x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

European football round-up: Paris St Germain close in on French title

Celtic confirm their Scottish Premier League champions status with a comfortable win over Inverness, while Juventus move within touching distance of claiming the Serie A crown once again.

Paris St Germain's Ezequiel Lavezzi is upended by Nice goalkeeper David Ospina.
Paris St Germain's Ezequiel Lavezzi is upended by Nice goalkeeper David Ospina.

FRANCE

Paris St Germain took another significant step towards their first Ligue 1 title in 19 years as they comfortably saw off the challenge of 10-man Nice 3-0 at Parc des Princes.

Jeremy Menez opened the scoring after 10 minutes, while a Zlatan Ibrahimovic penalty - awarded following a foul by David Ospina that saw the Nice goalkeeper sent off - and Clement Chantome's late effort completed a one-sided outcome.

PSG move onto 70 points, nine clear of nearest challengers Marseille with five games remaining.

Benjamin Moukandjo bagged a second half brace as Nancy moved out of the relegation zone for the first time since September with a 3-1 victory over Evian.

Paul Alo'o put Nancy ahead midway through the second half and although Saber Khelifa levelled just after the half-hour, Moukandjo struck in the 65th and 79th minutes to extend Nancy's unbeaten run to five matches.

The win moves Nancy up to 17th - level on points with Evian - although they are just a solitary point above Sochaux.

A late Bordeaux equaliser denied Sochaux the chance to move out of the relegation zone but was surely not enough to revive their hopes of qualifying for Europe via the league.

Les Girondins moved into the semi-finals of the Coupe de France in midweek but could only draw 2-2, trailing twice to struggling Sochaux before Cheick Diabate's 78th-minute goal earned a point.

Sochaux even struck a post as time ran down, but a potentially crucial victory eluded them.

That was hard on Sochaux, who took a second lead of the afternoon through Cedric Bakambu in the 65th minute after Mariano earlier cancelled out Ryad Boudebouz's penalty.

Gregory Pujol scored the only goal as Valenciennes pulled seven points clear of the relegation zone with a 1-0 victory at Reims.

Hubert Fournier's men went close through Nicolas Fauvergue and Diego Rigonato in the first half but the visitors would steadily turn the screw and earn all three points when Pujol beat the impressive Kossi Agassa in the 57th minute.

Two late goals saw Lille fight back from behind to win 2-1 at Bastia and keep their hopes of Champions League qualification alive.

Lucas Digne's 85th-minute goal and Marko Basa's last-gasp winner cancelled out Wahbi Khazri's 47th-minute opener for Bastia.

Jeremie Aliadiere struck 13 minutes from time to hand Lorient all three points at Toulouse.

With both sides well clear of the battles for Europe and to avoid relegation, the match had a lethargic feel and rarely sparked before Aliadiere's late intervention.

 

SPAIN

Radamel Falcao's poacher's goal 14 minutes from time gave Atletico Madrid a 1-0 away win over Sevilla that put them back within three points of city rivals Real in second place.

The Colombian poked home a shot from Raul Garcia to win a closely fought match that was high on intensity and tension but which produced little in the way of quality football.

Nine-man Getafe's hopes of qualifying for the Europa League suffered a blow as they lost 2-0 at home to Espanyol.

A goal by Joan Verdu gave the visitors the lead towards the end of a first half which saw few chances and little incident or excitement.

The hosts failed to produce the commanding performance coach Luis Garcia had demanded before the game, and their level dropped even further when Borja Fernandez was sent off early in the second half.

Getafe centre-back Federico Fernandez then also received his marching orders midway through the second period before Espanyol midfielder Christian Stuani made sure of the points immediately after with his side's second goal.

Osasuna could not get the win they needed to arrest a poor run of form that has them hovering just above the relegation zone, but did enough to frustrate Real Sociedad's European ambitions in a disappointing goalless draw in Pamplona.

There were desperately few chances of note at either end, although Sociedad's Imanol Agirretxe was denied by a post midway through the first half with a header from a corner.

Fernando Llorente scored his first Primera Division goal since September to earn 10-man Athletic Bilbao a 1-1 draw from their trip to in-form Deportivo La Coruna.

Bruno Gama had Depor dreaming of a fifth successive victory with his 38th-minute strike but Llorente headed Athletic level just before the break to earn a point for the Basque outfit, who were forced to hold on with a man less for the final nine minutes following the dismissal of Ander Iturraspe.

