The first legs of the the third qualifying round were played on Tuesday and Wednesday and there were few surprises among the results. Among the notable events from Tuesday, Freddy Adu made his debut appearance for Benficabut it was old boy Rui Costa who stole the show and proved he is still capable of performing at the highest levels. The 35-year-old scored a brace and was the difference on the night as Benfica took a 2-1 lead over FC Copenhagen. Canadian Atiba Hutchinson replied for Copenhagen but they face an uphill battle to make the group stages.
The match between Lazio and Dinamo Bucuresti was marred by violence and racist chants which UEFA will review. Lazio have been punished by UEFA on three previous occasions over violent and racist behaviour, including being forced to play behind closed doors after racist abuse and crowd disturbances during a UEFA Cup in 2004. On Tuesday, five Romanians were injured in clashes with Lazio fans and one remains in hospital after being stabbed in the side. Inside the ground, Lazio’s well-known right wing element chanted racist slogans during the 1-1 draw.
Ionel Danciulescu’s first-half header gave Dinamo a vital away goal and goalkeeper Bogdan Lobont’s efforts included saving a penalty after a Dinamo defender was judged to have handled in the area. Massimo Mutarelli grabbed a goal in the 53rd minute before being sent off later in the half. The contest was a heated affair with two Lazio players and one Dinamo player being sent off and a total of 12 cards being shown.
Other scores and links to highlights from Tuesday:
Moving onto Wednesday’s action, Liverpool took a 1-0 lead on Toulouse thanks to an Andriy Voronin strike. Liverpool’s win came at a cost as captain Steven Gerrard picked up a hairline fracture to one of the toes on his right foot. He may still play against Chelsea in their Premier League clash on Sunday but it is likely to be a game time decision. Toulouse did create a few chances in the sweltering 36C heat but were unable to level the score. They are still in the tie and will look to pull off a major upset at Anfield.
Scottish champs Celtic kicked off their campaign with a solid away showing against Spartak Moscow. The two clubs battled to a 1-1 draw which sets up an intriguing return fixture in Glasgow. Celtic opened the scoring after Scott McDonald’s cross was powered home by Paul Hartley’s superb header but Roman Pavlyuchenko headed home an equalizer 20 minutes later. Celtic were put under early pressure and were nearly down 1-0 after only 9 minutes as Pavlyuchenko neatly backheeled a Welliton cross into the net from eight yards only to be ruled offside. From the TV replays that I saw, it did not look offside and I think Celtic got a bit lucky with the call.