European leagues: Napoli bounces back, Real Madrid stumbles

A LEAGUE

Inter’s 1-0 victory over Napoli after the World Cup break provided some unexpected turbulence to the latter’s quest for a first title in 33 years. But the Neapolitans were quick to bounce back and they did it with the panache deserving of champions.

A 2-0 win over Sampdoria was followed by a 5-1 drubbing of Juventus, with the irresistible duo of Victor Oshimen and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia taking home three goal involvements each. The third-placed Juventus had no answers to the quicksilver Napoli side, which now has nine points cushion at the top of the table.

The biggest win of the week though was achieved by Atalanta, which obliterated Salernitana 8-2, to put itself eighth in the league table.

While Roma sits seventh with 34 points and AC Milan — which dropped points at Lecce — remains second with 38 points, the muddle-fest for European qualification spots might turn out to be the more exciting battle to watch out for, with Napoli looking set to run away with the title.

LA LIGA

Real Madrid’s shock defeat to Villareal reopened the door for Barcelona to take sole ownership of the top spot in La Liga.

After dropping points to Espanyol, Xavi Hernandez’s side was quick to regroup and proved its title credentials with a 1-0 win over Atletico Madrid in an ill-tempered clash, with both teams getting a red card each.

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Diego Simeone’s side’s remote chance for a title challenge looks all but extinguished as it went on to drop more points at Almeria, where the team was dished out another red card.

A change in the scenario was forced on the top dogs as Real Madrid, Barcelona, ​​Valencia and Real Betis set out to Saudi Arabia for the Supercopa de Espana. As expected, Barcelona and Real Madrid marched onto the final, albeit unconvincingly, as both teams required penalty shootouts to clinch their spots.

On target: Manchester United's Bruno Fernandes scores his team's first goal against Manchester City.  United won 2-1.

On target: Manchester United’s Bruno Fernandes scores his team’s first goal against Manchester City. United won 2-1. | Photo credit: REUTERS

In the final, Barcelona pulled off a dominant 3-1 win over its rival to secure its first title since Lionel Messi left. With the league title looking set to go down the wire, Robert Lewandowski and co will gather strength from this win, as it looks to recapture the title.

PREMIER LEAGUE

Arsenal’s Premier League title campaign received its biggest fillip, as it overpowered its North London rival Tottenham Hotspur 2-0, while its closest rival, Manchester City lost ground in its quest for a hat-trick of titles.

A Hugo Lloris blunder, coupled with a screamer from skipper Martin Odegaard was sufficient for Mikel Arteta’s men to seal the win and take an eight-point lead at the top of the table.

Manchester United exacted revenge for the 3-6 defeat it received at the hands of its neighbour, Manchester City, earlier in the season, in a game which came to life in the final third.

After Jack Grealish opened the scoring for the Cityzens with a header, United struck back through Bruno Fernandes, albeit under controversial circumstances. Marcus Rashford, who would then go on to score a late winner, was in an offside position when the Portuguese scored, but was deemed by the referee to have no influenced play.

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This was Erik Ten hag’s side’s ninth win on the trot in all competition and it pushed the Red Devils one point behind City in the league table.

Elsewhere, Liverpool’s efforts to recover from a flailing season received a shocking jolt after Brighton ran it ragged in a thumping 3-0 win, with Solly March starring with a double.

LANGUAGE 1

Rennes delivered another striking blow to PSG’s title aspirations, with a rousing 1-0 win over the Parisians at home. This was a club record-extending ninth consecutive win for Rennes.

PSG, though, struggled to insert itself into the game, despite its all-star trio — Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe — back together in action for the first time since the World Cup.

Earlier, Lens bounced back from dropping points to lowly Strasbourg in the game before, with a narrow 1-0 win over Auxerre, to put itself just three points behind PSG.

Monaco made a statement win after it thumped relegation-threatened Ajjaccio 7-1 and is now fourth in the table, behind Marseille in third.

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