donderdag 25 oktober 2012

Champions League Report

Ajax 3-1 Manchester City
Mancini's men on brink of Champions League exit
Nasri handed City the lead after a slow start at the Amsterdam ArenA, but goals from De Jong, Moisander and a deflected Eriksen effort have left their European hopes in tatters

CL - Ajax v Manchester City, Siem De Jong

Manchester City's chances of Champions League progression suffered a huge blow on Wednesday night after they were defeated by Ajax in a crucial Group D clash.

The visitors took their time to grow into the tie but made no mistake with their first opportunity - Samir Nasri slotting home. However, Siem de Jong netted a superb equaliser on the stroke of half-time to send Roberto Mancini's men into the break with a bitter taste in their mouths.

After a cautious start to the second 45, the Dutch side took the lead through Niklas Moisander before Christian Eriksen inflicted further pain with a deflected shot to bag the third, condemning City to a disappointing blow.

The result gives the Dutch giants their first victory in this year's group stage, while City have just one point from three matches and face a mountain to climb to escape this season's 'Group of Death'.

Danish playmaker Eriksen starred for the Dutch champions, with former Liverpool man Ryan Babel also among the recognised names in the starting XI.

Eden Dzeko was handed a start after his last minute winner against West Brom at the weekend, with Sergio Aguero partnering him in attack. Elsewhere, James Milner kept his place in the side despite being sent off against the Baggies. 

The hosts made the brighter start, keeping the ball with ease and working the first chance of the game just before the ten minute mark, but Eriksen fired narrowly wide of Joe Hart's post.

The dangerous Eriksen then flattened Yaya Toure with a hefty challenge, leaving the Ivorian down but not out, before the Dane made his mark in a different way, once more going close with a long-range effort after producing a delightful touch to set himself up.

However, somewhat against the run of play, Mancini's men took the lead in the 23rd minute. Micah Richards fed Milner with a beautifully weighted ball, with the midfielder passing it on to Nasri who opened his body to curl a shot past Kenneth Vermeer.

Aguero then twice found himself with space in the box, and may well have doubled the lead if it wasn't for two last ditch tackles, before, five minutes later, Vermeer made a fine save from Richards as the Premier League champions settled.

With half-time approaching City were made to pay for failing to press on, though. Ricardo van Rhijn delivered with a low cross from the right, picking out De Jong's run and allowing the midfielder to smash a first-time effort into the corner, giving Hart absolutely no chance and sending the teams into the break on level terms.

The visitors almost made the perfect start to the second period. Aguero broke into the Ajax box and, as Vermeer rushed out, tried to find a team-mate in the area but saw his chipped cross cleared.

However, after a quiet 15 minutes or so, the exact opposite happened. Eriksen whipped in a fantastic corner from the right-hand side, with Moisander then beating Joleon Lescott in the air to nod it past a helpless Hart.

Things went from bad to worse for Mancini, minutes after replacing Lescott with Aleksandar Kolarov and switching to a back three. The Dutch outfit's man of the match, Eriksen, embarked on a twisting run before unleashing a left-footed effort, the ball striking Gael Clichy on it's way into the goal - once again giving Hart no chance.

Tobia Sana then had a golden chance to put his side further ahead, Hart rushing off his line very quickly to smother the one-on-one. Then, as City rushed forward, Dzeko squandered two opportunities to give the visitors a lifeline - the Bosnian hesitating slightly on both occasions which allowed Vermeer to make the blocks.

For the final 15 minutes or so Mancini's side seemed to be playing with just two men at the back and two in midfield, with Mario Balotelli and Carlos Tevez both thrown into the fray. 

Nasri had a weak penalty appeal turned down and Aguero shot narrowly over, but ultimately there was no breakthrough and Ajax held firm to secure their first win of the tournament, leaving City in big trouble.

Borussia Dortmund 2-1 Real Madrid
Schmelzer the hero as Los Blancos' miserable record in Germany continues
The left-back netted the winner as BVB picked up their first ever win over the Spaniards, leaving them with one win in their previous 24 visits to the country in the process

UEFA Champions League: Borussia Dortmund - Ajax Amsterdam, Robert Lewandowski, Ivan Perisic & Marcel Schmelzer

Borussia Dortmund secured a fantastic 2-1 win over Real Madrid with an energetic display in their Champions League clash at the Signal Iduna Park.

