Saturday, September 20, 2008

Fan vs Fan: Chelsea - Manchester United

Manchester United supporter Bruce Wilson goes head to head with Chelsea fan Martin Lightfoot ahead of the big Premier League clash at Stamford Bridge on Sunday...

All4All : First of all, how do you feel about your side's season so far?

Martin Lightfoot (Chelsea): Delighted! I think, generally, most people were in favour of Luiz Felipe Scolari coming to Stamford Bridge, especially given the uncertainty about Avram Grant. However, we’ve begun by playing some exciting football - Nicolas Anelka even looks like he’s finding form - and I feel that we’re now using the players to their optimum. The win over Manchester City at Middle Eastlands was satisfying, too. You can’t win anything with money!

Bruce Wilson (Man Utd): It’s been a bit of a shambles to be frank. The opening day draw against Newcastle United was terribly frustrating, the meek capitulation to Zenit St. Petersburg in the Super Cup was an embarrassment, and last weekend’s defeat to a Liverpool team that looked much sharper than we did exhibited the lax attitude of the team in the opening weeks of the season very well.

All4All : What were the goals at the start? How have they been revised, if at all?

ML: Having lost out in the league and the Champions League last season, they are, and always have been, the ultimate aims. Winning domestic cups is always nice, but we expect, like Roman Abramovich, to be winning the major silverware. We’ve started with three wins and a draw and are already at the top of the league, so hopefully that’s where we’ll stay. In terms of the Champions League, obviously it was absolutely devastating to lose in the final in May, but we did finally reach the final stage of the competition and the players now know what it takes. Fingers crossed, we’ll be there again.

BW: Obviously our goals at the start of the year were to repeat the triumphs of last season, with one eye also being on correcting our all too early exit in the F.A. Cup as well. Whilst the poor form of United so far would seem to argue against this happening, when you have the world’s greatest player and a new £30 million striker ready to slot in to the team in the coming weeks you’ve got to hope that a solid result this weekend will act as a much needed launching pad back in to contention for us.

All4All : How important is this game in that regard?

ML: Crucial. Obviously, playing Manchester United so early on means that there’s less at stake should you lose. If you win this clash, though, you have a major confidence boost until you meet again. Liverpool obviously did it last weekend, and automatically people have begun to say they could realistically challenge for the title. That’s after one match, so imagine what it can do for the players. If we win, we’ll move nine points ahead of them in the table, and you would like to think that we wouldn’t lose so many points to allow them to catch us up. Plus, there is nothing like shutting Man Utd up, especially given that they level claims of mass spending at us, without realising they spend just as much!

BW: This game is massive for us, absolutely massive. It may only be September but a bad result here would see us fall nine points behind the Blues. Whilst some may argue that a similarly poor start to last season still saw us crowned European and Premier League champions come the end of May, I would retort that this occurred against a team ran by Avram Grant. ‘Big Phil’ Scolari’s appointment as Chelsea manager however makes it almost certain that an advantage like that will not be spurned this time around, and as such another loss at Stamford Bridge could leave United as rank outsiders to retain our Premier League crown.

All4All : How do you rate your opponents' season?

ML: It’s dangerous to say before the match, but I think they’ve been shown up as the one-player team that they are. Obviously,they’ve brought in Dimitar Berbatov, and he’s a class act, but without Cristiano Ronaldo they’ve looked toothless. Teams don’t seem to have the same fear of them without Ronaldo in the team and, more importantly, they don’t seem to have the same confidence.

BW: They’ve been brilliant haven’t they? The goals have been flying in from everywhere, and my City supporting friends who watched their performance at Eastlands last weekend couldn’t speak more highly about them. Sometimes you have to just offer your congratulations to a rival when they are playing well, and regrettably for me this is just one of those occasions.

All4All : Who do you think has the edge heading into this weekend's game and why?

ML: Definitely us. Our incredible home record is well publicised, and while we are still enjoying the honeymoon period of our new manager’s reign, Manchester United seem to be struggling through the divorce period of theirs. Teams with new managers are always dangerous, regardless of who they are. We have Anelka, Joe Cole, Frank Lampard an co. on form already, whilest Rooney, Berbatov and Scholes are looking fairly cumbersome so far.

BW: 4-0 against Bordeaux compared to 0-0 against Villarreal shows in stark terms how much better Chelsea’s current form is than United’s. Also, we’ve not even looked like winning at Stamford Bridge for seven years now as well. All these factors would seem to point to a situation where we have almost no hope of a good result this weekend. However, United are often at their best when we’re written off and hopefully the winning character of our team will finally begin to shine through on Sunday.

All4All : Tactically, where do you think the key to this game will lie?

ML: Without a doubt in midfield. Similarly to United, we allow more freedom within players' positions. As you have seen with Man Utd, when their midfield isn’t on form, the team struggle to score goals. In contrast, Lampard has already begun his usual goal fest, Deco has taken to the Premiership like a duck to water and Michael Ballack showed enough form last season to suggest he’s now fully focused on Chelsea. I think there’s enough individual flair there to find the net regardless of how the others are playing.

BW: For me the key to this game lies in how quickly Ferguson works out a system which will get the best out of the team once again. In recent weeks he’s shoehorned us in to a tight 4-4-2 when the last few years have seen a fluid 4-3-3 be incredibly successful. The poor deployment of Wayne Rooney on the wing against Liverpool was symptomatic of the failures of Ferguson reverting to this old formation. Such tactical mistakes will be punished just as harshly by Chelsea as Liverpool did, and hopefully they won’t be repeated again this weekend.

All4All : Which opposition player do you consider to be the greatest threat to your team in this clash?

ML: Obviously, anybody that can score 42 goals in one season, from whatever position, is some player, but I actually feel that Tevez is the main threat. He never stops running and probing and his chasing and pressurising is a nightmare. He’s also a great goalscorer, as demonstrated on a number of occasions already. He netted their goal against Liverpool, so he enjoys the big games. Its players like Tevez that make us miss Makelele.

BW: I wrote him off after seeing him play poorly against us in the Champions League last year, but Deco has been a revelation for the Blues. His flair and exuberance have really improved the pragmatic Chelsea midfield, and he was rightly awarded with the Premier League player of the month for August after the excellent work he’s put in so far. With performances like that, Owen Hargreaves must be on top of his game on Sunday to prevent the ‘Bus Conductor’ from orchestrating the Chelsea attack once more.

All4All : Would you want him in your team?

ML: I’m sure we could find a slot for him somewhere, perhaps at right back! I would welcome him to our team though, given that he’s not a disloyal, pampered and selfish 23-year old called Cristiano. Tevez would fit in with the rest of the players as we have a great team rapport right now, with everyone pulling their weight.

BW: He’s playing exceedingly well but he’s always been a player I’ve never really fancied. I look back to Elano’s fantastic form in August and September last year for Manchester City and wonder if Deco, like Elano, will begin to struggle once autumn turns to winter?

All4All : What are your team’s strengths at the moment?

ML: We have many. Personally, I believe Scolari has satisfied everyone's personal desires and that makes for a happier starting eleven. Anelka is operating more centrally and further forward, and I don’t think it’s coincidental that he has started strongly. Lampard is being Lampard, which is great given that he nearly left us in the summer. Cole is playing with more discipline and finding more end products and Deco has given us yet another attacking edge with his incisive passing. And the one great big name I’ve not mentioned yet is Didier Drogba – we’ve done all of this without him. When he comes back into the team regularly, he’ll benefit from the extra chances we’re creating.

BW: Our strengths are that we are the reigning Premier League champions with all the innate confidence that should bring. Plus, with Cristiano Ronaldo and Dimitar Berbatov ready to be unleashed upon the opposition from now on I can guarantee that October will be a much happier month than August and September were for the Reds. It is just pivotal that whilst this pair are acclimatising in to the team that we don’t lose connection to the title chasing pack.

All4All : And weaknesses?

ML: If anything, it is at the back, where we’ve looked shaky at times and you still feel there’s an extra 10% to come from the players. I sometimes feel our defence tries to make it look too easy and, when you get into that mentality, you end up with a tackle like Terry’s last weekend. Luckily, the ban has been overturned, but you can’t get caught out like that. The only other weakness I can identify at the moment is in attack, and we’re short of a striker after letting Andriy Shevchenko leave this summer. We’re not suffering from it yet, but we’ll need to buy another in January before injuries could catch us out.

BW: Other than our obviously patchy form, the major signs of weakness in our side so far this season have come from the elderly statesman of our squad. Edwin Van Der Sar has made uncharacteristic howlers against Newcastle United and Liverpool, Gary Neville was abysmal against Villarreal in mid-week, Ryan Giggs has all the pace of John Terry now, and Paul Scholes is the ultimate luxury player these days due to the fact he cannot run, tackle or score goals any more. With our dynamic young stars in the team I feel we can beat anyone, but now the continued presence of our fantastic performers of yesterday in the Red Devils side is sadly detrimental to our current chances.

All4All : Who from your team should we keep a particular eye on here?

ML: Deco. Just marvel at his movement and vision. People were split when we signed him between looking at his age and believing that he was on the wrong side of 30, or believing it was an absolute bargain. I was in the latter group, and he’s proven that his game is less affected by age because he doesn’t rely on pace. He is one of our fittest players, covering as much mileage as Lampard and others, and he has the key to unlock the sides. His arrival has eased the pressure on Lampard to create chances, which means he can focus on scoring the goals.

BW: I think everyone in the entire world knows that Cristiano Ronaldo has to be the answer for this one. He cast aside the title of ‘big game bottler’ last season with his goals against Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea, and our record of one win in five without him in 2008/09 speaks volumes. He may have never scored at Stamford Bridge, but as we’re talking about someone with a distinct ability to steal the headlines, who could write off the idea of a Ronaldo winner on Sunday to end Chelsea’s long unbeaten spell at home?

All4All : Who is your all time number one hate figure, or object of amusement, from their lot?

ML: It’s definitely Ronaldo. At least with Rooney or Tevez, you can respect their grit slightly more. With Ronaldo, he swans around the field, dives upon the slightest of touches and generally winds people up. He’s dangerous from any range, but when he screws up it is a sight to behold.

BW: There’s a few candidates to choose from but I’m going to have to go for the detestable pair of Dennis Wise and Ken Bates. Wise for me was Roy Keane without the talent, whilst Ken Bates’ shamefully disrespectful attitude to Sir Alex Ferguson and ultimately the fans of Chelsea and now Leeds United makes me think of him as a repugnant character and a stain on the game of football.

All4All : What would you envy about them, if anything?

ML: The fact that they’re now owned by the American government? The possibility that they’ll be called up to the armed forces? In all honesty, I envy them little.

BW: The answer here is unequivocally nothing. They were nobodies in the game until Roman Abramovich bought them, someone as unpalatable as John Terry is their captain, plus we beat them to all the major trophies last year.

All4All : What was the best bit of business ever done between the two clubs?

ML: Signing Juan Sebastien Veron. A strange choice, I’m sure, but he was one of the first that really irked our rivals from Old Trafford because of our new-found wealth. They pointed and laughed when we wasted that money, but they soon realised we had plenty more where that came from. Their noses were then put out of joint and they’ve remained fairly disjointed since.

BW: The signing of Mark Hughes worked out well for them in the mid-nineties, but for me the fact we got £15m for Juan Sebastian Verón in the summer of 2003 was a brilliant piece of business. The talented Argentine simply didn’t fit in to the Premier League, plus his dodgy back made him a constant fixture on the Stamford Bridge treatment table whilst he was there. God knows how he managed to pass a medical.

All4All : What's your fondest memory of past clashes against them?

ML: There’s been some crackers between us, but my fondest was the 3-0 win over Man Utd which clinched the Premier League title in 2006. The goals came from William Gallas, Carvalho and Cole, with the latter’s a great effort, and it was ridiculously satisfying sealing the title, at home, against your rivals. We had listened to pundits saying throughout the season that it’s in retaining the title that true champions are made, and thankfully, we did it and shut them all up.

BW: The fondest memory I have of past clashes against Chelsea stretches all the way back to the 1993/94 season, when as a young child I watched a devastating second half onslaught from United lead to a 4-0 win. This game featured the drama of two Eric Cantona penalties, plus such a quick fire Mark Hughes goal that the television cameras somehow managed to miss the build up play.

All4All : What do you think the score of this match will be, and how will it affect your week?

ML: Sir Alex Ferguson’s side will be low on confidence and, looking at it from a neutral point of view, it’s more important for them to win it than us considering last weekend's defeat. However, we are The Blues, and the fans expect our boys to roll them over. If we beat them, we’ll be over the moon, and I reckon that even at this early stage, we would be favourites for the league. Arsenal have started well enough themselves, but we have the experience that they lack. If we win, I’ll be celebrating in front of the numerous Man Utd fans down here, and if we lose, We'll remind them that they’re still behind us in the league.

BW: As an optimistic Manchester United fan I’ll have to go for a 1-1 draw and a much improved performance from the Reds. This may be hard to accomplish given the two team’s respective current form, but I can really see the return of Cristiano Ronaldo energising us as we enter the Stamford Bridge pitch. Any result that doesn’t involve a Chelsea win will see United edge back in to the title fight, and will undoubtedly improve my mood also. A loss however will bring on morbid thoughts of a season to forget for the Red Devils. I’ve really got to hope that the former scenario proves correct!

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Totti And Nesta Are Welcome To Return - Lippi

Totti And Nesta Are Welcome To Return - Lippi
Italy coach Marcello Lippi has left the Nazionale door open for Roma captain and legend Francesco Totti and Milan stopper Alessandro Nesta.

The Giallorosso decided to hang up his international boots in 2006 after he helped Italy lift their fourth World Cup trophy.

Totti has always said that he wouldn’t return to the national set up but Lippi has dropped a massive hint to his former player and it seems as if the coach wants him back as he leaves the door open.

“Totti and Nesta decided to leave voluntarily and I have respect for their decisions because they gave Italy so much playing for La Nazionale,” Lippi told FIFA magazine.

“However the door will always be open for them. I expect determination and enthusiasm from my players, that’s the only way we can defend our 2006 title.

“I think Italy is on the same level as Germany, Brazil and Argentina in terms of football and we are condemned to win.

“Thankfully we have [Gianluigi] Buffon and he is the best goalkeeper in the World.”

Italy have started their World Cup defence in positive fashion after picking up two wins from their games against Cyprus and Georgia in their group 8 South Africa 2010 qualifying group.

