Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

Stoppage Time 2012 Player of the Year is Lionel Messi

Posted in European Football, International Football, South America Football by peterbein on December 31, 2012

Stoppage Time’s Player of the Year award could only go to one player, a player who surpasses all expectations of him with each and every passing year. It will be no surprise to see that FC Barcelona and Argentina superstar Lionel Messi has won the award in a year in which he may not have achieved as much as usual with his club side (Barcelona ‘only’ won the Copa del Rey in 2012) but in which the man himself has created a piece of footballing history by beating the record for the most number of goals scored in a calendar year.

Former FC Bayern München and West Germany international striker Gerd Müller’s record of 85 goals in a calendar year had stood since 1972 but was beaten by a stunning total of 91 goals this year by Messi whose individual exploits continually make people wonder just how much better he can become. Is there a chance that the maestro can become the first centurion in the future? One certainly wouldn’t bet against it and with FC Barcelona already a full nine points ahead of nearest challengers Atlético de Madrid in the 2012-13 La Liga title race, and a remarkable sixteen ahead of defending champions Real Madrid CF, could the ease of the current season help Messi achieve even more greatness in 2013? We certainly can’t wait to find out but, in the meantime, check out each and every one of the 91 goals which he scored in 2012.

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Spain: Mourinho signs on at Madrid until 2016

Posted in European Football by peterbein on May 22, 2012
Jose Mourinho

Mourinho has signed a contract extension at Real Madrid

José Mourinho has extended his contract at Spanish champions Real Madrid CF until 2016. The self-proclaimed “Special One”, who had initially signed until 2014, has won both La Liga and the Copa del Rey in his two seasons in charge at Madrid but the prospect of bringing a tenth European Cup to the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu must have weighed heavily in his decision to stay at the club. Having won the UEFA Champions League with FC Porto (2004) and FC Internazionale (2010), Mourinho could become the first coach to win the trophy with three different clubs as a coach. This would be a significant achievement along that which he succeeded in doing this year in becoming one of only four coaches to win a league championship in four different countries.

Spain: Barcelona thrash Vallecano before World challenge

Posted in European Football by peterbein on November 30, 2011

Alexis SanchezFC Barcelona won their final La Liga match on Tuesday night before flying out to Japan for the FIFA Club World Cup.

Goals from Alexis Sanchez (2), David Villa and Lionel Messi gave the Spanish and European champions a comfortable 4-0 victory at home to Rayo Vallecano. The win meant that Barcelona reduced the gap between themselves and league leaders Real Madrid to three points but the capital side do have the advantage of a game in hand.

FC Barcelona will now fly out to Japan in order to prepare for their FIFA Club World Cup semi-final match on December 15th, where they will meet the winners of the quarter-final tie between African champions Espérance Tunis and Asian champions Al Sadd in Yokohama.

Europe: Real and Benfica seal top spot amid derby triumphs (+video)

Posted in European Football by peterbein on November 27, 2011
Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice from the penalty spot against Atletico

Real Madrid (Played 13, Points 34) took the initiative in the Spanish league last night as a 4-1 derby success at home to local rivals Atlético de Madrid was sweetened by a defeat to champions FC Barcelona whose 1-0 defeat to Getafe saw them go six points behind los Blancos at the top of the table. Next door in Portugal, SL Benfica (Played 11, Points 27) have provided themselves with a platform to challenge for the title this season by defeating local rivals Sporting by a narrow 1-0 scoreline.

In the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu last night local honours were once again afforded to Real Madrid who haven’t lost a league match against Atlético since 1999. The visitors did shock the home support by taking the lead through Adrián after quarter of an hour but that would be as good as it got for Los Rojiblancos who would see their goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois shown the red card for bringing down Karim Benzema in the box allowing Cristiano Ronaldo to equalize from the penalty spot in the 24th minute. The game ended 1-1 at the break but, not surprisingly, Real took advantage of the extra man to stamp their authority on the game in the second half. Goals from Ángel di María, Gonzalo Higuaín and another penalty for Ronaldo, which brought a red card heading in Diego Godín’s direction, capped off a good night for the home side whose 4-1 victory cemented top spot for at least a couple of hours until the result in the neighbouring suburbs of Getafe was known. A good night soon became a great one with the news later on that FC Barcelona had gone down to a 1-0 defeat to FC Getafe and the six point advantage had been preserved. Juan Valera’s goal midway through the second half proved the killer blow for Barcelona who now must look over their shoulder at the oncoming Valencia CF whose 2-1 defeat away to Rayo Vallecano brought los Che to within one point of the champions.

