European Round-Up: Fabian Ruiz Scorcher Fires Napoli To Top Of Serie A

Here's what happened across Europe over the weekend
11:58, 28 Feb 2022

It was another whirlwind week of action on the continent. Here are all the main talking points.

La Liga

Xavi’s impact at Camp Nou continues to grow after a comfortable 4-0 victory over Athletic Bilbao on Sunday. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang continued his goalscoring form since joining in January to fire the Catalan club into the lead, scoring for the third game in a row. However, it was Ousmane Dembele who stole the headlines with an exquisite performance from the bench. 

After doubling his side’s lead, the injury-prone winger went on to register two assists in stoppage time, teeing up Luuk de Jong and Memphis Depay. The result made it four wins from the Blaugrana’s last five league matches and they sit just one point behind third-placed Real Betis.

Their Clasico rivals Real Madrid maintained a six-point lead at the top of the table by narrowly beating mid-table Rayo Vallecano, who have now lost five on the bounce. Los Blancos were nearly held to a surprising draw as Rayo turned in a largely resilient defensive performance but in the end they were beaten by the league’s leading marksman, veteran forward Karim Benzema. His 19th goal of the season in the 83rd minute was enough to keep Carlo Ancelotti’s side on course for the title. It was also the Frenchman's 400th win with the Spanish giants.

Real’s local rivals Atletico Madrid are currently matching Barca’s results as they look to reclaim a spot in the top four. The reigning champions recorded a 2-0 victory over Celta Vigo at the Wanda Metropolitano as Renan Lodi’s brace was enough to take the three points and keep Los Colchoneros in the race for Champions League qualification.

Bundesliga

After exiting the Europa League at the hands of Scottish champions Rangers, Marco Rose’s Borussia Dortmund were dealt another blow, this time in the title race. They were held to a 1-1 draw at Augsburg after leading for much of the game courtesy of Thorgan Hazard’s brilliant solo goal. The hosts equalised just before the 80-minute mark as Noah Sarenren Bazee was able to head in from a team-mate’s mis-kicked effort on goal. 

Dortmund now find themselves eight points behind leaders Bayern Munich, who defeated Eintracht Frankfurt 1-0 away from home with Leroy Sane scoring the solitary goal. The German winger has been having a very fruitful season, with 13 goals and 13 assists now to his name in all competitions. The former Manchester City star seems to have found his rhythm in his homeland.

Serie A

There was a change once again at the peak of the Serie A table as Napoli leapfrogged both AC Milan and Inter Milan following a dramatic 2-1 victory at the death away to Lazio. The visitors took the lead just past the hour-mark through Lorenzo Insigne, before having a quick-fire second ruled out for offside by VAR. 

Their quest to reach the top of the table then suffered a setback in the 88th minute as Pedro fired in the equaliser. The drama was nowhere near finished though, and in the fourth minute of added time Fabian Ruiz scored the match-winner with a fine strike to ensure his side finished the week at the top of the table. Football in its purest form.

It seemed like it was fate for Gli Azzurri, as leaders AC Milan were held to a draw at San Siro against Udinese, with the away side’s Destiny Udogie cancelling out Rafael Leao’s first-half strike. The Rossoneri remain level on points with Napoli, but with a six-goal inferior difference. 

Rivals Inter remain just two points behind the two clubs, but they missed an opportunity to catch up in a goalless draw at Genoa. Simone Inzaghi’s side were left to rue missed chances - 21 efforts to be exact, with just four hitting the target.

Ligue 1

Leaders Paris Saint-Germain bounced back from their defeat against Nantes with a 3-1 victory over St-Etienne at Parc des Princes. French talisman Kylian Mbappe scored twice, either side of the break, and he has now moved up to be the club’s joint-second top goalscorer of all time with 156 alongside Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Due to Marseille’s draw away at Troyes, Mauricio Pochettino’s side extended their lead at the top of the table to 15 points.

Monaco were stunned by a late comeback against Reims which stretched their run of games without a win to three. Striker Wissam Ben Yedder opened the scoring for his 15th of the season, before Reims were brought back into the game thanks to a Kevin Volland own goal. 

Things got even shakier for Monaco as Jean Lucas was shown a straight red card two minutes from time before the comeback was completed three minutes into added time when Nathanael Mbuku fired into the roof of the net from close range.

Eredivisie

The race for the title in the Netherlands took another twist as leaders Ajax suffered a shock 2-1 defeat away to Go Ahead Eagles. The hosts got off to a two-goal lead before half-time but Steven Berghuis added a consolation just after the hour-mark. Erik Ten Hag’s side boasted a staggering 71% possession and 20 shots on goal, but there was a clear lack of quality in the final third.

PSV were able to capitalise and close the gap at the top to just two points following their 2-1 comeback victory at Sparta Rotterdam. Lennart Thy opened the scoring for the hosts, who were down to 10 men early in the second half. Five minutes after Arno Verschueren was shown a straight red card, PSV levelled the scoreline through Mauro Junior, before Ristu Doan scored what proved to be the match-winner just eight minutes later.

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