Champions League – Matchday 5 Review (Tuesday)

by Ger McCarthy

A bad night for the two Manchester clubs in the Champions League saw Roberto Mancini’s outfit lose 2-1 away to Napoli while Sir Alex Ferguson’s United had to settle for a 2-2 draw at home to FC Basel. Bayern Munich, Inter Milan and Benfica made sure of their place in the last sixteen with impressive performances on Matchday Five.

Group A

Bayern Munich proved too strong for Villarreal at the Fusball Arena in Munich to rubber-stamp the Bundesliga side’s place in the last sixteen of this season’s Champions League. Sloppy defending from the Spanish side handed Bayern the lead as early as the 3rd minute. Toni Kroos collected a stray pass out of defence and played in French international Franck Ribery who chipped the out-rushing goalkeeper for a 1-0 lead.

In-form Mario Gomez doubled Munich’s lead in the 23rd minute after Anatoliy Tymoshchuk’s initial effort walloped the Villarreal woodwork handing the German international a simple tap-in. Credit to the visitors who emerged with little to play for but pride after the break and pulled a goal back five minutes after the restart. Joan Oriol’s run and cross found Jonathan De Guzman and the Dutch international executed a superb first time effort to make it 2-1.

Bayern were not to be denied however and a second Ribery goal in the 70th minute following another Toni Kroos through ball secured a merited 3-1 victory which earned the Bundesliga side top spot in Group A.

Manchester City’s Champions League 2011-12 campaign is hanging by a thread following the Premier League side’s 2-1 defeat in Naples. A brace of goals from Uruguayan international Edinson Cavani earned Napoli a famous victory in front of a heaving San Paolo Stadium and helped the Serie A side leapfrog City into second place with one round of fixtures remaining.

The home side enjoyed the brighter start with Marek Hamsik, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Gokhan Inler each bringing the best out of Joe Hart in the City goal. The opening goal arrived in the 17th minute following some poor defending from the Premier League club. Lavezzi swung a corner towards the front post and Cavani’s flick-on deceived Hart at his near post to hand Napoli a deserved lead. Roberto Mancini’s side drew level following some poor Napoli defending in the 33rd minute. Morgan De Sanctis could only parry David Silva’s initial shot and Italian international Mario Balotelli was on hand to tap home an equaliser.

The home side retook the lead shortly after the interval when former Liverpool defender Andrea Dossena’s cross was met by a sublime first time volley from Edinson Cavani which slipped under Hart’s body. City threw everyone forward in the dying minutes in an effort to salvage something from the game but poor finishing and dogged Napoli defending saw the Italian side hold out for a 2-1 win.

The scenario for Matchday Six is simple for Manchetser City who must defeat already qualified Bayern Munich at the Etihad Stadium and hope pointless Villarreal can do them a favour by preventing a Napoli away victory in Spain.

Results: Group A – Matchday Five: Bayern Munich 3 Villarreal 1, Napoli 2 Manchester City 1

Next Up: Group A – Matchday Six: Manchester City vs. Bayern Munich in the Etihad Stadium, Villarreal vs. Napoli in the Estadio El Madrigal

Group B

Inter Milan and Trabzonspor played out an entertaining 1-1 draw at the Huseyin Avni Aker Stadium in Turkey on Tuesday night. Inter had already secured qualification for the knockout phase (the eighth year in a row) prior to their away draw but Lille’s unexpected win in Moscow in the other Group B encounter means the runners-up berth is still up for grabs heading into Matchday Six.

Javier Zanetti lined out for his 94th Champions League fixture and saw his Argentinean compatriot Ricardo Alvarez break the deadlock in the 18th minute somewhat against the run of play. Alvarez played a delightful one-two with Diego Milito on the edge of the Trabzonspor penalty area before slotting a first time left foot shot into the bottom corner of the net. The home side didn’t panic and were rewarded for their bright start with an equalising goal just five minutes after falling behind. Halil Altıntop gained possession twenty-five yards from goal and his speculative drive took a deflection off Inter defender Walter Samuel before nestling in the back of the net.

Rumoured Juventus target Eden Hazard inspired Ligue1 Champions Lille to a terrific 2-0 victory over CSKA Moscow in the Luzhniki Stadion to reignite the French side’s hopes of making the last sixteen. Lille were the better side in the opening half with England international Joe Cole denied a certain opener by the reflexes of CSKA goalkeeper Gabulov. Moscow survived another Lille effort that crashed back off the crossbar before an unfortunate goal that broke the deadlock in the 49th minute.

Defender Vasili Berezutski’s attempts to get back and clear a cross from the right wing ended with the CSKA defender diverting the ball over his goalkeeper and into the net for an unfortunate O.G. Lille took full advantage of that slip-up by the hosts and doubled their lead just past the hour mark. Hazard was at the hub of the move releasing Joe Cole with a slide-rule pass. Cole’s shot struck an upright and Moussa Sow reacted quickest to tap the rebound home and earn Lille all three points.

