On Tuesday night, Liverpool visited Spain to take on the might of Real Madrid. Despite Brendan Rodgers surprising and alarming fans in equal measure by naming what was definitely not his strongest side for this titanic encounter, the Reds acquitted themselves well, only going down to an excellent Karim Benzema goal after an outstanding Marcelo cross.
Madrid could well have extended their lead, but the crossbar denied Gareth Bale, while Mignolet in the Liverpool goal was in inspired form. A defeat for the Merseysiders then, but the team should be proud of their efforts against one of Europe’s most in-form sides.
Tuesday also saw Arsenal in action, seeking to progress to the knockout stages of the competition by beating Anderlecht at home; a task well within their capabilities. All seemed to be going well for the Gunners, as an early Mikel Arteta penalty and an Alexis Sanchez thunderbolt on the volley had them 2-0 up and cruising at half time. When Oxlade-Chamberlain outpaced his defender to score an excellent individual goal early in the second half, progression for Arsene Wenger’s team seemed assured.
Not so. Anthony Vanden-Borre scored an offside-looking first goal for the visitors before netting again to spread nerves around the Emirates, before youngster Aleksandar Mitrovic equalised in added time thanks to some poor Arsenal defending. Wenger was furious after the game, knowing his team should have progressed from the position they were in.
On Wednesday it was the turn of Chelsea to travel, taking on Slovenian side Maribor away from home. After a dull first half the hosts surprisingly went ahead through a brilliant curling effort, only for Chelsea to crank up the pressure and equalise 15 minutes from time when John Terry headed down a corner for Nemanja Matic to tap home.
Chelsea should really have won the game from there on; Eden Hazard was fouled inside the area and awarded a penalty only five minutes from time, but the Belgian could only watch in horror as his weak effort was well saved by the Maribor keeper. Chelsea pressed hard in the last few minutes, but could not find a winner as another English side endured a frustrating game.
Manchester City completed the set of English sides in Champions League action as they played host to CSKA Moscow. Away supporters had been banned from attending the fixture, but CSKA didn’t seem to notice as they took the lead with a mere two minutes gone – Seydou Doumbia heading home a free kick inside the six yard box while completely unmarked. Yaya Toure equalised with a whipped free kick after only 8 minutes, but CSKA responded when City’s defence allowed Doumbia to walk through and neatly finish.
The Manchester outfit had the whole second half to rescue the game, but instead had to endure a miserable evening as they finished the game with only nine men. First, Fernandinho received two yellows in quick succession, before Yaya Toure went in with a high and reckless challenge with arms raised. The result leaves City probably needing to win their final two games, and now without two of their most influential midfielders.
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