Nesta is unlikely to return to the Azzurri as he is out with a long term injury while it would be a massive U-turn for Er Pupone given his resistance to go back.

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Mourinho: I Am Not Special, But I Am The Best

New Inter boss Jose Mourinho is all smiles during Inter's friendly against Sevilla in the Amsterdam tournament. Even a boring goalless draw could not wipe it off.
Inter coach Jose Mourinho admits that he is not the ‘special one’ but he is the best as he believes no-one is better than him.

The Portuguese coach was labelled as ‘Special’ by the English media when he gave his first press conference at Chelsea in 2004. The name has stuck since.

However, Mourinho doesn’t believe he is should be hailed in that way but he does insist that he is better than any other coach around the world.

“I arrived in London and I said ‘I was a normal coach, coaching a special group’, the next day I became the special one,” Mourinho told La Gazzetta Dello Sport.

“I wouldn’t call myself special. Maybe I am not the best in the world but I do think that no coach is better than me.”

The 2004 Champions League winning coach spoke about his old boss Roman Abramovic and new chief Massimo Moratti and he has described both men as passionate for the game.

“They have great passion for football and this is fundamental but Moratti has been at Inter for 63 years, from the day he was born. Roman has only been at Chelsea for five years,” added the coach.

“Ibra? Everyone knows he is great, and he will win great things as well.”

Mourinho is keen on glory and the Nerazzurri continue their search for some more Serie A points on Sunday when they visit Torino.

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I Am Ready For Juventus - Giovinco

Juventus starlet Sebastian Giovinco admits he is ready to show the Old Lady his true values and that he is not worried about his contract renewal as he believes it’s only a matter of time.

The Bianconeri have been taking their time in terms of offering the 21-year-old a new deal, leading to rife speculation that Giovinco is fed up and wants out.

Arsenal have been watching at arms length and reports in both Italy and England claimed the Italian playmaker would move to the Emirates stadium.

However, Giovinco has revealed his ambitions to stay on with the Old Lady.

“I want to become a focal point with Juventus and I am working hard to do just that, I hope to achieve this,” Giovinco told Tuttosport.

“A lot of people have told me not to get too carried away playing with all these great stars but I am not like that.

“I am calm regarding the contract renewal because I know there will not be any problems with that. I think about playing.

“There are various components which need to be ironed out but I would prefer not to talk about the new deal.”

Giovinco is hoping he can get more playing time in Claudio Ranieri’s side given the recent injuries which have affected the team.

“It’s not good that injuries have struck our players but I am ready to come in and play,” added the youngster.

“I was a little tired after the Olympics but now I am fine and ready in terms of fitness.”

The Bianconeri travel to Cagliari this weekend but it is unlikely that Giovinco will play. Claudio Ranieri is likely to start with Alessandro Del Piero and Amauri up front.

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No Luck For Henry

No Luck For Henry
Luck seems to have evaded Thierry Henry once again after being left out of Barcelona’s squad to face Sporting Gijón due to a throat virus.

Thierry Henry has failed to shrug off a throat infection in time to make Pep Guardiola’s squad to travel to El Molinón for Sunday’s clash with Sporting.

The Frenchman continues to struggle to find any sort of consistency in his form and fitness and this latest exclusion will see him miss his second consecutive league game. He was also omitted from the group that took on Racing Santander last weekend following a hectic International schedule.

He made quite an impressive return to the starting line-up in midweek against Sporting Clube de Portugal in the Champions League but this latest setback could dampen his recently recovered morale.

Víctor Valdés and Rafa Márquez, the two other players who also missed the post-Champions League game training session, have been included in the squad as has Eric Abidal.

Squad List:

Valdés, Pinto - Alves, Piqué, Márquez, Puyol, Cáceres, Abidal - Xavi, Gudjohnsen, Iniesta, Touré, Keita, Busquets - Bojan, Pedro, Messi, Eto’o

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Friday, September 19, 2008

Juventus 1 - 0 Zenit St. Petersburg Highlights - Goals

Alessandro Del Piero celebrates his free-kick winner in style
With just over ten minutes to go, Alessandro Del Piero put Juve in front against Zenit St. Petersburg, the veteran smashed home a quality long-range free-kick.

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Lyon 2 - 2 Fiorentina Highlights - Goals

Alberto Gilardino scores despite the efforts of Mathieu Bodmer
Alberto Gilardino headed Fiorentina’s first goal at Lyon in the eleventh minute and the former AC Milan striker added the second with another header from a perfect Mutu cross, four minutes before the break. Frederic Piquionne gave the home fans some hope with seventeen minutes to go with a very controversial goal as a prone Fiorentina defender played Benzema, who set up the goal, onside. And it was Karim Benzema who scored the equaliser with just minutes remaining after a clever free-kick.

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Manchester United 0 - 0 Villarreal Highlights - Goals

Ji-Sung Park takes the unorthodox route through the Villarreal defence
After a goalless opening hour, Sir Alex introduced Cristaino Ronaldo to a loud Old Trafford applause. Ronaldo made an instant attacking impact, just missing with a header, before the Portuguese star almost set up Jonny Evans for a late winner, only for the youngster to head against the post.

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Real Madrid 2 - 0 BATE Borisov Highlights - Goals

Ruud van Nistelrooy tapped in Madrid's second goal
Sergio Ramos put Real Madrid into the lead, tapping home at the far post from a Guti pass just after the ten minute mark against BATE Borisov. Ruud van Nistelrooy grabbed the second goal after Raul’s shot had been saved.

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Dynamo Kiev 1-1 Arsenal Match Goals - Highlights

William Gallas celebrates his late strike
Arsenal went behind against Kiev midway through the second period, Ismael Bangoura slotted home a penalty after Sagna had been adjudged to have fouled Vukojevic. With munites remaining William Gallas poked home a low Theo Walcott cross to grab a very useful point for the Gunners.

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Steaua Bucarest 0-1 Bayern Munich Match Goals - Highlights

Daniel Van Buyten is mobbed by his team-mates after putting Bayern ahead
Daniel Van Buyten put Jurgen Klinsmann’s side ahead, heading home from a Schweinsteiger free-kick.

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Porto 3-1 Fenerbahce Match Goals - Highlights

Lisandro celebrates his opening goal
Porto raced into a two-goal advantage within the first fifteen minutes of their match with Fenerbahce. Lisandro Lopez side-footed home the first and Lucho Gonzalez struck a fine volley for the second. Dani Guiza restored some hope for the Turkish side, firing home from a tight angle. Dorvalino Lino confirmed the win late on.

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Panathinaikos 0-2 Inter Match Goals - Highlights

Mancini celebrates his goal (©Getty Images)
Inter Milan moved ahead away at Panathinaikos when Alessandro Mancini had the simple task of scoring after Ibrahimovic had played him through. Mourinho’s men had to wait till six minutes from time to secure the win, Adriano, making a long awaited return to the side, was played through on goal and the Brazilian rocketed home the second. After a strong win, the question remains if Inter can finally prove themselves in the Champions League.

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Roma 1-2 CFR Match Goals - Highlights

Newcomers CFR catch Roma cold
As expected, Roma quickly moved in front against CFR Cluj when Cristain Panucci headed home De Rossi’s corner. But the Romanians stunned their hosts ten minutes later, Juan Culio stole the ball before firing a low left-footer in the bottom corner. And after the break the unthinkable happen, Juan Culio scored a cracker volley to give the minnows the lead. Roma were awful, and Cluj held out for the famous victory in their first ever Champions League group game.

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Chelsea 4-0 Bordeaux Match Goals - Highlights

Bordeaux founder against Chelsea class
Frank Lampard put Chelsea ahead after 14 minutes, heading home Jose Bosingwa’s delicious right-wing cross. Joe Cole doubled the lead on the half hour, heading home Lampard’s corner. (First half goals here.) The second half was a dull affair until the final stages when first Malouda fired the third in off the post after a brilliant flick by Lampard, and then Anelka tapped in the fourth after Belletti’s shot crashed against the bar.

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Barcelona 3-1 Sporting Lisbon

Bullish Barça make winning start
Barcelona got off to a good start against Sporting Lisbon, Rafael Marquez heading home a corner. Samuel Eto’o scored a second from the spot. Tonel turned home a free-kick to restore Sporting’s hopes. But Barca dashed any thoughts of a comeback when Iniesta’s inviting pass into the box was toe-poked home by Xavi after a brilliant late run.

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PSV Eindhoven 0-3 Atletico Madrid Match Highlights

PSV - Atlético de Madrid 0-3
It took Atletico Madrid just nine minutes to score at PSV, Kun Aguero scoring the opener. The brilliant Argentine striker then hit a second after controlling, spinning a firing past the keeper. After the break the Spaniards moved three ahead, PSV lost the ball in midfielder and after a few quick passes Maniche turned home the killer third.

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Basel-Shakhtar Donetsk 1-2 Goal - Match Highlights

Basel-Shakhtar Donetsk 1-2 Goal - Match Highlights

Fernandinho put Shakhtarin the lead with a stunning free-kick from 25-yards. On the stroke of halftime Jadson doubled the advantage getting on the end of a deep free-kick. Basel chalked up a 90th minute consolation from Abraham.

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Marseille 1-2 Liverpool Highlights Match Goals

Brilliant Gerrard is back in the Liverpool spotlight as Merseysiders see off Marseille
Liverpool fell behind in Marseille when Cheyrou released Cana, who beat a stranded Pepe Reina. But the Reds hit make minutes later, Fernando Torres fed Dirk Kuyt who picked out Steven Gerrard, and the Liverpool captain curled a beauty into the top right-hand corner. Steven Gerrard completed a first half doubled when he stroked home a penalty after Babel was fouled in the box.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Barcelona Show Sporting Excellence

Barcelona Too Strong For Sporting
Barcelona 3 - 1 Sporting Clube

Barcelona lifted the gloom around Camp Nou with a commanding display that warranted a comfortable victory in what was a convincing start to the Champions League group stage.

Rafa Márquez, Samuel Eto'o and Xavi Hernández all scored for the Catalan giants as their quick passing football and dominance of possession saw them send out a message to the rest of Europe that they will be a force to be reckoned with.

After earning just one point from their opening two domestic matches, Pep Guardiola's side lived up to their promises of improvement by surviving a brief scare to defeat Sporting.

Rafa Márquez, Samuel Eto'o and Xavi Hernández all scored for the Catalan giants as their quick passing football and dominance of possession saw them send out a message to the rest of Europe that they will be a force to be reckoned with.

After earning just one point from their opening two domestic matches, Pep Guardiola's side lived up to their promises of improvement by surviving a brief scare to defeat Paulo Bento's side.

Sporting played their part by attempting to push forward and allowed the game to be slightly more open then the two that Barça have played in la Primera, but the visitors were still prone to sitting back in numbers.

Unlike against Racing, that did not mean that Barça were thwarted this time as they created chance after chance and the return of Lionel Messi, Thierry Henry and Andrés Iniesta to the starting line-up certainly helped.

At the back, Sylvinho must have been slightly miffed to have been over-looked to play left-back in favour of Carles Puyol who was asked to play in the one position at the back that he has never appeared in before.

Rafa Márquez was also back in action after recovering from a knock and he partnered the impressive Gerard Piqué in the centre of Guardiola's defence.

It was clear from the start that Barcelona had a point to prove and they went close on three occasions in the opening minutes through Iniesta, Henry and Xavi all looking for an early goal.

With fluidity not at its best despite domination of the ball, Guardiola was off the bench to bark instructions and moments later his side were in front but from an unexpected sourse.

Rafa Márquez was left completely unmarked at a corner and he was able to nod the ball back across goal and into the far of the net in the 21st minute to put Barça ahead from a set piece.

Fabio Rochemback returned to Camp Nou five years after leaving and he appeared intent on causing his former club problems, but the midfielder had left his shooting boots at home when he had the first of three shots during the match on the half-hour mark.

Henry and Eto'o switched positions with the Frenchman moving into the middle for a spell before the break and he had a hat-trick of chances to register, but went close on each occasion without netting.

Sporting had their moments and moved forward at speed, but Víctor Valdés had a quiet first half and his only disappointment will have been the visitors' goal which he could have done little about.

Before the Portuguese did score however, the home team were awarded a chance to move two clear when Eto'o and Abel made contact and the referee awarded a penalty that the Cameroonian international gladly stroked home.

The goal seemed to spark Sporting back into going forward and Derlei had his side's best chance shortly before they did eventually score, but his effort was saved by Valdés.

With 20 remaining Barça's defensive frailties were exposed when a free-kick flank was met by Tonel who squeezed himself in between four Barça defenders to prod the ball home.

That could have spurred the visitors on to new heights, but instead it was Barcelona that began to pour up field once again and they put the result beyond doubt with just three minutes remaining.

Iniesta looked up from the left flank and lifted the ball towards the far post where Xavi had raced forward to prod home from close range.

While Sporting were able to enjoy some possession and did score, Guardiola can have few complaints about the performance or the scoreline and will view the game as a huge step forward in his plans for the season.

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Chelsea Thrash Bordeaux In Second Gear

Chelsea Thrash Bordeaux In Second Gear
Chelsea 4-0 Girondins de Bordeaux

The scoreline didn't flatter the home side as the Londoners completely controlled the game without even reaching top gear. Bordeaux tried to play their way back into the second half but were completely outclassed. Goals from Lampard, Cole, Malouda, and Anelka sealed the visitors fate.

Team News

Bordeaux faced a tough task in their attempt to steal points off of Chelsea in their opening fixture in the group stages of the Champions League.

The Stamford Bridge side are undefeated in 70 games played in front of their home crowds and have lost only thrice in west London while donning the European badge on their sleeves.

Both sides finished second in their respective leagues and therefore qualified for the competition outright.

Didier Drogba was suspended for the tie even though he is nearing full match fitness.

For the first time in Luiz Felipe Scolari's reign as Chelsea head coach he had to operate without a number two. Steve Clarke is seen as one of the few souvenirs from the pre-Abramovic era, and has linked up with former team-mate Gianfranco Zola, to assist the Italian at West Ham United in his rookie season as a manager.

Fernando Cavenaghi doesn't start for Bordeaux despite being the away sides top scorer this season. He had found the net on three occasions thus far in Ligue Un.

The Champions League is new territory for Scolari. This was the first occasion that the Brazilian manager has coached in continental club competition.

Referee: Peter Vink

First Half

The game started slowly as both teams tried to find their feet. Florent Malouda saw a lot of the ball in the opening five minutes but squandered possession with misplaced passing.

Chelsea though, as a unit, moved the ball well and Bordeaux seemed content to sit back and watch the home side play; only moving to stifle the Blues’ attack when they flirted dangerously in their own half. Chamakh also had an early opportunity to test Petr Cech but his shots never tested the head-guarded goalkeeper.

Frank Lampard broke the deadlock on the 15-minute mark by rounding off a good move from Bosingwa (who had made numerous forward runs and had previously nutmegged Placente) and struck the cross with his first touch. The England midfielder did not even have to jump for the ball and his header left Ulrich Ramé with little chance of stopping.

Ten minutes later Ramé made two instinctive saves in swift succession when Nicolas Anelka zipped in a low drive, and only moments later did the French stopper have to again react quickly to deny Joe Cole.

Joe Cole doubled Chelsea’s lead by flicking on a Lampard corner to ensure the home side went into the break with a comfortable lead over their visitors. Bordeaux head coach Laurent Blanc will be fuming though as Cole had been crowded by two Girondins and should never have been allowed even the faintest of touches.

Second Half

Blanc's half-time team talk must have been inspiring because Girondins adopted more of a positive outlook in the opening quarter of an hour in the second half: finding the Chelsea half with more regularity, and chasing and retrieving the ball whenever they lost possession.

For all the determination shown by the away team though Florent Malouda matched it. The French winger is often maligned for his anonymous performances in a Chelsea shirt but his delivery in the second half was sublime.

He sent in a pacey ball that was unfortunately never met by international team-mate Anelka, and his energy was evident while others, such as Deco, faded out. The 31-year old playmaking midfielder was replaced by German captain Michael Ballack on the hour mark.

The high line that Chelsea's defence played with in the first half fell deeper and deeper as the minutes ticked on in the second. Scolari's men continued to control affairs, but Portugal's former national coach would be agitated that his team did not push on for long periods of the game, and instead invited Bordeaux to pass, move, and play.

Florent Malouda though ensured that both halves of the game were to witness goals as he rounded off a spectacular team-move by finishing superbly with his left foot just past the 82nd minute. John Obi Mikel began the move and Frank Lampard - who had a hand in the first three goals - audaciously backheeled the ball into Malouda's path.

Three minutes from time Ricardo Carvalho could, and should, have scored when a Frank Lampard corner kick found the 30-year old's head. Laurent Blanc, a defender by trade, will force his hand when his side return to training as Carvalho was left unmarked - and it was not the first time the Girondins had neglected their defensive duties.

Just before the ninety minute mark Nicolas Anelka struck the foot of the past and looked doomed to leave the pitch with no goals to his name but seconds before the referee blew for the game's end the Frenchman followed in a powerful Bellitti long-range effort to give the home support the fourth that they had been singing for.

Line Ups

Chelsea: Cech - A Cole; Terry; Carvalho; Bosingwa - Mikel - Malouda; Lampard; Deco; J Cole - Anelka.

Bordeaux: Ramé - Jurietti; Planus; Diawara; Placente - Gouffran; Fernando; Diarra; Wendel; Gourcuff - Chamakh.

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Mancini And Adriano Sink Pana

Mancini And Adriano Sink Pana
Panathinaikos 0-2 Inter

Zlatan Ibrahimovic was in inspirational form, creating both goals for Mancini and Adriano, as Inter defeated a spirited Panathinaikos side 2-0 in Athens in the opening game of Champions League Group B.

Team News

Panathinaikos were making their return to the Champions League following a two-year absence from Europe’s biggest stage. The Greek giants, now coached by Dutchman Henk Ten Cate, were minus the services of Vangelis Mantzios, but Giorgios Karagounis returned to play against his former club in a 4-3-3 system.

Inter were without the injured Walter Samuel, Nelson Rivas, Dejan Stankovic, Luis Jimenez, and Christian Chivu, as well as the suspended Nicolas Burdisso. Ivan Cordoba made his return after seven months on the sidelines and partnered Marco Materazzi at centre back. Patrick Vieira also returned to take Sulley Muntari’s place in midfield, while Ricardo Quaresma, Mancini and Zlatan Ibrahimovic forged a trident strikeforce. Adriano was on the bench.

First Half

Panathinaikos had the first attempt of the game on three minutes as Bryce Moon let fly from long range but it was easy for Julio Cesar.

Inter were a little disjointed at the start. Gilberto’s header off a corner caused problems before it was cleared away, while Mattos fired in a 30-yard free kick well wide.

However, on 10 minutes the away side had a glorious chance to take the lead. Maicon threaded through a perfect pass for Ibrahimovic who was clean through on goal, but the Swede’s finish was awful as he skewed the ball miles wide.

Moments later Ibra nodded the ball on for Quaresma, who unleashed a swerving half volley from 25 yards, but Mario Galinovic flew to his left to make a superb low fingertip save around the post. From the ensuing corner Materazzi volleyed over.

Inter started to gain a foothold, and Quaresma tried his luck with a trademark trivela from 30 yards, but this time it was straight at Galinovic.

The Croatian goalkeeper was a busy man, and he flew to his left again on 18 minutes to palm away a fine Ibrahimovic effort.

On 26 minutes, Inter finally broke the deadlock through Mancini following some majestic build-up play by Ibrahimovic. The Swede bullied Simao off the ball, beat two more men before laying the ball off to Mancini, who side-footed the ball past Galinovic for his first goal since arriving from Roma in the summer.

Panathinaikos tried to hit back, and Moon unleashed a long shot which Julio Cesar tipped over the bar. Moon had a good chance a few minutes later, as he caught Vieira napping with a clever run around the back, but the South African overrun the ball when he would have been through on goal.

On 35 minutes the home side were forced into a change when Karagounis, who didn’t look fully fit, had to be replaced by Austrian national team captain Andreas Ivanschitz.

Moon had been Panathinaikos’ best player in the first half, and he tried to catch Julio Cesar out from a narrow angle, but the Brazilian was alert. Three minutes before the break Moon was desperately unlucky not to equaliser as his left footed effort from 20 yards, deflected off Materazzi and looped over a stranded Julio Cesar, only to then crash off the crossbar.

Panathinaikos were coming really strong as half time approached, and there was still time for Cleyton to hammer another shot from outside the area, which this time flew over.

Second Half

Into the second half, and Panathinaikos came out with intent, with Ivanschitz testing Julio Cesar with a left-foot stinger.

On 52 minutes, the Greeks should have been level following a wonderful three man move that ended with Cleyton whipping a 15-yard shot just inches past the post.

Inter were getting deeper and deeper, and just seemed happy to play out for a 1-0 win. The nippy Salpigidis lost Cambiasso before he sliced the ball wide from outside the area. Gilberto then also tried his luck from long range, but as is usually the case with the former Arsenal man he did not have his shooting boots on.

Moon almost had a great chance just past the hour mark, but Cordoba made a crucial last gasp challenge on Moon. Vyntra then lashed over the bar, as it was all Panathinaikos.

Mourinho knew he needed to make some changes, and introduced Luis Figo and Sulley Muntari for Quaresma and Vieira.

Ivanschitz curled a deflected free kick over the bar as the home side continued to do all the attacking, while Vyntra also headed over from a corner.