Tuesday night’s results sees Inter safely through as Group B winners with ten points garnered from their five fixtures. Trabzonspor are currently in second spot on six points followed by Lille and CSKA on five points apiece. Lille need to defeat Trabzonspor in France on Matchday Six and hope Inter deny CSKA at the San Siro to grab the second qualification berth.

Results: Group B – Matchday Five: Trabzonspor 1 Inter 1, CSKA Moscow 0 Lille 2

Next Up: Group B – Matchday Six: Inter vs. CSKA Moscow at the San Siro and Lille vs. Trabzonspor at the Lille Metropole

Group C

A frustrating night for Sir Alex Ferguson and his Manchester United squad was endured following a 2-2 draw with Benfica at Old Trafford. Nicolas Gaitan’s cut in from the left wing in Benfica’s first attack and his wicked effort deflected off Phil Jones for a shock 1-0 lead. United had to wait until the half hour mark before conjuring up  an equaliser when Dimitar Berbatov (in for the injured Wayne Rooney) headed home to level the score at 1-1.

United began to dominate proceedings and took the lead just before the hour mark when Darren Fletcher connected with a Patrice Evra centre to lift the roof off of Old Trafford. United’s joy was short-lived however as the visiting Portuguese side equalised within a minute of conceding. David de Gea failed to clear a Benfica cross and when Rio Ferdinand diverted Bruno Cesar’s effort Pablo Aimar made no mistake from close range to end the scoring at 2-2.

In the other Group C Matchday Five encounter FC Basel gave themselves a fighting chance of making the last sixteen with a hard fought 3-2 win away to Otelul Galati at the National Stadium in Bucharest. Fabian Frei handed the Swiss side a 10th minute lead with a cracking shot from just inside the area and Alexander Frei doubled his side’s lead three minutes later with a trademark finish.

Marco Streller appeared to have wrapped up the points with FC Basel’s third goal of the night before half time until Galati emerged in the second half to battle back to 3-2 thanks to goals from Gabriel Giurgiu and Liviu Antal. Basel held on for a terrific victory

Group C Matchday Five’s results mean Manchester United must avoid defeat away to FC Basel in their final opening phase fixture to be sure of going through. A win for Benfica at home to Otelul Galati will earn the Portuguese side a place in the knockout phase and top spot (seed) in the group.

Results: Group C – Matchday Five: Manchester United 2 Benfica 2, Otelul Galati 2 FC Basel 3

Next Up: Group C – Matchday Six: FC Basel vs. Manchester United in St. Jakob Park, Basel and Benfica vs. Otelul Galati in Estadio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica, Lisbon

Group D

Real Madrid made it five Champions League Group D wins out of five following an emphatic 6-2 demolition of Dinamo Zagreb at the Santiago Bernabeu. Jose Mourinho’s side cruised into the last sixteen of the competition without the services of the rested Ronaldo and look a real threat in this year’s competition.

Karim Benzema opened the scoring after only two minutes had elapsed with a clinical finish following good approach play from Mesut Ozil. Benzema turned provider for Jose Callejon shortly afterwards before Gonzalo Higuain created and scored a marvellous individual effort to make it 3-0. Ozil made it 4-0 just before the break when the German midfielder was first to react to a rebounded Higuain effort.

The pattern of the second half changed little with Madrid adding two further goals through Callejon and Benzema before Zagreb netted two late consolation efforts after Madrid had taken their foot off the gas. Beqiraj and Tomecak had the distinction of netting Dinamo’s first Champions League goals of the 2011-12 campaign but Madrid ran out convincing 6-2 winners.

The other Group D encounter on Tuesday night saw Ajax and Lyon draw 0-0 in the Stade Gerland in France. Ajax goalkeeper Kenneth Vermeer had an inspired night between the sticks for the visitors and ensured the Dutch side emerged with a share of the spoils following a string of top class saves.

The scenario for Group D’s Matchday Six fixtures is can Real Madrid make it a perfect six out of six while either Ajax or Lyon will join Mourinho’s men in the last sixteen. Ajax host Madrid in the Amsterdam Arena requiring only a draw to secure the runners-up berth. Nothing but a win will do for Lyon away to Dinamo Zagreb and the Ligue1 side will hope Ajax slip-up at home to Real to have any hope of making the knockout phase.

Result: Group D – Matchday Five: Real Madrid 6 Dinamo Zagreb 2, Lyon 0 Ajax 0

Next Up: Group D – Matchday Six: Ajax vs. Real Madrid in the Amsterdam Arena and Dinamo Zagreb vs. Lyon in Stadion Maksimir, Zagreb

Follow Ger on Twitter: @offcentrecircle

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