In an evenly contested fixture it was the reigning Bundesliga champions who struck first through Robert Lewandowski but just two minutes later Cristiano Ronaldo equalised with a stunning strike.

Although being the away side, Jose Mourinho's men had a far greater ball retention but that counted for nothing come the final whistle as Marcel Schmelzer's second-half strike ensured BVB took all three points.

The attacking nature of both sides was displayed from the off as neither side sat back in a very open and stretched start. 

With five minutes played, a loose pass from Marco Reus offered Real Madrid their first chance to work the keeper.  Ronaldo charged down the left flank but Mesut Ozil was unable to connect with his cutback and steer the ball on target.

But this was by no means the start of an early Blancos onslaught as BVB proved themselves capable of linking a number of passes together in the opposing half. 

One such move in the 13th minute created space for Sebastian Kehl to try his luck with a shot from distance but a scrambling Iker Casillas managed to get across and parry the ball aside.

Sami Khedira was replaced by Luka Modric due to injury after 20 minutes and although Mourinho's side enjoyed the lion's share of possession, the hosts were relatively comfortable.

After seeing another impressive effort saved by Casillas, Kehl continued to be Dortmund's driving force and that his involvement was key when his side moved ahead. 

Having read the play to pounce on a loose pass from Pepe, he slid a first-time pass straight into Lewandowski. The striker raced through a gap in the defence and fired a low effort past the keeper with 36 minutes played.

Madrid responded to going behind magnificently and managed to restore parity just two minutes later. A long ball forward from Ozil found Ronaldo in space on the left and with Sven Bender unable to make up the ground he lifted the ball over Roman Weidenfeller for a superb finish.

The second half began in a similarly electric fashion to that of the first as Casillas was called into action within five minutes. Mario Gotze sent Lukasz Piszczek's cut back straight down the middle and, although unsighted, the keeper parried it aside.

Five minutes later Schmelzer put enough pressure on Angel Di Maria to stop the Argentine from finding the bottom corner and the BVB left-back then displayed his ability at the other end of the field. 

Casillas could only punch a cross from the left and it fell to Schmelzer 20 yards from goal and the Germany international showed fantastic technique to rifle a volley into the bottom corner in the 64th minute.

Dortmund managed to contain the Liga champions from then on, dispelling the accusations of naivety that were hanging over them following last season's premature exit.

The three points see Jurgen Klopp's men take charge of Group D as they move one point above the Spanish side and into pole position ahead of the return fixture at the Santiago Bernabeu in a fortnight.

Arsenal 0-2 Schalke
Huntelaar & Afellay gun down sloppy hosts
The visitors have leapfrogged the Gunners at the top of Group B as two second-half goals ensured a deserved victory at the Emirates on a disappointing night for Arsene Wenger's men

 Klaas Jan Huntelaar of Schalke 04

Schalke became the first foreign side to win at Arsenal in nine years as they took advantage of a pitiful display by Arsene Wenger’s side to take top spot in Champions League Group B.

Late goals from Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Ibrahim Afellay settled a game that the German visitors dominated throughout, tearing Arsenal’s insipid defence to pieces, with left-back Andre Santos particularly guilty of complacency as he was torn to shreds by Schalke winger Jefferson Farfan.

As Stan Kroenke and Arsene Wenger watched from the stands and boos rung out from the few fans who stayed in the ground until full-time, you got the sense that Arsenal’s AGM on Thursday night became even more interesting with a result that leaves the Gunners second in the group with three matches to play. They remain one point behind Schalke and three above third-placed Montpellier.

It was the manner of the display that will really grate with supporters who made little attempt to hide their frustration as Arsenal fell to their second home defeat in 28 European matches at the Emirates Stadium.

The Gunners had just one attempt on target in the entire match, and neither of those were noteworthy. While no-one could be said to have played well, Santos was particularly dreadful at the back while Gervinho’s decision-making highlighted the lack of confidence in their attacking play.

Schalke - who have lost just once this season - took control of the game from the very start, with winger Farfan constantly exposing Santos.

