European soccer news: Liverpool close gap amid final push

Ogden: Liverpool are still very much in this title race (1:28)

Mark Ogden says that people should not count Liverpool out of the title race after a 3-1 win away at Fulham. (1:28)

It's another weekend of European football and, as we head towards the end of the season, every single game feels like it has so much on the line.

Liverpool rebooted their title challenge as manager Jurgen Klopp heavily rotated his squad in a win against Fulham on Sunday. Elsewhere, Bayer Leverkusen, the surprise Bundesliga winners, haven't taken their foot off the gas as they extended their unbeaten streak to 45 games.

Meanwhile, it was another thrilling edition of El Clasico, which might as well be renamed the Jude Bellingham Show -- Real Madrid won it, basically clinching the LaLiga title, and Barcelona are left to begin an uncertain rebuild. And Manchester United were lucky to get past Coventry City in the semifinal round of the FA Cup.

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

On Saturday, Arsenal and Manchester City bounced back from their midweek Champions League exits with wins in the Premier League and FA Cup, respectively. City's semifinal win came at the expense of Chelsea, who were once again left to rue their profligacy up front.

An Erin Cuthbert strike gave Chelsea a shock 1-0 win over reigning champions Barcelona in the Women's Champions League, while in Italy, 72-year-old Claudio Ranieri reminded everyone of his legendary status.

Let's get into the action from this weekend.


The lead: Liverpool close gap, prepare for strong Premier League end

Liverpool rebooted their Premier League title challenge with a 3-1 win at Fulham after manager Jurgen Klopp made wholesale changes to his team in a last-ditch bid to pull his side out of their form slump.

Second-half goals from Ryan Gravenberch and Diogo Jota sealed a crucial victory after Timothy Castagne's 45th minute equaliser canceled out Trent Alexander-Arnold's free-kick opener on 32 minutes.

But although Liverpool lack fluency in their performance, the three points were all that mattered as Klopp's team moved into second spot, level on points with leaders Arsenal and one point clear of Manchester City, who have played one game fewer.

Having taken just one point from their last two league games and also suffering a shock Europa League quarterfinal exit against Atalanta, Liverpool went into the game at Craven Cottage knowing that anything other than a win would all but end their hopes of winning the title.

But despite the high stakes, Klopp started with Mohamed Salah, Darwin Nunez, Alexis Mac Allister, Ibrahima Konate and Dominik Szoboszlai on the substitutes' bench due to the fatigue factor and Liverpool only returning from Bergamo, Italy, in the early hours of Friday morning following their second-leg game against Atalanta.

Klopp's selection gamble paid dividends, however, with his side emerging with the win that enables them to travel to Everton for the Merseyside derby on Wednesday knowing another victory would move them four points clear of City and heap the pressure on City to win at Brighton 24 hours later. The squad rotation means more options for Klopp as the season comes to its conclusion.

City are still the team to beat with the champions unable to be caught if they win all six of their remaining Premier League fixtures. But after Arsenal beat Wolves at Molineux on Saturday to claim top spot, Liverpool did their bit to keep the title race alive by sealing the win at Fulham. -- Mark Ogden

Sunday talking points around the leagues

Leverkusen keep unbeaten streak alive with another stoppage time goal

It appears Bayer Leverkusen just never know when they are beaten.

Four days after overcoming West Ham United in the Europa League quarterfinals, Xabi Alonso's side faced Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga. Leverkusen fell behind in the 81st minute when German international striker Niclas Füllkrug fired the home side ahead in front of almost 80,000 jubilant fans inside Signal Iduna Park.

However, as has been the case all season, Leverkusen simply refused to give up. Seven minutes into added time, Josip Stanišić converted a Florian Wirtz corner and brought Dortmund's supporters crashing back to reality as the score leveled at 1-1.

Leverkusen's relentless determination once again shone through, showcasing their unwavering resolve beyond the 90-minute mark. It has been one of the Bundesliga champions' biggest strengths that they just never say die.

While Dortmund, fresh off a triumph over Atlético Madrid in the Champions League, demonstrated their mettle, they found themselves unable to maintain their lead. This familiar narrative echoed their earlier encounter this season, as they relinquished control once more, leaving them entrenched in fifth place in the Bundesliga standings, trailing RB Leipzig by two points.

Meanwhile, Leverkusen's astounding run continues, extending their undefeated streak to an astonishing 45 games and they could still finish the season unbeaten. -- Constantin Eckner

How Leverkusen extended their unbeaten streak to 45 games

Alejandro Moreno reacts to Bayer Leverkusen's late 1-1 draw vs. Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga.

