Midweek madness: Leicester draws but wins, Bundesliga race heats up
A full slate of midweek action across Europe is in the books, and the tops of a couple of tables are looking mighty interesting. Despite Leicester City slipping up at home and drawing West Brom, the Foxes didn't lose any ground in their improbable Premier League title race.
A race that looked all but over in Germany is very much back on ahead of a crucial weekend matchup between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, while domestic cup madness reigned in a few countries, notably Italy and Greece.
Here are the highlights from midweek fallout around Europe:
Leicester has a guardian angel
The best-case scenario for Leicester City unfolded on Wednesday.
After dropping a pair of points at home despite mounds of late pressure in the attacking third, Leicester City didn't suffer at all in the Premier League table. Instead, it managed to extend its lead at the top with 10 games to go, gaining a point on disappointing North London clubs Arsenal and Tottenham.
Ahead of Saturday's North London derby, both clubs shot themselves in the foot. Arsenal failed to clear a 75th-minute free kick against Swansea and allowed Ashley Williams–a one-time Arsenal transfer target, no less–to score the winner at the Emirates in a 2-1 defeat.
Tottenham, meanwhile, which could have taken over first place via goal differential with a win at West Ham, fell behind early and never recovered in a 1-0 loss at Upton Park. Michail Antonio, he of the winner vs. Sunderland and Homer Simpson celebration over the weekend, tallied an early goal off a Dimitri Payet corner kick and turned his celebration to another American TV comedy: The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.
Leicester leads Tottenham by three points and Arsenal by six heading into the weekend's fixtures. As if that weren't surprise enough at the top of the table, after Manchester City's 3-0 loss at Liverpool in an instant League Cup final rematch and Manchester United's 1-0 win over Watford, West Ham is just a point shy of City (which has a game in hand) and United for fourth place. Leicester and West Ham in the Champions League? Pep Guardiola coaching a Manchester City squad that doesn't make the Champions League? It's all, somehow, legitimately in play.
Bundesliga race is on
Did Bayern Munich get caught looking ahead to Saturday's Der Klassiker vs. Borussia Dortmund? Bayern fell for just the second time all season and the first at home, conceding in the 86th minute to Mainz and losing 2-1.
That, coupled with Dortmund's 2-0 win at Darmstadt means Bayern's once unassailable lead in the Bundesliga is down to five points, and if Dortmund can win at home, where it hasn't lost a league game since last May, then it will be down to two. Of course, earlier in the season, Bayern dismantled Dortmund 5-1, but Guardiola's squad is hampered by injuries and Dortmund is 9-0-1 in its last 10 matches in all competitions. Race on, indeed.
There's excitement beyond the top two, as well. Four teams–Borussia Monchengladbach, Hertha Berlin, Mainz and Schalke–are within four points of the league's third and final Champions League berth. Leverkusen's three-game losing streak means Chicharito & Co. are on the outside looking in on that race, but there's all to play for with 10 games to go for Germany's upper echelon.
Domestic cup madness
- Juventus had defeated Inter Milan 3-0 in the first leg of the Coppa Italia semifinals, meaning the second leg was a mere formality en route to a final matchup vs. AC Milan. Right? Wrong. Inter roared back at the San Siro, forcing extra time with a 3-0 result in regulation at home capped by Marcelo Brozovic's 82nd-minute penalty. Juventus showed the mental fortitude to hang with it, and Leonardo Bonucci's spot kick delivered a victory in penalties, 5-3, to cap a riveting semifinal. Juventus's treble hopes live on.
- In Greece, raucous fans forced the suspension of a cup semifinal between bitter rivals PAOK and Olympiakos, with incredible scenes of pyrotechnics in the stands, fans on the field and clashing with police and tear gas sprayed to disperse everyone.
- In France, PSG's domestic treble run is still alive, with the club holding off Saint Etienne on the road 3-1 to reach the Coupe de France semifinals. The run is over for Alejandro Bedoya and Nantes though, as it conceded an equalizer in the 87th minute, conceded two more in extra time and then came up a goal short against Socheaux.