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Champions League Round-up (Last 16: 1st Leg)
The Champions League returned this week and it was a disastrous return to the competition for Arsenal who were battered 4-0 at the San Siro by AC Milan. Former Tottenham midfielder Kevin Prince Boateng put the home side in front with a fantastic volley in the 15th minute. Another former Premier League player, Robinho doubled Milan’s lead after he headed in seven minutes before half term and again soon after the restart to put AC Milan in a comfortable position. In the 79th minute, Sweden striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic humiliated Arsenal further as his penalty made it 4-0. The result meant it was Arsenal’s heaviest ever European defeat and leaves them with a mountain to climb in the second leg. It was certainly not how legendary striker Thierry Henry would have liked to sign off as he returns back to MLS side Ney York Red Bulls. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger admitted the result was disastrous. The side are now needing a miracle to progress to the quarter finals.
Barcelona put themselves in god position to progress as Chile forward Alexis Sanchez two goals set them on their way to a 3-1 victory against German side Bayer Leverkusen. His first was in the 41st minute after a finishing past Leverkusen keeper Bernd Leno after Leo Messi’s fantastic through ball. Leverkuse equalised in the 50th minute through Michal Kadlec after he leapt above Alexis Sanchez as and headed the ball passed Valdez. However, the Catalan giants were soon back in front as Sanchez struck again after former Arsenal man, Cesc Fabregas threaded a lovely ball to him. Messi sealed the win two minutes from time as his one-two with full back Dani Alves cut open the Leverkusen defence. After the game, Michal Kadlec was again in the action, after he squabbled with team mate Manuel Friedric for Lionel Messi’s shirt. The Leverkusen director of sport criticised the pair and insisted that the shirt would be auctioned off for a good cause. Kadlec said, “When you play against such a player, then you always want his shirt. I would have swapped it immediately for a better result, but it is a shame that we did not do enough.”
In the two other games, knock out stage debutants lost 1-0 away at Lyon, and Zenit St Petersburg edged out a 3-2 thriller against Benfica. Maxi Pereira put the away side in front before Roman Shirokov and veteran Sergey Semak put the home side in front. Oscar Cardozo may have thought he rescued a draw for the visitors but a minute later, Shirokov added another to give the Russians a narrow advantage going into the second leg.
In the remaining matches of the Champions League round of 16, some of Europe’s elite were defeated, leaving them with a challenge to progress. One of these teams are Chelsea who suffered a 3-1 defeat in Naples, thanks to an Ezequiel Lavezzi double, sandwiching a goal from hot prospect Edinson Cavani. Andre-Villas Boas’ team selection was a bold one and raised many eyebrows and had his side taken a positive result, no questions would have been asked, however with veteran Frank Lampard on the bench along with England’s most capped full-back Ashley Cole, Michael Essien and £50million striker Fernando Torres, the Stamford Bridge side struggled. They did manage to take the lead in the 27th minute through Juan Mata, however 11 minutes late, Lavezzi scored his first Champions League goal and Cavani added a second just before half time and Lavezzi provided a tw0 goal cushion with his finish from inside the area. Chelsea have an challenge to progress, however, they do have an away goal which may turn out to be crucial.
Basel’s fine form in the competition continued as they pulled off a shock by beating Bayern Munich. 22-year-old Valentin Stocker scored an 86th minute winner. The Swiss international found himself in space and slotted it through Manuel Neur’s legs. There could have been many more goals as the first half was littered with chances for both sides. The managers appeared to change their approach at the half time interval and was more effective for Basel as they go to the Allianz Arena in three weeks with a lead to protect.
In other matches, Marseille beat Inter Milan 1-0 at the Velodrome, with Andre Ayew providing the goal with a header from a corner. Real Madrid managed a 1-1 draw away at CSKA Moscow, however will be disappointed as they conceded a last minute equaliser, a volley courtesy of Pontus Wernbloom. However the result is far from a negative one for Mourinho’s men, as even a 0-0 draw will be enough tp see them through.
The second leg for the matches played last week will be on 6/7 March and the second leg for the matches played this week will be on the 13/14 March.
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