Weekend Football Review
It has been a good football weekend for the Cosafa region with its clubs excelling in the Caf Confederation Cup, while Manchester United threw a spanner in the works in as far as the Premier League title run-in is concerned.
Barcelona survived a massive Real Sociedad scare to keep things interesting in the La Liga title race, which Real Madrid still lead by two points ahead of the much awaited El Clasico.
There were ugly scenes in France as the Lyon and Bastia match had to be abandoned following spectator trouble, where home team fans attacked the visiting players, among those a former Manchester United forward.
Mamelodi Sundowns continued with their ascendance on the league table, climbing up to third after a narrow win over Free State Stars while Cape Town City remain top, closely followed by Kaizer Chiefs.
Borussia Dortmund players overcame an emotional roller coaster of what has been a difficult week and it was hard for the team to hold back the tears after their massive win, while Bayern Munich were frustrated to a draw by Bayer Leverkusen.
CHELSEA SLIP, LIVERPOOL GO THIRD
Manchester United blew the Premier League title race wide open with a 2-0 win over lethargic leaders Chelsea, while Liverpool are back in third place after a 1-0 victory at West Bromwich Albion on Sunday.
This, the Blues’ second defeat in their last four league games, leaves them clinging to a four-point lead over second-placed Tottenham, who had piled on the pressure with a 4-0 rout of Bournemouth on Saturday.
After appearing set to cruise to the title for most of the season, Chelsea now face a nerve-jangling final six matches as they try to hold off a strong challenge from their London rivals.
At the Hawthorns, Liverpool play-maker Roberto Firmino settled a scrappy game with a close-range header in first-half stoppage-time to condemn Albion boss Tony Pulis to his first ever home league defeat against the Reds.
Leicester suffered a dispiriting warm-up for their decisive Champions League quarterfinal clash as they squandered a two-goal lead in a 2-2 draw at Crystal Palace.
Hull's hopes of avoiding relegation suffered a blow as they lost 3-1 at Stoke. Third from bottom Swansea were unable to take advantage of Hull's slip as they lost 1-0 at Watford after Etienne Capoue netted in the 42nd minute.
Sunderland remain on the brink of relegation despite salvaging a 2-2 draw against West Ham at the Stadium of Light.
Five things we learnt in the PL Full Results Video Hightlights
CHIEFS KEEP CITY IN CHECK, DOWNS WIN
Kaizer Chiefs have taken a major step up the Absa Premiership log following a trio of matches on Saturday, while their Soweto rivals Orlando Pirates were held to a goalless stalemate.
Chiefs find themselves level on points (and goal difference) at the top of the table with Cape Town City (who hold the number one spot thanks to a greater number of goals scored) after they defeated Chippa United 1-0 at Mbombela Stadium.
Pirates’ clash at Makhulong Stadium against Highlands Park followed soon afterwards, but the Buccaneers were not able to match their rivals' result as they were held 0-0 by the Lions of the North, who moved off the foot of the table thanks to the point garnered.
Ajax Cape Town claimed a valuable away point in their fight against relegation, as they drew 1-1 at Golden Arrows. Abafana Bes’thende went ahead early through Nkanyiso Mngwengwe, but the Urban Warriors struck back late on with a goal from Prince Nxumalo.
Mamelodi Sundowns wrapped up the weekend’s action with a narrow 1-0 win over Free State Stars at the James Motlatsi Stadium on Sunday.
Full Results Video Hightlights
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BARCA SURVIVE SCARE, SEVILLA STUNNED
Lionel Messi kept Barcelona's title hopes alive with two goals and an assist to see off Real Sociedad 3-2 as Spain's top two edged five-goal thrillers ahead of next weekend's El Clasico.
Earlier on Saturday, Isco struck at the death to keep Real Madrid three points clear with a game in hand at the top of the table after twice coming from behind to beat Sporting Gijon 3-2.
Atletico Madrid warmed up for the second leg of their Champions League quarterfinal against Leicester City with a comfortable 3-0 win over rock bottom Osasuna despite missing two penalties in the same game for the second time this season.
Coach Diego Simeone also left out a number of his first-team regulars with top scorer Antoine Griezmann on the bench for the full 90 minutes.
Elsewhere, fourth-placed Sevilla's slump in form continued, but they were grateful to escape with a point from a 0-0 draw at Valencia. A point means Sevilla trail Atletico Madrid by three points in the battle for automatic Champions League qualification in third.
Granada remain seven points off safety with just six games remaining after suffering a 3-0 loss to Celta Vigo. Granada are under the tutelage of former Arsenal skipper Tony Adams, who took temporary charge until the end of the season earlier this week, having previously worked at Granada as an adviser to Chinese owner Jiang Lizhang.
Five things we learnt in La Liga Full Results Video Hightlights
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SUPERSPORT UTD, DIKWENA SHINE IN CAF CC
The field for the Caf Confederation Cup group stage is almost complete, with 15 teams confirmed after Sunday’s six playoff-round matches.
It was a great day for South African contestants Platinum Stars and SuperSport United, who both sealed progression.
The former defeated Ivory Coast side AS Tanda 2-0 in Rustenburg to ensure their tie finished 2-2 on aggregate, before going on to win 5-4 on post-match penalties, while the latter romped to a 5-0 win over Liberia’s Barrack Young Controllers to advance 6-1 on aggregate.
Tanda’s fellow Ivorians ASEC Mimosas are also out of the competition after drawing 0-0 at home to Gabon’s CF Mounana (who won the tie 2-1 on aggregate), while Sudan’s Al Hilal Al-Ubayyid defeated Gambia Ports Authority 3-0 to advance 4-1 on aggregate.
