Arsenal did it. They found their confidence. They held their composure. For once, they were not the club complaining about referee decisions. The Gunners beat Manchester United 1-0, without Cesc Fabregas. But, after a two-month stretch of incompetence, it’s too late. Arsenal’s three points earned have held the door open in the title race, but it’s Chelsea, not the Gunners, with the chance to sidle their way through.
Chelsea beat Tottenham 2-1, with fate paying back Frank Lampard with a crucial borderline goal. The Blues sit just three points behind Man United and can take the lead from Man U on goal difference with a win in the clubs’ meeting next weekend. Unfortunately for Chelsea, that match is at Old Trafford, where Man U is 16-0-1 this season with a +34 goal difference.
Man U could be among the worst away teams ever to win a league title this season, with just five away wins in 18 attempts. Paradoxically, they could not win the Champions League despite a 5-0-1 away record without conceding a goal.
Familiarity Breeds Contempt: The four-part Clasico series has been like a prolonged family vacation. The initial rounds were mildly disappointing. In the third meeting, tempers flared and the teams’ worst qualities rose to the forefront. Real Madrid kicked, stomped and entirely lost their composure. Barcelona conceded the high ground, diving at almost every opportunity.
The match was redeemed though, as the clubs’ subsequent actions became even more petulant and embarrassing. A smarting Jose Mourinho publicly attributed Barcelona’s recent success to cheating. Barcelona filed a complaint about the comments to UEFA. Real Madrid responded with a complaint about Barcelona’s deliberate diving. UEFA did the prudent thing by ignoring the charges, but Real Madrid stoked the fire again, releasing a video claiming Sergio Busquets racially abused Marcelo.
Get Into My Big Black Car: FIFA president Sepp Blatter is the politician taken to the extreme, and he’s up for reelection. The unctious Swede has delivered some calculated, popular reform proposals to enhance FIFA’s respect. He has suggested expanding World Cup voting from the closed-door 24-man executive committee to the 208-member General Assembly. He plans to appoint an independent, ad hoc committee to fight corruption. He’s the candidate for change, despite being the main man in charge the last 13 years, when corruption spread like an Internet meme.
Turning Back The Clock: AEK Athens’ 3-0 win against Atrimitos in the Greek Cup Final featured few fireworks on the pitch and quite a few off it. Opposing fans threw flares at each other before the match, delaying its start. Supporters also caused the match to be abandoned in extra time, as AEK fans, invaded the pitch, used seats and advertising boards as weapons and attacked Atrimitos players and fans sitting in the VIP section. The spectacle “took Greek soccer back at least 100 years.”
Flight of the Bumblebee: A Brazilian match was delayed for 20 minutes after a swarm of bees invaded the corner of a cross bar. Despite using a fire extinguisher and a blow torch, officials could not remove all the bees.
[Photo via Getty]
Goal of the Week: Lionel Messi (Barcelona) vs. Real Madrid