In neighbouring Portugal the Lisbon derby was played out with all the usual tension one would expect from a Benfica v Sporting game. The match was settled by Javi García with a goal just three minutes before half-time but it was far from plain sailing for the Eagles who saw Oscar Cardozo sent off for a second bookable offence in the 63rd minute. The win was Benfica’s sixth on the trot against their local rivals in all competitions and allowed them the opportunity to enjoy sole possession of top spot in the Super Liga for at least 24 hours until defending champions FC Porto play at home to Sporting Braga this evening. Benfica have 27 points from eleven games but FC Porto will draw level should they claim all three points tonight.

Spain: Barcelona claim 21st championship

Posted in European Football by peterbein on May 12, 2011

La Liga TrophyFC Barcelona have won a third successive league title, their 21st overall, with a 1-1 draw away at Levante UD securing the point they needed to seal the title. They currently lead the table from Real Madrid by eight points with just two games to play.

Mali international Seydou Keita scored Barcelona’s goal in the 28th minute only to see Felipe Caicedo equalize five minutes before half-time after a defensive mix-up between Gerard Pique and keeper Victor Valdes. Nonetheless the draw helped the Catalan giants seal the ninth trophy since 2008-09 under the tutelage of coach Pep Guardiola.

Once again Lionel Messi was the player of the season for the Blaugrana having so far notched 31 goals in La Liga this term, only Cristiano Ronaldo scoring more. But with plenty of goals from all areas this Barcelona team continually threatens to dominate the game for years to come and, with the domestic title sealed, allows Guardiola to rest his players ahead of the club’s date at Wembley Stadium against Maanchester United in the UEFA Champions League final on May 28th.

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European Leagues Round-Up

Posted in European Football by peterbein on May 9, 2010
Meisterschale

FC Bayern have won the Bundesliga title for a record-extending 22nd time

FC Bayern and Chelsea were amongst the teams crowned national champions in Europe this weekend whilst Italy’s champions-elect FC Internazionale have been taken to the wire by AS Roma who will complete the Serie A season next weekend. In other leagues Real Madrid and FC Barcelona also will fight it out on the last day in Spain after both teams won their Saturday night matches against Athletic Bilbao and Sevilla CF respectively.

FC Bayern München had pretty much sealed the title after the penultimate round of games after they had beaten VfL Bochum at the same time their only title challengers FC Schalke 04 were going down to home defeat against Werder Bremen. On the last day FC Bayern travelled to the German capital to face a Hertha BSC side who were already facing up to the prospect of Second League football next season. This game proved to be a stroll for the Bavarians with goals from Ivica Olić and a brace from Dutch sensation Arjen Robben sealing a 3-1 win in the Olympiastadion where FC Bayern have the chance to complete a domestic double against Werder Bremen in next weekend’s DFB Pokal (German Cup final). Schalke 04 could only draw 0-0 away at 1.FSV Mainz 05 to put a disappointing end to their campaign whilst Werder Bremen gave themselves a boost before the cup final by gaining a point at home to bitter local northern rivals Hamburger SV and clinch the third UEFA Champions League place. Bayer 04 Leverkusen, Borussia Dortmund and a rejuvenated VfB Stuttgart will take their places in the UEFA Europa League next season. As well as Hertha BSC the 2.Liga will be joined by VfL Bochum next season with the possibility of 1.FC Nürnberg joining them should they lose a promotion/relegation play-off to FC Augsburg.

