European Leagues: How Liverpool went comfortably ahead

The Reds have a healthy 10-point gap to second-placed Leicester, which stays a point ahead of defending Premier League champion Manchester City.

Closing the gap: Gabriel Jesus scored Manchester City's third goal in the 3-1 in over Leicester City.   -  AP

 

Liverpool, playing more than 7,000km away from home at the Club World Cup in Qatar, managed to come out as the biggest winner in the English Premier League despite not playing, thanks to Leicester City’s defeat to Manchester City – which means the Reds continue to maintain a healthy 10-point gap between them and Leicester.

Jamie Vardy scored first to give Pep Guardiola a scare, but his City side – led by Kevin de Bruyne’s genius – responded in the manner that has often been missing in the defending champion’s play this season.

“If we play like we did tonight, we can compete with everyone,” said Guardiola in his post-match presser. If only.

The win ended the Foxes’ 11-match unbeaten run and reduced the gap between the second- and third-placed teams to a solitary point.

This season, Manchester United has beaten beat Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester City, and is the only side to take points off Liverpool in the league.

Unfortunately for the Red Devils, they have taken just three points from seven matches against Southampton, West Ham, Newcastle, Bournemouth, Aston Villa and Everton. Bottom club Watford became the latest team to defeat them, hitting Manchester United on the counter to score twice while its players held their defensive shape almost to perfection to frustrate Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

The reason Manchester United continues to flounder against the “lesser” sides? Solskjaer’s squad thrives when it doesn’t have the ball. Since he took charge, his win percentage in the league when his side has had less possession than its opponent is 73, while that number falls to 36 percent when it has had more of the ball.

In a clash between the mentor and the student, Frank Lampard tactically outclassed his former boss Jose Mourinho to end a run of four defeats in five games for Chelsea.

If that form brought out questions of his lack of managerial experience, the win against Spurs put them to bed – for now.

Crucially, the win gives fourth-placed Chelsea a four-point cushion over Sheffield United in fifth.

Before they take charge of their new clubs, Carlo Ancelotti and Mikel Arteta watched Everton and Arsenal play out a boring, goalless draw that would’ve pleased neither boss.

La Liga

Real Madrid stumbled at home to Athletic Bilbao, a goalless draw giving Barcelona a two-point lead in the title race. The Spanish giants played out a draw in the Clasico preceding the weekend, but Barcelona responded with a comfortable victory against Deportivo Alaves.

Sevilla is three points behind in third following its 2-0 win at Real Mallorca, while Atletico Madrid moved back into the top four with a 2-1 win at Real Betis.

The league now goes into its usual 10-day winter break.

Serie A

Juventus overcame Sampdoria 2-1 in the league before the Italian Super Cup final, against Lazio, in Saudi Arabia. Just over two weeks since defeating the Old Lady 3-1 in the league, Lazio took home the trophy with another win by the same scoreline.

Romelu Lukaku’s brace helped Inter Milan defeat Genoa in a match where his teammate Sebastiano Esposito became the club’s youngest scorer in more than 60 years.

Inter and Juventus are both on 42 points at the top, with the latter on top thanks to a better head-to-head record, as the league heads into the two-week winter break.

Fifteenth in the table, Fiorentina has taken just two points from its last seven games, and the 4-1 defeat at home to AS Roma saw its manager Vincenzo Montella sacked immediately after. Roma, with 35 points, continues to occupy the final Champions League spot.

Atalanta handed AC Milan its heaviest defeat since 1998 when it won 5-0 at home to climb to fifth, trailing Roma by four points.

While Atalanta has scored a league-best 43 goals this season, the clean sheet would’ve been equally pleasing for its head coach Gian Piero Gasperini as it has been a little porous at the back, conceding more goals than nine other teams.

Napoli registered its first victory in the league since October 19 when it came from behind against Sassuolo, with the winner coming in the fourth minute of stoppage time. It is its first win in nine matches and the first under head coach Gennaro Gattuso. It is eighth in the table, seven points off the top four.

Sebastiano Esposito, 17, became Inter Milan's youngest scorer since Mario Corso in 1958 in the 4-0 win over Genoa.   -  REUTERS

 

Bundesliga

RB Leipzig came from behind to win against Augsburg and enter the month-long winter break with a two-point lead at the top.

Second-placed Borussia Mönchengladbach missed the chance to draw level with the leader after being held to a goalless draw at Hertha Berlin.

Andrej Kramaric’s goal three minutes from time helped Hoffenheim come from behind and upset Borussia Dortmund.

With the win, Hoffenheim moved to seventh, while Dortmund stays fourth.

Bayern Munich’s 2-0 win against Wolfsburg sees it move two points behind Mönchengladbach, but the highlight of the clash was Dutch teenager Joshua Zirkzee. Having scored against Freiburg as a substitute on his Bundesliga debut, he came off the bench to score again. And both those goals have come with just eight minutes of playing time under his belt!

Schalke’s 2-2 draw at home to Freiburg sees it stay fifth.

Ligue 1

Two days after celebrating his 21st birthday, Kylian Mbappe scored a brace either side of Neymar’s effort to help Paris Saint-Germain maintain its seven-point lead at the top. Mauro Icardi added a late fourth after ex-Chennaiyin FC forward Stiven Mendoza gave Amiens a consolation goal.

Marseille won against Nimes to stay second, five points ahead of Rennes, which jumped over Lille thanks to its win against Bordeaux and Monaco’s 5-1 hammering of Lille.

Lyon’s draw at Reims sees it stay 12th, ahead of the two-week winter break.