Miedema, Maanum make returns as Arsenal move third on WSL table

Arsenal's comfortable win over Leicester City on Sunday might have lacked the fireworks of the last time's blowout, but by welcoming back two of their key players, the narrative around the Gunners is far more positive.

Frida Maanum and Vivianne Miedema returned to the pitch for the first time following periods of absence during Arsenal's 3-0 demolition of the Foxes.

Beth Mead's strike in the 18th minute added the cushion that was needed for Maanum to be substituted in the 65th minute after manager Jonas Eidevall eluded ahead of the game that the midfielder could be eligible for a return. The Norwegian midfielder collapsed during Arsenal's 1-0 win over Chelsea in the League Cup final last month at Molineux but was able to return to the pitch after undergoing extensive tests and assessments where "no obvious cardiac causes" were found.

Maanum's substitution seemed to spark the Gunners back into life as Arsenal struck twice more. The game had begun to feel flat, and you could be forgiven for thinking that Arsenal would ride out their 1-0 lead until the final moments. However, whether it was the roars of support and standing ovation over Maanum's return or the fresh legs injecting some much-needed fight back into the side, it reignited a tenacity in Arsenal, ensuring the side secured Champions League football next season with three games to spare.

Miedema then also returned as a late substitute. The Netherlands international suffered complications following an anterior cruciate ligament injury (ACL) last year, requiring a second surgery in February.

With three games left of the season, the final stretch seems to be shaping up to be a positive one for Eidevall's side. -- Emily Keogh

No Mbappe, no problem as PSG outclass Lyon to show gap in Ligue 1

Five days after scoring four goals in Barcelona to turn around their Champions League quarterfinal tie on Tuesday, Paris Saint-Germain netted as many against Lyon at the Parc des Princes in Ligue 1 on Sunday to win 4-1 again.

Les Parisiens' victory, achieved without five key starters including Kylian Mbappé and Ousmane Dembélé who were rested, was as impressive as the one in Spain and it highlighted once more the incredible gap domestically between the reigning champions and the rest of the league.

In 2024, no team in France had taken more points than Lyon so far just ahead of PSG. Yet, they outclassed and humbled in Paris. PSG manager Luis Enrique and his players can do no wrong at the moment and even without their superstars, they are clinical, move the ball well, press hard and beat the opposition press.

PSG are now 11 points above second-place Monaco with four games to go, and have only one loss all season in Ligue 1 so far compared to five for Lille, the next least-beaten team in the country. Furthermore, PSG have scored 14 goals more than Ligue 1's second-best attack in Monaco (69 goals in 29 games) and have a goal difference of +44 compared to +18 for the next-best Lille.

has his team playing exactly like he wants. He can replace Mbappé or Dembélé and the side still plays the same way. Gonçalo Ramos scored two goals on Sunday starting as centre forward to continue his great spell with seven goals now in his last nine Ligue 1 games, showing that he could become a key player next season after the departure of Mbappé to Real Madrid.

For Lyon, this cannot be seen as a setback. They were beaten by a team that is both on fire at the moment but also more talented overall. Lyon showed character, shot a lot (16 in total, two more than PSG) and created danger even if they didn't really have clear chances. There are still positives for Pierre Sage, the OL manager, to take away from the Parc des Princes.

Lyon are five points behind the European places and their next two opponents are Monaco at home and Lille away which is huge. More importantly for them, they will have another chance to beat PSG and take their revenge in the French Cup final on May 25. They have a month to find the solutions to the problems they faced on Sunday. -- Julien Laurens

Americans abroad: Dest suffers serious injury; Wright's FA Cup ends despite goal

Sunday was a tough day from an Americans abroad perspective.

For starters, U.S. men's national team right back Sergino Dest suffered an injury that PSV said on Sunday will keep him out for the rest of the season.

Dest "suffered what appears to be a serious knee injury during Saturday's training session," the club said in a statement. The statement added that the exact extend of his layoff is "still being investigated" but it is "almost certain" to be "an extended period."

With the Copa America set to be played in June, that means Dest could miss it.

Later on Sunday, it appeared that Haji Wright's game-tying penalty kick could be what helped Coventry City to push past Manchester United in the FA Cup semifinal.

