x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

European football round-up: Champions League semi-finalists warm up with wins

Bayern Munich handed out six of the best to Hannover while Borussia Dortmund recorded a comfortable win over Mainz, while in Spain Barcelona and Real Madrid had tougher work-outs against Levante and Real Betis.

Hannover goalkeeper Ron-Robert Zieler is left disconsolate as Arjen Robben, Emre Can and Claudio Pizarro celebrate Bayern Munich's win.
Hannover goalkeeper Ron-Robert Zieler is left disconsolate as Arjen Robben, Emre Can and Claudio Pizarro celebrate Bayern Munich's win.

SPAIN

Barcelona and Real Madrid warmed up for their respective Champions League semi-final first legs with victories in the Primera Division, but neither side had it as easy as they would have liked.

Barcelona, who take on Bayern Munich in Germany on Tuesday, needed an 84th-minute goal from Cesc Fabregas to earn a 1-0 win over Levante at the Nou Camp after David Villa had missed a first-half penalty.

It may not have been the most clinical of performances from a Barca side missing star man Lionel Messi but the victory restored the Catalan club's 13-point lead at the top of the standings after nearest challengers Madrid had beaten Real Betis 3-1 earlier in the evening.

With six games remaining, that means Barca could clinch the title next weekend if they beat Athletic Bilbao away from home and defending champions Madrid slip up against local rivals Atletico at the Vicente Calderón.

More good news to come out of the match for Barcelona was that fullback Eric Abidal made his first start for the club since February 2012, having undergone liver surgery last year.

Earlier, Real Madrid looked well in control of their home clash with Real Betis when Karim Benzema made it 2-0 in the 57th minute to add to Mesut Ozil's opener on the stroke of half-time.

However, Jose Mourinho's men very nearly let that advantage slip with Betis pulling a goal back in the 71st minute through Jorge Molina's penalty before the Andalusian side hit the woodwork in the 87th minute through Ruben Castro.

That was a huge escape for Madrid and they made the most of it with Ozil - in his 150th competition match for the club - netting his second of the night late on with a close-range finish.

The win is just what Madrid would have been hoping for heading into a crucial 10 days which sees them play Borussia Dortmund home and away in the Champions League and also face bitter rivals Atletico in La Liga.

The win came at a cost though with Marcelo and Luka Modric both limping out of the game with injuries.

Valencia, who have finished third behind the big two of Madrid and Barca in each of the last three seasons, gave their Champions League hopes a huge boost with a 5-1 mauling of Malaga.

Four goals in six devastating first-half minutes from Dani Parejo, Roberto Soldado (two) and Sergio Canales set Los Che on their way and Ever Banega completed scoring after Julio Baptista had pulled a goal back for Malaga on the stroke of half-time from a free kick

Valencia are now fifth, a point behind Real Sociedad and three points clear of Malaga in sixth.

In the day's other match Granada drew 1-1 at home with Real Valladolid, Patrick Ebert putting the visitors ahead in the 59th minute and Youssef El Arabi equalising 14 minutes later.

 

PORTUGAL

Porto kept the heat up on Liga leaders Benfica with a 3-0 victory over struggling Moreirense.

Colombia striker Jackson Martinez opened the scoring in the 34th minute and then wrapped things up with his second in the 55th minute moments after Francisco Fernando had made it 2-0.

The victory lifts two-time reigning champions Porto to within one point of Benfica, who face a local derby against Sporting Lisbon later today.

Meanwhile third-placed Pacos Ferreira fought back from a goal down to beat Rio Ave 2-1. Visiting Rio took a 58th-minute lead through Ricardo Tarantini but Pacos recovered to claim the points through strikes from Christopher Hurtado (76) and Andre Leao (80).

 

HOLLAND

PSV Eindhoven capitalised on Ajax's slip against Heerenveen to cut the lead at the top of the Eredivisie to just four points with a 3-1 victory at AZ Alkmaar.

Frank de Boer's reigning champions were held to a 1-1 draw by seventh-placed Heerenveen and Mark Van Bommel responded by scoring first at the AFAS Stadion, his opener arriving in the 36th minute.

Dries Mertens doubled PSV's lead in the 57th minute and Jeremain Lens made the points safe four minutes later, with Aron Johannsson scoring a consolation goal four minutes from time.

Having missed the chance to rein Ajax in when losing 3-2 in last week's head-to-head encounter at the Philips Stadion, the new four-point margin gives PSV an outside chance of winning the title over the three-game run-in.

Elsewhere, both teams had a man sent off as Groningen edged into the final Europa League play-off spot by beating ADO Den Haag 2-1.

Goals from Genero Zeefuik (38) and David Texeira (42) were enough to secure victory for Groningen, who did wobble when Virgil van Dijk was sent off in the 64th minute.

Kevin Jansen halved the deficit in the 75th minute but 11 minutes later he was following Van Dijk down the tunnel after seeing red.

