woensdag 28 maart 2012

Champions League Report

Marseille 0-2 Bayern Munich
Gomez and Robben strike to leave German giants on brink of semi-finals
Goals for the Germany and Netherlands internationals left the Bavarians in pole position to advance to face the winner of the tie between APOEL and Real Madrid

Olympique de Marseille v FC Bayern Munich - UEFA, Ribery and Gomez

Bayern Munich took a big step towards progression in the Champions League as they earned a 2-0 win away to Marseille in Wednesday's quarter-final first-leg clash.

Franck Ribery's return to the Stade Velodrome was not exactly a comfortable one, but the visitors overcame stiff resistance as they secured a two-goal advantage ahead of the return leg in Munich.

One minute before half-time, Mario Gomez found the net under controversial circumstances after a suspected hand-ball at the other end. The goal counted nonetheless, and OM were forced to try to overturn the deficit. However, Arjen Robben scored a crucial second goal on 69 minutes, leaving the hosts with a mountain to climb.

Chances were few and far between in what was a physical opening half. Though cautious in their approach, the hosts were first to pose a threat on goal and were unfortunate not to take the lead on seven minutes. Following a corner-kick, Rod Fanni's header was tipped wide by Manuel Neuer. Loic Remy was first to the rebound, but blasted into the side-netting.

After a tough start, Bayern gathered some fluency in midfield and carved out a couple openings inside the Marseille penalty area. However, Robben slipped before seeing his window to shoot close, and Thomas Muller's low cross found no team-mate in the centre before rolling out of play.

Marseille recovered, and shortly before half-time, a botched clearance from Jerome Boateng saw the ball fall to Remy. The striker was quick to shoot from the edge of the penalty area, but Neuer pounced to make a save.

Bayern as well would benefit from a mistake shortly thereafter, but the Germans took their chance as Gomez fired in off Elinton Andrade's hands. Seconds before, Mathieu Valbuena had kicked the ball off Philipp Lahm's hand, but play continued as Robben slipped in Gomez, whose finish appeared to be covered by the goalkeeper before it deflected into the net.

After the break, Marseille had an encouraging start, with Valbuena nodding over the bar from Remy's cross. Andre Ayew headed on goal in the 56th minute, but Neuer had little trouble in making a stop. Shortly before the hour mark, Remy muscled Boateng off the ball, but Neuer was quick off his line and blocked the forward's attempt.

The balance swung in the visitors' favour around the hour mark, however. Andrade did very well to deny Gomez, but with 21 minutes left, Robben made it 2-0, handing the visitors a big advantage heading into the second leg. The Dutchman played a one-two with Muller, and curled his finish inside the left post.

The most significant action late in the game was a booking for Bayern substitute Bastian Schweinsteiger, who will miss the second leg through suspension. In addition, OM's Alou Diarra will sit out, having been booked earlier in Wednesday's match.

The result sees Bayern take a commanding lead into the second leg, which will be played on April 3. The winner of the two-legged tie will face either APOEL or Real Madrid in the semi-finals.

AC Milan 0-0 Barcelona
Robinho guilty of glaring miss while Alexis is denied penalty as first leg ends in entertaining stalemate
The Catalan giants were kept at bay by a determined defensive performance from the Italians, leaving the tie on a knife edge for the second leg at Camp Nou

Lionel Messi and Robinho - Ac Milan-Barcelona (Getty Images)

AC Milan were able to hold Barcelona to a 0-0 stalemate in their Champions League quarter-final first-leg encounter at San Siro.

The visitors had their chances, among them a penalty claim on Alexis Sanchez that was denied, but a sterling defensive display by Massimiliano Allegri’s men saw the Spanish outfit frustrated and sets up an enthralling second leg at Camp Nou in six days time. 
An exciting start to the match saw Milan nearly storm into the lead after only three minutes. A scramble inside the penalty area saw the ball spill to Robinho in space, but with the goal at his mercy, he could not find the target as his volley flew over the bar.

The early shock did not faze Barca though, who slowly began to cause problems at the other end of the pitch. With 10 minutes gone, Lionel Messi’s low drive was fumbled by Christian Abbiati, who was fortunate to see Dani Alves scoop the rebound the wrong side of the post.

Abbiati was at the thick of things again within minutes, after he charged off his line to bring down Sanchez in the area. There did not appear to be much contact with the ball from the Milan keeper, but no penalty was forthcoming, leaving the visitors to remonstrate furiously with referee Jonas Errikson.

Not long after, the Catalans were able to find the back of the net, but the goal was correctly disallowed as Messi was in a clearly offside position when he turned home Alves’ cross.

Milan survived the scare, and saw another golden chance go begging with 20 minutes gone. Clarence Seedorf put Zlatan Ibrahimovic through on goal, but his finish was weak and easily smothered by Victor Valdes.

Barca were unsurprisingly able to control nearly two-thirds of possession, but some dogged defending from the hosts and the questionable state of the San Siro pitch prevented them from getting fully into their stride.

The Milan back line was caught out 10 minutes before half-time though, as Sanchez was put clean through, but Luca Antonini matched him stride for stride and got back to make a fantastic block just as the Chilean was about to pull the trigger.

Andres Iniesta sent another warning Milan’s way coming out of the interval, with a quick dart into space ending with a snap shot from the edge of the area that flew just wide.

However, Barcelona were finding it increasingly difficult to get a clear sight on goal as the second-half wore on, with Allegri’s men keeping their discipline and organisation at the back.

With 67 minutes gone, substitute Urby Emanuelson nearly made an immediate impact seconds after his arrival when he raced onto a through pass deep in the area, but his first touch was woeful and halted the move in its tracks.

Barcelona hit back soon after through a substitute of their own, with Tello finding space on the right side of the box and letting fly with an effort that rippled the side netting.

Tello caused more Milan hearts to flutter when his dangerous cutback saw Messi’s volley deflected just over the bar, and the resulting corner was headed just wide by Carles Puyol.

Minutes before the end, Abbiati was on hand to deny Messi, beating away the Argentine’s low drive, with Tello also thwarted from the rebound by another brilliant tackle from Antonini as Milan preserved the 0-0 scoreline.

Both sides will lock horns once more for the return leg at Camp Nou in six days time.


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