Wright's 95th-minute equalizer, which brought Coventry back from being down 3-0, did force the match into extra time and then penalty kicks. But Man United eked by on spot kicks, knocking the second-tier Coventry City out of the competition. (Wright did score his penalty in the shootout.)

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Wright has converted 11 of his last 12 penalty kicks attempted in regulation. Also, five of his last six goals with club and country in all competitions have been after the 90th minute (including games that have gone to extra time). -- Caitlin Murray

Haji Wright's late penalty sends FA Cup semifinal to extra time

USMNT's Haji Wright scores a 95th minute equalizer to send Coventry's semifinal vs. Man United to extra time.

News of the day

  • Nottingham Forest put a stunning statement on social media after their 2-0 loss to Everton on Sunday, claiming the club had "warned" the Premier League's refereeing body that the Video Assistant Referee, or VAR, assigned for the match "is a Luton fan" but the referee was not swapped out. Forest said in the unattributed statement that the club "will now consider its options."

  • Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag admitted than his side "got it away with it" after blowing a 3-0 lead in the FA Cup semifinal to eke past Coventry City on a penalty kick shootout. "On several occasions we let each other down. Today we got away with it," he said afterward.

  • Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said he rotated heavily in Liverpool's win over Fulham to prevent player burnout for the run-in to the Premier League title. "I made the changes 100% sure that we had to," Klopp said in his post-match press conference. "We play on Wednesday again, so I need to make the changes before the players give me the obvious sign that they're done."

  • Barcelona, feeling they were robbed of a goal that would've changed the result of their 3-2 loss to Real Madrid, slammed LaLiga for not having goal line technology. When the Sunday's El Clasico was at 1-1, Lamine Yamal had a strike that was ruled not to have crossed the line, but video replays couldn't offer a definitive angle to be sure it was the right call. Both Barcelona manager Xavi Hernandez and goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen echoed each other in calling the ordeal "embarrassing."

And finally, on Sunday...

And now, a tidbit that will make many of us feel just a little bit of shame for having a lazy Sunday of watching FA Cup and LaLiga soccer on ESPN+ all day.

Manchester United co-owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe made it to Sunday's FA Cup semifinal at Wembley in person -- after running the London Marathon. The 71-year-old British billionaire finished the marathon in around 4.5 hours before heading to Wembley to see some of the match before it ended.

He said there are some parallels between running a marathon and running a football club. "It's a journey -- they have to be patient," he said of the fans. "It's not a light switch. We will turn it around."

Indeed, the Premier League season is a proverbial marathon rather than a sprint, but still, after Sunday's second-half implosion from Man United, you wonder if manager Erik ten Hag is nearing his finish line. -- Murray


The lead: Chelsea's striking woes on show

If Mauricio Pochettino keeps his job as Chelsea manager this summer, he won't need to come up with a clever pitch to convince the club to sign a new striker -- he only needs to play the tape of Saturday's 1-0 FA Cup semifinal defeat to Manchester City.

On a different day, Nicolas Jackson would have scored one of his three golden chances and the post-match headlines would have all been about Pochettino's tactical masterclass out-foxing City boss Pep Guardiola. Instead, he was left to talk about another missed opportunity just two months after he was last at Wembley talking about how his team should have beaten Liverpool in the Carabao Cup final.

At 22-years-old, Jackson -- with pace and strength to burn -- has plenty of potential, but leading the line for a club as big as Chelsea is a job for a more experienced goal-scorer. He's got 10 goals in the Premier League this season and 13 in all competitions, but if Chelsea have ambitions to re-establish themselves as a top-six club and genuine title contender, they need to sign someone more prolific.

Saturday's defeat to City wasn't all down to Jackson, and there were plenty of other examples of their wastefulness, but Pochettino would be forgiven for thinking that he won't be able to build the team he wants until he gets a better striker. -- Rob Dawson

Onuoha: Chelsea missed a huge opportunity to beat Man City

Nedum Onuoha reacts to Chelsea's 1-0 loss to Man City in the FA Cup semifinal.

Saturday talking points around the leagues

Ranieri on the brink of delivering another calcio miracle

Claudio Ranieri, the former Leicester City manager who led his team to an incredible and improbable Premier League title in 2016 against all odds, is about to create another kind of miracle with his Cagliari side is looking good avoid relegation in Serie A. On Friday night, they got another excellent result with a point against Juventus (2-2) at home after having led 2-0 at half-time. It puts Gli Isolani 14th in the table, five points clear of the drop zone with only five games to go.

