BARCELONA slumped to their first Primera Division defeat of the season last night, going down 2-1 at Atletico Madrid.
Pep Guardiola’s men were second best for long periods against an Atletico side who established a 2-0 lead inside 23 minutes thanks to a clinical Diego Forlan strike and a wonderful free-kick from Simao Sabrosa.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic halved the deficit within four minutes but Atletico deservedly held on to secure an impressive win and do city rivals Real Madrid a huge favour in the title race.
Real, who beat Xerez 3-0 on Saturday courtesy of two goals from Ronaldo, are now just two points behind their Catalan rivals, for whom it was a first league defeat of the season, after 22 rounds.
Sevilla capped a productive week with a 1-0 win against Osasuna which moved them back into the Champions League qualifying spots.
Athletic Bilbao’s push for a European place suffered a blow as they were beaten 2-1 in an enthralling encounter at Villarreal.
In the Bundesliga, former Madrid striker Ruud van Nistelrooy was in double form on only his second run out since joining Hamburg on Saturday.
The Dutch forward scored in the 75th and 77th minutes to add to Marcus Berg’s first-half opener to lift Hamburg to a 3-1 win over Stuttgart that maintained their hold on fourth place.
Bayern Munich stretched their winning league run to nine games and 12 overall with a 3-1 win over Dortmund to draw level on points with Bayer Leverkusen, who remain top on goal difference.
Leverkusen, who have topped the table since October, held onto the lead with a 2-1 home win over reigning champions Vfl Wolfsburg.
In Italy’s Serie A, AC Milan warmed up for the visit of Manchester United with a 3-2 victory over Udinese at the San Siro.
Ronaldinho inspired Milan, warming them up for the visit of United tomorrow.
Klaas-Jan Huntelaar scored twice while substitute Alexandre Pato grabbed the other Milan goal.
Napoli and Inter Milan shared the spoils at the Stadio San Paolo last night in a 0-0 draw.
Napoli had enough chances to win several games and struck the woodwork twice on a frustrating night against the defending champions.
Second-placed Roma cut the gap to six points on Saturday with a 4-1 win over Palermo.
Alessandro Del Piero converted a controversial penalty to give Juventus a 3-2 home win over Genoa that lifted the Turin club up to fifth after only their second victory in nine Serie A matches.
Guglielmo Stendardo and Mauro Zarate netted in the second half to hand Lazio a 2-0 win at Parma in Edy Reja’s first game in charge of the Rome side since replacing Davide Ballardini.
In France, Bordeaux restored their three-point lead over Montpellier at the top of Ligue 1 thanks to a 3-1 home success against St Etienne last night.
Montpellier had moved level with Bordeaux after a narrow 1-0 victory over bottom side Grenoble on Saturday. Victor Hugo Montano scored the only goal of the game after 28 minutes as Rene Girard’s side picked up their 15th win of the season.
Lille kept up their pursuit of the top two with a 3-1 victory over Boulogne.
Lyon are fourth after a 1-0 win over Lens, Cesar Delgado scoring the only goal.
In Portugal, Leixoes held Porto to a scoreless draw on Saturday. Porto play Arsenal on Wednesday night.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved