It all looked so simple for Arsenal in the champions league after their 3 games, however a bad defeat last night to SC Braga in Portugal throws up the possible if highly unlikely scenario of them failing to qualify for the next stage.
Arsenal now need to beat Partizan Belgrade in their final match to be sure of qualifying and would need Braga to pull off an improbable win against Shaktar Donesk for them to win the group.
Just to compound things Arsenal also lost captain Cesc Fabregas to injury although it’s not clear how serious this is it will come as an additional blow to a team who are still reeling from throwing away a 2 goal lead against bitter London rivals Tottenham at the weekend.
Matheus grabbed both the Braga goals, the second of which came deep into injury time. They now look assured of a Europa League place and will take some stopping in that competition.
Arsenal failed to clinch a place in the last 16 of the Champions League last night after Eduardo’s goal proved enough to give Shakhtar Donetsk a 2-1 win. It looked like Arsenal would break Shakhtar’s long unbeaten home record with some ease after Walcott struck after 10 minutes, however from then on Shakhtar looked the better team and it was left to one time Gunners hero Eduardo to grab the winner late in the first half.
This was a much under strength Arsenal team and they can sew up their last 16 place with a point away to Braga in their next match.
A tremendous performance by Gareth Bale inspired Spurs to a monumental 3-1 win over defending champions Inter Milan last night and moved them to within touching distance of a place in the last 16. Now a win at home to Werder Bremen on 24th November will secure them a place as they are ahead of FC Twente on group results. Gareth Bale was outstanding again and a repeat of last nights display will be sufficient to secure the dream.
In the other games involving British clubs Manchester United had an easy win in Turkey against Bursapour while Rangers were well beaten in Valencia. Now Rangers will need a miracle to qualify although a place in the Europa league looks probable thanks to United’s win.
Manchester United travel to Turkey tonight to face Bursaspor knowing a win will practically guarantee them a place in the last 16, however despite the Turks poor showing this is not a given and expect Alex Ferguson to put out a strong side. Man Utd should scrape this one.
Rangers will probably play for a draw in Valencia and this is a tactic which has backfired on Scottish clubs a lot this year. A win for Man Utd tonight coupled with a draw for Rangers would just about guarantee Rangers a Europa League place at least but they will do well to get a draw here.
Tottenham were totally outclassed for 45 minutes against Inter but showed a lot of spirit to come away with a credible 4-3 defeat. Now with the backing of their home fans they can take a massive step towards the last 16 with a win against the reigning champions. Spurs are playing quite well and they can win this one.
So overall despite the ties looking hard we expect a win for Spurs & United and a disapointing narrow loss for Rangers.
Tottenham despite being down to 10 men almost staged one of the most amazing comebacks in recent Champions League history when battling back from 4-0 down to 4-3 against last seasons Champions and Treble winners Inter Milan.
Things didn’t start well for Spurs with Inter taking the lead in the second minute through Zanetti and while they were still reeling from the shock things got worse when Gomez collected a red card for a clumsy challenge which led to Inter going 2-0 up with the resulting penalty.
Thereafter the 1st half was largely one way traffic and it was not a great surprise when Inter stretched their lead to 4-0 by half time. Their dominance was emphasised during the break with Bet365 offering 12-1 for it being 7-0 in their customary TV advertising. With Inter leading the attempts at goal tally 12 to 1 it probably attracted a few bets.
However after the break Inter seemed content to sit on their lead and even when Gareth Bale pulled it back to 4-1 with a jinking run it failed to stir them.
The main drama was reserved for the final 2 minutes when Bale hit two more in injury time, completing his hat trick and adding a veneer of respectability to the result which probably wasn’t warranted.
It is hard to decipher where Spurs are in the football hierarchy on this display however Harry Redknapp will struggle to keep Gareth bale if he continues to play like this and his comments that Spurs are only 2 world class players away from winning the Premier League do look a bit tongue in cheek after watching this.
One thing is for sure though – the return match at White Hart Lane will be a sell out.
Arsenal & Chelsea both had good wins in last nights Champions League and now a single point each from their last 3 games will be sufficient to ensure they both progress to the next stages.
Arsenal produced a clinical display in beating Shakhtar Donetsk 5-1 with only 9 attempts at goal. They even had the luxury of being able to take off goal scorers Nasri & Chamakh mid way through the second half after going 5-0 up. Eduardo grabbed a late consolation for Shakhtar with a great volley, which to the credit of the Arsenal crowd was well received, however the Gunners deserved their win and with 14 goals in three European matches they have set a new record for the competition.
Chelsea had an even more impressive win away at Russian giants Spartak Moscow winning 2-0 in an open game played on frozen astro-turf. The key goal came from Anelka just after half time and although Spartak piled on a bit of pressure they couldn’t convert any of their many chances and now look destined to settle for second place in the group.
In other results Real Madrid kept up their 100% record with a terrific 2-0 win over main group rivals AC Milan as did Bayern Munich who scraped past Champions League new comers Cluj-Napoca.
Portuguese side FC Braga grabbed their 1st ever Champions League group stage win to keep alive their faint chances of qualification and with another game coming up against Partizan Belgrade they could still grab 3rd place and a Europa League Spot.
Inter Milan eased past German side Werder Bremen thanks to some clinical finishing by Samuel Eto’o who grabbed a hat trick in their 4-0 win. Werder were missing three of their most influential players – Claudio Pizarro, Clemens Fritz and Torsten Frings and it showed as they found themselves 3-0 down after only 34 minutes as Eto’o and Wesley Sneijder grabbed the goals.
To their credit the Germans tried to make a game of it and although never looking likely to get back into it, they did create a few half chances. Once they are back to full strength they could still make a challenge for qualification, however by then it might be too late.
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