It took until the 73rd minute for Inter to have their first attempt of the second half as Figo did well down the left, and lifted the ball up to the far post for Mancini, who saw his sweet volley deflected over.

Inter were still living dangerously, and a slack pass by Maxwell gifted the ball to Mattos, whose low 25-yard shot was fingertipped around the post by Julio Cesar.

Both teams made their final changes on 81 minutes, as Adriano made his Champions League return for Inter in place of Mancini, with Souza coming on for Moon for the home side.

It was an inspired substitution by Mourinho, as just a couple of minutes later Adriano latched onto Ibrahimovic's wonderful pass, and finished clinically past Galinovic to make it 2-0 and thus kill off the game.

The remaining minutes of the game were played out with little incident, as Inter and Jose Mourinho kicked off their Champions League campaign in the perfect manner.


Panathinaikos: Galinovic; Vyntra, Simao, Goumas, Nilsson (Hristodoulopoulos 72); Moon (Souza 81), Gilberto Silva, Mattos, Cleyton, Salpigidis, Karagounis (Ivanschitz 35)

Inter: Julio Cesar; Maicon, Cordoba, Materazzi, Maxwell; Zanetti, Cambiasso, Vieira (Muntari 62); Quaresma (Figo 62), Ibrahimovic, Mancini (Adriano 81)

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Gerrard Brace Seals Liverpool Win

Gerrard Brace Seals Liverpool Win
Marseille 1-2 Liverpool

Steven Gerrard scored twice as Liverpool clinched a 2-1 opening win over Marseille in their opening Champions League campaign at the Stade Velodrome on Tuesday

It was the Steven Gerrard show at the Velodrome, with the England midfielder scoring a brace, to rescue Liverpool in their Champions League Group D opening match against Marseille.

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez recalled Fernando Torres to the starting line-up, with the Spaniard pairing up with Ryan Babel upfront. But it was the fit-again Gerrard who pulled the strings in midfield for his side against Marseille.

Prior to facing Liverpool, Marseille coach Eric Gerets talked up his side’s chances of overcoming the Reds. The French giants and Liverpool were grouped together in Group in the Champions League last season.

Marseille clinched a famous 1-0 victory at Anfield but crashed out of the competition after a 4-0 hammering by the Reds at the Velodrome.

In an interview with AFP on Monday, Gerets insisted his team “won’t be caught out by the physicality of the Liverpool players”. The Belgian however, would be proven wrong as Marseille crashed to a physically-superior Reds outfit.

It was end to end action in the opening minutes of the first half. Liverpool threatened as early as the sixth minute with Torres testing Marseille keeper Steve Mandanda with a powerful header.

Marseille did not sit back to absorb the pressure.

Taking the game to the visitors, midfielder Bakari Kone fed Mamadou Niang with a pinpoint pass. Niang showcased his nifty control by bringing the ball down. His finishing left little to be desired as he blasted his shot over the Liverpool goal.

The Reds were relentless in their waves of attack. Babel and Gerrard had golden opportunities to fire Liverpool ahead. But neither of them could convert their chances with Babel shooting wide past the Marseille goal and Gerrard denied by a good save from Mandanda.


Despite their dominance, Liverpool were left shell-shocked when Marseille took the lead on 23 minutes. Midfielder Benoit Cheyrou played a delightful ball over a static Liverpool defence to send Lorik Cana away.

Cana beat the offside trap and showed plenty of composure to slot pass Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina.

Celebrations for the Marseille faithful only lasted for four minutes.

Fernando Torres stole possession in midfield and played the ball into the feet of Steven Gerrard, who cuts inside from the left and unleashed a powerful shot past Marseille custodian Steve Mandanda to help Liverpool draw level.

Gerrard then fired Liverpool into the lead with his penalty conversion in the 32nd minute. Marseille midfielder Ronaldo Zubar bundled Ryan Babel down in the penalty box.

The England midfielder made no mistake from the spot, as he sent a low ball into the bottom-left corner, after Austrian referee Konrad Plautz disallowed Gerrard’s earlier effort when he ruled the ball was not on the spot.

The second half was a tepid affair for Liverpool as Benitez’s side appeared comfortable to hold on to their slender lead. Torres and Gerrard were replaced by winger Albert Riera and Israel international Youssi Benayoun respectively.

Despite the clock ticking away, Marseille did not give up battling as they rallied in the final minutes of the second 45 minutes. Midfielder Vitorino Hilton had the best chance to score the French side’s equaliser. But his header was comfortably saved by Reina on the line.

Liverpool held on to their lead and sealed a morale-boosting win over Marseille, nine months after their last meeting, as Gerrard capped a memorable performance with a brace and 27 goals netted in the Champions League.


Marseille: Mandanda, Bonnart, Zubar, Hilton, Taiwo, Cana, Cheyrou, Kone, M'Bami, Ben Arfa, Niang

Subs: Riou, Ziani, Zenden, Kabore, Samassa, Erbate, Valbuena

Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Skrtel, Carragher, Dossena, Gerrard, Mascherano, Leiva Lucas, Kuyt, Torres, Babel

Subs: Cavalieri, Agger, Keane, Riera, Alonso, Benayoun, Degen


Marseille: Cana 23

Liverpool: Gerrard 26, 32


Yellow Card:

Liverpool: Skrtel 21

Marseille: Valbuena 47

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Culio And Cluj Stun Roma

Culio And Cluj Stun Roma
AS Roma 1-2 CFR Cluj

Two wonder strikes from Argentine midfielder Juan Culio was enough to cause an upset on Matchday One of the Champions League as CFR Cluj stunned Serie A giants AS Roma.

Champions League debutants CFR Cluj caused the first shock of the competition as Juan Culio’s stunning brace cancelled out Christian Panucci’s opener to claim a sensation triumph for the unheralded Romanians on their first ever appearance in Europe’s blue-ribbon tournament.

First Half

Both teams got the game off to a frenetic start, passing the ball around with great urgency in midfield but Roma quickly gained early control of proceedings and had the first crack at goal on eight minutes. Mirko Vucinic drilled in a freekick from 30 yards out but it sailed straight into the arms of Eduard Stancioiú in the Cluj goal.

But the visitors weren’t overwhelmed at the least on their Champions League debut as Emmanuel Koné responded with a shot of his own moments later but there wasn’t enough direction or flight on the ball to trouble Roma goalie, Doni.

Vucinic then had an excellent double chance to score within a space of minutes. First, he volleyed Cicinho’s cross just marginally wide of the left post, before hitting the right post after being put clean through on goal by Daniele De Rossi’s delightful 40 yard cross straight out from defence.

But on 17 minutes, the hosts were ahead. De Rossi robbed the ball off Juan Culio on the byline and curled in an inch-perfect cross to the middle and captain, Christian Panucci was there to lunge forward and thump his header into the back of the net.

Cluj charged forward looking for a quick reply and almost found one on 22 minutes when Dubarbier skipped past his marker and unleashed a left-footed missile but Doni was alert to the danger as he safely fisted the ball out over the bar.

The Romanians continued with their trend of long range shooting with Culio and then Alvaro Pereira trying their luck from 25 yards out but both attempts failed to test Doni.

