European Roundup

Chelsea storm back into 1st, Rangers clinch


England

If Chelsea felt any pressure in the wake of Manchester United’s win over Tottenham on Saturday, which put the Red Devils in first place for the moment, they didn’t show it. The Blues reclaimed a one-point lead in the Premier League after thrashing Stoke City 7-0 at Stamford Bridge.

Salomon Kalou hit for a hat trick and Frank Lampard added two of his own. The man of the match, though, was Didier Drogba, who didn’t get on the scoresheet turned but was directly or indirectly involved in just about every goal.

Meanwhile, both Aston Villa and Liverpool reasserted themselves in the fight for 4th place and the final Champions League spot. The Villains edged crosstown rivals Birmingham City, 1-0, thanks to an 83rd-minute penalty from James Milner. The Reds destroyed Burnley, 4-0, with a four-goal second-half outburst, including two from Steven Gerrard.

Merseyside’s other club, Everton, won at home to Fulham, 2-1, but it wasn’t pretty. Down a goal at halftime, Tim Howard’s Toffees leveled through an own goal by Chris Smalling before Mikel Arteta struck a 90th-minute penalty to secure the three points.

American striker Clint Dempsey, who made a substitute’s appearance in the midweek Europa League match at Hamburg, started for the Cottagers for the first time since a thigh injury shelved him three weeks ago.

Italy

The topsy-turvy Serie A undulated again on Sunday as Roma conceded two second-half goals to Giampaolo Pazzini, losing 2-1 at home to Sampdoria and blowing their chance once again to overtake Inter for first place in the league. Giallorossi captain Francesco Totti opened the scoring in the 15th minute, setting the stage for Pazzini's goals in the 52nd and 85th minutes. With the three points, Sampdoria, winners of four in a row, leapfrog Palermo for 4th place and the final Champions League spot.

Spain

A 1-1 draw at home to lowly Malaga denied surprising Mallorca a chance to carve out some breathing room in the race for the final Champions League spot in La Liga. The goals came late, with Victor Obinna staking the visitors a lead in the 86th minute. Aritz Aduriz then evened the score in stoppage time, to keep Mallorca two points ahead of Sevilla who blew a late lead at Getafe.

Luis Fabiano led the way for the Rojiblancos, who led 3-2 with 15 minutes to play in an entertaining back-and-forth match in the Coliseum Alfonso Perez in Madrid. But Getafe equalized in the 76th minute through Manu del Moral and then stole the full points with a stoppage-time penalty slotted home by young Daniel Parejo.

Villarreal continued their ascent up the standings as Nilmar’s 83rd-minute goal gave them a 2-1 victory away to Racing, their fifth win in six games. Giuseppe Rossi when the full 90. The three points kept the Yellow Submarine in line for at least a Europa League spot, and just four points out of Champions League contention with four left to play.

France

Marseille all but wrapped up their first Ligue 1 championship since 1993 with a 1-0 win over Saint-Étienne. Midfielder Mathieu Valbuena notched the winner in the 6th minute to give OM their seventh straight league victory.

Second-place Auxerre also won, 3-0, away to Toulouse, but remain seven points behind the leaders with only four matches to play. The next match, though, is a top-of-the-table clash at home to OM. A win will give Auxerre hope; a loss will hand Marseille the title.

Germany

Hoffenheim ended a seven-game winless streak with an assertive 5-1 win over an undermanned Hamburg side that seemed to feel the effects of their midweek draw with Fulham in the Europa League semifinals. Former St. Louis University standout Vedad Ibisevic notched two goals for the winners to reach double digits on the season.

Scotland

Rangers, with American Maurice Edu in the starting lineup again, clinched the Premier League with a 1-0 win at Hibernian. Kyle Lafferty claimed the important goal as the side extended their lead of Old Firm rivals Celtic to an insurmountable 11 points with three matches left to play.