In England it was a topsy-turvy campaign in the Premier League with the leadership changing hands on no fewer than twenty two occasions during the campaign. Thankfully for the Blues of Chelsea FC it didn’t turn out to be twenty three as the Stamford Bridge side won with considerable ease against Wigan Athletic by eight goals to nil. A hat-trick for Didier Drogba and a brace for Nicolas Anelka was supplemented by solitary strikes by Frank Lampard, Solomon Kalou and Ashley Cole to give Chelsea their fourth English championship, their first since the days of Jose Mourinho in 2006. Present Chelsea coach Carlo Ancelotti has a real chance to win the Double in his first season in charge should the Blues do, as expected, win next weekend’s FA Cup final against Portsmouth FC at Wembley Stadium. Chelsea’s title rivals Manchester United saw off Stoke City 4-0 at Old Trafford but the Red Devils only have the League Cup to show for their efforts in the 2009-10 campaign. The top two will be joined by Arsenal FC and Tottenham Hotspur in next season’s UEFA Champions League while Manchester City, Aston Villa and a very disappointing Liverpool FC will be playing UEFA Europa League football next term. At the bottom of the table Portsmouth FC’s relegation was confirmed some time ago and they will be joined in the Championship (second tier) by Hull City and Burnley FC who go straight back down after their maiden Premier League appearance.

SL Benfica sealed their 32nd championship title in Portugal’s Liga Sagres thansk to an Oscar Cardozo double which gave the Eagles a 2-1 home win over Rio Ave. At the same time their only title rivals Sporting Braga could only muster a 1-1 draw on the island of Madeira against a determined Nacional side who ensured that the league title would’ve gone to Benfica even had the league leaders had surprisingly lost at home as Braga needed all three points coupled with a Benfica defeat to win the title. In any case Sporting Braga can be very proud of their efforts as they finished second and, thus, qualify for the UEFA Champions League next season. Deposed champions FC Porto finished three points further back in third and will only play in UEFA Europa League next season along with Sporting Lisbon and Marítimo. At the bottom last season’s surprise package SC Leixões were relegated along with Os Belenenses, both of whom will play in the Liga de Honra next season.

Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi was amongst the scorers in FC Barcelona's 3-2 win at Sevilla CF.

Title races in Spain and Italy must be sorted out on the final day of the season as both the main challengers in both countries won their penultimate fixtures this weekend. On Saturday in Spain both defending champions FC Barcelona and arch-rivals Real Madrid won tough fixtures against Sevilla CF (3-2) and Athletic Bilbao (5-1) respectively. Pep Guardiola’s FC Barcelona side were coasting to a 3-0 lead thanks to goals from Messi, Bojan and Pedro before they allowed the Andalucians back into the game with two goals in the space of sixty seconds from Fredi Kanouté and Luis Fabiano to give the Blaugrana a real scare but the visitors held out for three very important points. Real Madrid were being held at one all with a little under twenty minutes to go before Gonzalo Higuaín opened the floodgates for los Blancos who went on to record a 5-1 win and keep up the pressure on the Catalans. Next week sees FC Barcelona at home to Valladolid and Real Madrid away at Malaga FC on what should be an exciting final day’s action.

In Italy FC Internazionale, who won the Coppa Italia final against AS Roma earlier in the week, thought that they were going to celebrate their fifth straight Scudetto as they were beating Chievo 4-1 with goals from Mantovani (own goal), Cambiasso, Milito and Balotelli, giving the Nerazzurri a healthy advantage whilst nearest challengers AS Roma were losing 1-0 at home to Cagliari Calcio. But in the last twenty minutes Chievo pulled two goals back to give Inter a scare and AS Roma’s talismanic captain Francesco Totti scored twice to give the Giallorossi hope of winning the title with one game left. Next Sunday’s action sees Inter away to already relegated Siena and AS Roma away at Chievo and many will fancy the Nerazzurri to do the domestic Double before meeting up with FC Bayern in the UEFA Champions League on Saturday, May 22nd.

El Gran Clásico: Barça regain advantage over Real Madrid

Posted in European Football by peterbein on April 11, 2010
Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi scored the first goal in FC Barcelona's 2-0 win at title rivals Real Madrid

The game didn’t quite manage to live up to the hype but it still provided an important outcome as FC Barcelona won the latest version of “El Gran Clásico” with a 2-0 victory away at eternal rivals Real Madrid CF thanks to goals from Lionel Messi and Pedro either side of half-time. The win gives Barça a three point lead at the top of La Liga with seven matches left to play and although the title is far from over the Catalans do have the psychological advantage of having the better head-to-head record over Los Blancos having won both encounters against Real Madrid this season. Those results will decide the title in the event of both teams finishing level on points this season.

