European Leagues Roundup: United defeat Liverpool, Arsenal draw, Madrid and Barcelona mete out hammerings
English Premier League
Liverpool and Manchester United played a keenly contested fixture at Anfield, but Wayne Rooney gave the Red Devils a late victory. Later, Arsenal went top of the Premier League with an exciting goalless draw away to Stoke City.
Liverpool 0-1 Manchester United
Scorers: Rooney 78’
Liverpool were clearly the better of the two sides in the first half, but failed to convert their chances which led to a goalless first half, with United failing to get a shot. However, a Wayne Rooney goal late into the second half completed Manchester United’s smash-and-grab, with Liverpool disappointed having dominated the game. As the final whistle blew, Manchester United celebrated the three points, taking them to 5th on the table with 37 points while Liverpool fell to 9th on 31 points.
Stoke City 0-0 Arsenal
The game began with the Brittania in full voice, as the hosts created a hostile atmosphere for the visitors, with Aaron Ramsey drawing loud boos from the off. The game failed to settle, with the opening 10 minutes beset with niggly fouls, leading to a stop-start game.
Ibrahim Afellay had was the first to threaten the Gunners’ goal in the 20th minute, as the Dutchman’s shot from range, after he found himself in space, flew narrowly wide with Petr Cech diving at full stretch. Arsenal responded immediately with a wonderful chance to take the lead, but Olivier Giroud contrived to shoot straight at a charging Jack Butland, after an exquisite through ball from Joel Campbell had put the Frenchman through.
Stoke were set up to counter attack, and nearly profited from one but Jonathan Walters misplaced a crucial pass with the Gunners scrambling to get back from a corner. Alex Oxlade Chamberlain had a couple of shots on goal on the hour mark, but Butland was equal to his efforts. As the first half ended, both sides struggled to create opportunities in a keenly contested, physical half, that ended goalless.
Arsenal and Stoke traded blows at the beginning of the second half, as Giroud ran free of Shawcross from a corner and headed at the bottom corner but Butland got down well to make a great save. Similarly, Shawcross drew a save from Cech from a Stoke corner minutes later.
The Gunners had a couple of penalty claims as both Giroud and Walcott tumbled in the box, but the referee waved play on. The end-to-end nature of the second half continued as Stoke countered in the 57th minute, with Cech underlining the goalkeeping masterclass at both ends with a stunning double save from Joselu and Bojan.
Cech was at full stretch in the 67th minute as Joselu drew a great save from the Arsenal keeper yet again. With the game becoming stretched, both managers made substitutions with a hope to change the game in their favour in the final stages. Joel Campbell nearly won the game for Arsenal in the 85th minute, but his curling shot flew over after he cut inside on his left foot.
Stoke City nearly stole the win from a corner in the 89th minute, but Wollschied’s header was cleared off the line by Ramsey, and Joselu’s effort from the rebound was diverted away by the legs of Cech. As the final whistle blew, Arsenal were satisfied with a point as they went on top of the Premier League with 44 points.
Real Madrid 5-1 Sporting Gijon
Scorers: Bale 7’, Ronaldo 9’ 18’, Benzema 12’ 41’ – Lopez 62’
Gareth Bale opened the scoring of a Real Madrid blitzkrieg in the 7th minute, as the Welshman rose majestically at the near post to head home a Tony Kroos corner from the right. Cristiano Ronaldo doubled the lead minutes later, as Karim Benzema unselfishly set up his Portuguese teammate, who swiveled and lashed home a powerful half-volley into the top corner, thus doubling Real’s lead inside ten minutes.
Los Blancos continued their incredible start to the game with a goal in the 12th minute. Gareth Bale burst down the left and delivered a cross that was behind Benzema, but the Frenchman scored with an acrobatic overhead kick to triple Madrid’s lead, which meant that all of Real’s front trio had scored within the opening 12 minutes.