But their persistence eventually paid off as Maurizio Trombetta’s side drew levelled in style on 27 minutes. Culio breezed past the Roman defence with the ball, played a sumptuous one-two with Eugen Trica on the edge of the box before rattling in a stinging low shot with his left foot to beat a hapless Doni.

The game settled into a balanced rhythm after that but the Giallorossi suddenly found themselves struggling with ideas in attack and it was Cluj who had the final scoring chance of the half five minutes from the break. Again it was on the counter as Culio sprang forward but selfishly went for the shot himself, which was blocked by Doni, instead of slipping the ball through to an unmarked Koné inside the box.

Second Half

The second period began with an early substitution by Luciano Spalletti after Panucci failed to shrug off a back injury during the break. Simone Loria was sent in but the new Roma backline failed to get up to speed in time and Cluj took advantage of that in the 49th minute when they took a shock lead.

Trica chipped the ball into the box, which the Giallorossi defence failed to deal with as Cassetti’s poor headed clearance dropped kindly for Culio and the impressive Argentinean left fly with a brilliant left foot volley to leave Doni no chance.

Spalletti wasted no time in bringing on talisman, Francesco Totti, to a rapturous applause from the Olimpico faithful but it was Cluj who almost made it three. Gabriel Muresan curled in a freekick from 20 yards out but the shot did not have enough spin to whip back towards the target after swerving around the wall.

The home sides were clearly stunned and they struggle to respond. They could only create half-decent chances as Totti, De Rossi and Baptista all had a look-in but none of their efforts even bothered Stancioiu. If anything, it was Cluj who appeared likeliest to score next and they almost did too, in the 71st minute.

Tony whipped in a cross from the right and found a completely unmarked and unchallenged Sixto Peralta but his glancing header came back off the bar.

Three minutes later, Roma at long last found a shot on target when Cicinho teed up De Rossi but the midfielder’s low and tame drive from 20 yards out was easily gathered by Stancioiu.

Culio almost got his hattrick ten minutes from time but his effort from a tight angle was covered by Doni. Minutes later, leftback Alvaro Pereira caused more panic in the Roma defence when he slalomed past three defenders towards the byline but his cutback was cleared by a desperate Giallorossi defence.

Roma’s last gasp attempt to salvage the game fell to Totti but his freekick failed to clear the wall as Cluj held on for a famous victory on their Champions League debut.


AS Roma (4-2-3-1): Doni – Cicinho, Cassetti, Panucci (Loria 47’), Riise (Totti 52’) – Aquilani, De Rossi – Taddei (Montella 77’), Baptista, Toneto – Vucinic

Unused subs: Artur, Menez, Brighi, Okaka Chuka

CFR Cluj (4-4-2): Stancioiú – Tony, Cadú, De Sousa, Alvaro Pereira – Trica (Peralta 66’), Dani, Muresan, Juan Culio – Koné, Dubarbier (Panin 88’)

Unused subs: Nuno Claro, Alcantara, Deac, Didi, Diego Ruiz


1-0: AS Roma (Panucci 17’)

1-1: CFR Cluj (Culio 27’)

1-2: CFR Cluj (Culio 49’)


AS Roma: Cicinho (84’)

CFR Cluj: Pereira (8’), Peralta (90’+2)


Possession: AS Roma 56% – CFR Cluj 44%

Shots (On Target): AS Roma 16 (4) – CFR Cluj 16 (9)

Fouls Committed: AS Roma 8 – CFR Cluj 16

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Anorthosis Gain Famous Draw

Werder Bremen 0-0 Anorthosis Famagusta

Anorthosis Famagusta picked up an outstanding point in Germany on Tuesday evening against Werder Bremen.....

Anorthosis Famagusta, the Cypriot side, were playing in their first ever Champions League group game, having famously defeated Olympiakos in qualifying to become the first side to reach this stage of the competition in their country’s history.

And they proved they are not just there to make up the numbers after a resilient and determined display to add yet another famous result to their season’s collection.

The home side generally had the better of the play at the Weserstadion, but were unable to make the breakthrough against Temuri Ketsbaia’s men in a frustrating night for the Germans.

Bremen made all of the early running and Naldo, Claudio Pizarro and Diego all squandered chances in the first twenty minutes.

In the 23rd minute they should have taken the lead when good work from Clemens Fritz and Mesut Ozil resulted in a golden opportunity for Pizarro, who could only head wide.

Despite dominating possession, Bremen were not creating many clear-cut opportunities but again wasted a great chance just ten minutes before half-time. 19-year-old Ozil was showing maturity beyond his years and he had a shot well blocked by the Anorthosis defence before Daniel Jensen could not covert the re-bound with a goal seemingly inevitable.

Pizarro then failed to connect properly with two opportunities to get a shot away as Famagusta began to wobble slightly. The Cypriots were relieved when the half-time whistle arrived.

Ex-Chelsea man Pizarro was having a bad night, which continued after the break when he shot tamely with his left foot. His strike partner, Markus Rosenberg, then had a goal rightly ruled out for offside after he lobbed visiting goalkeeper.

The Germans then completely changed their frontline as they searched for a combination to break the deadlock with Pizarro and Rosenberg replaced within minutes of each other, with Boubacar Sanogo and Hugo Almeida entering the fray.

The change did not succeed however, with Almedia failing to convert an excellent one-on-one opportunity with Famagusta’s ‘keeper Arjan Beqaj,

Chances then became fewer in volume as the visitors continued to grow in stature, despite being unable to seriously threaten Tim Wiese’s goal. Savio came close to stealing a winner with five minutes remaining before Ozil struck wide for the hosts with seconds left.

There was to be no goal though, and Bremen have now gone five opening day Champions League fixtures without a win. For Anorthosis the European dream well and truly rolls on.

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PSV Run Into Hurricane Agüero

Sergio 'Kun' Agüero introduced himself to the Champions League in superb fashion by scoring the very first goal of this year's tournament and adding a second en route to a famous Atleti win over a hapless PSV side...

Champions League veterans PSV Eindhoven were stunned by a Sergio Agüero inspired Atlético Madrid in their own Philips Stadion on Tuesday night as the Spaniards ran out 3-0 winners in this Group D opening clash.

The encounter, which was predicted to be a close and cagey affair, turned out to be fast and frantic and largely controlled by the Spanish side, who showed no nerves on their return to the competition after an eleven-year absence.

Their creativity and flair was simply too much for the Dutch champions on the night and two goals from Agüero in the first half followed by a lone Maniche strike after half time meant Javier Aguirre will be smiling all the way back to Madrid.

Huub Stevens on the hand will be ruing some lacklustre defending which was to blame for at least two of the three goals, but he will also be deeply concerned about where his side go from here.

Before the game all the talk from the PSV camp was about how important their home games were and how difficult they were to beat in the Philips Stadion, but Atlético simply made a mockery of that as they outplayed and outclassed the hosts over the ninety minutes.

Lining up for the start was a much-changed XI for PSV from the one that narrowly overcame Sparta Rotterdam at the weekend as Nordin Armrabat, Jason Culina and Edison Mendez all slotted into the midfield. Similarly Atlético Madrid gave starts to Antonio Lopez, Johnny Heitinga, Luis García, Leo Franco and Diego Forlan, all of whom were absent from the first XI against Valladolid at the weekend.

