European soccer news: Madrid get late winner, Bremen stun Bayern

Dani Carvajal's goal seals victory for Real Madrid (1:18)

Jude Bellingham heads a ball to the far post as Dani Carvajal slots it in, stealing the win against Almeria 3-2. (1:18)

There might be a winter break in the English Premier League with games stretched across weekends, but there are still plenty of talking points happening in Serie A, LaLiga, Bundesliga, Ligue 1 and more.

On Saturday, we saw Bayer Leverkusen's fairy-tale season continue with a stoppage-time winner against RB Leipzig, Ivan Toney return to action for Brentford, and Arsenal edge Everton in the Women's Super League. Meanwhile in Italy, Daniele De Rossi secured his first victory as manager of Roma after José Mourinho was sacked by the club earlier this week. Can the club legend turn things around in the second half of the campaign?

On Sunday, both Barcelona and Real Madrid got last-minute wins against Real Betis and Almeria, respectively, while Bayern Munich were stunned by Werder Bremen at the Allianz Arena.

Here is your look back at all the fun from this weekend so far.

- Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, more (U.S.)


The Sunday lead: Madrid snatch late winner, despite VAR controversy

Real Madrid recovered from two goals down to beat Almería 3-2 at the Santiago Bernabeu, with Dani Carvajal scoring a 99th-minute winner in a thrilling encounter dominated by the involvement of VAR. The game swung on three big decisions all made with the assistance of the pitch-side monitor in the second half.

Referee Francisco José Hernández Maeso awarded Madrid a penalty, then ruled out an Almería strike and finally allowed a Vinicius Jr. goal converted with his upper arm to stand. Those decisions left Almería alleging robbery as LaLiga's bottom club's winless start to the season extended to 21 games.

Almería have shown signs of life in recent weeks. They lost 3-2 at Barcelona in December, conceding the winner in the 83rd minute, and held high-flying Girona to a goalless draw last weekend. They looked set to go one better at the Santiago Bernabéu when Edgar González's stunning strike gave them a 2-0 lead before the break after Largie Ramazani's first-minute opener.

However, Madrid so often turn things around, especially at home, although this comeback was loaded with controversy. Almería claimed Kaiky was fouled before the ball hit his arm, which allowed Jude Bellingham to make it 2-1. They were disappointed a Sergio Arribas goal was ruled out for a Dion Lopy foul in the build-up. They were furious Vinicius' equaliser stood when the Brazilian had turned the ball home with his upper arm.

Defender González moaned that the "competition is not fair for everyone," teammate Marc Pubill added "somebody decided we couldn't win and that's what happened," and midfielder Gonzalo Melero claimed it was a "robbery that surpassed all limits." Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti said he understood their anger but that the referee had got all three calls correct.

The win took Madrid back to the top of LaLiga provisionally before Girona's win over Sevilla. More important, perhaps, is the fact they now have a week off before Sunday's trip to Las Palmas. Ancelotti said the sloppy first half against Almería was down to tiredness and blamed himself for picking players who were worn out. After the Spanish Supercopa in Saudi Arabia, where they faced Atlético Madrid and Barcelona to win the competition, and an extra-time defeat to Atlético Madrid in the Copa del Rey on Thursday, a rest might well be just what they need. -- Alex Kirkland

Sunday talking points around the leagues

Barca leave it late but get the win over Betis

Ferran Torres bared his teeth to score his first Barcelona hat-trick as the Spanish champions left it late to beat Real Betis 4-2 at the Benito Villamarín having surrendered a two-goal lead in the second half.

Torres has nicknamed himself the shark this season, but his performances at times have seen him compared to other less predatory fish. He has been in and out of manager Xavi Hernández's team, too, but this was his sixth successive start and Barça will hope his performance in Seville is a result of the confidence being shown in him. He now has 11 goals in all competitions, second only to Robert Lewandowski, who has 12 and also supplied the assist for Barça's vital third goal, scored by substitute João Félix.

Torres' performance took the headlines away from Isco, who dragged Betis back into this game in the second half. After Torres' brace, Isco, who has rediscovered some of his best football back in the south of Spain, scored twice in three minutes to level the game up with half an hour to go.

