Dec 22, 2007

Saturday Soccer Summary, Dec. 22, 2007

The top game on the continent was probably the Olympique Lyonnais vs. AS Nancy cracker in France's Ligue 1. The perennial French champs (what is it, five in a row now? Six?) are in their familiar first-place perch in their domestic league but have been somewhat inconsistent so far this year. They struggled to advance out of their Champions League group, needing a victory at Ibrox Park on the final match day, and have showed signs of vulnerability in France as well. Nancy, by contrast, have come out of nowhere. Three seasons ago the Lorainois were languishing in France's second division, which is so bad it probably looks Major League Soccer look downright mediocre. Nancy's top scorer is a guy called Kim who is not Korean but Brazilian (his real name is Carlos something).

So what happened in the game? The first goal wasn't scored until the 80th minute, when Czech international Milan Baros (a name Liverpool and Aston Villa fans are no doubt familiar with) struck for Lyon. But Chris Malonga notched the equalizer three minutes from time and the two sides ended up splitting the points. Lyon now have two points out of their last three Ligue Un games and take a four point lead into the league's mini-break (league games resume Jan. 12). This one isn't settled yet. The two sides meet again on the penultimate match day.

In Italy, AS Roma had a solid 2-0 victory over Sampdoria Genoa, on a brace by Francesco Totti. The win moves Roma four points behind Inter Milan, who face their cross-town rivals at the San Siro tomorrow afternoon. Unless Milan (that would be AC Milan) win the derby match, Serie A will basically be Inter's for the taking.

In Spain there were two pretty big games ahead of tomorrow's massive Real-Barca face-off at Camp Nou (actually there is another big game tomorrow, between Atletico and Espanol, the third- and fifth-placed teams, respectively). Valencia notched two goals in the last quarter hour of play to earn a point at Zaragosa and Sevilla scored an impressive 4-1 victory over sixth-placed Racing Santander (maybe not that impressive; Seville's third and fourth goals came in the last five minutes of the game when Santander were likely throwing everybody forward).

Finally, in Britain Arsenal won the London derby over Tottenham, but not without a good fight by Spurs. Fulham and Wigan tied 1-1 in the toilet bowl game, as did Aston Villa and Man. City, Liverpool returned to the winner's circle with a solid 4-1 victory over Pompey and then there were a few other games I don't care enough about to recap. In Scotland, Celtic managed a late goal to steal a point against manager-less Hibs. Celtic are still in first, but Rangers have three (count 'em, three!) games in hand over their neighbors.

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