Although the headlines will be dominated by Messi’s contribution more credit should be given to the role played by Xavi Hernández who further cemented his position as one of the world’s great playmakers, whose distribution in this encounter was as near to faultless as it could get. His beautifully timed chip over to Messi in the 33rd minute allowed the Argentinian superstar to control the ball on his chest before steering it past Real Madrid keeper Iker Casillas from just in front of goal. The home side had the chance to equalize not long after but Xabi Alonso could only manage to head over the bar from close range when the goal was at his mercy. Despite the statistics showing that Real Madrid had the most chances in the first half FC Barcelona were far from troubled in a game which they controlled with their superior possession and strong defence. The game was practically over as a contest when Xavi (who else?) provided the killer pass to Pedro which the young starlet beautifully shot low past Casillas in the 56th minute to double Barça’s lead. Having scored in every competition in FC Barcelona’s sextuple winning year Pedro has now also scored his first goal in “El Gran Clásico”, a record that any player would love to have at the end of his career, never mind a 22 year old.

At this point Real Madrid decided that they needed to attack and, for a while, they did create a couple of chances but the ever-improving Barcelona custodian Victor Valdes was comfortably controlling everything that Real threw at him, whether it be crosses into the box or shots from long range. Even Real Madrid’s £80 million (€94m) signing Cristiano Ronaldo was easily shut out by the Barcelona rearguard. His trademark free-kicks failed to trouble the keeper or the wall in front of him and his impact on the game was limited. As Real Madrid chased the game their opponents were able to soak up any pressure and hit the home side on the counter attack. Xavi provided Lionel Messi twice in the last twenty minutes of the game with a pair of fantastic opportunities which Messi should’ve scored but for some good goalkeeping by Spain’s numer one Casillas. Very late in the game it looked like Real Madrid’s talisman Raul had finally provided them with a lifeline but his goal was chalked off becuase of a handball by substitute Karim Benzema, a decision the Frenchman was seen to clearly disagree with by gesturing at the linesman. At the end of the game there were just four hundred people within the capacity 80.000 crowd who were celebrating up in the heavens of Madrid’s Santiago Bernabéu stadium as FC Barcelona had secured the win which takes them one step closer to a 20th Spanish league title.

Europe: Easter Round-Up

Posted in European Football by peterbein on April 4, 2010
Maik Franz

Maik Franz scored the winning goal for Eintracht Frankfurt in their 3-2 home win over title-chasing Bayer Leverkusen

The European football scene is being kept on edge with many of the major leagues potentially going all the way in the hunt for the various national championships across the continent. “Stoppage Time – International Football Blog” reviews the Easter weekend.

FC Bayern München went into the 29th Matchday of the German Bundesliga two points behind their opponents Schalke 04 in the table but had beaten the Gelsenkirchen side in the DFB Pokal (German Cup) semi-finals recently and were determined to repeat the winning feeling. After a tight opening period the match came to life in the 25th minute when Franck Ribéry shot from distance to give Bayern the lead which was doubled only a minute later with Bayern taking advantage of some terrible defending from Rafinha allowing youngster Thomas Müller to shoot home from close-range. The league’s top scorer Kevin Kuranyi pulled one back for Schalke 04 but, try as they might, they couldn’t find an equalizer against a Bayern team playing most of the game with ten men after Hamit Altintop was sent-off just before half-time.

In the other game affecting Germany’s title race Bayer 04 Leverkusen’s chances of championship success were reduced further having lost four of their last five games. The latest setback came against an Eintracht Frankfurt side who are serious contenders for a UEFA Europa League spot after a thrilling 3-2 win over the title chasers. After Selim Teber had given Eintracht the lead from the penalty spot after 28 minutes it was Stefan Kießling who gave the visitors the lead with strikes on 33 and 46 minutes. But life is never dull in Frankfurt this season and die Adler (The Eagles) came back through an incredible long-range strike from Caio (62 mins) and an overhead kick from Maik Franz (pictured) two minutes from time to secure the three points for Eintracht who have now won their last three games whilst Bayer 04 Leverkusen now lie six points behind FC Bayern with five games to play.

