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Across the Continent: European football weekend review- 1-3 March


It’s been another busy weekend of European football, so here’s a recap of all the results, stories and talking points from La Liga, Serie A, Bundesliga, Ligue 1 and beyond.

La Liga

It was an eventful weekend in La Liga, but there is only one place to start and that is with the league-leaders.

On Saturday night, Vinícius Júnior’s brace helped Real Madrid battle back from 2-0 down to hold Valencia to a draw at Mestalla, but that’s not what anyone was talking about post-match.

In the dying embers of the night, from the second phase of a corner, Brahim Díaz puts a cross in but, while the ball is in mid-air, referee Jesús Gil Manzano blows for full time, meaning Jude Bellingham’s header a millisecond later did not stand.

Los Blancos players were initially confused and then furious, with Bellingham sent off for his protestations, meaning the match finished 2-2 following a bizarre turn of events.

That aside, Carlo Ancelotti’s team are unbeaten in games, the club’s longest sequence for 12 years and, given that neither the team second or third were able to win, this referee controversy shouldn’t cost them too much.

On Sunday night, Barcelona played out a bore goalless draw with Athletic Club; those of us who sat through that will never get those 90 minutes back!

Before this, Barça had scored in 25 successive La Liga games, but never looked like extending this streak.

Earlier in the evening, Girona’s concerning form continued, this time beaten 1-0 at Son Moix, with José Manuel Copete the only scorer.

Míchel’s men have taken just four points from their last five and, while it was never realistic that Blanquivermells would win the title, they could end up missing out on a top four finish at this current trajectory.

For the victorious Mallorca, this simply capped off an historic week at los Bermellones, having reached just a third Copa del Rey Final in mid-week, where they’ll take on Athletic next month.

Amazingly, Atlético Madrid are the only side in the top half to have claimed a victory this weekend, beating Real Betis 2-1 at the Metropolitano, with Álvaro Morata both missing a penalty and scoring the winner.

Diego Simeone’s side are now five points clear of Athletic in fifth, with los Colchoneros therefore very much on course for a 12th consecutive top four finish.

Looking at the relegation battle, on Friday night, Celta de Vigo claimed a vital victory over Almería, Óscar Mingueza the only scorer at Balaídos, meaning Rafa Benítez’s team are now six clear of danger.

On the flip side, Almería’s wait for a first win of the campaign goes on, with only 11 games left to play.

Sevilla eased their own bottom three concerns by beating Real Sociedad 3-2, while Villarreal moved up to 11th by hammering another doomed side Granada 5-1.

On Monday night, Osasuna take on Alavés at El Sadar, in the game we’ve all been waiting for..... right?

Serie A

There’s plenty to talk about in Serie A this weekend, but we have to begin with Sunday’s night red letter fixture, in which Napoli beat Juventus 2-1 at Stadio Diego Armando Maradona.

Khvicha Kvaratskhelia broke the deadlock in the first half, only for Federico Chiesa to seemingly salvage a draw late on, but there was to be one final twist.

With two minutes to play, the home side were awarded a spot-kick and, even though Victor Osimhen’s attempt was smartly saved by Wojciech Szczęsny, Giacomo Raspadori was on hand to fire home the winner.

I Partenopei have won five successive home games against Juve for the very first time, while la Vecchia Signora have lost five on the spin away against a single opponent for the first time since a streak of six defeats at the hands of Fiorentina in the early-60s.

Right now, Massimiliano Allegri’s team find themselves 12 points adrift leaders Inter so, having won just one of their last six, I Bianconeri’s title hopes are over.

Simone Inzaghi’s team will get the chance to further extend their lead at the top to 15 when they welcoming Genoa to San Siro on Monday.

Meanwhile, having won back-to-back games, Napoli have moved up to seventh, with Francesco Calzona’s team very much back in the hunt for European qualification.

Top four is likely to prove beyond the reigning champions however, this largely down to the extraordinary form of Bologna.

On Sunday evening, I Rossoblù took a gigantic step towards Champions League qualification, coming from behind to beat nearest-challengers Atalanta 2-1 in Bergamo; Lewis Ferguson with a stunning winner.

This means Bologna have won six successive Serie A matches for only the third time ever, previously doing so in 1964 and then 1967.

Thiago Motta’s team remain in fourth, four points clear, which is remarkable considering I Felsinei haven’t featured in any European competition since 1999/2000.

Roma meantime moved up to fifth, warming up nicely for their Thursday night clash with Brighton by smashing Monza 4-1, a result that means Daniele De Rossi has won six of his seven league matches in charge.

On Friday night, the other capital club Lazio were beaten 1-0 by AC Milan, with I Biancocelesti ending the night down to eight-men, seeing Luca Pellegrini, Adam Marušić and Mattéo Guendouzi all sent off.

This is the first time any team has been shown three red cards in a Serie A match since Palermo 12 years ago.

At the bottom, Davide Nicola’s six-match unbeaten streak in charge of Empoli came to an end, defeated 1-0 by Cagliari on Sunday.

This was a vital victory for Gli Isolani, as it lifted them up to 18th, with only goal difference now keeping Claudio Ranieri’s side in the bottom three, below Hellas Verona, who also beat Sassuolo in another Sunday six-pointer.

Just five points seperate Lecce in 13th and Sassuolo on 19th.

Bundesliga

Over in the Bundesliga, as we all predicted before the season began, Bayer Leverkusen are now ten points clear with only ten games to go; classic farmer’s league stuff!

On Friday night, 11-in-a-row Meisterschale champions Bayern Munich dropped points yet again, this time held to a 2-2 draw by Freiburg, with Lucas Höler firing home a late equaliser for the hosts.

