What a round of Champions League games this had been for the British sides. A very impressive five wins out of five, without any of the teams having lost a game in their respective groups, is fantastic news for those mindless jingoists who want their native sides to do well in Europe … just kidding, guys.
Chelsea kicked off on Tuesday night, and the Premiership champions had a fairly comfortable 2-0 win over Marseille. Although, perhaps ‘comfortable’ is the wrong word, and a word that doesn’t do justice to Marseille’s performance. John Terry scored early from Gael Kakuta’s corner, and Nicolas Anelka’s penalty had made it 2-0 within half an hour. Marseille certainly didn’t play badly from this point, but lacked a cutting edge in front of goal. Chelsea will be happy to take three points away from their first real test in Europe this season.
Arsenal also played on Tuesday night, and played out a solid 3-1 victory amidst faltering floodlights away to Partizan Belgrade. Andrei Arshavin gave the Gunners the lead after quarter of an hour, following a lovely back-heel from the impressive Jack Wilshere. Partizan equalised through a penalty, however, and went in 1-1 at half-time.
They shot themselves in the foot when Marko Jovanovic was sent off for bringing down Chamakh inside the area, only for Arshavin’s penalty to be saved by former Wigan man Vladimir Stojkovic. Chamakh’s rebound put Arsenal ahead some 14 minutes later, and Sebastien Squillaci made it 3-1 with ten minutes left. There was still time for Partizan to miss a penalty of their own, Lukasz Fabianski saving brilliantly (an adverb rarely associated with the Pole) to make sure of the points.
Spurs got their first Champions League win last night with an impressive 4-1 win over Dutch champions Twente. Rafael van der Vaart had an intriguing first-half battle with Twente keeper Nikolay Mihaylov: the Bulgarian made two great stops from the left foot of van der Vaart, in addition to a stunning penalty save after Peter Crouch had been felled in the area.
However, the Dutchman managed to beat him early in the second half, hammering the ball in after a knock down by Crouch. Gareth Bale won a penalty soon after, taken this time by Pavlyuchenko, who put it away for 2-0. Nacer Chadli made it 2-1, before van der Vaart capped an eventful night by getting himself sent off for a second bookable offence. Spurs then got their third penalty of the night, following a harsh handball shout, which Pavlyuchenko dinked home for 3-1. 10-man Spurs wrapped it up with a tidy finish from Gareth Bale.
Manchester United also got their first win of the campaign, winning 1-0 in Valencia (their first win in Spain since 2002). It was a very tight game, ever so slightly reminiscent of United’s 0-0 draw with Rangers in the opening group game. Both sides seemed content with a point, but Fergie threw on Hernandez and Macheda late on in search of a goal. The move paid off in spades, as Macheda knocked the ball inside, and Hernandez took a touch before hammering home on his left foot: the Mexican’s second goal for the club. It may not have been a classic, but United played for the draw and took a win away from the Mestalla: a great result against the La Liga leaders.
Rangers have had a cracking start, and are neck-and-neck with United at the top of Group C after their 1-0 win over Turkish champions Bursaspor. Kenny Miller played as a lone striker once again, and whilst this might not involve the most attractive football, Rangers have two great results in Europe under that system. Steven Naismith’s tidy flick on 18 minutes proved enough to give Rangers all three points and Bursaspor (of whom we know little, if that doesn’t sound a touch Shearer-esque) already look as though qualification is out of their grasp.
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