In England’s Premier League the top two, Manchester United and Chelsea, faced-off at Old Trafford with the visitors seemingly unable to afford a defeat against the champions if they were to keep the title race going. United led the table by one point before the game but Chelsea were to emerge after it with a two point advantage after they became only the second team to beat United at Old Trafford in the Premier League this season with a 2-1 victory. Goals from Joe Cole and Didier Drogba, albeit a dubious one in the latter case, gave Chelsea a 2-0 lead before Federico Macheda pulled one back for the Red Devils with nine minutes left to play but there were to be no further goals and Chelsea emerged back on top of the table. Arsenal FC made hard work of their 1-0 victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers with Arsène Wenger’s men scoring five minutes into second half stoppage time thanks to substitute Nicklas Bendtner allowing The Gunners to move back to within three points of Chelsea and one behind Manchester United in the table. With five matches remaining anything can happen in what is one of the most intriging title races in English football for many years.

All fixtures in Serie A were moved forward to Saturday as is traditional on Easter weekend in Italy. It was to be a good day for all the three title chasers, Internazionale FC, AS Roma, and AC Milan with each chalking up wins over Bologna, Bari and Cagliari respectively. Inter easily disposed of Bologna 3-0 thanks to goals from Thiago Motta (2) and Mario Balotelli to ensure that the Nerazzurri would remain on top for at least one week more. AS Roma had Mirko Vučinić to thank as he scored the only goal in the game away at Bari whose faint hopes at chasing a UEFA Europa League spot may just have faded with this defeat. AC Milan had a tough encounter on the island of Sardinia against a mid-table Cagliari side who were determined to make life difficult for the Rossoneri coming from behind twice in the first half before an unfortunate own goal from Davide Astori sealed the deal for AC Milan just before half-time. With six matches to play in Serie A and only three points between the top three sides this could also be an interesting year for Italian football.

FC Girondins de Bordeaux seem to be losing the plot in France’s Ligue 1 having gone down to another defeat on Saturday, this time losing 2-1 at home against AS Nancy. Youssouf Hadji and Issiar Dia secured the three points for Nancy as Bordeaux, whose solitary strike was scored by Fernando Cavenaghi, have now lost seven matches this season and have now been overtaken at the top of the standings although they do still have two games in hand. Olympique Lyonnais, who defeated FC Girondins in the Champions League earlier in the week, went top with a 2-1 away at Stade Rennais thanks to goals from Michel Bastos and Lisandro Lopez whilst Montpellier HSC also went above Bordeaux into second place having secured a point away at AS Monaco in a goalless stalemate. Olympique de Marseille, fresh from winning the Coupe de la Ligue final last weekend, moved into joint third with a 1-0 win at home to Racing Lens thanks to Brandão’s 22nd minute strike. On Sunday AJ Auxerre missed the chance to go outright top of the table when they mustered a 1-1 draw at home to Paris Saint Germain.

Real Madrid and FC Barcelona continue to set the pace in La Liga with both teams easily victorious in their Matchday 30 fixtures. FC Barcelona got the weekend off to a predictable start when disposing of the weak challenge of Athletic Bilbao by four goals to one. On Sunday Real Madrid, thanks once again to Cristiano Ronaldo and Gonzalo Higuain, went back to the top of the table after a 2-0 away win against Racing Santander. In Denmark on Thursday the top of the table clash went the way of defending champions FC København who consolidated their lead at the top of the SAS Superligæn with a 2-0 home win over nearest challengers Odense Boldklub. Goals from Dame N’Doye and Jesper Grønkjær have allowed “FCK” to move further ahead of “OB” with a four point margin separating the two sides with nine matches left to play. There was also a big clash between the top two in Belgium where RSC Anderlecht and Club Brugge shared the goals and the points with their game in the Jupiler League championship play-off group finishing in a 2-2 draw. Les Mauves maintain their eight point lead over Club Brugge with seven matches left to go in the season. Things remained the same in the Netherlands with wins for all of the top three as FC Twente beat VVV Venlo 2-0, AFC Ajax Amsterdam squeaked past Den Haag 1-0 with a 93rd minute winner from Toby Alderweireld and PSV Eindhoven defeated Willem II Tilburg thanks to a late penalty from Balázs Dzsudzsák. With four games left FC Twente lead the table four points ahead of Ajax and a point further ahead of PSV Eindhoven.