Thomas Tuchel’s team have now won just one of their last four and, should die Roten exit the Champions League at the hands of Lazio on Tuesday, that would surely signal the end of his time in charge in Bavaria.

Bayer Leverkusen then had to wait until Sunday before they could punish Bayern’s latest slip-up but managed to do just that, beating Köln 2-0 in a Rheinland derby at RheinEnergieStadion.

Jan Thielmann was sent off after just 14 minutes for a stamp on Granit Xhaka, before the two wing-backs, who’ve been the stars of this season, Jeremie Frimpong and then Álex Grimaldo got the goals.

Die Schwarzroten have matched their club-record unbeaten Bundesliga streak, 24 matches, while their 34-game unbeaten record across all competitions will be put to the test by Qarabağ in the Europa League on Thursday, returning to Baku having won there 1-0 a mere 119 days earlier in the group phase.

Back in the Bundesliga, Xabi Alonso’ side require 21 points from their remaining ten matches, assuming Bayern win every game, so the reality of a first-ever Salatschüssel is coming into view.

Just below the title race, Stuttgart have taken another step towards a Champions League return of their own, this time defeating Wolfsburg 3-2 on Saturday evening.

Die Schwaben, who are five-times champions, now have 50 points on the board, their best-ever tally after 24 games, while Serhou Guirassy’s 20 goals at this stage is the most by any die Roten player in history.

Sebastian Hoeneß's side are just three points above Dortmund, who won 1-0 at Union Berlin, but sit seven points better off than fifth-placed RB Leipzig, despite die Roten Bullen’s 4-1 demolition of Bochum.

At the bottom, Darmstadt appear doomed, and their supporters aren’t particularly pleased about this, and with good reason, following their team’s 6-0 hammering at home to Augsburg.

Jess Thorup’s team were 5-0 up inside 29 minutes, the third-fastest any Bundesliga side has established a five-goal advantage.

Only Freiburg against Borussia Mönchengladbach (2021) and Gladbach themselves against Eintracht Braunschweig (1984) have done so quicker, both taking 25 minutes to lead 5-0.

This weekend, Gladbach drew 1-1 with a Mainz team who, like Darmstadt, appear destine for the drop, while Köln, currently in the relegationsspiele position, are a massive eight points from safety.

Ligue 1

Ligue 1 started with an appetising fixture on Friday night, although ultimately Monaco and Paris Saint-Germain played out an underwhelming goalless draw at Stade Louis II.

In fairness, there were 13 shots on target, the most in a Ligue 1 goalless draw since records began, but a breakthrough never really felt forthcoming.

Les Rouges-et-Bleus remain nine points clear of the rest, with Kylian Mbappé substituted at half time in the Principality, possibly with Wednesday’s Champions League trip to Real Sociedad in mind.

Against all odds and expectations, PSG’s nearest-challengers continue to be Brest who, despite having never finished higher than eighth in the top-flight, are on course for Champions League qualification.

Eric Roy’s team are now unbeaten in 13, winning each of the last three on the spin, with Pierre Lees-Melou the only scorer against Le Havre on Saturday.

Below them, just seven points seperate Monaco in third and Stade Rennais in eighth, with more European positions up for grabs than ever before.

Olympique de Marseille are very much back in the top four hunt themselves following back-to-back emphatic victories, smashing Montpellier 4-1 before swatting aside Clermont Foot 5-1 on Saturday night.

Having also dumped Shakhtar Donetsk out of the Europa League, Jean-Louis Gasset has become the first OM manager to win his first three matches in charge since Otto Glória 62 years ago; he won his first five.

Elsewhere in the upper-echelons, Nice and Rennes both suffered shock defeats, while Lens ended Lyon’s winning streak, leaving Parc Olympique Lyonnais 3-0 winners on Sunday night.

Les Gones have failed to win any of their four Ligue 1 games without the injured Alexandre Lacazette, yielding a solitary point, while OL have claimed victory in eight of the 20 fixtures in which their top-scorer has featured.

Lastly, a word on Lorient, who left Roazhon Park 2-1 winners on Sunday evening, meaning les Merlus have won four of their last five, climbing from bottom of the table up to 13th during this surge.

This is largely due to the form of January signing Mohamed Bamba who, since arriving from Wolfsberger AC, has scored six goals in just six Ligue 1 appearances, breaking the deadlock in Brittany this weekend.

In the 21st century, only three other players have scored six goals in their first six Ligue 1 matches: Neymar, Zlatan Ibrahimović and Mario Balotelli, not bad company for the 22 year old to be keeping.

Anything else?

PSV remain top points clear

Last game to mention is the top-of-the-table clash in the Eredivisie, in which PSV Eindhoven and Feyenoord drew 2-2, with Guus Til’s equaliser preserving the home team’s unbeaten record.

PSV therefore remain ten points clear at the top, having won 21 of 24 fixtures so far, meaning a first title for six seasons will be coming their way.

Following an improvement in the league’s coefficient ranking, the runners-up also go straight into next season’s Champions League group phase, which isn’t a terrible consolation prize for Feyenoord.

This though isn’t much help for Ajax, who remain fifth, despite beating Utrecht 2-0 on Sunday, but John van ‘t Schip’s side don’t look particularly strong at all, ahead of Aston Villa’s visit to Johan Cruijff Arena on Thursday.

Ben Gray

Ben Gray

Arsenal fan – follow them over land and sea (and Leicester); sofa Celtic supporter; a bit of a football '"encyclopedia".