The Champions League group stages have been extremely exciting this season, and as the knockout stages draw nearer, we’re beginning to see the sides which will take part in the latter stages of the competition. Right now, the sides which have qualified are: Tottenham Hotspur, Inter Milan, Barcelona, Copenhagen, Schalke 04, Lyon, Manchester United, Valencia, Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Real Madrid, and AC Milan.
Manchester United – Valencia
Manchester United sealed their qualification in first place of the group after drawing 1-1 against Valencia at Old Trafford. Sir Alex Ferguson’s side started with a bit of complacency, they were sloppy, and unable to transition quickly like they were able to do in their 7-1 victory against Blackburn Rovers in the Premier League, mostly because Valencia closed them down quickly and efficiently. Berbatov and Anderson both had great opportunities to score, but poor finishing was what stopped United from taking the lead. Then Michael Carrick lost the ball (not for the first time) and allowed Pablo Hernandez to score the opening goal for Valencia.
What Manchester United were lacking was a bit of spark, a midfield maestro, or an experienced playmaker in the middle of the park. The second half began, and Rio Ferdinand had to be substituted in the 50th minute, when his hamstring seemed to be causing him problems. Chris Smalling was placed in the center of defence, and the big defender struggled against a Valencia side which was looking for another goal. But Manchester United got the final goal of the match, tying up the result which qualifies them in first place of the group.
It was the lively Anderson who got on the end of Park Ji-Sung’s parried shot, and the Brazilian tucked away his first goal at Old Trafford. It was a good game, and Valencia looked very dangerous against a slightly complacent Manchester United side. It’ll be interesting to see which side will have to face Valencia, and I’m sure that the Spanish club will give their next opponents a tough game.
FC Twente – Tottenham Hotspur
Tottenham Hotspur also qualified in first place of their group after their 3-3 draw, away against FC Twente. Harry Redknapp’s side had a lucky start when the FC Twente goalkeeper Boschker scored a comical own goal in the 12th minute. Boschker was about to clear a pass from his defender, Wisgerhof, and the keeper completely missed the ball, allowing it to roll into the back of his own net! But Twente recovered and eventually equalized when they were awarded a penalty about ten minutes later when the ball bounced off of Assou-Ekkoto’s arm.
In the second half the two sides alternated scoring goals, with Jermain Defoe scoring a brace, and Chadli scoring a fantastic free kick which equalized the score at 3-3. It was a great result for Tottenham, especially with their rivals for first place, Inter Milan, being humiliated 3-0 by Werder Bremen.
Barcelona had few problems defeating Rubin Kazan 2-0 at the Camp Nou. Josep Guardiola put out a very young side, and his youngsters proved him right with 21 year-old Andreu Fontas and 23 year-old Victor Vazquez scoring the two goals.
Copenhagen also qualified in the same group with Barcelona after their 3-1 win against Panathinaikos. The Danish side had no trouble until the 90th minute, when Kante scored a consolation goal for Panathinaikos, making the final score 3-1 for Copenhagen.
Schalke 04 qualified in first place of their group after a fantastic 2-1 away win against Benfica. Schalke were two up with Jurado and Howedes having scored the goals when Luisao scored a consolation goal for Benfica. This win is fantastic for Felix Magath’s side which hasn’t been playing too well this season. Maybe this is where their season turns around?
Lyon qualified second behind Schalke 04 after their exciting 2-2 draw against Hapoel Tel Aviv. Hapoel Tel Aviv thought that they’d managed to win when Zahavi scored their second goal with a beautiful bicycle kick to make it 2-1, but it was the youngster Lacazette who ruined their victory dreams. If the Israeli side had managed to hold on for the win, they’d have qualified for the Europa League, but instead it will be Benfica which will be playing in the Europa League this season.
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