Title races hot up all over Europe

Posted in European Football by peterbein on March 15, 2010
Stefan Kießling

Stefan Kießling scored two goals for Bayer Leverkusen in their 4-2 home win over Hamburger SV

As the season comes to the business end in many countries throughout Europe there are some very interesting title chases developing. Stoppage Time provides the latest news after another weekend of top quality action on the continent:

The German Bundesliga, more often than not, provides a tight finish and this season could continue that trend as the top three teams all won this weekend. On Friday night Schalke 04 got the weekend under way with a 2-1 home victory over VfB Stuttgart thanks to goals from Edu and Kevin Kuranyi. Twenty-four hours later FC Bayern retained the number one spot with a hard-fought 2-1 win over struggling SC Freiburg. After Cedric Makiadi had given Freiburg a shock lead the Bavarians left it late before Dutch international Arjen Robben performed a one-man rescue act with goals on 76 and 83 minutes, the latter from the penalty spot, to put Bayern back on top. On Sunday Germany’s top scorer Stefan Kießling increased his tally by two goals as his Leverkusen side eventually saw off a spirited Hamburger SV side by 4-2.

In England all three title contenders managed wins to keep the title race interesting. On Saturday Chelsea FC easily disposed of a weak West Ham United side 4-1 thanks in part to two goals from Ivorian ace Didier Drogba. In the late game Arsenal FC had to rely on a last-minute winner from Niklas Bendtner to give The Gunners a 2-1 win over relegation-threatened Hull City, who played all of the second half with ten men after George Boateng was sent off. On Sunday Manchester United eased their way to a 3-0 win over Fulham FC at Old Trafford with in-form Wayne Rooney scoring twice to increase his tally of goals for the season to thirty-two. Dimitar Berbatov sealed the deal with an 89th minute strike to give the leadership back to United who have a two-point lead over both Chelsea and Arsenal but United have played one game more than Chelsea.

In Spain both title protagonists Real Madrid and Barcelona recored victories to keep up their domination of the La Liga. Gonzalo Higuaín scored a hat-trick and Cristiano Ronaldo scored the other as Los Blancos recorded a 4-1 win over Valladolid to remain on the same points as champions FC Barcelona whose 3-0 home victory against Valencia CF saw Lionel Messi score a hat-trick. In the fight for UEFA Champions League places fourth place Sevilla dropped more points at home as they could only muster a 1-1 draw against Deportivo La Coruña. Fazio’s opener for the home side on 21 minutes was cancelled out by Adrian three minutes later to leave the Andalusian side frustrated. 

In the Netherlands FC Twente Enschede were the big winners of the weekend. Not only did they triumph 3-1 at home to ADO Den Haag, Bryan Ruiz scoring a brace for the home side, but the leaders saw the gap remain at five points between themselves and PSV Eindhoven who were demolished by an ever-improving Ajax Amsterdam by 4-1. In France things are a lot tighter after this weekend’s games. Champions Girondins de Bordeaux could only muster a 0-0 draw away at AS Monaco whilst second place Montpellier shared a 1-1 draw at home to AJ Auxerre. In the top six only Lille OSC were victorious as they defeated Grenoble 1-0 thanks to a Bostjan Cesar own goal. Only three points separate Bordeaux in first place from Olympique de Marseille in sixth, who failed to capitalise on most of their rivals inability to gain three points as they could only draw 1-1 away at Toulouse FC. Italy’s Serie A also took an unexpected twist with champions Inter going down to a surpise 3-1 away defeat at Catania whilst their city rivals and chief challengers AC Milan won 1-0 at home to Chievo thanks to a last-minute Clarence Seedorf winner although David Beckham’s Achilles tendon rupture made the headlines as the severity of his injury has ended his season. Elsewhere in Italy AS Roma dropped two points in their chase for lo Scudetto being involved in an exciting 3-3 draw away at struggling Livorno Calcio.

Euro Leagues Round-Up: Part 1

Posted in European Football by peterbein on March 1, 2010
Danny Koevermans

Danny Koevermans scored twice for Eredivisie leaders PSV Eindhoven in their 5-1 triumph over RKC Waalwijk

With international football taking place on Wednesday “Stoppage Time” today focuses on eight of Europe’s top leagues, with another ten tomorrow, in order to give you the latest on how each of the major championships are shaping up after this weekend’s games:

ENGLAND (1st – Chelsea 28 games played/61 points; 2nd – Man.United 28/60; 3rd – Arsenal FC 28/58)

