| Manchester United’s Rio Ferdinand (top) celebrates with teammates after Phil Neville’s goal against West Ham United, during their fourth round FA Cup match at Old Trafford Sunday. Referee Steve Bennett is also called to join the party. Manchester won 6-0. (AP/PTI)
London: Defeats for leaders AC Milan and Lazio threw the Italian title race wide open at the weekend, while Real Sociedad reached the halfway stage in Spain unbeaten.
Elsewhere, Bayern Munich went eight points clear in Germany, while Arsenal and Manchester United posted crushing wins in fourth round of the English FA Cup.
Milan suffered a setback when they were beaten 0-1 at 10-man Udinese. A David Pizarro penalty was enough to secure the points for the hosts who had Nestor Sensini sent off early in the second half.
Lazio had not lost since an opening-day defeat by Chievo Verona, but they had no answer to Emiliano Bonazzoli’s solo effort for Reggina as they slumped to a 0-1 home defeat.
Second-placed Inter gave a first outing to Gabriel Batistuta, but the Argentine striker was outshone by Christian Vieri who scored all three in a 3-0 defeat of Empoli.
Inter, however, suffered a blow when their Argentine midfielder Matias Almeyda fractured a leg and had to be carried off the pitch in the 19th minute following a tackle by Empoli’s Ighli Vannuchi. He will be is out for two months.
Last week only, Inter had brought in Batistuta to replace Hernan Crespo, out with a thigh injury until April.
Both Milan clubs now have 39 points, one ahead of Juventus who enjoyed a comfortable 2-0 victory at home to Piacenza — Alessandro Del Piero and Pavel Nedved both on target. Lazio dropped to fourth with 36 points.
Real Sociedad maintained top spot in Spain, after grinding out a 2-1 victory at promoted Atletico Madrid on Saturday.
Turkish midfielder Tayfun Korkut put them in front early in the second half before Luis Garcia equalised, but then Darko Kovacevic headed the winner just past the hour.
Brazil striker Ronaldo was on target for second-placed Real Madrid on Sunday, but they slipped five points behind Sociedad after Athletic Bilbao fought back to secure a 1-1 draw. Valencia stayed in touch with a 1-0 home victory against Sevilla.
Barcelona suffered another torrid night as they crashed to a 0-2 defeat at Celta Vigo — a result that leaves them three points above the drop zone.
In the FA Cup, Arsenal cruised to a 5-1 victory against minor league Farnborough Town on Saturday — forward Francis Jeffers celebrating his 22nd birthday and a rare start by scoring twice.
Manchester United responded on Sunday with a 6-0 thrashing of the Premier League’s bottom club West Ham United — Ruud van Nistelrooy and Ryan Giggs also both scoring twice.
Liverpool were held 0-0 at first division Crystal Palace, while third-division giant-killers Shrewsbury Town, conquerors of Everton in the third round, were hammered 4-0 by Chelsea.
A weekend of Cup action in France produced one big upset and a controversial encounter between arch-rivals Paris St Germain and Olympique Marseille.
Second division Toulouse shocked RC Lens, last season’s first division runners-up, with a 1-0 win. But that result was overshadowed by events at the Parc de Princes where PSG defeated 10-man Marseille 2-1 after extra time thanks to a goal by Fabrice Fiorese.
A bad-tempered affair produced eight yellow cards and a straight red for Manuel Dos Santos at the end of normal time.
In Germany, where the Bundesliga resumed on Saturday after its winter break, Bayern Munich went eight points clear after a 3-0 win over Borussia Moenchengladbach — England midfielder Owen Hargreaves scoring his first goal for the club.
Champions Borussia Dortmund undermined their chances of retaining the title by losing 1-2 at Hertha Berlin for whom Brazilian Marcelinho scored a last-minute winner.
Werder Bremen moved above Dortmund into second place despite being held to a 2-2 home draw by Arminia Bielefeld.