After a perfect end to 2014, Real Madrid opened the new year with its first loss since September.
Madrid slipped to a 2-1 defeat at Valencia to end a 22-game winning streak in all competitions. However, Barcelona failed to take advantage as it also lost at Real Sociedad to remain behind leader Madrid in the Spanish league.
In England, Manchester United and Manchester City were among a slew of big clubs that needed second-half recoveries against lower-league teams for victories in the FA Cup’s third round.
Madrid took the lead at Valencia when Cristiano Ronaldo extended his season tally to 26 league goals in the 14th minute at Mestalla Stadium, stroking in a penalty kick following Alvaro Negredo’s handball. But the hosts rallied through a goal by Antonio Barragan in the 52nd before defender Nicolas Otamendi fended off Sergio Ramos to head home the 65th-minute winner. “We have been training all week for this,” Otamendi said.Madrid had not lost or drawn a game in any competition since a 2-1 defeat to Atletico Madrid on Sept. 13, setting a Spanish record for consecutive wins. Barcelona had the chance to provisionally climb above Madrid into first, but lost 1-0 at Sociedad following Jordi Alba’s own goal in the second minute. Star forwards Lionel Messi and Neymar came on as substitutes in the second half, but failed to inspire a comeback. Rayo Vallecano also came from behind for a 2-1 victory at crosstown rival Getafe. Eibar, meanwhile, continued its impressive topflight debut by holding on to win 2-1 at Espanyol and move into eighth place.
England: On the day England’s top teams entered the FA Cup, world football’s most famous domestic cup competition, there were a slew of close calls for Premier League sides. But only Queens Park Rangers fell at the first hurdle.
QPR lost 3-0 to Sheffield United, which is making a habit of producing so-called “giant-killings” in cup competitions. The team reached the semifinals of the FA Cup last season and has advanced to the same stage of the League Cup this season, where it takes on Tottenham over two legs this month.
Man City looked like going the same way as QPR, only for James Milner — a midfielder playing as a makeshift striker — to score in the 66th minute and again in injury time in a 2-1 win over second-tier Sheffield Wednesday.
Man United was also unconvincing against Yeovil, which is bottom of the third tier, and needed goals in the final 26 minutes from midfielders Ander Herrera and Angel Di Maria for a 2-0 win.
Stoke avoided what would have been one of the biggest shocks in the cup’s 144-year history, scoring three times in the final 10 minutes to beat non-league Wrexham 3-1. Chelsea also relied on a second-half revival, scoring three goals in a 14-minute burst for a 3-0 win over Watford. Christian Benteke’s 88th-minute strike earned Aston Villa a 1-0 victory over Blackpool, which plays in the second tier.
Arsenal had it more comfortable, with the defending champions beating Hull 2-0 in a repeat of last season’s final thanks to goals by Per Mertesacker and Alexis Sanchez.