With a draw and further damage to Barça's title hopes looking likely, Torres teed up Felix, who produced a fantastic finish with the outside of his boot to seal the points in the 90th minute. Torres then added the fourth in stoppage time, chipping Rui Silva after collecting a through ball from the outstanding Lamine Yamal -- one of two 16-year-olds in the Barça XI alongside defender Pau Cubarsí. The win keeps Barça within seven points of leaders Real Madrid and eases the pressure on Xavi after last week's Spanish Supercopa humbling against Los Blancos. -- Samuel Marsden

Ferran Torres gets his hat-trick and finishes off Betis

Ferran Torres scores in stoppage time to give Barcelona a 4-2 lead over Real Betis.

Bremen defeat Bayern for the first time in 15 years

The last time Werder Bremen beat Bayern Munich before Sunday was back in 2008. Twenty-eight games later, the northern German side managed to conquer the Allianz Arena once again. Mitchell Weiser, who spent two-and-a-half years at Bayern earlier in his career, brought down the German record champions with a screamer as the winning goal, as Bayern digested a serious setback in their quest to win their 34th championship.

The game itself was, for the most part, a one-sided affair. Bayern controlled the ball for long stretches of the game and Werder were content to try to hit the champions on the break. The visitors rejoiced for the first time in the 25th minute when Bremen recovered the ball in their penalty area and Romano Schmid sent Justin Njinmah flying down the field. After the 23-year-old forward beat Manuel Neuer, referee Marco Fritz consulted with the video assistant, and it was determined that Jens Stage had fouled Jamal Musiala during the build-up.

Despite this, Bremen sensed a genuine opportunity to capitalize on a counterattack. Their defence resiliently thwarted a series of Bayern attacks, and when tested, goalkeeper Michael Zetterer or the goalpost came to the aid of the visitors, who occupied the 13th spot in the Bundesliga standings going into the game. Moments before the hour mark, Marco Friedl played a long ball toward the right flank, where Weiser took on Alphonso Davies, cruised past the Canadian left-back and then smashed the ball powerfully past Neuer from close range.

From then on, Bayern stormed furiously toward Bremen's box. But manager Thomas Tuchel seemed to become more desperate with every passing minute, knowing that a loss would be potentially devastating to his team's title hopes. After the shock home defeat, Bayern remain seven points behind table leaders Bayer Leverkusen. -- Constantin Eckner

Bayern lose ground in title race with shock Bremen defeat

Bayern Munich loses 1-0 at home to Werder Bremen to stay seven points off Bundesliga rivals Bayer Leverkusen.

Dovbyk scores three as Girona's fairy-tale season continues with win over Sevilla

If you had to picture where Girona would be nearly four months following their 3-0 loss to Real Madrid, not even in Girona's fans' wildest dreams would they imagine that they would then go 14 games unbeaten, beating both Barcelona and Atletico Madrid in the process, and continue their magical run as league leaders with less than half of the season to go.

The reality is that Girona remain top of LaLiga table, and it doesn't seem like that is going to change anytime soon. They seem to have this never-give-up attitude that has seen them claw out results in the last minute or achieve comebacks like they did on Sunday in their 5-1 win over Sevilla. Even after they conceded early on from Issac Romero, the fundamentals that allowed this Girona to be the darlings all across Spain and the world were on display yet again.

Six minutes. That's all it took for Ukraine international Artem Dovbyk to score his 12th, 13th and 14th goals of the league season as he scored a hat trick to help Míchel's side snatch all three points. Sure, there are still a lot of games to be played (one of them being Real Madrid again on Feb. 10), but if this Catalan side continue to gain momentum by the time late May arrives, we might look back on that loss to Real Madrid in September as the turning point of one of the biggest shocks in LaLiga history. -- Roberto Rojas

James the hat-trick hero for Chelsea against Man United

For the first half hour in west London, Chelsea were simply irresistible.

Nathalie Björn looked perfectly at home at the heart of the home defence on her debut as compatriot, Johanna Rytting Kaneryd glided in and around the Manchester United defence. Erin Cuthbert and Melanie Leupolz controlled the midfield as Lauren James dazzled in attack, having fired two shots beyond Mary Earps.

Yet, when the champions should have been putting the game to bed, they took their foot off the gas and opened the door for United, who steadied themselves and snatched a goal late in the first half through Hayley Ladd. Buoyed, the visitors showed better football after the break and forced the game into a state of transitional flux, unsettling the hosts.

