Champions League Roundup

As it is every November, European football was launched into a frantic state as teams from around the continent looked to secure their places in the knockout rounds of the Champions and Europa Leagues in an week of action.

Champions League play kicked off on Tuesday evening, with Real Madrid overcoming Liverpool in a 1-0 win at the Bernabeau. The relatively low-key affair was marked by a single goal by Madrid’s Karim Benzema in the 27th minute as Los Blancos’ impressive defense limited Liverpool’s effectiveness in attack. The match also marks the end to Cristiano Ronaldo’s 13 successive goal scoring appearances in the Champion’s League, leaving him with 70 Champion’s League goals, one short of Madrid legend Raul’s record.

Further east in Turin, Juventus outmatched Greek club Olympiakos in a scintillating 3-2 display. Italian international captain Andrea Pirlo opened the scoring for Juventus, launching a free kick into the net. The Greeks responded well  as Alberto Botia scored two minutes later to level the score; however, the match would be decided in a quick succession of goals. Three goals were scored in five minutes, leaving the score at 3-2 for  Juventus in the 65th minute, a result that would hold to the end.

In London, Arsenal seemed clear to move to the top of their group as they led 3-0 in the 58th minute over Belgian club Anderlecht. Unfortunately for the Gunners, Anderlecht striker Anthony Vanden Borre put on an impressive performance, scoring a goal in the 61st minute, which he quickly followed up by scoring a 73rd minute penalty. Although Vandn Borre was clearly offside for his first goal, Arsenal could make no excuses for their poor performance, as Anderlecht forward Aleksandar Mitrovic found the net in the 90th minute, leveling the score and leaving Arsenal second in the group behind Borussia Dortmund.

Wednesday’s matches were equally exciting, beginning with a clinical 2-0 victory by Bayern Munich at home against Roma. Bayren had goals on either end of the half by Franck Ribéry and Mario Götze to secure their place in the knock out stages.

Manchester City would then suffer a surprise 2-1 defeat to a vastly improved CSKA Moscow side that deservedly captured their club’s first ever victory on English soil. With two first half goals by Ivorian forward Seydou Doumbia, CSKA dominated the game, leaving City at fourth in the group with only two points.

In group F, Lionel Messi scored twice to guide Barcelona to a 2-0 victory over the Dutch side Ajax. Messi’s performance was arguably the sole highlight of what was largely a scrappy affair that produced seven yellow cards and one red, given to Ajax defender Joël Veltman in the 71st minute. Barcelona still find themselves trailing group leaders Paris Saint-Germain by a single point, as the French side affirmed their position with a 1-0 win over Crete league champions Apoel Nicosia.

Chelsea continue to sit on top of Group G despite a 1-1 tie against NK Maribor as Eden Hazard missed his second of four Champion’s league penalties for the Blues. Also in the group, Sporting Portugal pulled off an impressive 4-2 victory over Schalke in an exciting game to move to third.

The Europa league also included some exciting spectacles in the later half of the week, including a 3-0 win by Everton over Lille and a 5-1 Wolfsburg victory against FK Krasnov. Everton’s match, at home, was of particular concern to authorities due to violent attacks by Lille supporters against Toffeemen fans two weeks ago in France.

The match played out without incident, with Everton supporters being commended for their behavior towards the Lille support, despite the earlier violence. Other Europa League highlights included a 5-1 Red Bull Salzburg win over Dinamo Zagreb, and a 3-2 victory by PSV Eindhoven against Panathinaikos.

With two weeks to go until the next round of European matches, clubs from around the continent are preparing themselves for a busy late-autumn season. Although many of the first place group spots for both cups are locked up, the race for second, and the qualification for the knock out rounds it brings with it, remains on. The next round of European football will be just as, if not more, exciting than what we have seen so far.

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