UEFA Champions League: Turkish Delight

Group standings. 

Group A

FC Porto 1, Liverpool 1

Jermaine Pennant was sent off with 30 minutes to go, but Liverpool survived finding the equalizer well before Pennant’s ejection and hanging on from there. Lucho Gonzalez converted an 8th minute penalty to put Porto up early.

Marseille 2, Besiktas 0

Having trouble finding domestic success again, but Les Bleus found a way past Besiktas with two late goals from trusty Julien Rodriguez and Liverpool outcast Djibril Cisse.

Group B

Chelsea 1, Rosenborg 1

Mourinho’s last game was a dud and the real question of the day was did he know he was walking out before the game or was his exit brought on by the result? Abrahamovich’s man Sheva saved the Blues’ tail by scoring on a header in the 53rd minute.

Valencia 1, Schalke 04 0

Not a great overall week for Bundesliga clubs, but it was David Villa’s class in the 63rd minute that propelled Los Ches by the blue-clad Germans. Otherwise, it looked like everybody else was content to settle for a draw.

Group C

Olympiakos 1, Lazio 1

Luciano Galletti put the Greek champions up 10 minutes into the second half and Lazio struggled to find someone to do their bidding as both Rocchi and Pandev were being shut down. With 10 minutes to, Luciano Zauri found the equalizer and Lazio accepted a tie – but the real question is, was he offside?

Real Madrid 2, Werder Bremen 1

There is still long way to go before we can fully evaluate this year’s Madrid squad, but they have shown more heart and dominance then in recent season’s past. Raul scored in the 16th minute but Boubacar Sanogo cancelled that out a minute later. We all know, however, that if you’re going to shut down Real – you must not give Ruud van Nistelrooy ANY – and I mean ANY – room. Well, Bremen did. Ruud replied – scoring with 15 minutes to go.

Group D

AC Milan 2, Benfica 1

Benfica never really threatened and for us American fans, all we really want to know is why no Freddy Adu? Anywhere? Andrea Pirlo exercised his ‘I’m better than you’ card and put Milan up within 10 minutes of the start. Pippo Inzaghi caught the bug and scored not long after effectively digging Benfica a nice grave to lay down in.

Shakhtar Donetsk 2, Celtic 0

I don’t get it. Rangers can rally against the likes of VfB Stuttgart while Celtic gets out-classed by Shakhtar, but when it comes to domestic play, Rangers loses 4-2 to Hearts of Midlothian while Celtic goes their first 5 unbeaten. Hmmm. A real nice crop of Brazilians have come out of Shakhtar (Elano to Manchester City, Matuzalem, etc.) and Brandao will surely be the next one to grab Western Europe’s eye. Especially after his performance against Celtic, scoring in the 6th minute. Claudio Lucarelli added his own 2 minutes later. The Brazilians really dominated this game, however, with Brandao, Fernandinho, and Jadson all having respectable games.

Group E

Barcelona 3, Lyon 0

Thierry Henry opened his account with Barca, while Lyon fought themselves mostly for the first 20 minutes but when Barca’s class kicked in – there was no fighting. Lionel Messi and Henry scored within the last 10 minutes of the game to put it out of reach.

Rangers 2, VfB Stuttgart 1

Stuttgart struck early thanks to the revelation of last year’s Bundesliga champion, Mario Gomez. Rangers evened it up not long after through the efforts of Charlie Adam, who since his terrible play against FK Zeta has seen little time. Adam came through, but Fernando Meira silver-plattered the lead with a foul on Alan Hutton. Hutton scored making it 2-1, giving the Gers 3 vital points, and taking the unofficial MVP of the match as he had his hand in both goals.

Group F

Manchester United 1, Sporting Lisbon 0

Cristiano Ronaldo’s homecoming was a good one – except for the whole destroying the lives and dreams of every Sporting Lisbon fan out there sort of thing. Okay, a little excessive – as it’s just the first match of the group round but Ronaldo scored the goal (on a diving header no less) that gave the Devils the win.

Roma 2, Dynamo Kiev 0

An out-classing – much of which had to do with the goalscorers Simone Perrotta and Francesco Totti. Trying to rack up points and goal difference before they meet Manchester United for a revenge-filled rematch?

Group G

Fenerbahce 1, Inter Milan 0

Brazilian Deivid supplied the goal just before the half-time whistle and Inter couldn’t respond at all. Could it really be that the presence of Roberto Carlos could push a team over the top? Either way, the key to the Turkish Champion’s victory was the efficient shut-down of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, as he saw very little in the way of chances.