Lawson: Chelsea at their vintage best in win over Man United

Sophie Lawson reacts to Chelsea's 3-1 WSL victory over Manchester United, as Lauren James stars with a hat trick.

But again, Chelsea did what they do best and hung in, waiting for their moment to pour water over the flames of United's comeback. James was the one to take the chance when it presented itself as her effortless run beyond Maya Le Tissier and composed finish into the bottom corner marked her second hat trick at Stamford Bridge this season.

For Chelsea, who even on their way to the WSL title last season, repeatedly failed to show their imperious best, it was a reminder of just how clean and composed the team can be, with the whole team able to raise their level. If the Blues can consistently dig into the same form moving forward in this campaign, no one will be able to catch them. -- Sophie Lawson

Americans Abroad: McKennie fundamental in Juve win

Weston McKennie continues to shine for Juventus as he helped Max Allegri's side defeat Lecce 3-0 to continue their charge for the Serie A title as they go top of the league, with Inter breathing behind their necks by just one point, but who also have a game in hand.

The American was able to get an assist following Filip Kostić's cross in which McKennie headed the ball toward goal, and while it looked like the ball was going into the back of the net, Dušan Vlahović was able to put a final touch on it on a night where he got a brace. Did he steal a potential goal for McKennie? You be the judge!

Meanwhile, in the Bundesliga, we also saw Jordan Pefok get on the scoresheet with the opening goal for Borussia Monchengladbach, but it wasn't enough as Augsburg's second-half charge saw them score twice in a 2-1 win and earn all three points. -- Rojas

News of the day

  • Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has said after his side's 4-0 win over Bournemouth that Mohamed Salah will return to Liverpool for treatment on his hamstring injury, but only after Egypt's group stage is complete at the Africa Cup of Nations. "I'm not a doctor," Klopp said. "I would say if Egypt qualifies for the final then probably yes. Ivory Coast I'm sure it's a wonderful country, but we have no people from us there. They have people who have to take care of the players who are playing."

And finally, on Sunday ...

Cristiano Ronaldo is back in the news again! In an interview with Diario Record from his native Portugal, the legendary forward claimed that the Ballon d'Or and The Best FIFA Football Awards "are losing credibility."

This comes days after Ronaldo won Best Middle East Player, the Fans' Favourite Player of the Year, and the Maradona Award for Best Goal Scorer of the Year at the annual Globe Soccer Awards, which also saw Manchester City's Erling Haaland win Best Men's Player of the Year.

However, this also comes days after Lionel Messi won The Best FIFA Men's Player at the Best FIFA Football Awards last week, an event for which the Argentine didn't even show up to accept his award. Ronaldo believes that while he didn't think Messi deserved the award, or Haaland or even Kylian Mbappé, the Portuguese said that "he simply no longer believes in these awards."

Still, it feels very ironic that Ronaldo has said that about the other two prestigious awards considering he hasn't won a Ballon d'Or or The Best FIFA Men's Player since 2017. Needless to say, even in the latter stages of his career, Ronaldo will always find a way to make headlines. -- Rojas


The lead: Leverkusen keep unbeaten streak alive with another last-minute win

Bayer Leverkusen are seemingly making a habit of scoring last-minute winners. The Bundesliga leaders and fourth-placed RB Leipzig clashed in an exciting back-and-forth game on Saturday which saw Leverkusen snatch a precious 3-2 win thanks to a Piero Hincapié goal in stoppage time.

Leipzig made an explosive start, with strikers Loïs Openda and Benjamin Sesko both running at Leverkusen's back three time and time again. The returning Dani Olmo and Xavi Simons provided the necessary creativity and were both involved in the early go-ahead goal, as Simons juggled the ball inside the box and slotted home left-footed past Lukas Hradecky.

While Leverkusen were attempting to control the ball and advance down the field methodically, as they have done in so many games previously, they faced the constant threat of conceding another goal through a Leipzig counterattack, with Openda and Sesko usually lurking tight to the offside line.

