Wayne Rooney made highlight reels around the world Saturday, his wonder goal leading Manchester United to an emphatic 2-1 win over their archrivals Manchester City. The result kept United firmly atop the Premiership table by a full four points over their closest chaser and Rooney’s acrobatic strike may well turn out to be a championship finish.
Article continues below ...
Elsewhere, Barcelona’s winning streak was halted by Sporting Gijon allowing a short-handed Real Madrid to gain ground; Borussia Dortmund’s lead was trimmed by Kaiserlautern in Germany; and AC Milan and Napoli continued their dogfight atop the Serie A table while Inter Milan hit the skids against Juventus.
Rooney called his 78th minute strike the "best ever" in his illustrious career, and he might well be right. Fed by Nani, Rooney uncorked an unstoppable bicycle kick past a stunned Joe Hart to serve notice that United is the team to beat for the Premiership title.
Nani had opened the scoring in the 41st minute for United but a harassing City deservedly drew level when David Silva flukishly put the ball past Edwin van der Sar in the 65th. Until that point, City had been perhaps marginally better, with Silva, Yaya Toure and Micah Richards giving the United back line fits. But with Carlos Tevez well shackled, United made the most of their forays forward, none so spectacularly as Rooney’s sensational winner.
The result probably ended City’s title hopes: they now sit a full eight points off the pace and have played one more game than United. And, for manager Roberto Mancini, the result was even harsher: his expensively assembled squad, helped by the exclusion of Tevez from Argentina’s friendly against Portugal, once again could not win a major game.
At the Emirates, restive Arsenal fans saw a more assured display from their side as Robin van Persie scored twice to give the Gunners a 2-0 victory and keep Arsenal in second place. Beating dead-last Wolves won’t reassure most of the faithful, but it was a vital win after Arsenal’s collapse to a 4-4 draw last week against Newcastle. Man of the match had to be Wolves’ keeper Wayne Hennessey, who at least kept his team in the match on an afternoon when Arsenal looked capable of scoring at will.
Over at the Hawthorns, new manager Roy Hodgson will have been dismayed to see West Bromwich Albion cough up a three-goal lead at the half. New boy Demba Ba led the West Ham fight-back with two goals; Jonathan Spector was a late sub in the match. West Ham actually scored four in the match: Kiwi defender Winston Reid smacked home one for West Brom.
At Bloomfield Road, Brad Friedel’s Aston Villa were lucky to escape with a share of the points in an absorbing encounter with Blackpool that ended 1-1. Jean Makoun was rightly sent off for a vicious two-footed tackle on DJ Campbell that forced the Villains to play with ten men for the final twenty minutes. Michael Bradley made his debut immediately after Makoun’s ejection. In a side note, Sian Massey made her return to the sideline for the first time since Sky Sports sacked commentators Andy Gray and Richard Keys over comments the duo made about the assistant’s gender.
Elsewhere, injury-wracked Tottenham survived an early deficit at Sunderland to take a 2-1 win and leap past Chelsea in the table. Asamoah Gyan had given the Black Cats the lead while Spurs’ defender William Gallas was off the field changing his studs. But Gallas atoned for that howler when he screened ‘keeper Craig Gordon, allowing Michael Dawson to power his header between the Scots’ ‘keeper’s legs. Niko Kranjcar sealed the win three minutes shy of the hour mark.
Birmingham pipped Stoke late thanks to a 93rd minute strike from Nicola Zigic, Liverpool were held to a 1-1 draw with Wigan courtesy of a questionable goal from Steve Gohouri to deal Kenny Dalglish a setback, while Blackburn and Newcastle played to the day’s lone 0-0 draw. Sunday, Stuart Holden’s Bolton downed Tim Howard’s Everton 2-0 in the only game of the day. Clint Dempsey’s Fulham meet Chelsea on Monday.