The biggest match of the day saw Algerian giants JS Kabylie host defending champions TP Mazembe in Tizi-Ouzou. The match ended in a goalless stalemate, allowing the DR Congo side to advance 2-0 on aggregate.
Zesco United cruised to the group stage after a 3-0 home win over Enugu Rangers of Nigeria at Levy Mwanawasa Stadium, Ndola on Saturday.
The Zambian club advanced to the mini-league phase of the competition 5-2 on aggregate, to qualify for the lucrative stage of a major continental club championship for a second successive season following their semifinal success in the 2016 Caf Champions League.
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GREEN EAGLES STUN ZANACO TO STAY TOP
Green Eagles returned to the top of the MTN FAZ Super League standings following their 2-1 victory over Zanaco in a week two fixture played at Independence Stadium on Saturday.
Last weekend the Choma-based outfit went to the top of the standings after defeating City of Lusaka 1-0 only to drop on goal difference from Green Buffaloes and Napsa Stars.
There was also victory for newly promoted Konkola Blades, who went up to fifth after they defeated Green Buffaloes 1-0 in their first league match this season thanks to a goal by Frank Chinyama.
Nkwazi and Lusaka Dynamos also played out a 1-1 draw at the Edwin Imboela Stadium with Mwila Kabwe breaking the deadlock on 73 minutes and Mwansa Nsofwa equalising two minutes later for the visitors.
On Sunday, Danny Silavwe equalised with what was virtually the last kick of the match as he converted a free-kick in additional time for Real Nakonde to salvage a point against Forest Rangers in a week two match played at the Levy Mwanawasa Stadium.
The result moved Real Nakonde up to eighth on the standings before three matches involving teams below them were played. Forest Rangers are in 16th position.
MONACO GO THREE POINTS CLEAR
Radamel Falcao came off the bench to turn the game in Monaco's favour as the Ligue 1 leaders recovered from a goal down to beat Dijon 2-1 on Saturday.
Monaco's sixth straight league win allowed them to once again move three points clear at the top from defending champions Paris Saint-Germain, who won 2-0 at Angers on Friday thanks to an Angel Di Maria brace.
Nice are a further point adrift in third after coming from behind to beat Nancy 3-1 earlier on Saturday, although they have played a game more.
There were also wins on Saturday for Guingamp, Lille and Montpellier, with the latter beating Lorient 2-0 to leave the Brittany side still in the bottom three.
Bastia's home game with Lyon in French Ligue 1 was abandoned at half time after supporters of the Corsican side twice invaded the pitch and attacked the visiting players on Sunday.
The trouble -- the second time in four days that Lyon have been caught up in football violence -- saw former Manchester United winger Memphis Depay reportedly among the Lyon players confronted by Bastia fans in ugly scenes.
BVB IN EMOTIONAL WIN, BAYERN HELD
Thomas Tuchel praised Borussia Dortmund's "incredible character" as Saturday's emotional 3-1 home win over Eintracht Frankfurt brought a happy ending to a traumatic week for the German club.
It was Dortmund's first Bundesliga match since the bomb attack on their team bus in mid-week, and some players fought back tears afterwards. It came the same day that Spanish international Marc Bartra, who needed wrist surgery after being injured by flying glass in Tuesday's explosions, was released from hospital.
Runaway league leaders Bayern later endured a frustrating goalless draw at 10-man Bayer Leverkusen as they desperately missed top-scorer Robert Lewandowski, who was suspended.
Leverkusen had Tin Jedvaj sent off for the last 30 minutes, but Bayern could not break down the hosts' defence despite 19 shots on goal -- including having double saves off the line on two separate occasions.
Leipzig, in their first top-flight campaign, are now guaranteed a top-four finish and a crack at the Champions League next season.
Third-placed Hoffenheim also moved a step closer to Champions League qualification after their thrilling 5-3 win at home to Borussia Moenchengladbach.
INTER DENIED MILAN DERBY DELIGHT
Gonzalo Higuain's brace sent Juventus eight points clear in Serie A with a 2-0 win at struggling Pescara on Saturday, as Napoli capitalised on a Roma slip-up to boost their Champions League hopes.
Argentina striker Higuain, who hit a new league record of 36 goals for Napoli last season, took his tally to 23 to trail Roma's Edin Dzeko and Andrea Belotti of Torino by two goals in the 'Capocannoniere' race.
Elsewhere, Lazio's hopes of challenging Napoli for the third Champions League spot were tempered by a 2-2 draw at Genoa, where Luis Alberto hit a last-gasp leveller for Simone Inzaghi's men.
Lazio remain fourth, but now trail Napoli by nine points and sit just one ahead of Atalanta.
Earlier on Saturday, Inter Milan looked to be on their way to victory over AC Milan in the first Chinese-owned city derby following first-half goals from Antonio Candreva and Mauro Icardi.
But the Nerazzurri were pegged back by Alessio Romagnoli's 83rd minute strike and stunned by Cristian Zapata's last-gasp leveller at the San Siro.
Milan remain sixth, two points behind Atalanta, with Inter two points further back.
WHAT THEY SAID?
“We have to think there are six finals from now until the end. The league is open and we have a 50 percent probability to win the league. The pressure is normal and we are lucky to have the pressure. Last season Chelsea had no pressure, 10thplace and you play calm, you are happy. We must play these last six games with great enthusiasm and if we win, we must be proud.” – Chelsea manager Antonio Conte
“The satisfaction if for different reasons. The first reason is, with Liverpool and Manchester City’s victories, if we don’t win today goodbye Premier League top four. We don’t know what can happen in the Europa League, so these three points were phenomenal. The second reason is they are the leader. They are named Chelsea, but they could be named Arsenal or Tottenham. When you beat the leader, it is obviously a good feeling because you feel you are as good or better than them.” – Man United boss Jose Mourinho