Thursday, November 29, 2007

Champions League Matchday 5: November 27-28

Liverpool 4-1 Porto
A flattering scoreline for Liverpool, but I'm not about to complain, because they got the job done, and that's what matters at this point. They played pretty well for the first half-hour, Fernando Torres opening the scoring and suggesting that, unlike at Newcastle, he had his shooting boots on yesterday. But then Porto scored to even things up, somewhat against the run of play, and Liverpool looked frighteningly ragged for the rest of the half. They came out pushing for a goal after halftime, but their play looked laboured, as if they were almost trying too hard to break through. But at least in this game, Rafa wasn't afraid to use his substitutes, or making the changes too late to have an impact, bringing on first Harry Kewell and then Peter Crouch. It was Torres who ended up with the winning goal, though, proving his value and maybe reminding Hicks and Gillett just what you can do with a generous transfer budget, before Gerrard and Crouch added two more late goals to put a gloss on the game.

Manchester United 2-1 Sporting Lisbon
Not the most convincing performance by United. They looked sluggish and sloppy throughout the first half, while Sporting came out strongly and reaped their reward with the opening goal, as Kuszczak was badly beat at the near post (how much longer until Ben Foster is fit again, does anyone know?). But Sir Alex changed things up at halftime, bringing on Giggs and Tevez in place of Fletcher and Nani, and the substitutions eventually made the difference. First a bit of a lucky equalizer, as Ronaldo's shot was deflected in off Tevez. And then finally a stoppage-time winner: Ronaldo again, with a brilliant free kick from 30 yards out that swerved past the keeper into the far corner. They could've used some of that against Bolton, eh?

Group A
Beşiktaş 2-1 Marseille
Liverpool 4-1 Porto

This group is still completely open, with all four teams still having a chance to progress. Besiktas's win over Marseille might actually make things harder for Liverpool, because otherwise the French team could have already qualified when Liverpool travel there in a couple weeks. Liverpool need a third win in a row; a draw won't be enough, since they lost to Marseille on Matchday 2. Porto, meanwhile, are at home to Besiktas and need only a draw, which shouldn't be that tough because Besiktas seem to be crap on the road.

Group B
Rosenborg 0-4 Chelsea
Valencia 0-0 Schalke

Chelsea cruised to a win over Rosenborg and clinched first place in the group -- a bit of revenge for the draw in their opening game that was the end for Jose Mourinho. Schalke v. Rosenborg on Matchday 6 will determine which of them will be the other team to go through, while Valencia -- who lost captain David Albelda to an early red card in their draw here -- play out a meaningless game with Chelsea.

Group C
Werder Bremen 3-2 Real Madrid
Lazio 1-2 Olympiakos

Werder Bremen's victory over Real Madrid is a great result for the injury-wracked team, although they'll still need to beat Olympiakos to survive the group. Real Madrid won't be happy to have things still up in the air when they're at home to Lazio in the final game (and I'm sure Iker Casillas will be making his exasperated face many more times), but Olympiakos' comeback here means that the Italians have very little chance of moving on.

Group D
Benfica 1-1 AC Milan
Celtic 2-1 Shakhtar Donetsk

Milan's draw with Benfica guaranteed their spot in the knockout round, while Benfica can hope for the UEFA Cup at best when they travel to the Ukraine to face Shakhtar Donetsk. Celtic's stoppage-time winner over Shakhtar means that they need just a point in Milan to move on, although that may not be such an easy task.

Group E
Stuttgart 3-2 Rangers
Lyon 2-2 Barcelona

A very back-and-forth game between Stuttgart and Rangers resulted in a first win for the German team, but it was too little, too late, as they've still been knocked out. Barcelona are assured of first place in the group after their draw with Lyon, who came back to equalize twice thanks to Juninho. Lyon visit Rangers on Matchday 6 in a fight for the second spot in the round of 16.

Group F
Dynamo Kiev 1-4 Roma
Manchester United 2-1 Sporting Lisbon

United maintained their perfect record in the competition so far this year and clinched their place atop the group, while Roma also booked their place in the next round with an emphatic win that eliminated Dynamo Kiev. That leaves the last set of games virtually meaningless, with the final standings already determined, so expect a second-string United team to travel to Italy.

Group G
CSKA Moscow 0-1 PSV Eindhoven
Inter Milan 3-0 Fenerbahçe

Inter's decisive victory over Fenerbahçe puts them on top of the group and through to the next round, ahead of their away game against PSV. Fenerbahçe, now fighting it out with PSV for the second spot, will host CSKA, who have already been knocked out.

Group H
Sevilla 3-1 Arsenal
Steaua Bucharest 1-1 Slavia Prague

Having already booked their place in the last 16, Arsenal fielded a weakened lineup in Seville and paid the price, throwing away a 1-0 lead in what turned out to be a pretty poor game for the Gunners (especially the hapless Philippe Senderos) and their first loss of the season. The win for Sevilla moves them ahead of Arsenal atop the group, with just their final position left to be decided. Slavia Prague, at home to Sevilla in the next round, will drop into the UEFA Cup after their draw with Steaua Bucharest, while eliminated Steaua travel to the Emirates.

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