Groningen have a four-point cushion over ninth-placed Heracles, who put any lingering relegation fears behind them with a 4-0 win over RKC Waalwijk.

Kwame Quansah broke the deadlock from the penalty spot in the 42nd minute and Marko Vejinovic (65) put Heracles out of sight before Everton added a brace in the 71st and 85th minutes.

RKC remain four points clear of the relegation places after 16th-placed Roda JC succumbed to a 2-1 defeat at bottom side Willem II.

The Tilburg club are condemned to a last-three finish but could still make the relegation play-offs by dragging VVV Venlo into 18th place.

Philipp Haastrup opened the scoring in the 52nd minute and Aurelien Joachim promptly doubled Willem's lead with a penalty on the hour mark.

Sanharib Malki ensured a nervous finish for the Tricolores when he notched for Roda two minutes from time, but the hosts had done enough to secure their fourth win of the season.

 

ITALY

Udinese moved level on points with Roma and Lazio in the Serie A table after Antonio Di Natale's goal decided a 1-0 victory over the Biancocelesti.

Di Natale's acrobatic finish in the 19th minute kept the Friulians firmly in the hunt for Europa League football with Roma's superior goal difference the only factor keeping Francesco Guidolin's men out of fifth place.

Lazio started brightly at the Stadio Friuli but visiting goalkeeper Zeljko Brkic was wise to efforts from Antonio Candreva and Miroslav Klose before Di Natale netted his 18th league goal of the season with a scissor kick from the edge of the area.

The veteran might have killed the game off with a second goal after the break but Michael Ciani produced an excellent tackle when the Italian's first touch let him down.

Genoa remain in the bottom three with one fewer game to play after being held at home 1-1 by Atalanta.

Antonio Floro Flores gave the Grifone the lead in the sixth minute, but Cristiano Del Grosso replied two minutes later to earn the Nerazzurri a point and maintain a nine-point gap over their rivals with five games of the season remaining.

 

GERMANY

Bayern Munich warmed up for next week's Champions League showdown with Barcelona by thumping Hannover 6-1 in the Bundesliga.

The Bavarians have already sewn up the league title this year, meaning they can go into the first leg of their semi-final with the Spanish giants at the Allianz Arena on Tuesday without looking over their shoulders.

Jupp Heynckes fielded a surprisingly strong line-up but no player seemed content to preserve themselves for the glamour tie next week with Bayern racing into a 3-0 lead before the interval.

Lars Stindl's 16th-minute own goal gave the visitors the lead, while Ribery netted midway through the half, with Mario Gomez then striking either side of half-time.

Claudio Pizarro netted in the 71st and 86th minutes, with Andre Hoffmann grabbing a consolation for the overwhelmed hosts in between times.

Borussia Dortmund remain 20 points behind Bayern and eight ahead of third-placed Bayer Leverkusen following a comfortable 2-0 victory over Mainz.

Dortmund welcome Real Madrid in the other Champions League last four encounter and they will also be buoyed with a comfortable win this afternoon.

Marco Reus opened the scoring in the first minute before Robert Lewandowski sealed Dortmund's success three minutes from time

Leverkusen took full advantage of Eugen Polanski's dismissal to rout Hoffenheim 5-0.

The hosts were already ahead thanks to Stefan Kiessling's 16th-minute strike before Polanski saw red midway through the half, with Andre Schurrle putting Leverkusen two goals to the good before half-time.

Further strikes from Kiessling (65) and Schurrle (69) added to Hoffenheim's misery, while Stefan Reinartz added gloss to the score line.

Fourth-placed Schalke's position is looking increasingly shaky following a 1-0 defeat at Eintracht Frankfurt.

Marco Russ' 41st-minute goal helped the hosts move to within one point of Schalke, who could find themselves in fifth if Freiburg win at Stuttgart on Sunday.

Fortuna Düsseldorf missed out on the opportunity to move further away from the drop zone after a 2-1 loss at Hamburg.

Rafael van der Vaart netted in the 14th and 20th minutes to put Hamburg in the driving seat and although Dani Schahin - a 17th minute substitute for Genki Omae - halved the deficit just after the half-hour, Düsseldorf could not find a leveller and they remain just three points clear of the bottom three.

First-half strikes from Maximilian Arnold (13) and Ivica Olic (27) plus midfielder Diego's 66th-minute penalty sealed an emphatic 3-0 triumph for Wolfsburg at Werder Bremen.

 

SCOTLAND

Dundee's bid to escape relegation was given a substantial boost after they beat St Mirren 2-1 in Paisley.

John Brown's side remain ten points adrift showed they would not go down without a fight after Jim McAlister struck home a half volley close to half-time.

Steven Thompson headed home the equaliser from a Gary Teale cross, but with nine minutes remaining Gary Harkins' ball was headed in off the underside of the bar by Carl Finnegan to secure all three points for Dundee.

In the day's other game, a fourth minute tap-in from John Sutton was enough to give Hearts all three points from their trip to Kilmarnock.

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