This was a week of contrasting fortunes for the English representatives in Europe, with 2 wins, a draw and a defeat.
MANCHESTER CITY were in action on Tuesday night, hoping to use their visitors Roma as a springboard from which to launch their Champions League campaign after that last-gasp defeat away to the heavyweights in their group, the German champions Bayern Munich. City got the perfect morale-boosting start to their clash with the Italian side, as Sergio Aguero’s pace in the penalty area proved too much for his former teammate Maicon, who needlessly dragged him back to concede an early spot-kick. Aguero put the penalty away easily, and now City should have been in the perfect position to dominate possession and add to the scoreline. However, this scenario failed to materialise.
Instead, Roma slowly worked their way back into the game and received their rewards for an excellent away performance when Francesco Totti, an old warhorse still operating at the very highest levels of European football and still a quality player, stole in behind Vincent Kompany to produce an exquisite chip over Joe Hart. From here on Roma controlled the tempo of the match, and even though City increased in urgency towards the end of the 2nd half they were never quite able to produce that 1 moment of inspiration that could have settled the contest. They were not helped in their attacking play by Yaya Toure, who cut an increasingly isolated figure-Pellegrini has to get the best out of him if they are to progress further in Europe.
No such concerns on Tuesday evening for CHELSEA, who travelled to Sporting Lisbon looking to produce some of the cutting edge that was lacking in their first group game against Schalke. And the Blues quickly showed that they were in incisive mood, with Diego Costa and Andre Schurrle both having early chances. They eventually took the lead shortly before half time, as Nemanja Matic powered in a Fabregas free kick. Indeed they could have added to the lead before the interval, but more chances went begging. After the break it was a similar story, with Sporting unable to live with Chelsea’s attacking prowess. Even though Man United reject Nani did produce a few fleeting moments of quality, in the end it was Chelsea who prevailed after a dominant performance that will thoroughly please Jose Mourinho ahead of this weekends crunch game against ARSENAL.
Speaking of which, the Gunners warmed up for the clash at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday, when they took on Turkish giants Galatasaray. Danny Welbeck lead the line, and it was to be a spectacular night for the striker as he claimed a first ever career hat-trick. All of the goals were excellent finishes; the first a poachers poke past the goalie, the second a right foot curling finish slightly reminiscent of Thierry Henry, and the third an excellent chipped finish. Alexis Sanchez was also on the scoresheet, and by 60 minutes the game was over as Arsnenal lead 4-0. Even though Galatasaray did pull one back through a penalty, for which goalkeeper Szczesny was sent off, 4-1 was a thoroughly pleasing score for Arsene Wenger, who now has his premier summer acquisition firing.
LIVERPOOL also played on Wednesday and they travelled to Basle, a trip which both Man United and Chelsea have found extremely difficult. Both sides have been beaten there in previous years, and unfortunately for Brendan Rodgers his side fared no differently as Basle added another name to their sensational list of recent English scalps.
Things started off well enough for the Reds as Raheem Sterling had some early chances, but there was always the sense that their creaking defensive line would be exposed at some point. And sure enough, the Swiss team took advantage of this slack defensive play in the 52nd minute as Marco Streller bundled home from a corner. Even this failed to stir Liverpool from a strange apathy in this particular match, and Basle were allowed to see out the remaining minutes relatively untroubled. Rodgers now faces home and away games against Real Madrid – any defensive slackness there will be heavily punished.
In the other action around the continent in midweek, Barcelona and PSG played out a thrilling game in Paris which ended 3-2 to PSG with David Luiz netting for them. Bayern Munich also won, comfortably beating CSKA Moscow 1-0 in an empty Moscow stadium due to the latter side facing racism charges against their fans. And finally both Madrid sides won, with Real beating Ludogorets away from home 2-1 even though Ronaldo missed a penalty, and last years surprise package Atletico beating the Old Lady of Turin (Juventus) 1-0 in Madrid.
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