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Football | Europe

Manchester United © Action Images

United, Real stay on title track



Manchester United maintained their five-point lead over Manchester City in England while Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi notched-up their 41st goals of La Liga campaign.

ENGLAND

Wayne Rooney fired Manchester United five points clear as his double inspired a 4-0 rout of Aston Villa at Old Trafford.

Rooney opened the scoring with an early penalty and Danny Welbeck increased United's lead before halftime.

England forward Rooney bagged his 31st goal of the season in the second half before Nani's late goal sealed a crucial victory.

Thanks to Rooney's brace, Sir Alex Ferguson's men were able to reestablish a significant lead over title rivals Manchester City with four games left to play.

After their shock midweek defeat at Wigan, and City's 6-1 demolition of Norwich on Saturday, this was the perfect response from United.

Carlos Tevez hit a hat-trick for City but manager Roberto Mancini still insists the title is United's to lose.

In the FA Cup semifinals at Wembley, Liverpool beat Everton 2-1 while Chelsea routed Tottenham 5-1.

SPAIN

Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi took their La Liga goals tally this season to a record-breaking 41 each.

First, Ronaldo broke his own mark of last season by scoring in the 3-1 come-from-behind victory over Sporting Gijon.

Later Saturday, Messi grabbed a brace as Barcelona also hit back from a goal down to defeat Levante 2-1 as the champions stayed four points behind Real with the mouthwatering, season-defining El Clasico to come next weekend.

On a night of landmarks, Real's third goal was their 107th of La Liga this season.

It puts them level with John Toshack's Real Madrid team of the 1989-90 season with Jose Mourinho's side still having five matches to play.

ITALY

All weekend football in Italy was called off following the death of Livorno midfielder Piermario Morosini.

The 25-year-old, on loan from Serie A side Udinese, collapsed on the pitch during a second division game at Pescara and was later pronounced dead from a suspected heart attack in hospital.

FRANCE

Paris Saint-Germain failed to capitalise on leaders Montpellier's slip-up against Lorient after conceding an 87th-minute goal to draw at bottom side Auxerre.

With Montpellier having gone down 2-1 at Lorient earlier in the day, PSG were bidding to draw level on points at the top but Anthony Le Tallec's late equaliser left them two points behind Montpellier with six games to play.

PSG forward Nene had scored in the 23rd minute when he steered the ball past Olivier Sorin to claim his 14th league goal of the campaign.

GERMANY

Defending champions Borussia Dortmund put one hand on the German league title as their 2-1 win at Schalke left them eight points clear at the top with three games left.

With second-placed Bayern Munich being held to a goalless draw at home to Mainz, the Bavarians now have only a slender chance of denying Dortmund a second consecutive title.

Schalke took the lead when Peru forward Jefferson Farfan blasted his shot home from the edge of the penalty area with just nine minutes on the clock.

But the champions roared back as Poland defender Lukasz Piszczek drilled home the equaliser from a seemingly impossible angle on 17 minutes. Dortmund captain Sebastian Kehl then scored the winner on 63 minutes.

NETHERLANDS

Ajax went six points clear after a 3-1 win over De Graafschap while second-placed Alkmaar slumped to a 3-2 loss at PSV Eindhoven.

PORTUGAL

Benfica won a fourth successive Portuguese League Cup with a 2-1 win over Gil Vicente. Rodrigo gave Benfica a 30th-minute lead, but Gil levelled through Ze Luis after 78 minutes.

Substitute Javier Saviola grabbed the winner seven minutes from time.

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