In the 14th minute, the German side had a legitimate claim for a penalty when Afellay was released by Farfan and went down under a challenge from Vito Mannone, only to be shown a yellow card for simulation. Replays suggested the Arsenal goalkeeper did make contact with the Dutchman’s foot.

Schalke began to believe in their chances of becoming only the second side to win a Champions League game at the Emirates Stadium. 

Just before half-time, Huntelaar struck wide of the near post from six yards after meeting Atsuto Ushida's cross when he should have scored.

The second period started in the same manner, Farfan again breezing past Santos and squaring for Schalke captain Benedikt Howedes, who made a mess of his attempted shot and blazed over the crossbar.

As the frustration of the Arsenal fans grew, so did the desperation of the players, with Gervinho booked for an outrageous dive as he tangled with substitute Jermaine Jones.

In the 76th minute, Schalke finally scored the goal they deserved and Arsenal were punished for their carelessness. 

It was far too easy for the visitors. Afellay was allowed to head unchallenged 25 yards from goal to Huntelaar, who was played onside by Santos and smashed the ball low past Mannone.

Four minutes before full-time, Schalke again struck on the break and Santos was again left chasing Farfan’s shadow before the Peruvian crossed for Afellay to slot home from inside the six-yard box. Too easy, too good.

Malaga 1-0 AC Milan
Three wins from three for Spanish side as Allegri moves closer to exit
Joaquin was the hero for the Andalusians, atoning for an earlier penalty miss with the only goal of the game in the second half, as Milan's season goes from bad to worse


Malaga's perfect start to its maiden Champions League campaign continued with a 1-0 victory over AC Milan at La Rosaleda on Wednesday.

The Andalusian outfit has three wins out of three, and remains the only side in this seeason's competition yet to concede a goal after a comfortable victory over the beleaguered Italians, who see more pressure heaped on coach Massimiliano Allegri after another disappointing result. 

The scoreline could have been greater had Joaquin not missed a first-half penalty, but the Spanish winger made amends just past the hour mark as he scored the only goal of the game with a cool finish.

Malaga now has nine points from its opening three games in Group C, and holds a five point lead over Milan, which is now looking over its shoulders at Zenit St Petersburg, only a point behind. 
With Nigel De Jong sidelined through injury, Massimo Ambrosini was handed his first Champions League appearance of the season, while Alexandre Pato continued his return from a long injury layoff with a place on the bench.

Malaga, facing an Italian side for the first time in its history, carried the momentum of the first half as the play of Joaquin and Manuel Iturra in particular kept Milan perpetually on the back foot.

Milan would slowly grow into the game though, and it managed to fashion the first real chance of the match on the half hour mark, as Urby Emanualson broke free down the right and teed up Stephan El Shaarawy inside the area, who fired over from a great position.

Malaga would hit back soon after, as a slick combination between Joaquin and Isco resulted in the latter bending a shot inches over the bar from the edge of the box.

With two minutes to go until halftime, the home side was presented with a golden opportunity to take the lead, after Kevin Constant tugged down Jesus Gamez just inside the area to concede a penalty.

Joaquin took responsibility from 12 yards out, but over-hit the spot-kick, which clipped the crossbar on its way out of play.

The match remained finely poised as the second half unfolded, but Malaga continued to shade matters, and Saviola nearly had a one-on-one after latching onto Isco’s brilliant cutback, but a superb tackle by Daniele Bonera halted him at the last.

With 64 minutes gone, however, Malaga would finally find a way through. Iturra was the architect, clipping a perfectly-weighted pass over Francesco Acerbi, from which Joaquin needed no second invitation to slot into the corner.

Eliseu nearly added a second moments after the restart when he lashed towards goal from 20 yards out, but the fingertips of Amelia denied him a great goal.

Milan launched a late and desperate charge during the final minutes. El Shaarawy saw a close range shot pushed away by Caballero, and Mexes fired wide after attacking in a good position from the resulting corner.

But there was nothing more to come from the Italians, as Malaga held on for a deserved victory, and now sits within touching distance of the knockout stages, while Allegri faces fresh speculation over his future. 

