Champions League – Tuesday Review

by Ger McCarthy

A crazy night of Champions League action saw Carlos Tevez refuse to come on as a substitute for Roberto Mancini, Edin Dzeko fall out with his Italian manager for being hauled off, neighbours Manchester United throw away a two goal lead at home FC Basel before scoring a late goal to salvage a point and Claudio Ranieri continue his winning start with new club Inter Milan.

Group A

Manchester City’s 2-0 defeat away to Bayern Munich in the Premier League club’s first away foray in the Champions League was completely overshadowed by the breaking new story of Carlos Tevez’s refusal to come on as a substitute for Roberto Mancini. The Italian manager was also upset at Edin Dzeko’s reaction to being substituted in the same game and the Manchester City manager faces a barrage of questioning at the apparent disharmony within a City squad that has only 1 point to show for their opening two Champions League matches.

Mancini was clearly angry at Tevez’s behaviour in his after match press conference and stated his desire that the Argentinean would never again play for Manchester City as long as he was manager. “For me it’s a bad situation because it’s impossible if a player refuses to go in and will not help the team. It’s impossible”. Tevez also had his say – through an interpreter – following the defeat but was unclear in his comments as to why he refused to come on when asked by the manager.

Both Bayern and Man City wasted decent chances in an open encounter before Mario Gomez reacted quickest to a Joe Hart save after 38 minutes to hand Munich a 1-0 lead. Toni Kroos’ first half injury time free kick wasn’t adequately dealt with by the City defence and even a wonderful Joe Hart stop couldn’t prevent Gomes from walloping in his second of the night from close range.

Away from the drama at the Allianz Arena Napoli recorded a terrific 2-0 victory over Villarreal at the Stadio San Paulo in Naples. Marek Hamsik broke the deadlock just before the quarter hour mark from 6 yards out in a clearly offside position and the home side made sure of the win in front of their passionate following when Edson Cavani converted a penalty kick minutes after hitting the front. The Spaniards produced little in the way of a fight-back and Napoli were merited winners to move into second place in Group A behind an impressive Bayern Munich side on maximum points after two rounds of fixtures.

Next Up
Group A – Matchday 3: Napoli vs. Bayern Munich in the Stadio San Paulo, Naples and Manchester City vs. Villarreal in the City of Manchester Stadium.

Group B

Inter Milan continued their renaissance under new coach Claudio Ranieri with a hard fought 3-2 win away to CSKA Moscow in the Luzhniki Stadion in Moscow. Brazilian international Lucio opened the scoring with a neat volley from a corner kick to hand the Italians a 6th minute lead. Giampaolo Pazzini made it 2-0 in the 23rd minute with a first time finish after good approach play from winger Yuto Nagatomo.

CSKA had little option but to push forward in search of a way back into the game and Dzagoev curled a magnificent free-kick to leave a single goal between the sides. Wagner Love had tormented the Inter defence all evening and capped a fine individual performance with CSKA’s equaliser in the 77th minute.

Ranieri’s Inter are a different side from the team that lost all of their opening matches of the 2011-12 campaign and deservedly re-took the lead in the 79th minute when Zarate chested down a through ball and fired home from the edge of the area to win it 3-2 for Inter.

The other Group B encounter between Trabzonspor and Lille ended in a 1-1 draw in the Hüseyin Avni Aker Stadium but the result was enough to keep the Turkish side top of the table. Moussa Sow put the visitors ahead with a fine finish from a narrow angle but Gustavo Colman’s converted spot-kick ensured Trabzonspor earned a share of the spoils despite Joe Cole missing a guilt-edged opportunity late on for the Ligue 1 side.

Next Up
Group B – Matchday 3: CSKA Moscow vs. Trabzonspor in the Luzhniki Stadion, Moscow and Lille vs. Inter in the Lille Métropole Stadium.

Group C

Manchester United began superbly with two well taken Danny Wellbeck efforts pushing Sir Alex Ferguson’s side 2-0 in front. FC Basel created a plethora of chances in response and deservedly pulled one back through an opportunistic Fabien Frei effort just before the hour mark. United’s careless defending continued when Alexander Frei levelled the score three minutes later to silence a stunned Old Trafford crowd. Worse was to follow when the visitors were awarded a penalty after 76 minutes and Frei (Alexander) stepped up to make it 3-2.

United battled back and Ashley Young’s first ever Champions League goal demonstrated United’s fabled battling spirit to make it 3-3. The home side could have grabbed a winner before full time when Wellbeck flicked a header inches wide of the upright and Dimitar Berbatov hitting the side netting with Nani screaming for a square pass that would have produced a simple tap-in.

All in all a hugely disappointing night for last year’s Champions League runners-up and Sir Alex Ferguson is sure to have read the riot act to his player afterwards. Dropping 2 points at home to a side like FC Basel represents a serious blow to Manchester United’s hopes of qualifying early for the knockout phase. Elsewhere in Group C Otelul Galati lost 1-0 at home to Benfica in Bucharest with Bruno Cesar grabbing the only goal of a tight encounter in the 40th minute. Otelul bombarded the Benfica goal for much of the second period but found Artur in commanding form between the sticks. Some wayward shooting and dogged Benfica defending ensured the Portuguese side finished Matchday2 level at the top of Group C alongside FC Basel.

Next Up
Group C – Matchday 3: Otelul Galati vs. Manchester United in Bucharest and FC Basel vs. Benfica in St. Jakob Park, Basel.

Group D

Real Madrid maintained their unbeaten start in Group D of the Champions League with a 3-0 win over Ajax at the Santiago Bernabeu. A wonderful flowing move instigated by Cristiano Ronaldo which spanned the entire length of the field ended with the mercurial winger firing home the opening goal after 25 minutes. A left foot rocket from Kaka doubled Real’s lead before the break and the Brazilian then turned provider to setup Benzema to slide home Madrid’s third of an impressive display. Only some poor finishing prevented Jose Mourinho’s side from adding to their tally but Ajax produced a succession of chances late on only to be thwarted by some excellent Iker Casillas saves.

Based on their opening two group matches Mourinho’s side look destined to qualify from Group C with ease and if Real can carry their early season form into the knockout phase then they will be a side to watch in the latter stages of the competition.

Lyon recorded their first win of the 2011-12 Champions League campaign at the Stade Gerland thanks to an outrageous opening goal from Bafetimbi Gomis who chipped Dinamo Zagreb goalkeeper Kelava for a glorious opener. Bakary Kone doubled the Ligue 1’s side advantage just before the break and Lyon were comfortable 2-0 winners despite an improved showing in the second half from Zagreb.

Tuesday night’s results sees Real Madrid sitting comfortably two points clear of second placed Lyon with Ajax in third on a single point and Dinamo Zagreb still awaiting their first goal and point heading into Matchday 3.

Next Up
Group D – Matchday 3: Real Madrid vs. Lyon in the Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid Dinamo Zagreb vs. Ajax in the Stadion Maxsimir, Busharest.

Follow Ger on Twitter: @offcentrecircle

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