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European roundup: Ronaldo, Messi, Ibrahimovic on target

London: Goal machines Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic were all on target again at the weekend as the title races around Europe moved into the home straight.

Messi scored for Barcelona but Cristiano Ronaldo`s double for Real Madrid kept his side top of La Liga by six points.

Ibrahimovic scored twice as leaders AC Milan beat AS Roma 2-1 in Serie A to remain clear of Juventus in second place.

Manchester City`s mediocre away from continued in the Premier League with a 1-1 draw at Stoke City that put them top on goal difference, at least until champions Manchester United host Fulham on Monday.

Borussia Dortmund stayed ahead of the pack in the Bundesliga while in Montpellier seized top spot from Paris St Germain in Ligue 1.

Spain

Leaders Real Madrid ended a run of two consecutive draws and preserved their six-point advantage over arch rivals Barcelona when they crushed Real Sociedad 5-1 on Saturday.

Jose Mourinho`s side let their football do the talking after a controversial week in which the Portuguese coach was sent off during Wednesday`s 1-1 draw at Villarreal for criticising the referee.

Mourinho was banned from the bench for the game at the Bernabeu but two goals each from Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema and one from Gonzalo Higuain lifted Real to 75 points with nine matches remaining.

Barca have 69 points in second after Lionel Messi`s free kick set them on their way to a 2-0 victory at Real Mallorca, the Argentine World Player of the Year`s 18th goal in his last nine games for the club.

Third-placed Valencia slipped further off the pace and pressure increased on coach Unai Emery when they lost 3-1 at Getafe to stay on 47 points, level with Malaga who climbed to fourth thanks to a 2-1 win at Espanyol on Sunday.

England

Manchester United enjoyed a good weekend without even playing as title rivals Manchester City salvaged a 1-1 draw at Stoke City thanks to Yaya Toure`s equaliser.

Peter Crouch`s spectacular volley gave Stoke the lead but City scraped a point to move top on goal difference, although United will open a three-point lead if they beat Fulham at Old Trafford on Monday.

The battle for Champions League places is going Arsenal`s way after they cemented third place with a 3-0 home win over Aston Villa -- their seventh straight league victory -- to move three points clear of Tottenham Hotspur who drew 0-0 at fifth-placed Chelsea.

Wigan Athletic won for the first time at Anfield, beating Liverpool 2-1 to boost their chances of avoiding relegation while Bolton Wanderers climbed out of the bottom three with an emotional victory against Blackburn Rovers, a week after midfielder Fabrice Muamba`s cardiac arrest at Tottenham.

Italy

Zlatan Ibrahimovic continued his fine form with both goals as AC Milan came from behind to beat AS Roma 2-1 at home and stay on course to retain the title.

Juventus responded with a 2-0 win over visiting Inter Milan on Sunday to remain four points behind Milan with Alessandro del Piero coming off the bench to score the second goal.

Lazio strengthened their grip on third place and a Champions League qualifying spot by scoring late in a 1-0 win over Cagliari on Sunday while challengers Napoli squandered a two-goal lead in a 2-2 draw at home to Catania.

Udinese had moved level on points with Lazio after a 1-1 draw at Palermo on Saturday.

Germany

Title holders Borussia Dortmund stayed five points clear at the top of the Bundelsiga by coming from behind to demolish Cologne 6-1.

Milivoje Novakovic headed Cologne ahead but, after Lukasz Piszczek levelled, the visitors went on the rampage after halftime with two goals from Shinji Kagawa and one apiece from Robert Lewandowski, Ilkay Gundogan and Ivan Perisic.

Second-placed Bayern Munich, who have been piling on the goals recently, had to be content with a 2-1 home win over Hanover 96, Toni Kroos and Mario Gomez scoring for the Bavarians before Didier Ya Konan replied.

France

Montpellier reclaimed the Ligue 1 top spot as they clinched a last-gasp 1-0 win against Saint-Etienne while Paris St Germain could only manage a 1-1 home draw against Girondins Bordeaux.

PSG are level with Montpellier on 60 points but the side from the south of France lead on goal difference.

Champions Lille stayed third, seven points off the pace, after Eden Hazard inspired an easy 3-0 win at Evian Thonon Gaillard. Toulouse beat bottom side Auxerre 1-0 to stay fourth on 50 points, one ahead of Olympique Lyon who beat Sochaux 2-1.

Mid-table Olympique Marseille, who host Bayern Munich in a Champions League quarter-final first leg on Wednesday, drew 1-1 at strugglers Nice after having Charles Kabore sent off in first half stoppage-time.

Netherlands

AZ Alkmaar stayed top of the Dutch league by a point after beating RKC Waalwijk 1-0 while Ajax Amsterdam remained hot on their heels with a 2-0 victory over PSV Eindhoven.

Johan Berg Gudmundsson was Alkmaar`s match-winner while Ismail Aissati put Ajax ahead before Siem de Jong converted a penalty to leave PSV five points off the top in fourth spot.

Portugal

Braga can move top in Portugal if they beat Academica at home on Monday after Porto and Benfica both drew away.

Porto missed the chance to extend their one-point lead at the summit as they could only manage a 1-1 draw at Pacos de Ferreira while Olhanense held second-placed Benfica goalless.

Champions Porto lead with 57 points after 24 matches ahead of Benfica on 56 while Braga are on 55 with a game in hand.

Bureau Report

From Zee News

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