Montpellier 1-2 Olympiakos
Mitroglou strikes in injury time to give Greeks valuable win
Rene Girard's side belied their woeful domestic form to boss much of an entertaining encounter, but a leveller from their captain and a late winner saw the visitors grab victory

Champions League : Younes Belhanda vs Giannis Maniatis (Montpellier vs Olympiakos)

Olympiakos secured a dramatic late victory in Group B after goals from Vassilis Torossidis and Kostas Mitroglou cancelled out Gaetan Charbonnier's first goal for Montpellier at the Stade de la Mosson.  

The home side made a blistering start to the match, but despite playing some lovely football, Charbonnier's volleyed effort was La Paillade's only effort on target in the first-half. However, the 23-year-old summer signing nabbed his first goal for his new club right after half-time to put the hosts in the driving seat. 

In an entertaining end-to-end contest, Montpellier threatened to stretch their lead only for Olympiakos' skipper Torossidis to nod home an equaliser. Late drama ensued with Mitroglou turning home a last-gasp winner to steal the spoils. 

Although they currently lie 16th in the French top flight, Girard's Montpellier started the game confidently and set the tempo early on. Younes Belhanda served warning that La Paillade were keen to put their domestic woes behind them: the midfielder flashing a fierce drive just wide on the quarter hour mark. 

French striker Anthony Mounier looked particularly lively for the Ligue 1 champions in the opening stages, but the 25-year-old blasted a decent chance over after an imaginatively-worked free-kick. 

Olympiakos, on the other hand, did not resemble a side who have strung seven back-to-back victories together domestically: Leonardo Jardim's outfit looking shell-shocked by the classy start made by their hosts.

The Greek side offered no attacking threat whatsoever in the first 20 minutes, the tricky jinkings of Leandro Greco on the left offering the only early indication that they could cause their French opponents trouble.  

It was no surprise therefore when Greco created Olympiakos' first chance of note: the former Roma winger nutmegging Benjamin Stambouli before whipping in a dangerous cross that Algerian striker Rafik Djebbour was close to converting. 

Despite Jardim's side starting to settle, Montpellier remained firmly on the front foot with the interval approaching. 

However, Montpellier coach Girard - watching from the stands due to a touchline ban received in their previous 2-2 draw with Schalke - must have been frustrated that his side were creating openings without testing Olympiakos' number one Roy Carroll. 

As the French side's early bluster started to flag, the Greek visitors appeared to grow in confidence. The Red and Whites backline looked solid and their midfield men were looking to cause problems: Portuguese midfielder Paulo Machedo firing a long-ranger over as the Greek champions trained their sights. 

After an attacking lull, however, Montpellier regained their verve and were close to taking the lead when striker Charbonnier latched onto John Utaka's cross to force a smart stop from Carroll.

The pressing question, as both sides emerged after the break, was whether Montpellier's brittle confidence would allow them to sustain the swagger they had shown first-half. 

An emphatic answer was delivered just minutes after the break by Charbonnier, who followed up his own flick-on to bury a low volley past Carroll to score his first goal for the French outfit. 

However, Charbonnier's delight was almost cut short immediately, his error near his own box aiding an Olympiakos attack that saw former Valencia midfielder David Fuster mangle a glorious headed opportunity. 

With the visitors stung into action, the game see-sawed: the Greek champions showing far more attacking intent, with Greco still to the fore, but Montpellier continuing to threaten through the outstanding Remy Cabella, Belhanda and Utaka.  

Just when the game seemed to be slipping away, however, Olympiakos' skipper Torossidis rose to the occasion: the right-back venturing forward and converting Jose Holebas' wicked inswinging free-kick at the second attempt on 76 minutes. 

A tense final quarter followed, but the game somewhat petered out with so much at stake for both clubs - only for substitute Kostas Mitroglou to win the match at the death.

The scene is set for a humdinger of a contest on November 6 when Olympiakos host the return fixture - the Greeks looking to secure a place in the Champions League knock-out phase and Montpellier realistically now playing for a Europa league spot.