PSV Eindhoven 2, CSKA Moscow 1

Vagner Love’s late 89th minute goal couldn’t counter the firepower of Danko Lazovic and former AZ/Ajax striker Kenneth Perez who struck in the 59th and 80th minute respectively.

Group H

Arsenal 3, FC Sevilla 0

Yikes. Arsene Wenger has created a monster or else a little bit of confidence goes a long way. Cesc and Van Persie put the game out of reach but Eduardo grabbed another goal in injury time to drive the point home. The Gunners have started strong in both their Premiership and European campaigns, but are they pacing themselves?

Slavia Prague 2, Steaua Bucharest 1

An entertaining Eastern European battle that involved a showcasing of some burgeoning talent that you could see in the EPL/La Liga/Bundesliga/etc. sometime real soon. Marek Suchy showed why he’s considered one of the brightest prospects since Niko Kranjcar. Goals were scored for Slavia by Zdenek Senkerik and Tijani Belaid and for Bucharest, Dorin Goian.

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Your UEFA Champions League Group Stage Qualifiers are set…

Except for one. The winner of Sevilla and AEK Athens will move on. That game will be played September 3rd. Here they are by seed – the draw will be held today, early afternoon EST.

Pot 1/#1 Seeds
AC Milan (Cup Holders)
Barcelona
Liverpool
Inter Milan
Arsenal
Real Madrid
Chelsea
Manchester United

Pot 2/#2 Seeds

Valencia
Lyon
Porto
Sevilla/AEK Athens
PSV Eindhoven
AS Roma
Benfica
Werder Bremen

Pot 3/#3 Seeds
Celtic
Schalke 04
VfB Stuttgart
Steaua Bucharest (ROM)
CSKA Moscow (RUS)
Sporting Club de Portugal
Lazio
Marseille

Pot 4/#4 Seeds
Rangers (SCO)
Shakhtar Donetsk (UKR)
Besiktas (TUR)
Olympiakos (GRE)
Dynamo Kiev (UKR)
Fenerbahce (TUR)
Slavia Prague (CZE)
Rosenborg (NOR)

UEFA Champions League: Beasley, Adu and fifty more matches for you.

Yesterday’s Games 

 

Rangers 1, Crvena Zvezda 0

A last gasp Nacho Novo strike helped Rangers survive a physical onslaught and leave Ibrox with a 1 goal lead and a firm away goal advantage (in the sense that they kept Red Star to zero). DaMarcus Beasley worked a solid 70 minutes or so getting beaten, punched, and dropkicked along the way.

Benfica 2, FC Copenhagen 1

We all expected minutes, but I don’t think anyone expected Freddy Adu to enter Champions League competition just 37 minutes into his first match. The 18-year old had his problems – mostly nerves and positioning issues – but at times seemed to really flow with the game, which unfortunately was not up to snuff for a Benfica that knows they’re much better than that how they played. Portuguese great Rui Costa provided the brace – one in the first and one in the second half – to help Benfica head to Copenhagen with a goal lead in tow. Canadian Atiba Hutchinson got the goal for Copenhagen.

 

Lazio 1, Dinamo Bucharest 1

The Romanian champions head back home feeling good about this one as Lazio, as I heard, looked like utter crap. It certainly didn’t help matters in the last 20 minutes when 2 men were sent off – goalscorer Massimo Mutarelli (2nd caution) and Valon Behrami (straight red). True star of the game was Dinamo goalie Bogdon Lobont – long time Romanian international – as he was bombarded throughout much of the game and kept the Romanians in it.

 

Valencia 3, Elfsborg 0

Vicente, David Villa, and Fernando Morientes provided the firepower, while Elfsborg fizzled away from home. I had mentioned the word minnows and they played like some. The score should have been 5, 6 to nothing but the Valencia frontmen missed several sitters. Expect Valencia to make it to the semifinals this year – on the performances of Silva, Vicente, Villa, Morientes…wow, these guys could

 

TODAY’s MATCHES

Toulouse vs. Liverpool

Rafa and his new boys will be tested by a Toulouse team coming off a sound victory over defending champs Olympique Lyonnais.

 

Spartak Moscow vs. Celtic

I can see Spartak winning this one and eventually moving on as Celtic hasn’t caught their stride as of yet.

 

Tampere United vs. Rosenborg

The Finnish champions versus the Norwegian champions in an all-out, down-and-dirty Scandinavian battle.

 

BATE Borisov vs. Steaua Bucharest

Bulgarian champions versus the Romanian runner-ups…not many will be watching this game, but if Steaua plays anything like Dinamo Bucharest did yesterday – it could be a good one.

 

Fenerbahce vs. Anderlecht

Roberto Carlos’ new squad looks to dispatch of the Belgian champions and probably will do so.

 

FK Sarajevo vs. Dynamo Kiev

I love these Eastern European match-ups, but look for Shevchenko’s Kiev to dominate in this one.

 

FC Zurich vs. Besiktas

Switzerland vs. Turkey. Zurich looks to rebound after starting the Swiss Super League season off with a loss.

 

Ajax vs. Slavia Prague

Ajax is very vulnerable right now – getting thoroughly destroyed in the transfer market by fellow Eredivisie contenders. A new transfer kitty, however, came in with the sale of Wesley Sneijder for $37 million. Does that effect this game? No. Not yet at least.

 

Red Bull Salzburg vs. Shakhtar Donetsk

The Ukranian powerhouse now boasts Copa America’s and the Gold Cup’s revelation – Nery Castillo and they look to use that against the Austrian champions.

 

Werder Bremen vs. Dinamo Zagreb

Bremen lost a lot this offseason but still should have enough to beat Dinamo at home. Away – however – is a different matter.

 

FC Sevilla vs. AEK Athens

Ryan’s team takes on a new-look AEK Athens team who lured Rivaldo from Greek champions Olympiakos. Frederic Kanoute, however, signed on until 2010 boosting the morale and calming the nerves of many supporters. Look for Sevilla to show they’re ready for the upcoming season.

 

Sparta Prague vs. Arsenal

Everybody is talking about how Arsenal is going to have an even worse year than last year. They could be right – and Sparta Praha certainly isn’t going to help one bit. It’s Tomas Rosicky vs. his old team.

The 2nd Leg of the Third Round of Qualifying will take place on August 28th and 29th, 2007.

UEFA Champions League: Third Qualifying Round Kicks Off

Rangers vs. Crvena Zvezda (Red Star Belgrade)
Ibrox

DaMarcus Beasley and his new club will face the Serbian champs at home in the first leg. With already one goal in the competition and the possibility of more racial taunts coming today, we could probably expect a hat-trick from Beasley (only mildly joking). Beasley and Jean-Claude Darcheville’s pace should prove invaluable and ultimately the deciding factor as (incoming generalization) most Serbian defenders have strength but little speed. If Alan Hutton can actually stay on the pitch this time, it would make it much easier for them. Red Star snuck by the Estonian champions FC Levadia Tallinn on away goals in the 2nd round of qualifying, while Rangers beat Montegrin champions FK Zeta soundly.

Benfica vs. FC Copenhagen
Estadio de Luz

The Danish champions look to spoil Freddy Adu’s potential Champions League debut. In various news sources, it looks as if Adu could get the last 20 minutes or so to work with as they stressed that he has only had 7 full days of training. Veteran Swede Marcus Allback (also a former Aston Villa striker) will be the one to cause havoc in the Benfica danger zone. Benfica will most likely not have the full service of Nuno Gomes, but looks to counter that with home advantage and hopefully an impact from new youngster Angel di Maria. Watch the young’uns shine.

Other matchs:

 Lazio vs. Dinamo Bucharest

Italian Serie A stalwarts versus the Romanian champions. Look for Goran Pandev to make his presence well known, while Dinamo will threaten with the likes of Catalin Munteanu (the La Liga/Atletico bust) and former (yet very brief) Fulham Frenchman Fabrice Fernandes.

Valencia vs. Elfsborg

Sharks vs. Minnows in this clash of the Spanish giants with the Swedish champions. Elfsborg’s drive is purely on the backs of Swedish internationals Samuel Holmen, hometown (Boras, Sweden for those asking) hero Matthias Svensson and former So’ton man Anders Svensson. Add that to the recent quenching of a 40 odd year Championship thirst last year. When compared to Quique Flores’ Los Ches, you see the contrast. David Villa, Fernando Morientes, and new signing Nikola Zigic will look to stamp out any hopes that Elfsborg has at Estadio Mestalla to reach the group stages. Zigic is a rather fresh signing though, he’ll most likely not play.