Champions League Update: 20/02/08

All of the Champions League games are delicately poised going into the second legs in a fortnight’s time.
                 Late show eases Rafa pressure
Liverpool, Manchester United and Barcelona are in strong positions having secured an early advantage in their respective ties.
Liverpool produced a dominant performance to secure a 2-0 win over Inter Milan. Having been held by ten-man Inter for 86 minutes, the Italians were on course to pull off a terrific result having defended doggedly from the outset. However goals from Kuyt and crucially Steven Gerrard in the 90th minute, have given Liverpool a terrific platform from which to secure qualification for the quarter-finals. Gerrard’s goal may well prove to be the difference as Inter would surely have settled for a 1-0 defeat. Materazzi’s suspension and an injury to the superb Ivan Cordoba will also give Liverpool hope that they can grab a vital away goal in the San Siro.
The Inter Milan team may well be a much-changed outfit however, with the likes of Viera, Figo and Hernan Crespo likely to feature prominently in the second leg. While Torres was, for the most part, kept quiet by Inter’s excellent defence, the Spaniard will fancy his chances against a weakened defence in the second leg, especially as Inter will have to push far further upfield than they ever did in the game at Anfield.
               Evra - Benzema will be a star
An 87th minute goal from substitute Carlos Tevez gave Manchester United a vital away goal despite a lacklustre performance. Lyon took the lead early in the second half after United-target Karim Benzema scored a terrific solo effort, with four Red shirts around him the Frenchman somehow shifted the ball from his right foot to his left and belted the ball past Edwin Van der Saar.
In a free-flowing game Wayne Rooney’s 1-on-1 with Coupet was well saved while Juninho went close with a free-kick.
Benzema had a chance to make it 2-0 when he evaded a Rio Ferdinand challenge only for the ever-reliable Vidic to step across and sheperd the forward wide.
Ronaldo had a quiet night but produced a terrific save from Coupet late-on when his free-kick threatened to sneak in at the far post. However when Giggs and Scholes were replaced by Nani and Tevez, United began to look brighter and sure enough when Nani’s cross was deflected by Fred, Tevez pounced on the line to give United a foot in the quarter-finals.


Celtic and Barcelona put on a terrific game of football at Celtic Park but with the Catalans running out 3-2 winners, Barcelona will be confident they can secure victory in the Nou Camp, and they are already looking like the team to beat. Despite a disappointing campaign so far in La Liga, Barca have cut the gap on arch-rivals Madrid to just five points and on this display they look like peaking at just the right time.
Celtic took the lead through Venegoor of Hesselink, a terrific header against the run of play. However despite Robson’s goal to make it 2-1, a brace from Messi and a brilliant strike from Thierry Henry leave Barcelona in the driving seat.
Gordan Strachan joked after the game that he wouldn’t put his house on Celtic winning in two weeks time and he’s rarely wrong about these kind of things.

Elsewhere AC Milan and Arsenal played out an entertaining 0-0 draw at the Emirates. AC will be favourites as the old masters denied an exciting Arsenal team. Adebayor’s stoppage time miss will be giving him sleepless nights this week, the Togo striker slamming a header against the bar with the entire goal gaping in front of him…..Chelsea did enough to take a 0-0 game back to London and should progress past Olympiakos. With one eye on Sunday’s Carling Cup Final, Avram Grant rested Terry and Lampard and with one of the strongest squads in Europe, Chelsea should progress to the next phase in two weeks time…… Fenerbache’s 3-2 win over Sevilla makes for a hell of a return leg in Spain. An 87th minute deflected winner means the Turks can progress to the quarter finals for the first time if they avoid defeat in Spain. However, Sevilla will be confident they can turn the game on it’s head at home, and are many peoples’ tips as a dark horse this season…..Roma and Real Madrid served up an entertaining encounter which the Italians shaded 2-1. Despite a strong first-half performance from Real, Roma take the advantage thanks to two Francesco Totti-assisted goals….Shalke 04 lead FC Porto 1-0 thanks to a fourth minute Kevin Kuranyi strike. While the game was always likely to be tight, Shalke are firmly in the driving seat, aware that an away goal will give the Portugese team a mountain to climb. While Shalke’s defence has been their achilles heel so far this season, in Kuranyi they have a top striker and they will look to score and force FC Porto to gamble at the back, having to attack in search of three goals…

  1. May 4, 2008 at 5:31 pm

    Been watching the second last games of the English Premier League and I must say – Man Utd looked on form on Saturday. Liverpool, although they won – looked a bit lack luster.

    Will wait for tomorrow’s bank holiday match to see how Chelsea look. Barring injuries – the Champions League Final between Man Utd and Chelsea in Moscow should be great – I can’t wait!

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