Dinamo Zagreb 0-2 Paris Saint-Germain
Ibrahimovic and Menez secure Croatian cruise
The Sweden international hit home to send his side on the way to a routine victory, which puts it clear of Dynamo Kiev in the race to make the next phase

Zlatan Ibrahimovic Paris Saint-Germain

Paris Saint-Germain was given few problems in dispatching Dinamo Zagreb and taking a big step to qualifying from Group A of the UEFA Champions League, recording a 2-0 victory in the Croatian capital. Zlatan Ibahimovic opened the scoring with a neat close-range finish, before Jeremy Menez blasted home to leave Les Parisiens in the driving seat just before halftime. 

Needing a win to strengthen its chances of making the Champions League knockout stages after suffering defeat against Porto, PSG wasted no time in giving a strong sign of its intentions. With just three minutes on the clock Ibrahimovic expertly broke the Dinamo offside trap, but could not put the ball past Ivan Kelava who reacted quickly to keep out the Sweden international. 

Playing as a sole forward, Zlatan had several chances to open the scoring early on but was indecisive in front of goal, squandering several decent opportunities. Kelava was also called into action to deny Jeremy Menez, who saw his powerful effort palmed away by the young goalkeeper. Zagreb's few opportunities to get men forward invariably came from set-pieces, but an accomplished defensive display from the visitors meant Salvatore Sirigu was rarely troubled between the posts. 

The breakthrough for PSG came 10 minutes before the break. Menez did fantastically to beat Ante Puljic wide on the left, and his low cross met Ibrahimovic's outstretched boot and was diverted into the net, just out of Kelava's reach. The goal was a turning point, and ushered in a strong spell of domination for Carlo Ancelotti's charges. 

Dinamo was rapidly losing their grip on proceedings, and stared a third consecutive Champions League reverse in the face when Les Parisiens added a second. Christophe Jallet initiated a rapid counter from deep in his own half that went through Javier Pastore; the Argentine then released Menez on the left who burst into the area and smashed his effort through the legs of Kelava.

Pastore threatened to further extend the lead just after the restart, hitting into the side netting as the away team looked to pick up where it left off after its impressive end to the first period. Dinamo was also probing early on in its attempt to find a way back into proceedings, but both Thiago Silva and Jallet put themselves in the way of danger to thwart the hosts. 

The second half developed without too much goalmouth action, PSG seemingly content with the advantage and Dinamo short of ideas on how to penetrate its opponent's stout defensive line. Zlatan, however, was handed another excellent chance to add a third. The former Milan man was put clean through once more, but tried to be too cute in lobbing the ball over Kelava and drifted his effort wide with the goal at his mercy. The away team then did its best to submit its entry for goal of the season, slick passing between Menez and Jallet playing in Sissokho whose ripping volley flew just wide. 

There were to be no more goals for PSG, but the French team was left to celebrate as its recorded a comfortable victory in a potentially tricky encounter. The club stay in second place with six points from their opening three Champions League encounters, trailing Porto by three but enjoying the same margin over Dynamo Kiev at Group A's halfway point. Dinamo, meanwhile, stays at the foot of the table having failed to hit the net in any of its matches so far.

Porto 3-2 Dynamo Kiev
Jackson Martinez double maintains 100% Group A record
The Portuguese side secured maximum points in dramatic style on Wednesday evening, thanks to their Colombian attacker

Jackson Martinez - Porto

Porto produced a 3-2 victory over Dynamo Kiev to maintain their perfect record in Champions League Group A. 

Silvestre Varela’s blockbusting opener provided the first goal in a terrific match, which saw the Ukrainians respond when Oleh Gusyev glanced home a corner kick. Jackson Martinez put the Portuguese side back into the lead before the break, but Brown Ideye’s effort seemed that it may have decisive for the visitors. Nevertheless, Martinez popped up again to score the fifth goal of an enthralling encounter.

Coming into the match having already seen off Dinamo Zagreb and Paris Saint-Germain, the home side showed plenty of confidence in the early stages , yet they had offered only a limited threat in the early stages of the clash.  That changed spectacularly when Varela picked up a seemingly innocuous ball on the edge of the box and rifled home an unstoppable shot.

The Ukrainians had offered little threat to this point, aside from dangerous crosses from Miguel Veloso. From one such chance they drew level as a wicked in-swinging delivery was knocked home by Gusyev.

