The second qualifying round brought two big upsets as Rangers and Anderlecht became two of the biggest clubs to be knocked out at this stage.
A 2-1 win (video highlights here) in Lithuania saw FBK Kaunas (pictured celebrating at the right) take full advantage of the 0-0 draw they earned at Ibrox to send the beaten 2007/08 UEFA Cup finalists crashing out of the UEFA Champions League. Full marks to Kaunas who played the two-legged tie perfectly and made the most of set-pieces in their home match to overturn an early Rangers goal from Kevin Thomson. Nerijus Radzius scored on a sweetly curled free-kick and Linas Pilibaitis headed in a corner kick from Rafael Ledesma, Kaunas’ talented Brazilian playmaker, three minutes from time to seal the victory.
Rangers had hoped to build upon last season’s thrilling run to the UEFA Cup final and reach the group stage of the Champions League. Reaching the group stage is a £10m (12.5m euro) boost for the clubs that make it. That can often allow a club the financial ability to make an additional quality signing or the ability to offer a pay raise and retain a star player.
FC BATE Borisov were in the driver’s seat after they pulled a surprise victory away against RSC Anderlecht in the first leg. Anderlecht came out flying in the return leg and took an early lead but the game turned in the second half when Anderlecht defender Nemanja Rni? collected a second yellow card on 71 minutes. BATE scored 12 minutes later to once again put themselves in control of the tie. Czech midfielder Jan Polák scored late for Anderlecht to level the game but BATE held on to their aggregate lead and their biggest win in European competition. Highlights of the second leg are available here.
A third major upset was almost had as FC Dynamo Kyiv survived a late scare in their home return leg against Drogheda United FC, holding on for a 2-2 draw to set up a tie against FC Spartak Moskva. After winning 2-1 in Ireland, a bit of overconfidence may have set in and the Ukraine-based team was pushed right to the very death by the Irish minnows.
Taking a quick look at the other second qualifying round games, Fenerbahce, on the strength of four goals from Semih ?entürk, crushed MTK Budapest 5-0 in the second leg to advance 7-0 on aggregate. The most thrilling tie was between FC Basel and IFK Gothenburg. Basel scored a 4-2 win in the second leg to advance 5-3 on aggregate.
With no parachute into the Uefa Cup both Anderlecht and Rangers are now done with European competition for the season. Unthinkable for the fans of these clubs but delight for fans of their conquerors as they live to fight on for another round.I’ve re-posted the third round matchups, this time with my predictions on who will advance. I was 10 of 14 in the second round, which leaves me at 21/28 (75%) so far. I think this round is going to be the toughest to predict in some respects. While some of the biggest European clubs are entering the competition at this round and there are some clear mismatches, there are also some very even matchups such as the Atletico-Schalke fixture. There will be at least a couple of ‘smaller’ clubs that make it through to the group stage as some are paired together.
I’ve taken a couple of gambles and picked from the heart more than the head in some cases but it’s going to be an exciting third round either way.
2008/09 UEFA Champions League
Third Qualifying Round Fixtures
First leg: 12/13 August
Second leg: 26/27 August
Anorthosis v Olympiakos
Vitoria Guimaraes v FC Basel
Shakhtar Donetsk v Dinamo Zagreb
Schalke 04 v Atletico Madrid
Aalborg v Kaunas
Barcelona v Wisla Krakow
Levski Sofia v BATE
Standard Liege v Liverpool
Partizan v Fenerbahce
Twente Enschede v Arsenal
Spartak Moscow v Dinamo Kiev
Juventus v Artmedia
Brann v Marseille
Fiorentina v Slavia Prague
Galatasaray v Steaua Bucharest
Panathinaikos v Sparta Prague