FOX Soccer Exclusive
English clubs show their dominance
Yesterday we saw Spanish dominance.
Tonight, England’s clubs showed they are just as powerful as Matchday One closed play with stunning victories for Arsenal and Chelsea.
Eight Champions League games rolled across Europe, with Spartak Moscow scoring the upset win away at Olympique Marseille, while Real Madrid and Bayern Munich caught enough fire to win out comfortably.
Matchday Two kicks off September 28 with eight more group-stage games. All the games are televised live across the Fox Family this season.
The story of the night was the two big wins by English giants Arsenal and Chelsea, who took apart their opponents in a clinical, casual and cruel fashion. Chelsea whipped Slovakian minnows MSK Zilina 4-1 on the road behind two goals from Nicolas Anelka, while Arsenal routed Portugal’s SC Braga 6-0 with two goals apiece from Cesc Fabregas and Carlos Vela.
Arsenal’s Group H win tonight set the tone in a group that many feel is the Londoners’ to lose. Warning against complacency before the match, manager Arsene Wenger had to be thrilled to see a dominant performance that showed how wide the gap between the Premiership and Portuguese football truly can be.
Remember that Braga whipped Glasgow Celtic 4-2 and then Sevilla 5-3 to get here in the first place. While small, Braga are hardly pushovers. Yet tonight, Braga barely saw the ball, its only good fortune that they didn’t have a penalty awarded against them in the second minute when Cesc was felled in the box. That luck ran out fast, as they finally conceded a penalty kick in the 9th minute that Cesc easily sunk.
By then Braga were being forced to watch Maroune Chamakh, Andrei Arshavin and Cesc pick their bones clean. It was a virtuoso performance by the Gunners, who rarely needed to defend, and always looked dangerous going forward.
Group H is still seeking a second team; Shakhtar Donetsk claimed first blood against Partizan Belgrade when Dario Srna scored off a direct free kick to give them a 1-0 win. The match was otherwise colorless, with a lot of heavily fouling as both teams sought the advantage.
Chelsea had their match wrapped up inside a half hour, with Michael Essien and Anelka delivering three goals in 28 minutes to ground the Slovaks. Daniel Sturridge added the capper right after the second half kicked off, and it was only defender Alex’s mistake that led to Tomas Oravec’s consolation goal in the 55th. Following that, Chelsea closed ranks, blunting any and all attacks, playing the game-throttling style that they do so well.
Group F is also seeking a second, and tonight Spartak Moscow shocked Olympique Marseille on the Frenchmen’s home turf, thanks to an ugly own goal by Cesar Azpilicueta. The Marseille defender was caught stretching to block a shot from Dmitri Kombarov, who had run onto a nicely-weighted pass out of the Russian midfield, and shot from an acute angle. The deflection went through the legs of Marseille keeper Steve Mandanda and settled the issue.
Elsewhere, in Group G, Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho saw his new team roll. The Special One's express cruised past Ajax, with the 2-0 final scoreline an unfair reflection of the way that the Spanish giants controlled the match.
'Keeper Marten Stekelenburg kept Ajax in it for the first half hour, but the one-time Euro power from Amsterdam was utterly outclassed in the Santiago Bernebeu. By the time Gonzalzo Higuain put Real on top with a header off a corner kick, Mezut Oezil was already tormenting the Dutch on the right and Higuain was finding way too much space to create chances. Higuain got his second in the 73rd minute to clinch matters, Ozil this time making the chance with a terrific shot that Stekelenburg could only parry.
The only possible worry for Mourinho is the form of Cristiano Ronaldo, the Portuguese star who appears to be pressing to open his account. Ronaldo actually ran past a 90th minute scoring chance, failing to tap an Higuain cross into an open net.
In the other Group G match tonight, a two-goal burst from Zlatan Ibrahimovic made it a miserable evening for another French side as AC Milan beat Auxerre, 2-0 at the San Siro. Credit the visitors for taking the game to Milan early and not opting to pack it in behind the ball, but eventually the combination of Ibrahimovic and Ronaldinho tilted the balance to the Italians.
Ibrahimovic opened the scoring in the 66th minute when Ronaldinho's cross from the left was head-flicked into his path by Kevin Prince Boateng, then scored again three minutes later with a goal-scorer's finish off a Ronaldinho run. Given little but the far, low corner to shoot for, the Swedish international almost casually slid the ball into the net to wrap up full points for the Serie A side.
In Group E, Bayern Munich did not have an easy time of it against Roma in the Allianz, but once Louis van Gaal introduced super-sub Miroslav Klose the German champions took control. Thomas Mueller and Hamit Altintop had both been able to create from the wings, but Ivica Olic, despite hard work up top, had no luck with his finish and Roma keeper Sergio pulled off enough good saves to frustrate the Bayern attack.
Klose came on for Altintop with 23 minutes left and his presence was instantly worrying to the Italians. It was Mueller who scored the opening goal, producing a wonderfully-touched volley to the far corner of Sergio's goal in the 79th minute. Klose acrobatically wrote the encore when he made one of his patented runs behind the defense to meet a Holger Badstuber free in the 83rd. Sergio could only look as Klose appeared to come from nowhere to stick his boot onto the free and turn it into an open goal.
Group E’s other contest saw Ionut Rada and Lacina Traore put Cluj on top in 12 minutes in their win over the Swiss, with Valentin Stocker scoring for Basel in first half stoppage time.
Jamie Trecker is a senior writer for FoxSoccer.com covering the UEFA Champions League.