Bayer experienced another setback at the half-hour mark when wing-back Jeremie Frimpong suffered a knee injury, prompting manager Xabi Alonso to make a substitution. Nathan Tella was brought on in his place. The 24-year-old Nigerian international arrived from Southampton during the summer for a transfer fee of €23m and had thus far not shown many convincing performances for Bayer. But it was Tella who finished a fast-paced sequence after the half-time break, beating David Raum at the back post to convert Alejandro Grimaldo's cross for the equalizer.

In an unusual display of negligence, Leverkusen subsequently permitted Leipzig to regain the lead after an ill-advised decision to direct a corner kick toward the edge of the penalty area. Simons intercepted the ball, initiating a counterattack that resulted in Openda scoring the 2-1 shortly before the hour mark. At that stage of the game, it was evident that Leverkusen would need an iron will to keep their season-long unbeaten streak intact.

They not only did that but also took home three vital points by scoring two goals following corner kicks toward the back post. In both cases, Lukas Klostermann and Xaver Schlager were not in position to defend effectively against Jonathan Tah and Hincapié, respectively. With another win in the bag, Leverkusen are now seven points ahead of perennial champions Bayern Munich, who host Werder Bremen on Sunday. -- Constantin Eckner

Saturday talking points around the leagues

Ivan Toney scores on return

It took just 19 minutes for Ivan Toney to remind Brentford -- and his possible suitors in the transfer market -- what they've been missing by scoring in Saturday's 3-2 win over Nottingham Forest. Toney's first appearance in 266 days after serving a ban for admitting 232 breaches of the Football Association's betting rules ended just as he imagined earlier in the day.

"I manifest things like this," he said at full-time. "Before the game, before I left my house I thought 'yeah, we're winning today and I'm scoring.' And I made it happen, so it's good." Danilo had given Forest a third-minute lead with a brilliant strike before Toney lined up a free kick just outside the box which he expertly bent around the wall -- after moving the ball a fraction to his right to improve the angle -- to equalise.

Ben Mee put Brentford in front early in the second half before Chris Wood drew Forest level only for Neal Maupay to land the decisive blow at 68 minutes, swivelling superbly with one touch before firing a left-footed volley into the far corner.

But all eyes were on Toney, who has attracted interest from Arsenal and Chelsea this month although both clubs are so far deterred by Brentford's valuation in excess of £80m. Toney has flirted with a move away in several interviews conducted while he was suspended and he showed little signs of rustiness in a typically combative display which helped Brentford win for the first time in six games.

Brentford boss Thomas Frank described Toney as "impressively good ... he doesn't feel the pressure. He's still a human being, of course there were a little extra normal nerves, butterflies in the stomach, but when they kick off, boom, he switches on and plays the football he loves."

Toney added: "I'm grateful to be back playing with the lads. I missed it so much. The fans, everyone. Yeah, I'm back. I'm back."

He certainly is. -- James Olley

Arsenal claim win but questions remain

Things could have turned ugly in Borehamwood after the Gunners' opening goal, the hosts smothering the Toffees from the first whistle and Caitlin Foord's ninth-minute effort suggested a long afternoon for the travelling side.

Everton, to their credit, managed to pull themselves into a more cohesive shape and with their second foray into the Arsenal half, pounced on some static defending to pull themselves level through Katja Snoeijs. Yet all of their hard work was undone in first-half stoppage time when Beth Mead met Lia Walti's neat cross with a thumping header to score the deciding goal in a 2-1 win.

Arsenal continued to show their ability to dominate the ball in the second half, but by then Everton had found more resilience in their own shape and did well to stem the flow, with Courtney Brosnan once again starring between the sticks for the Toffees. Indeed, with Arsenal unable to put the game to bed, they left the door open for Everton's (very) late flurry as the visitors amped the pressure, looking for a stoppage-time point.

The Gunners managed to hold out and claim the deserved three points to keep themselves in the title race, but, with Arsenal head and shoulders above Everton on paper, there will be more questions about why the win was far from comfortable. Jonas Eidevall has asked his squad to be more efficient with their chances, but again they fell into familiar patterns of struggle in breaking their opposition down once Everton had managed to locate their self-belief. -- Sophie Lawson

Winning start for De Rossi and Roma in post-Mourinho era

We don't know yet if Daniele De Rossi will become a great manager or not, but history will forever remember that he won his first game in charge of his beloved Roma. The former Giallorossi midfielder took over for José Mourinho after the latter's sacking on Tuesday and got a wonderful reception from a packed Stadio Olimpico. And the Roma fans would have loved what they saw in the first half.

