Our European guru educates and enlightens
Fewer goals, no great surprises, and one sound thrashing: Wednesday was not a vintage night of Champions League football. It was if the clubs were hungover from Tuesday’s champagne football.
Barcelona and Chelsea are effectively through to the last 16, but best entertainment of the night was Shakhtar coach Mircea Lucescu’s post-match rant about his players’ lack of aggression.
GROUP A Chelsea 1-0 Roma Bordeaux 1-0 Cluj
Roma showed enough quality, intelligence and nerve against Chelsea to placate those irate fans who recently chased coach Luciano Spalletti around the training ground.
As Spalletti noted afterwards, the result didn’t change the situation much: Roma need at least six points from their last three games.
Bordeaux were better against Cluj, especially in the second half, but only won thanks to a fluky own-goal and will surely need to be more fluent in attack in Romania to progress. Yoann Gourcuff continues to mystify Milan fans with his impressive form for the Girondins.
Though they lost, Cluj are making history. No team associated with trains has really impressed in this competition since Lokomotiv Moscow reached the last 16 in 2003/04.
I found this short and not entirely pointless meditation on the intertwined destinies of football and railways, which you may enjoy. The key word there being ‘may’.
There's always been a close relationship
GROUP B Inter Milan 1-0 Anorthosis Famagusta Panathinaikos 2-2 Werder Bremen
Inter only beat Anorthosis 1-0 but looked convincing enough, squeezing the Cypriots into their own half for most of the game. Adriano headed the winner, his second of the campaign, but Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Ricardo Quaresma could both have got on the scoresheet.
Anorthosis showed a spirit their 2,000 travelling fans appreciated, but lacked Inter’s quality. Maicon is the best Brazilian full-back since Roberto Carlos and Esteban Cambiasso is one of the most flexible, intelligent midfielders on the planet.
Werder Bremen’s last four Bundesliga games have featured 27 goals, so the only surprise about their 2-2 draw with Panathinaikos in Athens was that it wasn’t even more free scoring.
The Green-Whites haven’t had the rub of the green in the Champions League in the last few years. Keeper Tim Wiese’s attack of dropsy against Juventus robbed them of a place in the last eight in 2005/06 and in 2006/07 they finished third in their group with 10 points.
So when Dimitrios Salpingidi’s shot cannoned off the bar, with Pana 2-1 up, Werder coach Thomas Schaaf must have thought his luck had turned. His entertaining side are unbeaten in Group B but, after three draws, still trail Anorthosis. Three points in the return against Pana is essential.
It says on Wikipedia that every Werder Bremen goal is celebrated with the toot of a ship’s whistle. Dunno if I believe that.
"Honk! Parp! Hooray!"
Basel 0-5 Barcelona Shakhtar Donetsk 0-1 Sporting Lisbon
Basel boss Christian Gross will really be looking forward to visiting Camp Nou after this 5-0 thrashing. The Swiss had lost to Sporting despite being the better side, but this game was over as a contest after Leo Messi scored in the fourth minute.
That goal was made by Dani Alves’s brilliance and, although most of the plaudits will go to two-goal Bojan Krkic, Gross felt Alves was largely responsible for his side’s humiliation: “We couldn’t stop him at the back. His influence was far too great.”With Barcelona essentially through, the race for the runner-up spot was thrown wide open with Sporting’s surprise victory in Donetsk. Shakhtar deserved at least a draw; as their coach Lucescu put it: “Sporting had one chance and they took it.”
He was unsparing in his verdict on his team: the midfielders were “sluggish”, central defenders “nervous”, the strikers didn’t play to their usual level, and he even found the subs “disappointing”. Shakhtar have the quality to win in Lisbon; assuming they beat Basel at home, that could see them reach the last 16 for the first time in nine attempts.
But after two home defeats, do they have the spirit?
"I'm mad as hell, and I'm not gonna take this any more!"
GROUP D Atletico Madrid 1-1 Liverpool PSV 2-0 Marseille
Simao Sabrosa has now foiled Liverpool – the club that tried to buy him for £8m in 2006 – twice in two games. He scored as Benfica humbled the Reds 2-0 at Anfield in the last 16 in 2005/06 and his 83rd-minute strike snatched a point for Atleti this week.
True, he had a little help from Alvaro Arbeloa, whose run across to Jamie Carragher and Diego Forlan left the goalscorer in a prairie’s worth of space. The BBC review of the Benfica game back in 2006 had the headline: “Benitez rues poor finishing”. The more things change, the more they stay the same?PSV old boy Eric Gerets’ return to Eindhoven with Marseille was truly miserable. True to form, he didn’t gloss over his side’s deficiencies: “I’m going to talk with the players because in the second half I saw everyone make mistakes. I was glad when the game was over.”
PSV coach Huub Stevens was chuffed by the victory but knows he is still, barring major upsets, in a battle for a UEFA Cup spot with l’OM.
While researching for my interview with Stevens last week, I discovered that when PSV (with Huub at the, er, hub of the defence) won the UEFA Cup in 1978, their replica of the trophy was stolen by the Dutch comedian Theo Maassen. Why didn’t the late Jeremy Beadle ever do something like that?
"Will this do?"
FourFourTwo.com: More to read...More Professor Champions League blogsBlogs CentralChampions League newsNews, generally
I'd hate to have a train go past if I was taking a penalty!
LATEST FOOTBALL NEWS
Honda steers Japan to 2014 World Cup finals
Sevilla's Navas set to sign for Man City
Neymar wants 'to help Messi remain the best'
Berlusconi: Allegri to stay on as Milan coach
Beckham: Prospect of owning team "exciting"
75% of all TV is Bale
On the road to ruin
FourFourTwo is brought to you by Haymarket Consumer Media & FourFourTwo is part of Haymarket Sport
| International Licensing | © Haymarket Media Group 2010