Pitchside Europe

Ten games that defined the season

Pitchside Europe

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With the exception of France's Ligue 1, which concludes on Sunday, all of Europe's major leagues have now wrapped up for the season. Pitchside Europe looks at 10 matches that shaped the outcomes of the leading championships outside the Premier League.

October 2: Juventus 2-0 Milan (Serie A)
Juventus began the season with wins over Parma and Siena, followed by a pair of 1-1 draws against Bologna and Catania. The brand new Juventus Stadium had only witnessed two league matches when reigning champions Milan came to town in early October, but a late brace from local hero Claudio Marchisio secured a victory that gave Antonio Conte's side belief that they could compete with the best teams in the division, as well as providing the first indications of the fortress that their new arena would become.

December 10: Real Madrid 1-3 Barcelona (La Liga)
Having won 12 of their first 14 league games — scoring 49 goals in the process — Madrid welcomed Barcelona to the Bernabeu for the season's first Clasico with a three-point lead and a game in hand. They went ahead through Karim Benzema after only 21 seconds but slowly and surely, Barca ground them down, equalising when Alexis Sanchez scored from Lionel Messi's perfectly weighted pass in the 30th minute and claiming victory through second-half strikes from Xavi and Cesc Fabregas.

February 5: Ajax 0-2 FC Utrecht (Eredivisie)
Ajax had lost at home just three times in three-and-a-half seasons prior to their abject reverse against Utrecht in early February, which followed a 4-2 defeat at Feyenoord and left them eight points below leaders PSV in sixth place. Amid back-room turmoil off the pitch, Ajax's season appeared over, but the loss to Utrecht relieved the pressure on Frank de Boer's team and gave way to an extraordinary 14-game winning run that carried them to their 31st Dutch league title.

February 19: Paris Saint-Germain 2-2 Montpellier (Ligue 1)
Montpellier's challenge for the Ligue 1 crown was seen as something of a novelty in France until they went to Parc des Princes in February and proved that they were every inch the title contenders. With Younes Belhanda in irresistible form, the visitors took the lead through John Utaka in the 82nd minute and even though Guillaume Hoarau's equaliser two minutes from time kept PSG top of the standings, Montpellier's title credentials could no longer be disputed.

February 19: Hibernian 0-5 Celtic (SPL)
With Rangers having slumped into administration five days earlier, Celtic's rout of Hibernian was a title celebration fuelled by delirious schadenfreude at the fate that had befallen their old rivals. Amid a festive atmosphere at Easter Road (one banner read 'WE'RE HAVING A PARTY AS R*NGERS DIE'), Gary Hooper scored twice as Neil Lennon's men opened up a 17-point lead over Rangers that would stretch to 20 points by the season's end.

March 2: Benfica 2-3 Porto (Primeira Liga)
Porto's 3-1 loss at Gil Vicente on January 29 brought their 55-game unbeaten run in the Portuguese top flight to an end and allowed Benfica to open up a five-point lead at the top of the table. The momentum in the title race appeared to be slipping away from the defending champions but they constructed a four-game winning run, culminating in a thrilling 3-2 victory at Estadio da Luz (sparked by a Hulk screamer and sealed with an 87th-minute header from Maicon), which took them back to the top of the table and gave them a lead they would not relinquish.

March 18: Panathinaikos v Olympiacos; match abandoned; Olympiacos awarded 3-0 victory (Greek Super League)
What should have been the pivotal game in the Greek title race descended into chaos as Panathinaikos fans rioted in the stands after their team fell 1-0 down, lighting fires in the stands and throwing missiles at police. The visitors were awarded a 3-0 victory and Panathinaikos' subsequent points deduction gifted the title to their rivals.

April 11: Borussia Dortmund 1-0 Bayern Munich (Bundesliga)
Dortmund had already won at Bayern in November, but it was with this victory in April that Juergen Klopp's side confirmed the power shift in the German top flight. Robert Lewandowski's instinctive back-heel separated the teams but Bayern had chances to equalise, with Arjen Robben tamely rolling a penalty at Roman Weidenfeller and later spooning the ball over the bar from only six yards in injury time. Victory put Dortmund six points clear with four games to play and they confirmed their superiority over Bayern by thrashing them 5-2 in the DFB Pokal final to extend their winning run against the Bavarians to five matches.

April 21: Barcelona 1-2 Real Madrid (La Liga)
Although unbeaten since their loss to Barcelona in December, Madrid had wobbled, drawing against Malaga, Villarreal and Valencia to allow the Catalans to close the gap to just four points. Barca had won their 11 previous games but for once they found themselves deservedly beaten, losing to Cristiano Ronaldo's coolly-taken 73rd-minute strike after Sami Khedira's opener had been cancelled out by Sanchez. It was Madrid's first win at Camp Nou during Pep Guardiola's Barcelona tenure and it felt like the end of an era. The title duly followed.

May 10: Shakhtar Donetsk 3-0 PFC Olexandriya (Ukrainian Premier League)
England was not the only country in which the Premier League title race went down to the season's final day. Shakhtar's comfortable victory over relegated Olexandriya last Thursday gave them a third consecutive Ukrainian league title — at the expense of Dynamo Kiev — and a second successive double, following their extra-time triumph over Metalurh Donetsk in the Ukrainian Cup final the previous Sunday.

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