woensdag 23 november 2011

Champions League matches

Real hit Zagreb for six

Real Madrid wrapped up top spot in Champions League Group D in emphatic fashion by thrashing Dinamo Zagreb 6-2.
The Spanish giants stormed into a 3-0 lead over Dinamo Zagreb inside nine minutes with goals from Karim Benzema, Jose Callejon and Gonzalo Higuain, and Mesut Ozil made it four before 20 minutes were up.
Callejon and Benzema struck again after the interval and Madrid could have had even more goals, while late strikes from Dinamo's Fatos Beqiraj and Ivan Tomecak gave a merely cosmetic effect to the scoreline.
The opener came after just 83 seconds as Benzema tucked away Ozil's cut-back to round off a flowing team move.
The France striker then laid the ball off for Callejon to rifle home the second from the edge of the box and there were still only nine minutes on the clock when Higuain netted a delicious third.
Racing into the right side of the penalty area, the Argentinian flummoxed defender Leandro Cufre with a sharp turn before producing a deft finish over wrong-footed keeper Ivan Kelava.
Higuain then fired Fabio Coentrao's cross over the bar before Luis Ibanez had shell-shocked Dinamo's first real effort, curling a free-kick over.
Benzema was off target from distance but Real's fourth was not long in coming, Ozil finishing calmly after Kelava parried Higuain's drive.
Kelava remained defiant in the face of the onslaught, saving with his feet to deny Coentrao and then tipping Benzema's shot over.
Dinamo sought to get themselves on the scoresheet as half-time approached but Jorge Sammir fired over after Benzema only half-cleared Mehmed Alispahic's corner and Ibanez then shot straight at keeper Antonio Adan.
But, after making all three substitutions at half-time, Madrid quickly extended their lead as Callejon latched onto Raphael Varane's long ball and was allowed to finish too easily inside the near post.
Kelava was fighting a lone battle at times and did well to tip efforts from Higuain and Callejon around the post in quick succession.
But he was left helpless when Benzema took Higuain's pass, waltzed through two weak challenges and found the bottom corner of the net.
Beqiraj had one effort blocked by Raul Albiol but was not to be denied, heading home Ibanez's cross for his side's first goal of the tournament - and the first conceded by Jose Mourinho's side.
Benzema hit the bar and drew another sharp save from Kelava as he chased his hat-trick, and substitute Hamit Altintop had a shot blocked, but it was Dinamo who had the final word as Tomecak turned in Milan Badelj's cross.
Source: ESPN

Napoli 2-1 Manchester City: Edinson Cavani hits double to leave visitors' Champions League hopes hanging by a thread

The Uruguayan striker struck in each half to take the visitors' destiny out of their hands, despite Mario Balotelli's ninth goal in 10 matches.

Napoli dealt Manchester City's hopes of reaching the knockout stages of the Champions League a severe blow by recording a 2-1 victory at San Paolo in an exciting, end-to-end Group A match.

Edinson Cavani was the home hero with goals in either half. He recorded the opener after 20 minutes from a corner, his flicked header poorly defended by Aleksandar Kolarov on the post, before Mario Balotelli struck back with a tap-in after the half-hour.

The winner came just after the break when the Uruguayan put away a sumptuous sidefooted finish from Andrea Dossena's low pass, to seal a result that sees Napoli leapfrog City in the standings, one point ahead of the Premier League leaders going into the final matchday.

The Citizens will now need to overturn Bayern Munich in their last group game and hope that bottom side Villarreal can upset the odds by recording its first points of the league phase.

City started the match in commanding form and came close when Mario Balotelli curved a shot wide from the edge of the area, but let its concentration slip a little after 10 minutes when Marek Hamsik was allowed space to meet a cross from the right – the visitors were lucky that the Slovak headed straight at Joe Hart.

The home side, buoyed by its first chance, then nearly carved out a beautiful goal. On a furiously fast counter-attack, Ezequiel Lavezzi steamed forward in from the left, played a glorious one-two with Cavani, before firing just wide.

Napoli completed their seizure of the initiative by notching the opener in slightly awkward style. After Hart touched a rasping 30-yard effort from Gokhan Inler over the bar, Cavani met the resulting corner just short of the near post with a flicked header, which then took touches off both the flailing Kolarov and Hart to bounce in.

City looked rattled as the Italians settled down, backed by a vociferous crowd, to defend deep and frustrate the Premier League leaders, but sitting back backfired when Salvatore Aronica fluffed a clearance, passing it straight to Silva in the box. The Spaniard’s shot was parried by Morgan De Sanctis but Balotelli was on hand to tap in the simplest of finishes on the rebound.

After the break, Napoli came out with a fire in its belly. Andrea Dossena slipped into space on the left, supplied by Lavezzi, and then cut a pass back into the area, where Cavani dispatched a cool sidefooted finish past the slow-to-react Hart to restore the hosts’ lead and renew Mancini’s headaches.

Napoli should have extended the lead when Christian Maggio hared down the right wing and delivered a probing cross to which Hart offered only a feeble punch, but Lavezzi was unlucky to slip at the crucial moment and could not capitalize on the mistake.

Lavezzi had another bite of the apple a minute later, Hamsik having found some space and attemped to release him. His marker, Vincent Kompany, slipped to allow the Argentine to race into the area, but Hart stood firm to block his strong shot and keep the visitors within reach.

With City scrambling, Cavani nearly turned provider for the killer goal when he produced a sublime cross-field pass from deep, even while being brought down by Kompany, to find Hamsik. The Slovak took advantage of a slight deflection off the defender to jink past and shoot low, but his effort came back off the post.

Immediately after, Balotelli finally broke Napoli’s defensive line to find himself one-on-one with De Sanctis, but the keeper reacted smartly to deflect his shot, to the striker’s clear frustration.

The home side then pelted back upfield with Maggio this time breaking into the box and bearing down on Hart, but the impressive keeper provided too big a barrier for the wing back to seal the win.

The game had become frantic, and City pushed forward again with the substitute Samir Nasri loosed in the inside-right channel gloriously by Silva. The Frenchman’s cross sat up invitingly for Balotelli but he headed over.

City threw everything it had at the Italians but there was no last-minute miracle and it now stares down the barrel of elimination.


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