Just a quick update on matches that took place over Tuesday and Wednesday as the final stage of Champions League qualifying got under way. Though there is still the second leg to play, there were many shock results put up. A pot that starts at £10million and could rise to £20million awaits the victors so the pressure to produce a result is high.
The impact of a bad result hit home hardest for Levski Sofia coach Velislav Vutsov as he resigned immediately after his side lost 1-0 to Belarus’s BATE Borisov on Wednesday. Levski’s chief executive Daniel Borimirov told a post-match news conference that Vutsov would be replaced by his assistant Emil Velev.
It was Levski’s ninth consecutive defeat in European club competitions. They qualified for the competition after finishing runners-up to champions CSKA Sofia who were excluded because of outstanding debts to the state and creditors. BATE defender Vladimir Rzevskiy scored the only goal of the match with a second-half header. Levski captain Georgi Ivanov missed a penalty in the 30th minute.
Liverpool were lucky to escape from Belgium with a scoreless draw, largely thanks to the heroics of Spanish stopper Pepe Reina which included saving a spot-kick from Liege’s Brazilian left-back Dante Bonfim. Liege’s Marouane Fellaini had an early header that hit the inside of the post but was deemed not to have crossed the line before keeper Pepe Reina cleared. Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez told reporters: “You must give credit to Liege because they were aggressive, competitive and played very well. It is different to playing pre-season friendlies, but we were lucky and the only good thing was that we did not concede a goal.”Liege will be disappointed to not come away from the fixture with a lead to defend as they had numerous chances to score but they can take some spirit from the way they played and an upset, though a tall order, is still possible.
Elsewhere, Anorthosis Famagusta FC are poised to become the first Cypriot team to qualify for the Champions League group stage after producing a dominant display in Larnaca to stun Greek champions Olympiacos CFP by a score of 3-0.
Adorned in gold shirts, Juventus produced a golden performance and are now poised to make their return to the Champions League after a 4-0 win over FC Artmedia Petržalka. One of my favorite players, Alessandro Del Piero, scored an absolute gem curling a long range shot into the top corner. Other goals came from Camoranesi, Chiellini and Legrottaglie but there could have been more as Juventus were simply too strong for their Slovakian opponents.Dynamo Kyiv are also on course to reach the group stage after a comfortable 4-1 win against old USSR rivals FC Spartak Moskva. Ismaël Bangoura and Artem Milevskiy both grabbed braces for Kyiv as they scored four unanswered goals to setup the return leg in the Ukraine.
The last match that I’ll touch on is the FC Twente – Arsenal fixture. Arsenal came away with a 2-0 scoreline thanks to second-half goals from William Gallas and Emmanuel Adebayor but Steve McClaren’s side did well to deny Arsenal time and space throughout much of the game. They used a man-marking system that was very effective in the first half against a young Arsenal, which included a competitive debut for 17-year-old Aaron Ramsey who was paired in central midfield with the 19-year-old Denilson. With the team missing both Cesc Fabregas and Tomas Rosicky, they struggled to create chances but took the lead in the second half after William Gallas bundled home a free-kick. Of note, Theo Walcott had another impressive European outing as it was his accurate cross that allowed Adebayor to score a second away goal and almost wrap up the tie.
The full set of results from the first leg are listed below:
Fiorentina 2 Slavia Prague 0
Spartak Moscow 0 Dynamo Kiev 0
Shakhtar Donetsk 0 Dinamo Zagreb 0
Levski Sofia 0 BATE Borisov 0
Anorthosis Famagusta 0 Olympiakos 0
Aalborg BK 0 FBK Kaunas 0
Galatasaray 0 Steaua Bucharest 0
Schalke 04 1 Atlético de Madrid 0
Twente Enschede 0 Arsenal 2
Juve 4 FC Artmedia Bratislava 0
FK Partizan Belgrade 0 Fenerbahce 0
Brann 0 Marseille 1
Sparta 0 Pan’aikos 0
Standard Liege 0 Liverpool 0
Vitória Guimarães 0 Basel 0
Barcelona 0 Wisla Krakow 0
You can find highlights of all the first leg matches over at one of my favorite sites — 101greatgoals.com