 

PORTUGAL

Benfica restored their four-point advantage at the top of the Portuguese Liga with a 2-0 home win over Sporting.

FC Porto had moved to within a point of the summit with a 3-0 victory at Moreirense on Saturday but Benfica replied confidently, with goals in either half from Eduardo Salvio and Rodrigo Lima securing the win against a Sporting side who have fallen a long way from expectations this season.

Indeed Sporting have now slumped to eighth in the table after Nacional scored twice in 10 minutes to come from behind and beat Maritimo, climbing above their opponents into sixth place.

Maritimo led through Suk Hyun-jun's 50th-minute goal, but 11 minutes later Ferreira Claudemir levelled from the penalty spot and substitute Daniel Candeias got the winner moments after coming into the match.

Basement-dwellers Beira Mar gave themselves hope with a rare win, just their fourth of the season as they edged out fellow strugglers Gil Vicente 1-0 with Pinto Yazalde's 59th-minute goal.

They remain bottom, but are now only two points from safety.

Vitoria Setúbal moved away from trouble with a 1-0 win over Estoril courtesy of Paulo Tavares' 62nd-minute penalty.

 

ITALY

Juventus need four points to successfully defend the Serie A title after Arturo Vidal's penalty decided a crucial 1-0 victory over AC Milan.

While the Rossoneri sweat over their chances of competing in next season's Champions League, Juve can seal a second straight Scudetto by winning next Sunday's derby meeting with Torino, should second-placed Napoli fail to beat Pescara.

A Vidal penalty in the second half was the difference between the two sides, who are now separated by 18 points with five games remaining.

The result means the Bianconeri are assured of their place in the Champions League next season while, with an 11-point cushion over Napoli, they could wrap up the title with four games to spare.

Elsewhere a last-gasp goal from substitute Lorenzo Insigne settled a thrilling 3-2 victory over Cagliari that kept Napoli's faint title hopes alive.

When Victor Ibarbo edged the Sardinians ahead midway through the first half, it looked like Napoli had finally been thwarted in their bid to catch Juve.

A double salvo from Marek Hamsik and Edinson Cavani just after the interval briefly made amends until Cagliari's Marco Sau made it 2-2.

But Insigne dutifully climbed off the bench to salvage all three points at the death.

A late strike from Tommaso Rocchi lifted some of the pressure off Inter Milan and under fire boss Andrea Stramaccioni as they beat Parma 1-0 at San Siro.

The veteran popped up with the only goal as Inter ended a run of three consecutive defeats to move up to fifth.

Meanwhile, Romulo's 86th-minute strike settled a 4-3 win to strengthen Fiorentina's grip on fourth place after plucky 10-man Torino had fought back from three goals down.

The Brazilian came to La Viola's rescue as goals from Juan Cuadrado, Alberto Aquilani and Adem Ljajic were cancelled out by Barreto, Mario Santana and Alessio Cerci.

Roma were held to a disappointing 1-1 draw by rock-bottom Pescara, who picked up only their second point in 14 matches.

Gianluca Caprari gave Pescara a shock lead at the Stadio Olimpico and although Roma levelled through Mattia Destro, the home side could not force a winner.

Sergio Pellissier virtually secured Chievo's top-flight status for next season with the only goal of a 1-0 victory at struggling Siena, who remain one point above the relegation zone.

The Flying Donkeys opened a 10-point gap over the bottom three as 17th-placed Siena failed to respond to Pellissier's effort on the stroke of half-time.

With five games remaining Chievo are unlikely to be sucked back into a scrap to survive but the Tuscans have both Genoa and Palermo snapping at their heels.

Genoa took a point from last night's 1-1 home draw with Atalanta while Palermo's Josip Ilicic scored at the death in the Sicilian derby against 10-man Catania.

Defeat at the Stadio Angelo Massimino, which seemed inevitable following Pablo Barrientos' opener, would have left the Rosanero second from bottom and three points from safety.

Ilicic had other ideas, though, sparing his side's blushes and earning a 1-1 draw with a confident finish four minutes into second-half stoppage time.

Catania goalkeeper Mariano Andujar was subsequently dismissed as the hosts' frustration boiled over.

Elsewhere, Bologna and Sampdoria played out a 1-1 draw at the Renato Dall'Ara after Gianluca Sansone cancelled out Alberto Gilardino's first half strike.

 

HOLLAND

Feyenoord maintained their Eredivisie title hopes while all but ending the aspirations of Vitesse Arnhem with a 2-0 win at De Kuip this afternoon.

The game kicked off with Vitesse in third place - a point ahead of Feyenoord - and with designs on leapfrogging PSV Eindhoven into second heading into the final three matches of the season.

But rather than close to within three points of leaders Ajax, Vitesse instead saw their title hopes suffer a huge setback as Feyenoord claimed all the points thanks to Graziano Pelle's 39th-minute penalty and a Lex Immers strike after 50 minutes.

Feyenoord replace Vitesse in third place, level on points with PSV and four behind Ajax.

VVV-Venlo's hopes of beating relegation took a hit as they spurned a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 at home to FC Twente.

Goals by Niels Roeseler (18) and Uche Nwofor (23) had the hosts in charge, but Twente hit back after the break with two goals in 60 seconds just before the hour from Rasmus Bengtsson and Luc Castaignos.

The draw takes VVV three points clear of Willem II in the scrap to avoid the one automatic relegation berth, and with just three games left they are now nine points from safety and as good as condemned to a place in the relegation play-offs at best.

PEC Zwolle have no such problems as they moved nine points clear of the relegation zone with a 3-1 win at NEC Nijmegen.

Goals by Youness Mokhtar (18) and Fred Benson (23) had PEC in charge, and although Leroy George (49) pulled one back for NEC, the points were safe when Mateusz Klich struck five minutes from the end.

FC Utrecht made sure of a top-six finish as they beat NAC Breda 3-0 - Mike van der Hoorn (14), Jens Toornstra (18) and Edouard Duplan (74) with the goals.

 

GERMANY

Stuttgart completed their second 2-1 victory over Freiburg in four days to move up to 10th in the Bundesliga and dent their local rivals' hopes of qualifying for Europe.

Christian Gentner and Vedad Ibisevic were on target for Bruno Labbadia's men with Ivan Santini's first Bundesliga goal not enough for the visitors in the Baden-Wurttemberg derby.

Freiburg, who were also knocked out of the DFB-Pokal semi-finals by Stuttgart in midweek, remain fifth, one point behind fourth-placed Schalke, but with three sides within a point below them going into the last four games of the season.

The day's other Bundesliga game was also a derby - the oldest in German football - and saw Greuther Fürth keep their slim survival hopes alive with 1-0 triumph over Bavarian rivals Nurnberg.

Johannes Geis' first professional goal in the 26th minute was enough for Fürth to win for only the third time this season and edge to within nine points of the relegation play-off.

Nurnberg hit the woodwork three times but came away with nothing to show for their efforts. It was the 256th Franconian derby, with the clubs having first met in 1902

 

SCOTLAND

Celtic confirmed their status as Scottish Premier League champions with a comfortable 4-1 win over Inverness Caledonian Thistle at Parkhead.

It took until the hour mark for Neil Lennon's side to find the net, with Gary Hooper slotting past Antonio Reguero after a neat pass from Kris Commons.

Joe Ledley made it two five minutes later, drilling a right foot shot into the bottom corner after good play from Mikael Lustic, and their lead was extended to three after Hooper was again the beneficiary of Commons' work down the flank.

Georgios Samaras wrapped up the scoring for Celtic after being allowed into the Inverness area by a defensive mistake, powering his shot in off the underside of the crossbar, before Aaron Doran scored a consolation goal for the visitors in stoppage time.

The result gives Celtic, 15 points clear of nearest rivals Motherwell, their 44th league championship in their 125 year history.

Elsewhere Inverness' highland rivals Ross County twice hit back from the spot to secure a 2-2 draw against St Johnstone in Perth.

Steven McLean opened the scoring after just six minutes, drifting in behind a static County defence to head past Michael Fraser, but Chris Millar's foul on Iain Vigurs handed the visitors the chance to level.

Richard Brittain - who signed a precontract to move to St Johnstone next season, only to try to cancel it later - made no mistake, but ten minutes later Saints were ahead again.

Medhi Abeid floated in a free kick which Murray Davidson directed home to give the hosts a 2-1 advantage going into the break.

With 15 minutes remaining, Tam Scobbie brought down Ivan Sproule in the area, giving Brittain the chance to level from the penalty spot again. St Johnstone continued to press, with Gregory Tade forcing an impressive save from Fraser, but could not find another way through to goal.

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