With Manchester United in League Cup final duty on Sunday, league leaders Chelsea had a fantastic opportunity to increase their lead at the top of the Premier League to four points. However they came up against an ambitious Manchester City side who still harbour hopes of finishing in a Champions League place. Despite the build-up to the game being mainly centred on the private lives of former team-mates John Terry and Wayne Bridge the game will be remembered for an amazing City performance as they cruised their way to a 4-2 win. A goal three minutes before half-time from Frank Lampard gave Chelsea the lead but two goals each from Carlos Tévez and Craig Bellamy stunned the home side with Lampard scoring a last-minute penalty to give the scoreline some respectability. In other games Arsenal’s 3-1 win away at Stoke City was overshadowed by the broken leg sustained to Aaron Ramsey after a tackle from Stoke captain Ryan Shawcross, who left the pitch in tears after the incident following a red card. Tottenham Hotspur beat Everton 2-1 at White Hart Lane thanks to goals from Roman Pavlyuchenko and Luka Modrić whilst Liverpool beat Blackburn Rovers by the same scoreline at Anfield with Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres securing three points for the Reds who are only one point behind Spurs in the quest for Champions League football next season.

NETHERLANDS (1st – PSV Eindhoven 25/65; 2nd – FC Twente 25/64; 3rd – Ajax Amsterdam 25/58)

The Eredivisie is hotting up with PSV Eindhoven and FC Twente fighting it out all the way and Ajax hanging on by their coat tails. PSV easily defeated bottom club RKC Waalwijk 5-1 at Philips Stadion with Danny Koevermans (pictured) scoring a brace. Steve McClaren’s FC Twente are not giving up, though they did struggle to a 2-1 win at home to NEC Nijmegen. Bryan Ruiz, the club’s top scorer with 17 goals, gave the home side all three points with the winning strike just five minutes from time. Ajax are finally coming into a good run of form under new coach Martin Jol and they dispatched the challenge from FC Utrecht with great ease winning 4-0. The League’s main marksman Luis Suárez bagged two goals for the Amsterdammers who have claimed 23 points in the last nine games.

FRANCE (1st – FC Girondins de Bordeaux 24/51; 2nd – Montpellier 26/51; 3rd – Olympique Lyonnais 26/49)

Ligue 1 is shaping up quite nicely as the champions FC Girondins de Bordeaux are top of the pile with six points separating them from sixth place AJ Auxerre. However the league leaders didn’t play this weekend so they still have two games in hand on nearest challengers Montpellier who beat Rennes 3-1 at home on Saturday with Joris Marveaux scoring twice. Third place Olympique Lyonnais are keeping up the challenge for their eighth title in nine years with a 2-0 defeat of Côte d’Azur outfit OGC Nice. On Sunday the whole nation’s attention turned to le Classique as Olympique de Marseille easily dispatched arch-rivals Paris Saint Germain 3-0 at the Parc des Princes thanks to goals from Hatem Ben Arfa, Lucho González and Benoît Cheyrou to send the Marseillais up to fourth while PSG linger in mid-table obscurity.

GERMANY (1st – FC Bayern München 24/52; 2nd – Bayer Leverkusen 24/50; 3rd – Schalke 04 Gelsenkirchen 24/48)

After weeks of chasing, FC Bayern are back on top of the Bundesliga after beating fourth place Hamburger SV 1-0 in the Allianz Arena thanks to a stunning strike from Franck Ribéry with twelve minutes of the game left. On Saturday Leverkusen could only manage yet another draw at home to 1.FC Köln, their eleventh in the Bundesliga this season, in a goalless stalemate. The usual jibes about “Neverkusen” are coming back to haunt the second placed team, who have recently been dubbed “Meister der Unentschieden” (‘Champions of Draws’) by one German paper. Schalke 04 beat their rivals Borussia Dortmund 2-1 at home on Friday night in the big Ruhr derby. Benedikt Höwedes and Ivan Rakitić scored the goals for the “Null Vier”, coming from behind after Dortmund’s Nuri Sahin had given die Schwarzgelben (Yellow and Blacks) the lead from the penalty spot on 47 minutes. Werder Bremen beat 1.FSV Mainz 2-1 to consolidate sixth place whilst seventh place Eintracht Frankfurt were defeated away at their “Angstgegner” (bogey team) VfB Stuttgart, the resurgent Swabians coming from behind at the end of the first half thanks to two goals from in-form Cacau.

