Serie A

European Round-Up: Benevento Keeper Scores To End Historic Losing Streak

 • by Frank Smith
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With Christmas now weeks away, European football remains the gift that just keeps on giving. In the latest round of fixtures, title races in Spain, Italy and France were opened up by some surprising results.

In La Liga, Serie A and Ligue 1, each of the league leaders dropped points. Barcelona were held by Celta Vigo, Napoli lost at home to Juventus, and Paris Saint-Germain were beaten by relegation-threatened Strasbourg.

We’ve rounded up all the highlights from this weekend’s European action, picking out the stories you may have missed.

LA LIGA

Juan Carlos Unzué was seen as integral to Barcelona during his time as Luis Enrique’s assistant, but he returned to the Camp Nou to take two points away from the Catalan giants at the weekend. His Celta side picked up a shock 2-2 draw, with former Liverpool man Iago Aspas playing a key role.

The 30-year-old gave his side the lead on 20 minutes before goals from Lionel Messi and Luis Suárez turned the score around. He then set up the equalising goal with a fine assist for Maxi Gómez on 70 minutes.

That result opened up the La Liga title race, but two of the major contenders failed to capitalise on Barcelona’s slip-up. Sergio Ramos was sent off as Real Madrid drew 0-0 away to Athletic Bilbao, while second-placed Valencia lost to Getafe.

Consequently, Atletico Madrid are the only other side outside of Barcelona to have remained unbeaten through 14 league fixtures. They came from behind at home to Real Sociedad, winning 2-1 thanks to goals from Filipe Luís and Antoine Griezmann to close the gap between themselves and Barca to just six points.

Results:

Athletic Bilbao 0-0 Real Madrid; Atletico Madrid 2-1 Real Sociedad; Barcelona 2-2 Celta Vigo; Eibar 3-1 Espanyol; Getafe 1-0 Valencia; Las Palmas 1-0 Real Betis; Leganes 3-1 Villarreal; Malaga 0-0 Levante; Sevilla 2-0 Deportivo La Coruna

BUNDESLIGA

Former Arsenal youngster Serge Gnabry scored twice as Hoffenheim thrashed RB Leipzig 4-0 in a meeting of nouveau Bundesliga big guns. After Nadiem Amiri had given Julian Nagelsmann’s side the lead, Gnabry took advantage of the visitors’ high line to score his team’s second. He then effectively sealed the points with a stunning strike.

Receiving possession just inside the opposition half, he looked up and spotted Peter Gúlacsi off his line. He then chipped the ball over the goalkeeper with extraordinary precision. Afterwards he admitted: “I’d been looking the whole time. I was just hoping that he wouldn’t reach it. It went in, though, and to be honest it was a great goal.”

The win means Hoffenheim are now three points behind RB Leipzig, who remain second in the table after Schalke and Borussia Monchengladbach both failed to win. Borussia Dortmund were also unable to record three points, drawing 1-1 with Bayer Leverkusen to extend their winless run to seven league games.

Reigning champions Bayern Munich showed no signs of slowing, however, as they defeated Hannover 3-1 to six points clear at the top. They were helped to victory by a sensational Kingsley Coman performance – the Frenchman completed seven dribbles, three key passes and scored a superlative goal before leaving the field to a standing ovation.

Results:

Bayer Leverkusen 1-1 Borussia Dortmund; Bayern Munich 3-1 Hannover; Freiburg 0-0 Hamburg; Hertha Berlin 1-2 Eintracht Frankfurt; Hoffenheim 4-0 RB Leipzig; Mainz 1-3 Augsburg; Schalke 2-2 Koln; Werder Bremen 1-0 Stuttgart; Wolfsburg 3-0 Borussia Monchengladbach

SERIE A

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Napoli lost their grip on top spot in what is an absorbing title race after they were beaten 1-0 at home by Juventus. The reigning Italian champions visited Naples with a clear game plan in mind and they executed it to perfection to keep a clean sheet against one of Europe’s most effective attacking sides.

Massimiliano Allegri plumped for a 4-4-2 system with Douglas Costa and Blaise Matuidi on the wings and Paulo Dybala behind Gonzalo Higuaín up front. He instructed his side to sit deep and hit their hosts on the break, which they did to perfection early on.

Higuaín, set up by Dybala, broke the deadlock on 13 minutes. From then, Juventus sat deep and compressed space in their own defensive third to seal three crucial points. Napoli then dropped down into second place after Inter hammered Chievo at the San Siro.

At the opposite end of Serie A, bottom-placed Benevento won their first-ever point at the top level in incredible circumstances. In the fifth and final minute of second half stoppage time they trailed Milan 2-1.

They won a free kick, which their goalkeeper, Alberto Brignoli, went up for. He then proceeded to fling himself at the ball and head home the equaliser, sparking wild celebrations.

Results:

Benevento 2-2 Milan; Bologna 1-1 Cagliari; Fiorentina 3-0 Sassuolo; Inter 5-0 Chievo; Napoli 0-1 Juventus; Roma 3-1 SPAL; Sampdoria 1-2 Lazio; Torino 1-1 Atalanta

LIGUE 1

Prior to the weekend newly promoted Strasbourg had won just three of their opening 15 Ligue 1 fixtures. They also possessed one of the worst defensive records in the league. Neither of these facts gave them much confidence heading into a clash with imperious table-toppers Paris Saint-Germain.

However, thanks to a headed strike from Joia Nuno Da Costa and a wonderful breakaway finish from Stéphane Bahoken, they were able to overcome their expensively assembled Parisian opponents with an incredible 2-1 win.

PSG’s first league loss of the season didn’t do much to reduce the gap between them and everyone else – they are still nine points clear of the three-team chasing pack of Lyon, Monaco and Marseille. However, Unai Emery’s side won’t want to give their nearest rivals much more encouragement.

Elsewhere, both Nice and Lille continued their recovery from terrible starts to the season by securing second consecutive wins. The former won 3-1 at home to Metz; the latter won 1-0 at home to Toulouse.

Results:

Caen 1-2 Lyon; Dijon 3-2 Bordeaux; Lille 1-0 Toulouse; Monaco 1-0 Angers; Montpellier 1-1 Marseille; Nice 3-1 Metz; Rennes 2-0 Amiens; Saint-Etienne 1-1 Nantes; Strasbourg 2-1 Paris Saint-Germain; Troyes 0-1 Guingamp

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