Footy Focus – April 2

Bayern equalise against underdogs Manchester United (Reuters)

Bayern equalise against underdogs Manchester United (Reuters)

Champions League

Nobody expected Manchester United to be able to beat Bayern Munich, not even at home. And they didn’t, although they did come out of it with a valuable 1-1 draw. With Bayern dominating possession, United defended firmly and were focussed throughout, which helped them avoid any silly defensive mistakes. In the second half, Manchester United were better on attack, and they took the lead thanks to a prefect header from Nemanja Vidic. Bastian Schweinsteiger scored an equaliser 8 minutes later, but his night was ruined when he was sent off for a second yellow card, meaning he will miss the second leg next week. A disappointing performance from Bayern but they will still be favourites to advance.

In the other game, Barcelona were unable to beat fellow Spanish team Atletico Madrid at home at the Nou Camp. In a game with lots of yellow cards, Atletico took the lead in the second half with an amawing goal from midfielder Diego, before Neymar equalised with 20 minutes to go. 1-1 was the final score, and this tie could go either way. Chelsea play PSG, and Real Madrid play Dortmund in the other games, played on Wednesday morning New Zealand time.

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England

It has been a long time since Liverpool last won a league title. In fact, they have never won it since the Premier League was developed in 1992, but they are now in a great position to win this year. The Reds met Tottenham this week in a big game for both clubs, and completely dominated, running away with a 4-0 win. It started with a Younis Kaboul own goal in the second minute, then Luis Suarez scoring his 29th league goal of the year, along with goals from Coutinho and Henderson. Liverpool are now on top of the EPL table with, and will win their first Premier League title if they can win all of their last 6 games from here (they still have to play Chelsea and Manchester City).

Manchester United started the weekend off by falling behind to Aston Villa, but they responded well to finish with a comfortable 4-1 win, thanks to a double from Wayne Rooney, plus a first United goal for Juan Mata and Chicarito sealed things late on. They close the gap on Spurs with that, but not on Everton who won 3-1 away win at Fulham. Fulham are looking more and more like being relegated each week. Everton play Arsenal next game, and a win against the Gunners will close the gap between them and fourth place to just 1 point with a game in hand. Arsenal themselves were impressive in holding Manchester City to a 1-1 draw, while the big shock was Chelsea falling 1-0 to Crystal Palace. City are just 4 points off Liverpool with 2 games in hand, and Chelsea between them in second, 2 behind Pool, though the Blues have lost 2 of their last 3 games. With Liverpool unbeaten in 13 matches, and on an 8 game win streak, they look like the favourites right now.

Spain

It’s a three horse race in Spain, with a really close finish coming up. Heavyweights Barcelona and Real Madrid have been joined by Atletico Madrid, with just three points separating the trio on the table. Any dropped points are going to be devastating from here on in. Well, all three did what had to be done. Real Madrid destroyed Rayo Vallecano 5-0 for a huge win after consecutive losses saw them drop from clear first to third. The first loss was to Barca in El Classico, while the second was to Sevilla. Ronaldo gave them the early lead in that game, but they couldn’t hold it, falling 2-1. Against Rayo Vallecano, Gareth Bale scored a double, Ronaldo also adding his 28th league goal of the year. Barcelona piled on the pressure by beating Celta Vigo 3-0 midweek (Neymar 2, Messi), then took advantage of Real Madrid’s midweek loss by beating Espanyol 1-0. A second half penalty from Lionel Messi proving the winner. But the real dark horses in this race are Atletico Madrid. Beating Granada and then fighting back for a 2-1 away win at Bilbao means that they are now clear out in front on 76 points (Barca on 75, Real 73) with just 7 games remaining in the season.

Italy

Juventus stumbled for the first time in a while when they lost to third place Napoli 2-0. They’d been 14 games unbeaten in all comps before that. Juve still hold a commanding lead though, 11 points over second placed Roma - though Roma have a game in hand. That game in hand will be played on Thursday (NZT) against 6th placed Parma, who are fighting for a European spot. Both Fiorentina and Inter Milan drew, meaning their chances for getting the two Europa League spots (there could be a third depending on Cup results) are slipping. Inter are 3 games without a win now, after blowing a 2-0 lead against Livorno for a 2-2 draw. Their cross town rivals are having an even worse time of it though. AC Milan managed another win, 3-0 over Chievo, but still sit in 10th place, and with a long way up just to make Europe next year. Brazilian Kaka scored a double in that win, which was his 300th game for the club.

Germany

Bayern Munich are champions again. They confirmed it with a midweek win at Hertha Berlin, 3-1, thanks to goals from Kroos, Gotze and Ribery. Scarily, after winning a treble last season, they’ve actually got even better! Winning officially with 7 games to spare beats the German record of 6 games left that Bayern did last year. Bayern did suffer a 3-3 draw with Hoffenheim on the weekend, ending their record 19 game winning streak in the Bundesliga, though they rested a number of players for the game. The biggest problem from that game is the injury suffered by Thiago Alcantra which will rule him out for up to 8 weeks.

Bayern celebrate winning another Bundesliga title (Photo by Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters)

Bayern celebrate winning another Bundesliga title (Photo by Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters)