In what was a great night for the British teams involved in the Champions League Tottenham, Manchester United and Glasgow Rangers all recorded good wins.
Tottenham in particular stood out winning 4-1 over fellow Champions League debutantes FC Twente despite going down to 10 men in the second half when Van der Vaart was sent off for a second Yellow card. It was an eventful night for Van der Vaart who missed a penalty and then opened the scoring before getting his marching orders. Overall the refereeing decisions were kind to Spurs and they had another two penalty decisions go their way, the second of which practically killed off any hopes FC Twente had of staging a comeback.FC Twente actually created 22 attempts at goal and will feel the scoreline flatters Tottenham, however when things go your way you have to take advantage, and Spurs certainly did. This result coupled with Werder Bremen’s drubbing against Inter Milan has put Spurs in a strong position even at this early stage of the group.
Manchester United weathered the storm in Valencia and came away with a famous victory thanks to an 85th minute goal from substitute Javier Hernandez. This is only the second time they have won away in Spain and with winnable games against Bursaspor coming up they should go into the Rangers game in late November with qualification all but sewn up.
Rangers finally managed a Champions League group game win last night against Turkish champions and group stage new boys Bursaspor thanks to an early Steven Naismith goal. It was a close encounter and with Rangers playing the same 5-4-1 formation which grabbed a 0-0 draw at Old Trafford in their previous game goals were always going to be at a premium. Still it finally looks like they have found a way to compete at this level and with their comparatively limited resources picking up 4 points in their opening two games is very credible indeed. They face Valencia in their next two group games and if they can scrape draws in those they could yet qualify from this group.
All five British representatives are unbeaten at this stage of the competition with Chelsea & Arsenal both winning last night.
Both Chelsea & Arsenal made it two wins from two in their Champions League group matches and looked impressive in the process. Both were coming off the back of league defeats but showed they were back to form with these displays.
Chelsea swept into a 2-0 lead early on against Marseille thanks to a 7th minute goal from John Terry and an Anelka penalty, and seemed content to settle for this against the surprisingly talented French side. This sets up a bit of a crunch match with Spartak Moscow on 19th Oct who are also on 6 points following their 3-0 win over MSK Zilina.
Arsenal on paper had a difficult task away to Serbian side Partizan Belgrade, however they dominated the game, all be it aided by Partizan going down to 10 men in the second half. With a bit more clinical finishing the score could easily have been doubled and on this display Arsenal now look assured of a place in the second stages.
The nights big game Ajax v AC Milan ended all square as we expected and both Bayern Munich & Real Madrid scraped narrow away wins, as the early stages of the champions league continues to go largely as expected.
The new boys FC Braga and MSK Zilina continued to find the going tough with both sides losing 3-0. So far the six teams making their Champions League group stages have not managed a win, however this could change as two play each other tonight with Tottenham having the home advantage against Dutch Champions FC Twente.
Eight Champions League fixtures are scheduled for tonight including two involving English clubs and three where some of Europe’s giants face tricky away ties.
Both Arsenal & Chelsea will expect to build on their impressive starts. Chelsea will be without a few key players including Didier Drogba who is suspended, and Salomon Kalou, Frank Lampard & Yossi Benayoun who are all injured, however given the depth of their squad this shouldn’t be a major problem. They are in the unusual position of having lost two games in a row so they will be out to make sure it doesn’t become three.
Arsenal have a trickier tie away to talented Serbian side Partizan Belgrade. The Gunners will still be missing injured trio of Cesc Fabregas, Theo Walcott and Robin van Persie, and it looks like goalkeeper Manuel Almunia could also miss the trip (although after Saturdays performance against West Brom this may be a blessing in disguise).
Partizan will be hard to beat in their home Stadion FK Partizan and will be backed by a passionate crowd. A draw for Arsenal in this one will not be a bad result.
Ajax v AC Milan is arguably the big match of the night pitting two teams with great European traditions Ajax have won the competition 4 times and AC Milan 7 times and both will be expecting good runs this year, They are in a tremendously competitive group and neither will want to lose this one. A draw would probably suit AC better and they should at least get that.
Real Madrid travel to the groups bottom seed Auxerre knowing nothing less than a win will be good enough and although this could be close they should scrape a win.
Last years beaten finalists Bayern Munich travel to Swiss qualifier Basle and the 4 times winners will be looking for at least a draw to ensure they maintain their good start. They have one of the easier groups (on paper anyway) and should manage a win here to consolidate their position as group favourites.
Of the teams new to this stage of the competition Braga look the most likely to record the groups first win, they are quite good at home and providing they have recovered from their baptism of fire against Arsenal they should gain a draw at least.
Tonight’s games in full:
Spartak Moscow v MSK Zilina
Ajax v AC Milan
Auxerre v Real Madrid
Basle v Bayern Munich
Braga v Shakhtar Donetsk
Chelsea v Marseille
Partizan Belgrade v Arsenal
Roma v CFR 1907 Cluj-Napoca
The gap in class between the Conference North and the lower leagues was evident on Saturday as New Mills who we have followed from the preliminaries crashed out 2-0 at home to Harrogate Town. The Vodkat Premier leaders were the only remaining representatives from their division and although defeated they have probably exceeded their expectations.
Last seasons FA Vase winners Whitley Bay had a good 3-2 win at Nantwich and Whitehawk who made it to the Vase Semi Finals last year kept their cup run going with a superb 6-2 win at Burnham. Both have tough 3rd round games with Whitley Bay being drawn away to either Colwyn Bay or Guiseley AFC and Whitehawk have a home tie with Isthmian League Premier Division side Hendon.
The days biggest winners were Chelmsford City who brushed Chertsey Town aside 7-0, however given Chertsey are playing at tier 9 of the Pyramid system they have done well to get this far. Chelmsford’s reward is a big home tie with either Bishop’s Stortford or Bromley
Braintree Town won the big Conference South match against Welling United 2-0 and leaders Bromley drew at Bishop’s Stortford. The replay is Tomorrow and the Conference South side will be strong favourites.
Workington Town made hard work of defeating West Auckland Town but eventually prevailed 2-1 and have been rewarded with another winnable home tie against Shildon.
Lincoln Moorlands Railway had the rounds only walk over after Ilkeston Town withdrew and they will now have a home tie with Mossley.
The Carling (League Cup) Fourth round draw has thrown up another big game for Newcastle who having won at Chelsea in the previous round now get the chance for a London double when they entertain Arsenal. This is one of three all Premier league ties with holders Manchester United having a winnable home tie with Wolves and West Ham taking on Stoke.
The remaining League One & Two teams have had mixed fortunes following their 3rd round heroics with Brentford being rewarded for their penalty shoot out win over Everton with a trip to Birmingham who have the longest unbeaten home record in the Premier League. Although not the most glamorous of ties it is still a nice reward for the London club.
Northampton who produced the result of the third round beating Liverpool on penalties at Anfield will be slightly disappointed at being drawn away to Ipswich. Still this tie at least guarantees that a non Premier League club will make the Quarter Finals, and given how the draw has fallen there is a good chance the winner will be the only non PL representative.
The full draw is:
Newcastle v Arsenal
Birmingham v Brentford
Wigan v Swansea
Aston Villa v Burnley
Leicester v West Brom
Man Utd v Wolves
West Ham v Stoke
Ipswich v Northampton
The League Cups match up of the round lived up to its billing as Newcastle finally grabbed a 4-3 win at Chelsea thanks to a last gasp goal from Shola Ameobi. An expectant crowd of 41,511 didn’t have long to wait for the game to get going and it was no surprise when Patrick van Aanholt fired Chelsea ahead after 6 minutes. The lead lasted until the 27th minute, and a further 1st half goal sent Newcastle in 2-1 ahead at half time. Ameobi fired Newcastle 3-1 ahead early in the second half, and with Chelsea down to 10 men thanks to running out of substitutes the game looked over. However Anelka had other ideas and he pulled a goal back in the 70th minute and then fired home a penalty with 3 minutes left to tie the scores.
Then the final twist, with extra time beckoning and Chelsea starting to look like taking control Shola Ameobi popped up with a glancing header from a corner to grab the winner.
Chelsea will feel slightly unlucky having rattled the post from Ferreira with the scores at 3-3 and can point to the fact they played much of the second half with only 10 men, however the record books will show Newcastle as the winners and thats all that matters to the Toon army who will know the League Cup offers their only realistic chance of Silver Ware this season.
The 2010-11 League cup will be remembered for the humiliating defeats for both Merseyside giants who both crashed out in Penalty shootouts.
Everton somehow managed to lose to League One Brentford despite dominating the game and producing an incredible 29 attempts at goal and 16 corners. Although disappointing this can be put down to one of those days, unlike Liverpool who looked poor against their League Two rivals Northampton and it was no surprise when manager Roy Hodgson publicly apologised to the 22,577 mostly Liverpool fans who had paid good money to watch this substandard performance. This will heap more pressure on the club who’s finances are somewhat parlous and in these hard times will test the patience of the Kop who continue to turn out in support of the club.
Both Brentford & Northampton will be delighted with their results though and the financial lifeline that a good cup run offers could be reflected on the pitch latter this year. They will both be hoping for premier league opponents when the draw takes place this weekend.
The Final scores:
Brentford 1-1 Everton (4-3 on penalties)
Liverpool 2-2 Northampton (2-4 on penalties)
Celtic & Rangers let the scoring as the Scottish Premier League clubs dominated the Scottish League Cup 3rd round and only Falkirk will represent the Scottish Leagues in the last 8.
Rangers hammered League one leaders Dunfermline 7-2 thanks in no small part to a Kyle Lafferty hat trick. The score was only 3-2 early in the second half, however Rangers class eventually told as the gap between the top of the SPL and the lower divisions was emphasised.
Celtic had an even easier win over fellow SPL side Inverness Caledonian Thistle with Greek International Georgios Samaras hitting a hat trick in their 6-0 win.
The other Premier League winners didn’t find it quite as easy and Dundee United needed extra time to beat Ross county 2-1 in a repeat of last seasons Scottish Cup Final.
The only non premier league winner Falkirk won the rounds most thrilling game in which they led 2-0 at half time only to find themselves 3-2 behind with 10 minutes to play. However an 80th minute Ryan Flynn goal gave them a lifeline and then just as the game looked set for extra time Mark Stewart popped up with his second goal 4 minutes into injury time to snatch the win. Sadly only 4,216 fans turned up to watch what turned out to be a classic match.
The Final Eight are: