Goals from Siem de Jong, Niklas Moisander and Christian Eriksen allowed Ajax to re-live their European glory days and give Roberto Mancini yet another reminder of how difficult it is to navigate through the group stages of the Champions League. The Dutch side, who had the majority of possession for much of the match and were creating more chances than their English opposition, went a goal down in the 21st minute as Samir Nasri, assisted byJames Milner, bent the ball superbly past Kenneth Vermeer. However, that would be as good as it got for the Citizens as Ajax soon began to control the possession and probe even further at the City goal. Just before the interval, De Jong sent a very opportunistic but excellently directed shot past Joe Hart to give Ajax the impetus ahead of the second half. Although City were to create several chances of their own, they were unable to break down a very stubborn Dutch defence and were impeded even further by some tremendous goalkeeping. In the end, Ajax ran out deserving winners and Mancini will now need something special from his players if they are to avoid a repeat of last season’s early exit.
Goals in the 75th and 88th minute from Klaas Jan Huntellar and Ibrahim Affellay gave the Gunners a second consecutive defeat, following their shock loss at the weekend to Norwich City. Arsène Wenger will not be happy with recent results, however, he will be hoping that recent performances are merely a temporary stumbling block which Arsenal will soon overcome. Schalke were deserved winners as they took their chances with great aplomb. Arsenal were once again hindered by an inability to convert when the chances arose. The win propels the German side to top spot in Group B and they will be quietly confident that they will, eventually, qualify. Jefferson Farfán, who put in a terrific man of the match display on the right flank, tormented the Arsenal left-back Andr Santos and caused him plenty of problems, eventually leading to the Gunners’ undoing.
Nets shook, posts were rattled and hearts were broken as Celtic were denied by a 94th minute winner at the Camp Nou. In the 18th minute, Neil Lennon’s men took the lead through a Javier Mascherano own goal and it looked, for a moment, like Celtic could defy all the odds and maybe even beat Tito Vilanova’s team. However, it was not to be. In the last action of the first half, Barcelona grabbed an equaliser. It was perfect timing for them, but it sent Celtic in at half-time feeling worried and concerned about what they would have to endure to secure a valiant point. In short, much like in the first half, what they tempered a Barcelona barrage. Courageously and incredibly, the Hoops held out for 49 minutes before Jordi Alba broke Celtic hearts. In truth, the Catalan side deserved to win the match as they dominated possession, created far more chances and played some terrific football. However, one can’t help but feel sorry for the green half of Glasgow and hope that this result does not deflate them ahead of their next European outing.
Manchester United were 3-2 winners on Tuesday night, and while the record books will show that the Red Devils won a match they will have been expected to win, it will not reflect how Braga made life terribly difficult for them at times. What will be even less clear is how United made life very difficult for themselves as they conceded a very early goal and looked rather flimsy in defence. Alan Silva, the Braga captain, converted their first in the second minute and then amazingly, netted another in the 25th minute. Not for the first time this season, United’s defence looked terribly poor and Braga did well to capitalise on these weaknesses and push Sir Alex Ferguson’s side close to breaking point. A goal from Johnny Evans, sandwiched by a brace from Javier Hernández ensured United’s blushes were spared. Overtly, Braga will be terribly disappointed that they couldn’t hold on to their lead and with only three points from three, they will be looking for an improvement. United, who have struggled so far in this campaign, have maximum points and look very safe to qualify.
Alex Teixeira’s third-minute goal and a Fernandinho second-half strike sent Shaktar Donetsk three points clear at the top of Group E and sent their fans wild on Tuesday night as they managed to carve out a surprising win against the reigning champions of Europe. Although Oscar, who is enjoying a brilliant campaign so far, managed to pull one back for the Londoners and regain some resemblance of pride, there was still a feeling of a missed opportunity among the Chelsea fans. A win would also have sent Chelsea into top spot, three points clear, so for Donetsk this is a terribly important victory that will give them some breathing space as well as real confidence that they can now qualify for the last-16. It seems that it will be a two-horse race for second place between Di Matteo’s men and Juventus.
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