Former UEFA Champions League and European Cup winners Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and AC Milan were just some of the sides to make it through to the knockout phase of the 2010-11 tournament following Tuesday night’s action writes Ger McCarthy.
AS Roma staged a stirring comeback to earn a 3-2 win at home to Bayern Munich in the Stadio Olimpico having been 2-0 down at the interval. Mario Gomez netted a first half brace to seemingly earn a clinical Munich all 3 points until Claudio Ranieri’s half-time team talk had the desired effect. Roma stormed back to level courtesy of Marco Borriello and Daniele De Rossi strikes before a converted penalty from talismanic striker Francesco Totti secured the points in front of an ecstatic AS Roma support.
FC Basel kept their slim hopes of qualification alive following a narrow 1-0 victory over CFR Cluj in St. Jakob Park. Federico Almerares’ first half winder strike proved enough to earn the Swiss outfit their second victory of the campaign.
Bayern Munich hosts FC Basel on Matchday 6 with AS Roma travelling to Romania to take on CFR Cluj on the same evening. A point for Roma will secure passage to the knockout phase irrespective of Basel’s result in Germany.
A fifth consecutive Group F victory sealed under-strength Chelsea’s place in the round of 16 in this season’s Champions League. The Premier League side defeated a spirited MSK Zilina 2-1 at Stamford Bridge without a host of first team regulars. Babatounde Bello silenced the home supporters with a shock opening goal for Zilina after only 20 minutes had elapsed. Chelsea recovered to score twice following a commanding second half performance and topped Group F thanks to Sturridge and Malouda strikes.
Marseille recorded a terrific 3-0 win in the Luzhniki Stadium to make it through to the next round at the expense of Spartak Moscow. French international Valbuena broke the deadlock with a magnificent 18th minute effort and Moscow were later reduced to 10 men with the dismissal of Welliton. Two second half goals from Remy and Brandao took the Ligue 1 side into the knockout phase.
Marseille are already through as group runners up and are at home to Chelsea on Matchday 6 while Spartak Moscow travel to Slovakia to face MSK Zilina.
Real Madrid’s 4-0 hammering of Ajax on Tuesday evening to secure top spot in Group F was completely overshadowed by the dismissals of both Xavi Alonso and Sergi Ramos. Video footage showed manager Jose Mourinho whispering in Alonso’s ear shortly before the midfielder was sent off for a second yellow card for time wasting and a similar type incident occurred with Ramos shortly afterwards.
UEFA have pledged to look into the incidents as both players were on yellow cards heading into the final group matches and the two dismissals appear to be intentional so as to avoid possibly missing the first leg of the knockout phase. A Ronaldo double along with a magical Benzema strike and deflected Arbeloa effort copper-fastened Madrid’s path to the second round.
AC Milan joined Real Madrid in the next phase of the tournament courtesy of a 2-0 victory away to Auxerre in France. Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s opened the scoring with a terrific strike and substitute Ronaldinho made sure of the points and qualification for Milan with a late strike.
The last item to be decided in Group G is who qualifies for the Europa League with Ajax a point ahead of Auxerre heading into Matchday 6. The Dutch outfit are in the San Siro to take on AC Milan while Auxerre face Real in the Bernabeau on the same evening.
Arsenal suffered a shock 2-0 defeat in Portugal where a brace of goals from Matheus earned Braga a famous win at the expense of the Premier League outfit. The Gunners night deteriorated badly with a hamstring injury suffered by Cesc Fabregas looking likely to keep the Arsenal Captain out of action for at least a month. The North London side need to beat bottom side Partizan Belgrade on Matchday 6 to be sure of making the knockout phase.
Ukrainian side Shaktar Donetsk went top of Group H courtesy of an expected 3-0 victory away to Partizan Belgrade. Second half strikes from Stepaneko, Jadson and Eduardo sealed the win and Donetsk only require a point at home to Braga to win the group outright.
Arsenal entertains Partizan Belgrade at the Emirates on Matchday 6 requiring victory to make it into the knockout phase of the competition. Shaktar have home advantage for the visit of Braga with the Portuguese club needing a result as they are currently level on points with second placed Arsenal.
Ger McCarthy is author of the book entitled ‘Off Centre Circle’ about a lifetime spent playing amateur football in Ireland. Follow him on Twitter by clicking here.