Although Porto struggled to puncture holes in their opponents, Martinez had already threatened with a shot off the crossbar, and it would be the attacker who broke the deadlock for them 10 minutes before the interval. James Rodriguez was the architect, sliding a neat ball through for the striker to knock home in a composed manner.

After the interval it was the erratic goalkeeping of Helton that offered Dynamo their greatest hope of a point, with the shot-stopper frequently showing nerves with slack punches from the crosses that were coming into his area. 

Nevertheless, Helton’s most painful moment came as he conceded to Ideye, whose thumping effort cracked into the net off his face.

Porto had created only a couple of chances to secure the points before that moment, so there was not great hope of them finding a winning goal, yet it arrived shortly after the leveller. Martinez was the hero with a simple finish, tapping home after Lucho Gonzalez beat a ragged offside trap and squared the ball to his colleague.

Victory was expected for Porto, but the drama surrounding this success was not. Nevertheless, head coach VĂ­tor Pereira can be delighted with the progress of his side, who look all-but certain to progress to the knockout stages once more.

Zenit 1-0 Anderlecht
Kerzhakov penalty rescues unconvincing hosts
The Russians stole the result despite a very lacklustre performance at home, but nevertheless move off the foot of Group C thanks to a second-half spot kick

CL - ZENIT-ANDERLECHT, Viktor Fayzulin and Kanu

Zenit St Petersburg claimed the first points of their Champions League campaign after a narrow 1-0 win over Anderlecht at the Petrovskij Stadium on Wednesday.

With both sides needing a win to resurrect their failing European challenges, a penalty from Aleksandr Kerzhakov in the second half, given after a foul by Milan Jovanovic, was enough to send the Russian outfit to a victory that they barely deserved.

Anderlecht will rightfully be disappointed with the result, as they fashioned the best chances throughout the match, and fell victim to a momentary lapse at the back to leave them with one point from their opening three games. 

Zenit now move off the foot of the table with the win and sit three points behind Group C leaders Malaga, who square off with AC Milan later on Wednesday. 
With so much at stake, it was perhaps no surprise to see the match take a while to get off the ground, as both sides seemed determined to prevent a goal rather than score themselves.

The first opening went Anderlecht’s way after 12 minutes, as a delightful one-two between Tom de Sutter and Jovanovic saw the latter drag wide of the far post after going one-on-one with Vyacheslav Malafeev.

That chance seemed to spark Zenit forward, and a stinging free-kick from Hulk was whipped inches wide of the far post, with two of his team-mates close to getting a touch.

The hosts were able to sustain pressure in the opposition half for large spells, but their monopolisation of the ball did not result in any clear-cut chances, as their attack seemed woefully out of sync.

In fact, the best chance of the first half fell to Anderlecht after 26 minutes, when Guillaume Gillet turned Domenico Criscito inside out to find himself in point blank range, only to slide the ball across goal when it was begging to be hit.

That was about as close the match got to a goal before the break, as both teams were extremely laboured in their play, despite the 0-0 scoreline doing more harm than good to their flailing chances of making the knockout stages.

Anderlecht came close four minutes after the restart, after good work from De Sutter out wide saw him tee-up Jovanovic inside the area, but the Serbian, instead of attacking the cross, elected to go to ground in futile hopes for a penalty.

But the second half followed the pattern of the first, with both teams lacking any sort of initiative in attack, as goalmouth action remained elusive.

There was finally some action of note just past the hour mark, as a testing free-kick from Lucas Biglia was punched clear by Malafeev moments before Kanu was able to connect.

Not long after, substitute Vladimir Bystrov cut into space just inside the area, but his shot was fired disappointingly over the bar.

But Zenit were handed a huge stroke of luck with 18 minutes remaining, after Anyukov was hauled down by Jovanovic while attacking a free-kick, leaving the referee with little choice but to award a penalty.

Most of the players were unaware that the infraction had been called, but after matters had settled, Kerzhakov stepped up to send Proto the wrong way and give the home side a lead they scarcely deserved.

Anderlecht pressed forward in the time that remained, but despite a few spells of pressure, they could not strike a telling blow as Zenit ran off with the points, though with Malaga and AC Milan set to meet later in the day, their task in Group C remains monumental.


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