SPAIN (1st – FC Barcelona 24/61; 2nd – Real Madrid CF 24/59; 3rd – Valencia CF 24/46)

Lionel Messi saved Barça’s blushes with a goal six minutes from time to preserve the Blaugrana’s two point lead at the top of La Liga. Earlier on Saturday night Real Madrid had easily seen off the challenge from Tenerife on the island with a 5-1 win with two goals from Gonzalo Higuaín and a strike apiece for Ronaldo (penalty), Kaká and Raúl. This meant that los Blancos were top of the table for at least two hours during Barcelona’s home game against Malaga. After a goalless first half the Camp Nou were getting impatient following some resilient Malaga defending. Finally the deadlock was broken thanks to Pedro in the 69th minute but within twelve minutes the visitors shocked the home supporters thanks to a equalizing goal from Valdo. With nine minutes left Barça needed a saviour and, as ever, it was the Argentine wonder who stepped up to the plate tapping home from short range on 84 minutes. In other games Atletico Madrid came from behind at home to Valencia to impressively seal a 4-1 although it did help that los Che had Carlos Marchena and Miguel sent off. Two goals for Diego Forlán saw him take his season’s tally for twelve with Kun Agüero and Jurado adding one apiece for good measure. Fourth place Sevilla could only draw 0-0 at home to Athletic Bilbao.

ITALY (1st – FC Internazionale 26/58; 2nd – AC Milan 26/54; 3rd – AS Roma 26/51)

The Serie A title race seems to look over one minute and looks interesting the next. Thankfully after this weekend’s action it looks once again like the latter as AC Milan kept up the chase on local neighbours FC Internazionale with only four points separating the Milanese giants. Alexandre Pato was the star for the Rossoneri scoring twice in the first half in AC Milan’s 3-1 win against Atalanta whilst Inter were involved in a close match away at Udinese Calcio. Pepe scored for the home side after just two minutes but Inter were ahead just nineteen minutes later thanks to Mario Balotelli and Maicon. Diego Milito scored on the edge of half-time but Udinese, thanks to an Antonio de Natale penalty, pulled one back early in the second half. Mercifully for Jose Mourinho his Inter team manged to hold on for three points but they do seem to be in a battle to keep hold of lo Scudetto. Another important game took place in Naples where local side Napoli took on AS Roma in the ‘Derby of the South’. Julio Baptista (penalty) and Mirko Vučinić seemed to have won the game for Roma but the Neapolitans didn’t lie down and got their reward with goals from Germán Denis (75 minutes) and Marik Hamsik (penalty 90th min.) denying the visitors two points with the game finishing 2-2.

PORTUGAL (1st – SL Benfica 21/52; 2nd – Sporting Braga 21/51; 3rd – FC Porto 21/43)

The Liga Sagres has looked like a two-horse race for some time and this assumption was further cemented after Sporting Lisbon defeated third place FC Porto 3-0 in Sunday’s big match. The Lions, who knocked out Everton FC from the UEFA Europa League three days before, easily had the Dragons of Porto on the ropes by the 47th minute thanks to goals from Yannick (6 min.), Marat Izmailov (45th.) and Miguel Veloso (47th.) kept Sporting in fourth place in the table, a distant twenty points behind leaders Benfica. The leaders had an easy 4-0 away win at Leixoes thanks mainly to a hat-trick from Angel di Maria. This kept the Eagles one point ahead of surprise contenders Braga who went behind early at home to 13th place Olhanense but who came from behind to secure a 3-1 win with strikes from Matheus, Evaldo and Albert Meyong Ze.

SCOTLAND (1st – Glasgow Rangers 26/61; 2nd – Glasgow Celtic 27/51; 3rd – Dundee United 27/45)

The Scottish Premier League title race is all but over after a thrilling climax in yesterday’s Old Firm between Rangers and Celtic at Ibrox Park. After ninety goalless minutes the game was decided in stoppage time thanks to a dramatic last-ditch winner from Rangers’ Maurice Edu. The three points has all but sealed a 53rd league championship for Rangers as they currently lead the SPL with a ten point lead and a game in hand. Third place Dundee United are in pole position to challenge for a Champions League place should Celtic slip up having easily defeated Falkirk FC 3-0 but Hibernian FC aren’t far behind, just one point behind United in fourth spot, but they’ll have been disappointed to drop two points at home to St. Johnstone in a pitiful 1-1 draw.