LONDON (Reuters) - The leading teams in Europe’s top leagues all won at the weekend with the exception of Manchester United who were thrashed 3-1 at arch-rivals Liverpool for whom Dutch striker Dirk Kuyt scored a hat-trick.
Barcelona, AC Milan, Borussia Dortmund, Lille and PSV Eindhoven all enjoyed victories to keep their sights firmly fixed on the title although their main rivals also won.
Manchester United’s Premier League title hopes are faltering after the leaders lost 3-1 at Liverpool to a hat-trick by Dutch forward Dirk Kuyt. It was their second league defeat in a week, after a 2-1 loss at Chelsea, and their third in five games.
United are three points ahead of Arsenal, who have a game in hand, after the Londoners were held to a goalless draw at home to Sunderland. Third-placed Manchester City are seven points off the pace after a 1-0 win over Wigan Athletic.
Fourth-placed champions Chelsea, who are 12 points behind United with two games in hand, travel to Blackpool on Monday.
Barcelona stayed seven points clear of Real Madrid at the top of La Liga with a 1-0 win at home to Real Zaragoza after Seydou Keita made the most of a rare place in the team.
The Mali midfielder, making only his 10th league start this season, swept home a deflected Lionel Messi cross in the 43rd minute to lift Barca to 74 points from 27 matches.
Real Madrid kept pace with a 3-1 win at Racing Santander after Karim Benzema scored twice and Emmanuel Adebayor also netted as they survived without the injured Cristiano Ronaldo.
Third-placed Valencia’s Pablo Hernandez struck twice to earn a 2-1 comeback win at Real Mallorca that took his side four points clear of Villarreal, who lost 3-1 at Atletico Madrid.
AC Milan midfielder Gennaro Gattuso put weeks of bad publicity behind him with his first league goal in three seasons to help the Serie A leaders claim a 1-0 win at rivals Juventus.
Milan kept their five-point advantage with 61 points and 10 games left after second-placed champions Inter Milan battered Genoa 5-2 with Samuel Eto‘o netting another brace.
Napoli in third lost further ground after a 0-0 home draw with strugglers Brescia left them three points back of Inter.
Champions Bayern Munich went down 3-1 at third-placed Hanover 96 to lose touch with the top spots and put coach Louis van Gaal’s job on the line as they slipped to fifth.
Bayern were desperate to stay in the hunt for the second place that grants an automatic Champions League spot but a third defeat in as many games left them seven points adrift of second-placed Bayer Leverkusen, who beat VfL Wolfsburg 3-0.
Runaway leaders Borussia Dortmund are 12 points clear on 61 after their 1-0 win over Cologne on Friday.
Lille substitute Pierre-Alain Frau netted in stoppage time to seal a 2-1 win at champions Olympique Marseille, who slipped to fourth, as they held on to top spot.
Ligue 1 games were officiated by third division referees after the usual officials were removed for planning protests about what they see as a lack of respect from clubs.
Second-placed Stade Rennes won again, nervously beating Montpellier 1-0 away thanks to Razak Boukari’s volley, to stay level on 49 points with Lille.
Olympique Lyon rose to third, level on 45 points with Marseille, after Lisandro Lopez’s hat-trick in a 5-0 win over bottom side Arles-Avignon. Paris St Germain dropped to fifth as their title hopes were hit by a 1-0 loss at lowly Auxerre.
PSV Eindhoven’s Balazs Dzsudzsak slotted home a penalty in added time to earn a 3-2 win at lowly Excelsior Rotterdam that kept them three points clear at the top with 57 points.
Twente Enschede kept pace after a 2-0 win over NAC Breda with Luuk de Jong and Nacer Chadli on target for the hosts while third-placed Ajax Amsterdam stay five points adrift of PSV after cruising to a 4-0 home win over 10-man AZ Alkmaar.
Porto extended their lead at the top of the Portuguese championship to 11 points by beating visitors Guimaraes 2-0 while second-placed Benfica lost 2-1 at Braga with 10 men.
Colombia striker Radamel Falcao and Uruguay winger Cristian Rodriguez scored in the second half to give Porto their 20th win in 22 games as they moved on to 62 points.
Argentine forward Javier Saviola put Benfica ahead in the 25th minute but the champions suffered a blow when Javi Garcia was dismissed in the 41st for lashing out at Alan.
Hugo Viana levelled for Braga and substitute Marcio Mossoro completed the turnaround with a drive after 78 minutes.
Editing by Ken Ferris; To query or comment on this story email email@example.com