour mark as both teams settled for a point each.
There was more misery for Hamburg in their survival struggle as they were held to a scoreless draw by Mainz. Hamburg, the only side to have never been relegated from the top flight, are still seven points away from Mainz who occupy the relegation playoff spot.
Neymar or no Neymar, there is no stopping Paris Saint-Germain in the French top flight. Unai Emery’s side were 2-0 winners against Troyes courtesy of a goal each from Angel Di Maria and Christopher Nkunku. They remain 14-point clear of defending champions Monaco who sit second in the league. The principality outfit were 2-1 winners against Bordeaux with Stevan Jovetic and Rony Lopes scoring a goal each for the winning side.
Marseille played out a scoreless draw against Claudio Ranieri’s Nantes while Lyon were held to a 1-1 draw away at Montpellier to remain third and fourth in the table respectively. Metz and Lille occupy the bottom two spots while Troyes sit 18th, in the relegation playoff spot.
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