Madrid were 4-0 up in the 18th minute as Ronaldo scored his second of the night, Dani Carvajal’s storming pace down the right flank allowed him to rifle in a low cross that Ronaldo turned in from close range with a predatory finish. Sporting drew a save from Navas as the half progressed, but the minnows seemed punch drunk as Madrid continued their dominance.
Karim Benzema underlined Los Blancos’ superiority with a goal in the 41st minute, as Isco juggled his way past Sporting’s defence and chipped a pass through to Benzema who finished with aplomb, thus giving Real a 5-0 lead going into the break.
The second half wasn’t as wonderful for Real, as Gareth Bale was forced off with a minor hamstring injury and was replaced with Jese at the break. Sporting scored their solitary consolation goal in the 62nd minute, as Jony burst down the wings and set up Isma Lopez to lash home at the back post. As the half progressed, Real Madrid’s joy was tempered as they also lost Karim Benzema to injury, but it didn’t matter as the final whistle blew, giving Zinedine Zidane his second victory as Real Madrid’s manager.
Barcelona 6-0 Athletic Bilbao
Scorers: Messi 7’, Neymar 31’, Suarez 47’ 69’ 83’, Rakitic 62’
Red card: Iraizoz 3’
Athletic Bilbao started the game with their trademark high press, and this resulted in a misplaced pass from Gerard Pique deep into his own half, but Eraso shot over with Claudio Bravo stranded. The game’s pivotal moment came early in the game, as moments later, Luis Suarez was felled by Bilbao keeper Gorka Iraizoz resulting in a red card, after the Uruguayan latched onto a loose ball and showed great strength in going past Xabier Etxeita.
Messi slotted home the penalty past substitute keeper Iago Herrerin, giving Barcelona an early lead in the 7th minute. Bilbao surprisingly responded as Inaki Williams sent Oscar de Marcos clean through with an exquisite pass but Claudio Bravo charged him down and smothered his shot.
Neymar, Messi and Vidal all passed up presentable opportunities to double Barca’s lead, as the Catalans overwhelmed their Basque opponents. Neymar scored Barcelona’s second goal on the hour mark, as the Brazilian cooly chipped the ball over the keeper after Luis Suarez set him free on the left from a counter attack.
With Barcelona in complete control, Luis Enrique was comfortable in substituting Leo Messi for Arda Turan. Barcelona did not feel Messi’s absence, as his partners-in-crime,Neymar and Suarez combined brilliantly on the edge of the box before the Brazilian found his Uruguayan teammate in space in the box, allowing Suarez to calmly slot home Barca’s third.
Eraso spurned another gilt-edged chance to score for Bilbao on the hour mark, but moments later Neymar turned on the afterburners as he skipped past three challenges on the left wing before setting up Rakitic for a simple finish into the net, scoring Barcelona’s fourth.
Suarez extended Barcelona’s demoliton of the Basque visitors in the 69th minute, brilliantly chesting a floated ball down and tucking the ball past Herrerin. The Uruguayan earned his hat-trick in the final 10 minutes as he leaped highest to head home a cross from Sergio Busquets on the right, thus completing Barcelona’s dismantling of the Basque defence. The win leaves Barcelona 2nd in the table on 45 points, with a game in hand over leaders Atletico Madrid.
Las Palmas 0-3 Atletico Madrid
Scorers: Luis 17’, Griezmann 69’ 89’
Filipe Luis opened the scoring for the visitors with an absolute bullet of a shot, giving Atletico the lead in the 17th minute. However, it was Las Palmas who were the better of the two sides in the first half and the host were disappointed to go into the break a goal down.
The Rojiblancos were much improved in the second half and scored their second in the 69th minute, as Antoine Griezmann scored from a counter seconds after Roque Mesa spurned a chance to equalise for the hosts. Atletico sealed their victory with a third in the final few minutes of the game as Koke’s pass allowed Griezmann to spring Las Palmas’ offside trap and calmly slot home his second.
The victory at the Estadio Gran Canaria keeps the Rojiblancos at the top of the La Liga table on 47 points, with Barcelona behind them on 45 but with a game in hand.