Saturday,16 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1243, (23 - 29 April 2015)
Saturday,16 December, 2017
Issue 1243, (23 - 29 April 2015)

Ahram Weekly

The end is near

As the results come in from the Africa Cup of Nations in Equatorial Guinea, fans are promised some thrilling third-round games, says Marawan Zayed

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Al-Ahram Weekly

Chelsea took another major step towards winning the English Premier League title this season after defeating Manchester United 1-0 at home at Stamford Bridge.

Jose Mourinho’s side were not at their very best on the day but we’ve got used to Mourinho’s know-how of winning games, especially the big ones, even when his teams are not at their best. After winning seven games in a row including a 2-1 over Liverpool away from home, many football pundits in England expected Manchester United to grab at least a point against Chelsea, but the extraordinary Eden Hazard had the final say as his fine strike separated the two sides.

Wayne Rooney missed an early sitter and United seemed closer to opening the deadlock until a magnificent back-heel pass from Oscar sent Hazard clear and the Belgian slotted the ball home under the legs of De Gea. Man United didn’t seem too fazed when they conceded seven minutes before half time; they came back more determined in the second half. However, 11 attempts on goal for them versus five for Chelsea and 71 per cent ball possession for them versus 29 per cent for Chelsea meant absolutely nothing if they could not find the back of the net, which was the case.

Mourinho and his players were visibly delighted after the game as they knew the 10-point gap between them and second placed Arsenal with just six games to go gives them a very comfortable lead at the summit. The title is surely theirs to lose and only a miracle will prevent them from winning it.

Leaving England and moving to Italy, two fine goals from the evergreen Carlos Tevez and the reliable Leonardo Bonucci proved that no team in Italy can rival Juventus at the moment. Lazio entered the game in the form of their lives, winning games with ease and scoring for fun, while Juventus played just a few days ago in the Champions League against Monaco in Italy and won by a single goal.

Many expected Lazio to nick a win or at least a draw but as was the case in England with Chelsea, Juventus didn’t seem interested in anything other than winning. A goal from Tevez in the 17th minute and another from Bonucci 10 minutes later were enough to kill any ambitions inside Lazio players.

The win saw Juventus open the gap to 15 points between them and Lazio.

In Spain, the thrilling title race between Barcelona and Real Madrid is still on as both teams managed to collect maximum points this week. First Barcelona was made to work extremely hard and had their goalkeeper Bravo to thank after defeating Valencia 2-0 at home. The terrific Luis Suarez opened the scoring after just 50 seconds but that was nearly the only good or right thing they did in the first half. Less than 10 minutes after the opener, they conceded a penalty but a very tame effort from Valencia’s captain Daniel Parejo was saved by Bravo who had to make another three top class saves in the first half to prevent his team from conceding the equaliser.

In addition to his saves, Bravo had the right post to thank as Paco Alcacer’s superb turn and shot seemed destined to find the back of the net only to hit the post.

The second half started the same way and Valencia seemed in full control but couldn’t turn their chances into goals until the one and only Lionel Messi sealed the win with a 94th minute goal after Neymar sent him through. Later in the day the pressure was on Real Madrid to win and keep up with the leaders when they faced Malaga. Ronaldo and co seemed determined to take the title race to the wire and won the game 3-1 with Ronaldo grabbing one as well as setting up the other two in addition to missing a penalty.

The result meant no change at the top of the table as Barcelona stayed top four points clear of Real Madrid with six games to go.

Off to France, league leaders PSG ensured they stayed top of the table after defeating Nice 3-1 away from home without star man Ibrahimovic who is suspended for three games. A Javier Pastore brace and a Cavani strike from the spot kick were enough for the Capital side to stay atop after second placed Lyon defeated Bastia 2-0 a day earlier. Both teams have six games remaining and PSG are top with 65 points with Lyon second with 64 points in what promises to be a very thrilling end to the season.

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