The past two midweeks have seen the return of European football to our screens. Over the course of these matches we’ve seen some fantastic games, goals, shots, passes, tackles, misdirection (if you’re Paul Scholes) or in the case of Arsenal, some really terrible efforts in the art of stopping the opposition from scoring.
In the first week, the main event of Tuesday’s billing was AC Milan hosting Manchester United at the San Siro. Obviously this was a very important fixture but more importantly, if Sky Sports News is to be believed, David Beckham was facing his former team for the first time since his departure in 2003. It was a cracking five goal thriller, but what struck me most was that the Rossoneri’s defence was lacking, and by lacking, I mean in existence rather than performance. It seems to me that in a bid to get away from the stigma of fantastic Milan defences of the past, and out from under the cloud of greats such as Paolo Maldini, Milan’s current defence of Nesta, Silva and co. decided to just not bother. Bring back Philippe Senderos, if you ask me.
The following night, Arsenal paid a visit to the Estádio do Dragão to take on Porto. Injuries to the Arsenal squad dictated that their starting XI was to contain players such as Nicklas Bendtner, Lukasz Fabianski and Sol Campbell. What could go wrong? Quite a lot actually: within ten minutes or so, Fabianski turned a task as simple as collecting a cross-come-shot into an even simpler task of collecting the ball from his own net…. tah-dah! In the 18th minute it appeared Campbell might escape ridicule when he headed in Tomáš Rosický’s flick on. But good old Sol, a man never to let anyone down (unless you’re a Tottenham/Portsmouth/Notts County fan), dispelled any such thoughts when he conspired with Poland’s fifth best goalkeeper to gift Porto the lead.
I’m sure we’ve all seen the incident, but with Arsenal fans still unsure whether to blame Fabianski, Campbell or Swedish-French referee Martin Hansson, I say blame them all and bring back Philippe Senderos. Following the goal from the controversially taken indirect free kick, Arsene Wenger remonstrated with his fellow countryman Hansson for what seemed like an age. Reports that Hansson finally silenced him by telling him “Sit down, you paedophile” have been all but confirmed.
The following week saw Stuttgart at home to reigning champions Barcelona. A bit of a dull game I thought, with Barcelona having a huge amount of possession but not doing very much with it. However I was delighted I watched the match if only for Martin Keown’s excellent piece of punditry. When talking about former Arsenal player Alexander Hleb, who is now on loan to Stuttgart from Barcelona, Keown said that he: “never trusted him and always thought he was one of those foreigners who’d just take all he could and then leave” Good man Martin, show them foreigners what’s what.
Of course other than the glitz and glamour of the Champions League we were also subjected to the less popular, less loved and less financially lucrative obligation of the Europa League, also affectionately known as the ginger-haired stepchild of European football. These fixtures will however go unreported on, due to a severe lack of interest.
In other news, Wayne Bridge didn’t shake John Terry’s hand which is apparently worthy of a top story slot on Sky News. This came shortly after Bridge decided to withdraw from playing for England due to his position being ‘untenable and potentially divisive’. This has led to a campaign from Republic of Ireland fans to get Richard Dunne to have an affair with Paul McShane’s girlfriend.