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Liverpool, Barcelona, Inter tops In Europe

Posted by Mark Stokes  December 8, 2008 02:39 PM

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An as-dramatic-as-they-come conclusion to Sunday’s Premiership contest at Goodison Park saw Aston Villa snatch victory from an Everton team which itself thought it had stolen a late point thanks to Joleon Lescott’s close range strike.

The England defender was on hand to hook the ball past US goalkeeper, Brad Friedel, following a goalmouth scramble, this coming after goals from Steve Sidwell and Ashley Young for the visitors and a riposte from Lescott.

But if Lescott thought he had won the personal scoring battle with Young he was sadly mistaken, the pacey striker seizing on a rare opportunity in the dying seconds, rounding Lescott, and rifling the winner past the game’s other American shot stopper, Tim Howard.

With their closest rivals having already registered victories in earlier action on Saturday, Manchester United stood on the precipice of disaster at Ole Trafford. But Nemanja Vidic popped up to save the game, and perhaps the season, for Alex Ferguson’s men, stabbing a loose ball into the net with the game deep in stoppage time.

Despite laying siege on their opponents for most of the game the Red Devils were just about forced to settle for a draw, as Sunderland bravely battled through a goal-less 90 minutes three days after Roy Keane's sudden exit.

But they reckoned without Vidic, who was on hand to finish the ball to an empty net on 92 minutes after Michael Carrick's long-range shot had been deflected onto a post by Carlos Edwards.

Liverpool had earlier maintained their one-point lead at the top of the table with a 3-1 victory over lowly Blackburn at Ewood Park.

Rovers battled well in the first half and the Reds needed Jose Reina's fingertip save from Morten Gamst Pedersen to preserve parity.

The visitors upped the ante in the second half and Paul Robinson denied Steven Gerrard and Yossi Benayoun with an impressive double stop, but it was a soft shot that beat him as Xabi Alonso's under-hit effort bobbled into the bottom corner with 20 minutes remaining.

Benayoun then doubled the lead 10 minutes later when he waltzed past Stephen Warnock and found the far corner with a rocket shot. Roque Santa Cruz's 86th-minute header gave Rovers hope but Gerrard made sure in injury-time with a well placed finish after Robinson had charged out of his goal.

Chelsea are still within breathing distance of the leaders after breaking the Premiership record for consecutive away wins with their 11th on the road at Bolton.

Luiz Felipe Scolari's side were ahead after only nine minutes when former Bolton striker Nicolas Anelka headed in Jose Bosingwa's cross for his 99th Premier League goal and their second was a moment of sheer class.

Michael Ballack nodded the ball into the penalty area and Deco's delicious overhead kick found the bottom corner on twenty-one minutes.

Bolton exerted more pressure in the second half with John Terry clearing Matt Taylor's header off the line, but Wanderers could not breach the visitors' defence and it ended 2-0.

Arsenal finished the weekend in fourth place, two points behind Manchester United, with Emmanuel Adebayor's goal giving them a 1-0 win against Wigan at the Emirates.

Cesc Fabregas' ball in broke for the big striker and he made no mistake on 16 minutes. On the stroke of halftime, the same player was denied by Chris Kirkland when the Latics 'keeper pushed Adebayor's shot onto the post.

SPAIN

Things have gone from bad to much worse for Real Madrid in Spanish football after the Primera Liga champions suffered another huge blow to their title hopes on Sunday. Real lost a seven-goal thriller (4-3) at home to Sevilla to fall nine points adrift of leaders Barcelona.

Real, who lost 3-1 at Getafe last weekend, staged a magnificent second-half comeback to level the scores at 3-3 having trailed 3-1 and been jeered off at halftime.

But the 77th minute dismissal of the impressive Arjen Robben was a massive setback for the home team and seven minutes thereafter Renato Dirnei headed home Sevilla's winner.

This latest defeat, which is Madrid's third in their last four league contests, not only drops the champions to fifth place but also puts them under even massive pressure ahead of their mega-match with Barcelona at the Nou Camp next Sunday.

In league action on Saturday, Thierry Henry netted a spectacular hat-trick as Barcelona swept aside Valencia 4-0 with as complete a performance as is possible at the Nou Camp.

The Frenchman gave Barcelona the lead with a fine lob after 19 minutes and added a second just short of the half-hour mark as the Catalans quickly took control of the game.

Dani Alves put Pep Guardiola's side three up just after the break and Henry completed his hat-trick late on to wrap up a highly impressive Barcelona win.

Late goals from Sebastian Eguren and Giuseppe Rossi saw second-placed Villarreal come back from the dead against Getafe. The ‘Yellow Submarine’ were 3-0 down yet came back to snatch a 3-3 draw and avoid a second successive home defeat.

ITALY

AC Milan and Juventus narrowed the gap on Serie A leaders Inter Milan back to six points on Sunday.

Kaka's 65th minute goal proved to be the only one of the game against Catania after it had looked like Carlo Ancelotti's side were going to come away with only a point.

Despite all Milan’s chances, they struggled to beat Albano Bizzarri until a fortunate deflection finally wrong-footed the Catania goalkeeper to keep the Rossoneri in a share of second place with Juventus, their opponents in Turin next weekend.

An 89th-minute goal from Amauri saw Juve snatch a dramatic 2-1 victory at Lecce.

Substitute Daniele Cacia looked to have earned a point for the hosts when he struck seven minutes from time to cancel out a 57th-minute free-kick by Sebastian Giovinco, who was making only his third league start of the season.

But Brazilian Amauri had the last word, heading home Paolo de Ceglie's cross a minute from time to secure the points and keep Lecce just one point above the relegation zone.

Inter Milan had opened up a nine-point lead on Saturday night thanks to a comfortable 3-0 win at fifth-placed Lazio.

Argentina’s Walter Samuel put the Nerazzurri ahead after just two minutes before an own-goal from Modibo Diakite gifted them a second in first-half stoppage time.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic added a third for Jose Mourinho's side ten minutes after the restart and it must be said that Inter are gaining momentum with this their sixth consecutive win in Serie A.

Roma's resurgence continued with a creditable 1-0 victory at Chievo courtesy of Jeremy Menez's impressive 69th-minute winner.

AND IN GERMANY, TGF Hoffenheim continue to be the Cinderella story. The club which had languished in the lower leagues of German football since its inception in 1945 are perched above all the big boys, ahead of even mighty Bayern Munich on goal difference at the close of play this weekend.

Fans in New England should note that one of the biggest games in the soccer calendar occurs on GOL TV next Sunday. Barcelona entertain Real Madrid at the Nou Camp (2:30 pm EST). You will be witness to some of the best football you’re ever likely to see. Do not miss it! (Patriots fans come too -- the game versus Oakland kicks off at 4:15pm).

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About Corner Kicks: Julian Cardillo offers insight and analysis about the New England Revolution as well as European and international soccer.

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