With a back four and a 4-3-2-1 Christmas tree formation, in contrast to Mourinho's 3-5-2, De Rossi's team played on the front foot and produced some good football. They scored two goals by Romelu Lukaku and Lorenzo Pellegrini and created more chances.

De Rossi promised attacking football and his team delivered. However, it was a different story after the break, when Hellas Verona were the better team. Roma rode their luck when Milan Djuric missed a penalty after an hour and held firm to win 2-1 and come back into fifth place in the table.

After three games without a win in all competitions, Roma have the perfect start under their new manager. De Rossi will now have nine days to prepare until the team's next Serie A game against Salernitana -- who sit bottom of the table -- on Jan. 29. Then Roma will be at home to strugglers Cagliari before a trip to Inter Milan. De Rossi has two winnable games on paper to make even more of an impact on his team. He will want to see more of their first-half football on Saturday than what they delivered in the final 45 minutes. -- Julien Laurens

Why Roma decided to sack Jose Mourinho

Gab Marcotti dissects Roma's decision to part ways with Jose Mourinho.

Americans abroad: Pulisic subbed off as Milan win; Turner struggles

AC Milan's Christian Pulisic was subbed off in the 75th minute after managing just one blocked shot against a stubborn Udinese side. The Rossoneri came back to clinch a 3-2 victory through Noah Okafor's goal in stoppage time, but 25-year-old Pulisic will want to add goals to his otherwise solid performance on the right wing in both defense and offense. The U.S. international has 11 goal contributions this season in 18 appearances, with his last goal coming on Dec. 30.

Elsewhere, is the USMNT facing a goalkeeper crisis? We dove into the team's woes behind the sticks earlier this week, and on Saturday, Nottingham Forest's Matt Turner showed why. The goalkeeper from New Jersey has conceded 26 goals in 16 matches in the Premier League this season, with only two clean sheets. Against Brentford, he conceded three goals including a free kick that required a better wall setup. With a 70% save percentage, Turner will hope to improve his form as Forest hover over the relegation zone.

News of the day

  • Barcelona boss Xavi Hernandez has said he believes his team's next two games will define their season. Barça, who are eight points behind league leaders Girona and seven points adrift of second-place Real Madrid, play at Real Betis on Sunday in LaLiga before travelling to Bilbao for Wednesday's Copa del Rey quarterfinal against Athletic Club. "These next games will mark the season, but also if we have good results with Betis [in LaLiga] or Athletic [in the Copa]," Xavi said. He is confident despite being under pressure following Barça's humbling 4-1 defeat against Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup final on Sunday and their unconvincing 3-1 triumph at third-tier side Unionistas de Salamanca on Thursday.

  • Lionel Messi's Inter Miami started their preseason tour with a draw against the El Salvador national team. The Argentina star played in the first half alongside Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez, his new teammate for the upcoming MLS season. Inter Miami will play FC Dallas next Monday at the Cotton Bowl and then will travel to Saudi Arabia to face Al Hilal on Jan. 29 and Cristiano Ronaldo's Al Nassr on Feb. 2.

  • Cristiano Ronaldo said on Friday that the Saudi Pro League is better and more competitive than the French Ligue 1. Ronaldo, who joined Al Nassr after leaving Manchester United just over a year ago, was speaking at the Globe Soccer Awards after being honoured as the Best Goalscorer and Fans' Favourite Player of the Year. "To be honest I think the Saudi League is not worse than French league," said Ronaldo. "In Saudi now I think it's more competitive. They can say whatever they want, it's just my opinion and I played there one year so I know what I'm talking about. But I think right now we are better than [the] French league, we still improve."

And finally on Saturday ...

After making her first start for Arsenal in their home win over Everton, U.S. international Emily Fox, who has previously spoken about her fondness for the English game, explained the timing behind her Women's Super League move to ESPN.

"It was important to get some experience professionally first in America and then make that step over here. I feel like Lindsey [Horan] is a great example of someone who went to Lyon and has really enjoyed it and thrived there and for me, there are so many UNC players who've ended up at Arsenal and having that connection and seeing them doing good gave me inspiration to want to come here. But I've always wanted to do it."