In Germany, Dormund were held to a 1-1 draw by Kaiserslautern thanks to a last-minute goal from Jan Moravec. Neven Subotic was sent off in the match, leaving the leaders a man short for the final ten minutes. The result left Dortmund ten points clear but gave Bayern Munich and Leverkusen a glimmer of hope, which both teams exploited.
Bayern saw Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery take the field together for the first time this season, then enjoyed a spectacular 4-0 thrashing of Hoffenheim. It took only 90 seconds for Robben to make an impact, setting up Mario Gomez for the Bundesliga’s leading scorer to collect his 17th. Robben would go on to score twice himself while Ribery netted two assists on the day. The result took Bayern into third place just three behind Bayer Leverkusen, who kept up their chase with an easy 3-0 win over Ricardo Clark’s Eintracht Frankfurt. Clark is recovering from a fractured cheekbone.
Elswhere, St. Pauli got a 3-1 win over the awful Borussia Moenchengladbach, leading to the sacking of manager Michael Frontzeck. Sinking Stuttgart dropped a dreadful game to Nurnberg 4-1, Schalke edged Freiburg 1-0 ahead of their Tuesday meeting with Valencia in the Champions League, and Hamburg pipped Wolfsburg 1-0. Sunday, Cologne knocked off Mainz 4-2 while Steve Cherundolo’s Hannover were held 1-1 by Werder Bremen.
In Spain, Barcelona’s record winning run was stopped at 16 games by lowly Sporting Gijon, which perhaps deserved more than a 1-1 draw. It was left to David Villa to rescue the point when he scored with ten minutes left in the match. On Sunday, bitter rivals Real Madrid overcame the 2nd minute sending off of ‘keeper Iker Casillas to down Espanyol and gain ground, trimming Barcelona’s lead to five points. Marcelo was the hero, scoring from an acute angle after Casillas inexplicably raced from his area to kick Jose Callejon and collect a red.
Elsewhere, Atletico Madrid stumbled again against Valencia, falling 2-1 and likely signaling the end of Qique Sanchez Flores’ tenure as manager and Santander beat Sevilla 3-2 with a late strike. Sunday, Villarreal fell 1-0 to Coruna and Osasuna lost 1-0 to Sociedad.
In Italy, AC Milan got a big 4-0 win over Parma with two goals from Robinho but Edinson Cavani kept Napoli in the hunt with two goals in a 2-0 win at sagging Roma. Cavani now leads Serie A’s golden boot race with 20 goals. Lazio stayed in the hunt with a solid 2-0 win over Brescia Sunday, as did Udinese with their 3-0 thrashing of Cesena. But Inter Milan failed to keep up on Sunday, tumbling to Juventus 1-0 behind Alessandro Matri’s goal.
In France, Lille moved a full five points clear with Gervinho leading them to a 2-0 win over Toulouse on Sunday. Saturday, Carlos Bocanegra’s St. Etienne were whipped 4-1 by fourth-place Lyon although it was the American who got the only goal in defeat. Charlie Davies is expected to stay in Washington with D.C. United as loan deal is reportedly close with Sochaux. Without him, Sochaux lost again, 2-1 to Marseille as Andre-Pierre Gignac’s two goals took Olympique up to second overnight. That didn’t last long as Rennes leapt past them on Sunday with a 2-0 win over Nice. Paris Saint-Germain were held to a 0-0 draw by Lens.
In Scotland, Maurice Edu was a 70th minute sub for Rangers as they kept the pressure on Glasgow Celtic with a 6-0 immolation of Motherwell. Fixture congestion remains a huge problem for the Scots as they saw another game postponed – St. Johnstone against Aberdeen – due to that country’s dreadful weather this year. Both Edinbugh sides won, Hearts downing Hamilton Academical 2-0 away and ten-man Hibernian eking out a 2-1 win over Kilmarnock. Sunday, Celtic downed Dundee United 3-1.
Jamie Trecker is a senior writer for FoxSoccer.com covering the UEFA Champions League and the Barclay’s Premier League.