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Arsenal's unbeaten run ends in EPL shocker
by Paul Kennedy, December 10th, 2007 7AM

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[WEEKEND HEADLINERS/VIDEO] Arsenal's unbeaten streak in the English Premier League came to an end when it fell at struggling Middlesbrough, 2-1, on Sunday. Real Madrid maintained its four-point lead over Barcelona in Spain thanks to a gutsy win at Athletic Bilbao. French club Paris St. Germain's road win at Auxerre was overshadowed by the disruptive behavior of its fans angry at its poor play. Bayer Leverkusen's recent charge has turned the Bundesliga into a four-team race.

MATCH/MIDDLESBROUGH-ARSENAL
Middlesbrough handed Arsenal its first loss of the 2007-08 English Premier season with a 2-1 win on Sunday.

Stewart Downing (penalty kick in the fourth minute) and Tuncay Sanli (rebound of a shot by Gary O'Neil) scored for Middlesbrough, which had been winless in all competitions since Sept. 1. Czech Tomas Rosicky scored in stoppage time for Arsenal, whose lead over Manchester United has shrunk to one point. The Gunners no longer have a game in hand, having been held to a 1-1 at Newcastle in last Wednesday's makeup game.

"We lost the game because we deserved to lose it," Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said. "It's that simple. Middlesbrough were sharper in the fight." Arsenal was the last unbeaten team in the EPL after Liverpool fell at Reading, 3-1, on Saturday.

COACH/BERND SCHUSTER
[VIDEO] Real Madrid coach Bernd Schuster praised the Merengues for their gutsy performance in their 1-0 win at Athletic Bilbao that kept them four points ahead of Barcelona, a 2-1 winner over Deportivo Coruna, in Spain's La Liga. A second-half goal by Ruud van Nistelrooy early in the second half was the difference in the game.

"I was delighted with the attitude and fighting spirit showed by the team," said Schuster. "There are two ways to win a game: by playing spectacularly and scoring loads of goals or through hard work and suffering, and that's what we did tonight."

Real Madrid is perfect at home in La Liga but has struggled at times this season on the road. Schuster said the win at Bilbao was one of the most important of the season, given Athletic's recent success and its support at home. "This is a difficult stadium to play in," he said of the Estadio San Mames, "and I liked the attitude of my men very much."

PLAYER/JEROME ROTHEN
Jerome Rothen, the subject of threats from Paris St. Germain fans, set up Peguy Luyindula for the only goal as PSG beat Auxerre 1-0, on Sunday to move out of the relegation zone.

The story, though, was the continuing problems between PSG and its fans, 100 of whom clashed with police before the game at Auxerre. The already tense situation at the troubled Parisian club had deteriorated when Rothen was seen on French television a week ago ripping up a letter that had been distributed by PSG fan groups urging players to try harder. Fans in two sections of the Parc des Princes walked out in protest during PSG's 1-0 loss to Caen that preserved its winless streak at home this season. Last Monday, Rothen had to act as a peacemaker to hold off angry PSG fans at the club's training center. Later in the week, riot police had to be called to protect PSG players at the center, and Rothen had the tires of his car slashed.

"I was [a PSG fan] before I became a player," Rothen, who apologized for his gesture, told the PSG Web site. "I know what they are feeling."

RACE/BUNDESLIGA
Bayer Leverkusen, a 3-0 winner over Hansa Rostock, is making the Bundesliga a four-team race.

Greek star Fanis Gekas, Simon Rolfes and Paul Freier scored for Leverkusen, which won its fifth game in a row to move to within five points of leader Bayern Munich, which was held to a 0-0 tie by next-to-last Duisburg at home.

With one game to go before the winter break, Leverkusen is in fourth place, a point of Hamburg for the league's final Champions League berth. It trails second-place Werder Bremen by three points.



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