Bayern Munich completed its come-back mission and knocked Juventus out of the Champions League in the process. Inter, Stuttgart and Milan can breathe calmly, for now, but Marseille missed a golden opportunity, while Fiorentina is beaming with confidence after snatching a late winner at Liverpool.
The final score in Torino reflects harshly on the Italians, but Bayern absolutely deserve applause for showing great character, especially after going down 1-0 to an early Trezeguet goal. Juve, still high off the week-end victory over Inter, seemed to be content to manage the game with catenaccio and guard the lone point needed to advance. Bayern pushed with conviction and after the third goal Juve could not dig itself out of trouble. Europa League for Juventus is unacceptable for the bosses. Ciro Ferrara will be replaced, but will it be sooner or later? Surely some preliminary action is already underway.
Owen’s three goals knocked Wolfsburg’s hopes all the way down to Europa League as well, raising the possibilities for Besiktas and lowering the threshold for CSKA Moskow, but in the end the Russians ended the drama with a late winner to take second in the group. Man Utd can now focus on the Premiership.
Marseille let slip a great chance to advance in the Champions League, after Zurich went ahead and stayed ahead for most of its home match against Milan. Even after Milan’s equalizer Marseille would have taken second with any win over Madrid, but it was not to be. Once again Cristiano Ronaldo was the X-factor, his first goal nothing short of brilliance under the gaze of Zizou.
Mourinho decided to start the match in full-on attacking formation, with Balotelli inserted alongside Milito and Eto’o, Sneijder trailing. Everything turned out well for Inter, but it was Rubin that could have gone ahead in the 18th minute. From there on, Eto’o goal, which involved Balotelli, set the course of the match, although Rubin did not go down without a fight. Balotelli’s goal was stupendous, but the Rubin keeper might have done a little better. More importantly, if Balotelli matures and continues to grow, he represents a key piece of Inter’s future. The win took a lot of pressure off Mourinho, following Inter’s week-end defeat at Juvedntus. Rubin is pleased with its CL campaign and could make a deep run in Europa League.
Barcelona won the group in Kiev on a Messi free kick, knocking the Ukrainians out of all competitions in the process. Can’t get used to Europa League, can we bring back UEFA Cup, please????? UEFA Cup at 91minute going forward.
Stuttgart defeated Romanian minnows Unirea to take second in its group, after Sevilla assured first place with a victory over the hapless Glasgow Rangers. Under new manager Christian Gross, Stuttgart started strongly and never looked back. Unirea can be proud of a historical Champions League campaign and steps into the UEFA Cup competition as a seeded team.
Not Liverpool, though, who continues to struggle with form and consistency. On a miserable, rainy and cold afternoon, the English side was unable to avenge the blow in Florence and restore pride and confidence. Fiorentina’s win raised its standing in the draw for the final 16, but also elevated yet again the club’s confidence. Sooner or later there will be a positive run for Liverpool, but for now frustration reigns. Liverpool is heavily supported in Ireland and by Irish people around the world. How difficult have the past few weeks been for them? Hang in there, at least on the Merseyside things will get better.
Olimpiakos is in the last 16 after a 1-0 win over a youthful, experimental Arsenal that had nothing to play for. But the drama of the night took place in Liege, where Standard was out of everything until the 5th minute of injury time, when it’s goal-keeper came up for the final play of the game and headed in a free kick with expertise, a moment of a lifetime. Standard will now play in the UEFA Cup, AZ Alkmaar is out of everything a few days after replacing Koeman as manager.
see Standard goal-keeper score with a last second header
The draws for the Champions League and the UEFA Cup take place on December 18 in Switzerland.