Since January, they have beaten Bologna (fourth in the table) and Atalanta (fifth), drawn with Napoli, Internazionale and Juventus. They started the season with no win in their first nine games and Ranieri offered to leave after having taken the team back up to Serie A from Serie B last season. But the players insisted for him to stay and now the 72-year-old will add another great line to his already great CV.

What about Juventus, you ask? It was another poor performance from the Bianconeri. Head coach Max Allegri, his players, and their style of football from the ancient times were all terrible with only one shot on target in the first 45 minutes. They have now only won one of their last seven league matches, taking only seven points out of 21. Juve are still third in the league, but Bologna are now just five points behind them with a game in hand, while AS Roma are nine points behind with two games in hand in fifth.

As Cagliari and Ranieri are getting ready to celebrate at the end of their campaign, it is more doom and gloom at the moment for Juventus and Allegri, under more pressure than ever and uncertain to keep his place on the bench at the end of the season. -- Laurens

Hayes' Chelsea grind to shock win in Barcelona

How do you keep Barcelona from scoring? That's been the question posed, but left unanswered, by every team the European champions have faced since the last time they drew a blank (against Wolfsburg) in April 2022. Even on the rare occasion of a loss or draw since, the Catalans have always found the back of the net, which makes Chelsea's 1-0 win in Montjuïc on Saturday afternoon all the more impressive.

The first leg of the Champions League semifinal was one for the purists; error-strewn from the hosts, but dogged and determined from Chelsea. The attritional style of play from the English champions left Barcelona passing into cul-de-sacs and running out of ideas. Cuthbert's well-taken goal late in the first half was all that separated the two teams come the full-time whistle, but for Chelsea it wasn't about the glory of the strike but rather the team ethic to keep the hosts at bay throughout the match.

While Barcelona have been flying all season, easing to every domestic piece of silverware available, Chelsea have been grinding and stuttering, having lost the league cup final and being kicked-out of the FA Cup final in back-to-back games over the last month.

As Chelsea boss Emma Hayes has been so fond of saying over the years, "it's only half-time [in the tie]" and Barcelona won't go out without a fight. The stage is set with all eyes already cast to the second leg in London next Saturday. -- Sophie Lawson

How Chelsea disrupted Barcelona's home dominance in UWCL semifinal win

Sophie Lawson reacts to Chelsea's 1-0 victory over Barcelona in the Women's Champions League semifinal first leg.

Americans Abroad: Promotion thanks to Busio?

The highlight of Saturday in Europe for U.S. men's national team fans happened in Italy's second division. North Carolina native Gianluca Busio scored the game-winner for Venezia in their 2-1 win over Lecco in what could be a very important result.

With the win, Venezia moved into sole possession of third place on the Serie B table with promotion still on the line. The top two teams in Serie B are automatically promoted to the top-flight, and the third place team can either be promoted with enough points, or be placed into a multi-round playoff.

In U.S. women's national team news, Lindsey Horan earned the free kick that resulted in Lyon's second goal in their 3-2 win over Paris Saint-Germain in the Women's Champions League semifinals first leg.

The second leg will be worth keeping an eye on for USWNT fans: either Horan and Lyon advance, or PSG -- the club of national team newbies Eva Gaetino and Korbin Albert -- will move on. That second leg at Parc de Princes will be played on April 28. -- Murray

News of the day

  • Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola lashed out at the FA Cup schedule after his side reached the final by beating Chelsea 1-0 on Saturday, three days after their treble bid was ended by defeat on penalties by Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League. "It's unacceptable to let us play today," Guardiola told the BBC. "It's impossible, for the health of the players. It's not normal. It's unacceptable -- 120 minutes, the emotions of Madrid, the way we lose, honestly."

  • Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta said the Gunners' 2-0 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday was particularly pleasing, coming after his team were knocked out of the Champions League in the last eight by Bayern Munich in midweek. "It was a very good response, so proud of them," he told the BBC. "We reacted in the right way. We deserved to win the game and got another clean sheet again."

And finally, on Saturday...

It did not go all Manchester City's way in their FA Cup semifinal win over Chelsea on Saturday.

Jack Grealish, in particular, did not seem impressed with the officiating and let the fourth official know of his concerns after he was subbed off in the 66th minute.

With City in the midst of one of the tightest Premier League title races in years, Guardiola will be relying on all of his star players to be available. If Grealish attracts a ban for his act of petulance -- and that's a big if -- the Manchester City boss will understandably be furious. -- Mike Wise