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European soccer roundup - Real Madrid edge closer to title

London: Real Madrid stayed on track for their first La Liga crown in four years after Cristiano Ronaldo and Gonzalo Higuain scored two goals apiece in a 5-1 rout of Osasuna at the weekend.

Big-spending Manchester City opened the Premier League title door to Manchester United ahead of the Old Trafford`s team visit to Blackburn Rovers on Monday after being held to a 3-3 home draw by Sunderland.

SPAIN

Real Madrid edged closer to their first La Liga title in four years when they trounced Osasuna 5-1 away on Saturday to maintain a six-point lead at the top with eight matches left.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice to top the scoring charts with 37 and laid on further goals for Karim Benzema, who netted a sensational volley, and one of a double for Gonzalo Higuain.

Champions Barcelona responded with a 2-0 win at home to Athletic Bilbao with goals from Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi, the Argentine`s penalty taking his tally to 36 this season.

Real have 78 points from 30 games, Barca 72 and third-placed Valencia 48 after Sunday`s 1-1 draw at home to city rivals Levante.

ENGLAND

Manchester City needed two late goals to rescue a 3-3 home draw with Sunderland but the dropped points handed the Premier League title initiative to Manchester United ahead of their match at Blackburn Rovers on Monday.

City were 3-1 down with five minutes to go but Roberto Mancini`s side came roaring back with an 85th-minute goal from Mario Balotelli and a long-range effort by Aleksandar Kolarov a minute later.

United can stretch their lead over City to five points, with seven matches remaining, if they win at Ewood Park.

Third-placed Arsenal went down 2-1 at London rivals Queens Park Rangers and are now level on points with Tottenham Hotspur who beat Swansea City 3-1. Chelsea, in fifth spot, won 4-2 at Aston Villa thanks to two-goal defender Branislav Ivanovic.

ITALY

The Serie A title race could go down to the wire after leaders AC Milan were held to a 1-1 draw at Catania and second-placed Juventus cut the gap to two points with a 3-0 win over Napoli.

Milan were angered a Robinho effort was not given despite television replays showing the ball was over the line.

Juve had to wait until the second half for Leonardo Bonucci, Arturo Vidal and Fabio Quagliarella to seal their home win.

Inter Milan`s new interim coach Andrea Stramaccioni celebrated his first game in charge with a 5-4 romp against Genoa while AS Roma beat second from bottom Novara 5-2 as the race for the third Champions League spot hotted up.

GERMANY

Borussia Dortmund`s Bundesliga lead was cut to three points after they drew 4-4 in a thrilling game at home to VfB Stuttgart.

Ivan Perisic`s 87th-minute goal looked to have won it for Dortmund but a last-gasp equaliser by Christian Gentner snatched a point for Stuttgart.

Second-placed Bayern Munich moved on to 60 points with a 1-0 win at Nuremberg in the Bavarian derby, Dutchman Arjen Robben scoring the only goal.

Schalke 04 tightened their grip on third place with a 1-1 draw at Hoffenheim, easing three points clear of Borussia Moenchengladbach who slumped to a 2-1 defeat at Hanover 96. There are six matches left to play.

FRANCE

Paris St Germain missed out on an opportunity to reclaim top spot when they lost 2-1 at Nancy, their first Ligue 1 defeat in four months.

PSG, who conceded a late winner by Yohan Mollo, are level on 60 points with Montpellier but the leaders have a game in hand.

Champions Lille are four points behind after Eden Hazard scored a penalty and set up the other goal for Dimitri Payet in a 2-1 home win over Toulouse.

Fourth-placed Olympique Lyon trail Lille by six points after their 1-1 draw at Stade Rennes.

PORTUGAL

Porto took over as Premier League leaders after a 2-0 win at home to Olhanense while Braga lost top spot following a dramatic 2-1 defeat at Benfica.

The title race remained wide open with Porto on 60 points ahead of Benfica with 59 and Braga, who have slipped to third, on 58. There are five matches to go.

Porto won thanks to goals by Lucho Gonzalez and James Rodriguez.

Axel Witsel`s penalty put Benfica ahead in the 75th minute. Braga pulled one back through Nigerian left back Elderson Echiejile before Bruno Cesar slotted a stoppage-time winner with his left foot.

Bureau Report

From Zee News

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