Nigeria win African crown; league leaders extend advantage around Europe

In Spain, Barcelona’s advantage over Atletico Madrid was stretched to 12 points after thrashing Getafe 6-1, with Leo Messi again on target, even though they rested a number of key players. Atletico were beaten 2-1 at high flying Rayo Vallecano. They remain second, but are now only four points clear of Real Madrid, who beat Sevilla 4-1 thanks to a hat trick from Cristiano Ronaldo.

Malaga beat Levante 2-1 to remain fourth but Valencia are closing in fast on the Champions League spots after a 1-0 win at Celta Vigo. Real Sociedad beat Real Zaragoza 2-1, while Espanyol crushed Athletic Bilbao 4-0 in the Basque country.

In England Manchester United also have a 12 point lead after they beat Everton 2-0. That result, combined with Manchester City’s 3-1 reverse at Southampton, strengthens United’s grip on the title yet further. The chasing pack are closing in on City as well after Chelsea beat Wigan 4-1, Tottenham overcame Newcastle 2-1 and Arsenal beat Sunderland 1-0.

Paris St Germain took full control in France this weekend after they comfortably beat Bastia 3-1. Olympique Lyonnais were beaten by the same score by Lille at home, meaning they are six points behind the leaders. Marseille’s 1-1 draw with Evian means they remain third. Saint Etienne are closing fast at the top after a 4-1 win over champions Montpellier, whilst Rennes beat Toulouse 2-0. Nice and Lorient drew 1-1, and Bordeaux lost 1-0 at Ajaccio.

In Italy, Juventus restored their cushion at the top after they overcame Fiorentina 2-0 on Saturday. That result means they are five points clear of Napoli, who drew 1-1 at third place Lazio. Inter Milan beat Chievo 3-1 at home to go fourth, ahead of rivals AC Milan, who drew 1-1 at Cagliari. Udinese’s 1-0 win over Torino moves them up to seventh, and Roma are still ninth after losing 3-1 at Sampdoria.

German league leaders Bayern Munich have the biggest lead of all in the Bundesliga as a 4-0 win over ailing Schalke moved them 15 points clear of champions Borussia Dortmund. Dortmund lost 4-1 at home to Hamburg in a shock defeat, and third place Bayer Leverkusen drew 3-3 at Borussia Moenchengladbach. Eintracht Frankfurt drew 0-0 at home to Nuremberg, and Freiburg beat Fortuna Dusseldorf 1-0 to go fifth. Mainz drew 1-1 at Augsburg.

Galatasaray maintained their lead in Turkey with a 2-0 win over Antalyaspor, but Besiktas also won, 3-1 against Elazigspor. Fenerbahce won 1-0 against Mersin Idmanyurdu. It was a strange weekend in Portugal too, where both Benfica and Porto were level on points and unbeaten going into this weekend. Yet whilst it was rare for Porto to draw, 1-1 with Olhanense, the same was true of Benfica, held 2-2 by CD Nacional. In the Netherlands PSV remain top despite dropping points in a 2-2 draw at Vitesse. Ajax also lost two points in a 1-1 draw with Roda JC. Feyenoord beat AZ 3-1, and Twente also drew 1-1 at Zwolle.

In Argentina Velez Sarsfield won 1-0 at Argentinos Juniors to remain top of the Inicial, River Plate won 2-1 at Atletico Belgrano, Independiente lost 3-1 at home to Newell’s Old Boys and Boca Juniors beat Quilmes 3-2.

The African Cup of Nations also came to an end this weekend. Mali beat Ghana 3-1 in a repeat of last year’s third place play off to take bronze once again. In the final Nigeria beat Burkina Faso 1-0 to become champions of the continent for the first time since 1994. Coach Stephen Keshi had been the captain of that side, meaning he becomes the second person to win the African Cup of Nations as both a player and a coach.