Any fear that the changes would slow the game down initially though would have been incredibly wide of the mark. In a frantic opening two minutes first Affelay showed his pace by bursting down the right wing to put in a telling cross and then Sergio Agüero nearly capitalised on a PSV defensive error, but his shot was saved well by Isaksson. And the drama didn’t stop there, with Afellay again putting in a great cross just two minutes later, which Koevermans blasted over from just ten yards out when he should have done better.

From then on though it was the visitors who looked the more threatening though and they got an early reward for their pressure in just the 10th minute. Portugeuse midfielder Maniche started the move, chipping the ball to Luis García in the area, who passed across goal and thanks to some less than convincing defending the ball found Kun, and as is the way of late, the rest was a formality.

Atlético nearly doubled their lead just minutes later too but Isaksson saved well from Portugeuse winger Simao. From then on the game finally settled into a rhythm and it was not until the 23rd that another clear-cut opportunity presented itself, yet again at the feet, or actually head on this occasion, of the hosts.

Maniche, who had looked impressive throughout the opening twenty minutes, was again the creator of the move, with his pass eventually finding Agüero inside the box after a few deflections. The diminutive Argentine did well to get a cross in from wide and Forlan should have headed it in but inexplicably missed the ball and allowed Salcido to clear. From the ensuing breakaway Paulo Assuncao became the first name to go into referee Roberto Rosetti’s notebook as he scythed down the dangerous Affelay on the half way line.

It was the inexperienced hosts who were dominating at this stage and despite an injury to Diego Forlan that saw him replaced by Florent Sinama Pongolle they doubled their lead in the 36th minute. A ball in from the substitute Pongolle found Agüero with bags of time in the box and he hit a sweet left footed shot into the far corner to send Los Rojiblancos into raptures.

Despite their lead it was the Spaniards who continued to control proceedings and Antonio Lopez, who only returned from suspension this game, found time to test Isaksson with a long range free-kick before the half time whistle blew, much to the delight of Aguirre and the travelling Madrid fans.

As PSV jogged out for the second half they knew if they were to get anything from the game they would to respond swiftly, and both Affelay and Mendez attempted to do just that, but were denied by some start goalkeeping by Leo Franco. Then, against the run of play for once, came the final nail in the coffin for the Dutch side, as just ten minutes after the restart Atlético made it 3-0.

Simao started the move as he picked up the ball from some slack PSV defending and his pass found Luis García, who threaded a nice ball into the box for Maniche to slide under Isaksson and into the goal. The goal not only sealed the victory but it put the icing on the cake for a splendid individual performance by Maniche, who made for debutant Ever Banega just ten minutes after the goal.

With both the Portuguese midfielder and Sergio Agüero off PSV finally started to get to grips with the game, but one couldn’t help but feel it was a little to late. First Amrabat, who up until this point had been fairly anonymous, fired a shot in and then PSV’s best player on the night, Affelay, cracked an effort against the left post.

It wasn’t to be for the Dutch side though and despite finally manage to sustain some pressure in the Spanish half they just couldn’t break down the resistance of Tomas Ujfalusi and Johnny Heitinga, both of whom put in excellent performances. In fact, they were lucky to escape with just a three-goal defeat as both Luis García and Simao had legitimate claims for penalties turned by the referee late in the game.

Not that it will bother Aguirre though, who as the final whistle blew boasted a beaming smile after witnessing a sensational performance from his side. They were on top for most of the game and totally deserved to take the three points from a PSV side who never really looked up to speed, and who will have to improve dramatically if they are to qualify from the group.

Next up for the Dutch side is arguably the toughest fixture in the group as they travel to Liverpool, whilst Atlético will hope to build on this as they face French side Marseille at home in two weeks time.

0-1 Sergio Agüero 9'
0-2 Sergio Agüero 36'
0-3 Maniche 54'

PSV: Isaksson, Salcido, Brechet (74` Rodríguez), Marcellis, Pieters, Simmons, E. Méndez, Afellay (70` Lazovic), Cullina (46` Bakkal), Amrabat, Koevermans

Atlético Madrid: Leo Franco, Perea, Ujfalusi, Heitinga, Antonio López, Paulo Assunçao, Maniche (65` Banega), Luis García, Simao, Forlán (31` Pongolle), Agüero (62` Raúl García)

Bookings: Brechet 40', Méndez 47' - Paulo Assunçao 25', Perea 86'

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Monday, September 15, 2008

Zola's new club's achilles heel: Its defence

Kevin Keen took on the caretaker role today with Zola looking on at his new club. Their attack was pretty decent but their defending was pathetic with Chris Brunt making Upson look silly in his match winner 7 minutes from the end. The Baggies first strike came when an unmarked James Morrison with all the time and space in the world blasted home Valero's cross.

Robert Green has been having a substandard season and his careless spilling of a cross and his subsequent tackle of Barrett led to the Baggies going up through Bednar's PK conversion.

Two areas of concern for Zola:

His club's haphazard and slow to react defence. He has been trying to get Steve Clarke from Chelsea to join him in addressing that issue. But his former club is stalling for more money for his services than West Ham can afford. Clarke has resigned and West Ham is planning to go to court to secure his services.

Physical fitness. In Zola's estimation, the Hammers ran out of gas against the faster and younger Baggies in the second half which led to a few crucial lapses.

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LA Galaxy: Bruce Arena still in search of his elusive first win

LA Galaxy: Bruce Arena still in search of his elusive first win
The LA Galaxy is running out of time. They lost to the KC Wizards, 0-2 in Arrowhead stadium as thousands came to see David Beckham. This was a team that they had beaten comfortably in the past. It is too early in Bruce Arena's managerial career with the Galaxy to judge whether this will put them back on track but it is safe to say a slow start is not the turnaround that Tim Leiwecke, the CEO of AEG was looking for.

There is not much in the Western conference that separates teams competing for the wild card playoff spot, so this loss really hurts.

A lot of Arena's reputation was tarnished in the 2006 World Cup debacle as well as the imploding 2007 Red Bull season. Some of these concerns linger on in his association with the Galaxy.

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Video:Babel takes Liverpool to a long awaited win..

Liverpool 2 vs Manchester United 1 Babel goal get in there!!!

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Video: Blackburn 0-4 Arsenal Highlights

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Round one to Chelsea

Man City's new paymasters live here
In the match that shall be known as the filthy rich clubs with the GDP of a small country derby, Chelsea schooled Man City. But there were some moments of beauty like Robinho's free kick and some great interlinking play that was evocative of a Brazilian heritage which might lead Mark Hughes to don a tie and a thong and make a beeline for the carnaval. Their finishing was a let down though.

So I would be careful in reading too much into the Chelsea win. Round 2 will be very interesting as a number of newly minted players in City's squad would have had more time getting on the same page. I can even imagine some skittish Man fans wondering what is in store for them in their derby. A triumvirate of Brazilian players on the open field against Wes Brown and Van Der Saar. Should be quite a delectable spectacle.

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What four zero feels like when your score is 4

What four zero feels like when your score is 4
New England Revolution have been on the wrong side of a 4-0 score four times this season.They finally figured out how to reverse the equation and beat Chivas USA by the same score yesterday.

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Video:Bob Bradley's team comes good at last..

A 3 - 0 win against Trindad and Tobago.Bradley is having a better time now than Dunga - whose head is back on the block after Brazil only managed a goal less draw against a 10 man Bolivian team.

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