Solid away victories for Everton and Tottenham, at Brann and Slavia Prague respectively, have propelled the two Premiership sides into great position heading into their UEFA Cup Round of 32 second legs next week.
Everton had the more straightforward road game of the two, although going to Norway in February really couldn’t have been pleasant. The Toffees clearly came to win as manager David Moyes opted to play a 4-4-2 formation instead of the more traditional away 4-5-1, and Yakubu was back in the starting lineup after his benching last weekend.
Their sixth straight UEFA Cup victory didn’t come easy for Merseyside’s second team; it was a 0-0 game heading into halftime and Brann had their share of chances in the first 45 minutes. Midfielder Leon Osman opened the scoring for Everton, however, in the 59th minute, and Victor Anichebe put the match to bed with a goal two minutes before full-time.
The victors had 61% of the possession but as I’ve said time and time again, you can have the ball all you want but it only matters if you do something with it, and Everton was able to do that tonight.
Tottenham went into the Czech Republic and held on for a 2-1 victory despite an awful mistake by former Slavia Prague goalkeeper Radek Cerny that allowed the hosts to pull one back. Robbie Keane and Dimitar Berbatov each scored in the first half for Spurs, giving the strike duo a combined 36 goals so far this season.
Juande Ramos went with a makeshift back four as Pascal Chimbonda (left back), Didier Zokora (center back), and Teemu Tainio (right back) all played out of their usual positions. Ledley King stayed on the bench as the freezing temperature would’ve put his sore knee at even further risk, and both Lee Young-Pyo and Younes Kaboul were also available if needed.
The two away goals scored by Spurs and Everton really set both teams up nicely for the home leg next week, where I would expect a win from them anyway.
Fellow Premiership side Bolton got a victory as well, a 1-0 triumph over Atletico Madrid at the Reebok. The Trotters also received a big bonus and trump card in the form of a Sergio Aguero red card, meaning he’ll miss the return leg next week. Aguero, the Argentine wunderkid, is tied for 10th in scoring in La Liga with 9 league goals and has scored 5 goals in 5 UEFA Cup games this season as well.
El-Hadji Diouf scored a minute after Aguero’s dismissal late in the second half to put Bolton ahead, but former Pompey left back/midfielder Matthew Taylor put on a man of the match-type performance in the victory. Taylor was also the victim of the spitting incident that earned Aguero an early trip to the showers after the former’s challenge.
After countless low crowds this season, Bolton were boosted by their largest home crowd of the season (26,163).
The two Scottish clubs left in this competition, Rangers and Aberdeen, both have their work cut out for them next week. Both sides were the hosts for this leg and both came out with a draw.
Aberdeen will have to go to Munich and either win or score at least two goals in a draw to advance past Bayern, the odds-on favorites to win the tournament, as today’s match ended at 2-2. England U-19 players Josh Walker and Sone Aluko scored for the Dons, who led this game on two separate occasions.
Bayern Munich didn’t play a full-strength side and nearly paid the price. A few controversial refereeing decisions went against Aberdeen and would’ve resulted in PK’s for the hosts if they would’ve been called. Instead, Bayern will thank fortune for being on their side and should win with relative ease next week to move on to the Round of 16.
Current SPL leaders Rangers were held to a 0-0 draw at Ibrox by Greek side Panathinaikos, who can advance with a win in Athens next week. They’re undefeated at home in the league so far this season (8-2-0) and could pull off a surprise by defeating Rangers and progressing to the next round.
The only other surprise of this week’s first leg was a 1-0 victory by Dick Advocaat-coached Zenit St. Petersburg over Villarreal.
Complete List of First Leg Scores: (Home team listed first)
Aberdeen-2, Bayern Munich-2
AEK Athens-1, Getafe–1
Bolton Wanderers-1, Atlético Madrid-0
Zenit St. Petersburg-1, Villarreal–0
Galatasaray-0, Bayer Leverkusen–0
FC Zürich-1, Hamburg SV–3
PSV Eindhoven-2, Helsingborg-0
Slavia Prague-1, Tottenham–2
Sporting Lisbon-2, FC Basel-0
Werder Bremen-3, Sporting Braga-0
Marseille-3, Spartak Moscow–0
Note: British teams are in bold