Manchester clubs pulled out big wins
The Manchester giants pulled out big wins tonight in the Champions League with United downing Otelul in Romania 2-0 behind two penalty kicks from Wayne Rooney, while City got their first Champions League win behind a last minute goal from Sergio ‘Kun’ Aguero to beat a solid Villarreal side, 2-1.
Serie A titans Inter Milan edged Lille in France 1-0, while Napoli held Bayern Munich to a 1-1 draw, thanks to Holger Badstuber’s own goal. Eredivisie champions Ajax got a comfortable 2-0 road win over Dinamo in Zagreb.
All across Europe, columnists and reporters were throwing things against press box walls. They all had nice little obituaries written as City were headed for a certain draw, and all they had to do was press “send” at that final whistle.
Can you blame them? For 93 minutes, City stumbled and bumbled, only getting on the board due to an own goal from Carlos Marchena. City had gotten off to a dreadful start, with Nigel de Jong coughing up the ball to Giuseppi Rossi and Joe Hart failing to hold the New Jersey-born kid’s shot, to gift Cani the rebound for a goal in only the fourth minute.
This was followed by extended petulance from City’s fans, who proceeded to toss objects at Villarreal’s corner kick takers — an action for which the club is likely to be fined. The general ill will permeated the sideline as well, as Adam Johnson was just the latest City man to visibly express displeasure with his boss Roberto Mancini when he was swapped in the 40th minute for Gareth Barry.
Make no mistake: Villarreal were the better team all night long, even with a key player Nilmar out of the lineup. But this is a cruel sport, and when Aguero ran on to a cross from Pablo Zabaleta to give City the points, Mancini did the closest approximation to a war dance one will ever find.
The Yellow Subs are now in a battle just to grab a Europa League slot, dead last without a single point. City stay third after Bayern and Napoli drew in an ill-tempered game that saw nine cards and two goals for Bayern — one at both ends — and a woefully missed penalty. Toni Kroos got the Bavarians off to a flying start when he split the defense off a cross from Jerome Boateng to power home a goal just two minutes in. But an attempt from Christian Maggio was deflected by Holger Badstuber into Manuel Neuer’s net to give Napoli a share of the points.
Mario Gomez should have won it for Bayern after Pablo Cannavarro was correctly judged to have handled the ball in the box, but Gomez’ uncharacteristically lame attempt was easily scooped up by a gleeful Morgan De Sanctis. Bayern were easily the better team on the night with Napoli looking lost for the majority of the first half. The Bavarians remain atop of group A with seven points, and have a chance to extend that lead on November 1, when they play hosts to Napoli in the return leg.
As for the San Siro side, the defenders have labeled old and slow and the goalkeeper has often been the subject of criticism. They've already changed managers and are currently flirting with the relegation zone in their own league.
But Inter Milan is a proud club -- Champions League winners just two years ago -- and tonight they surprisingly sit top of Group B after collecting a precious 1-0 road victory at Lille.
This night belonged to Julio Cesar and his back four of Javier Zanetti, Maicon, Lucio and Christian Chivu. Maybe they are all past their sell-by dates, but convincing any supporter of the French champions of that fact will take some doing.
Giampaolo Pazzini scored the only goal, finishing a seven-pass move with a perfect 17th minute volley, then the Inter defense spent the rest of the night preventing Lille from getting even. The Brazilian goalkeeper was special, palming balls away on crosses, blocking shots and anticipating every Lille raid. Every member of the Inter squad must be carrying bruises back to Milan because so many Lille shots were blocked.
The win left Inter on six points and allows them to, at least temporarily, forget their woes. That opening night loss to Trabzonspor can be filed under "forget it" and new boss Claudio Ranieri can be forgiven for thinking that he can still work some European magic.
Surprising Trabzonspor came thudding back to earth earlier on the night. CSKA Moscow rode the magic of its front-running pair, Seydou Doumbia and Vagner Love, to a convincing 3-0 win, offering a reminder of what they can produce. The unfancied Turks played a solid first half on the artificial surface and were actually the better side early in the second, until substitute Aleksandr Cauna's 76th-minute goal gave the army club an important goal.
Doumbia had opened the account in the 29th minute, thanks to some real Brazilian magic from Vagner Love. The blue-dreadlocked forward took a hard hit as he rose and controlled a long ball, and had the presence of mind to back-heel through to his partner. Doumbia made no mistake and punished the ‘Black Sea Storm’ defense.
Doumbia, with a surging run down the inside right channel, and Vagner Love, with a fine cross from wide right, created the goal for Cauna, who had the freedom of the city to finish. Doumbia made the scoreline 3-0 when he juked past a defender and lobbed the ball to the far corner in the 86th minute.
The win left CSKA tied with Trabzonspor with four points, ahead of the rematch in Turkey next month. Lille languishes on with two points.
In Romania, a tepid-looking United didn’t look convincing, but managed to get the job done anyway, by claiming three points behind two deserved penalties sunk by Mr. Rooney. Sergio Costin was lucky not to have been sent off when he blatantly handled the ball, with a move more suitable to volleyball than soccer, to gift the first; as the referee was more charitable to a frustrated Liviu Antal when he conceded the second. Unfortunately for United, Nemanja Vidic was not so lucky, as the Serbian defender picked up a red card, when he karate-kicked Gabriel Giurgiu in an offense that only English fans can make an excuse for.
It was not vintage United by any stretch, but give the Romanians credit for playing the Red Devils straight up for about an hour. When United are pushed by minnows, doubts definitely creep in to their minds. With tonight’s performance, Rooney became the highest-scoring Englishman in the tournament, with 26 goals all-time. They now sit second behind Benfica, who coasted in Switzerland 2-0, behind goals from Bruno Cesar and Oscar Cardozo.
In group D, Real Madrid staged something of a clinic in demolishing Lyon, 4-0. The French side was down1-0 at the interval, when Karim Benzema perfectly closed at the far post from Marcelo's header via Mesut Ozil's corner kick.
Sami Khedira was sent in alone two minutes into the second half after a long Marcelo ball was headed by a defender directly into Benzema's path. Later, Ozil made it 3-0 in the 56th minute, when he snapped up a rebound and sent Hugo Lloris the wrong way before scoring from a narrow, near-post angle. Sergio Ramos completed the rout nine minutes from time.
With the victory, Jose Mourinho’s side is perfect in Champions League competition, with their nine points in Group D five better than Lyon and Ajax, who are tied for second, ahead of pointless Dinamo Zagreb.
Ajax's win in Croatia was labored despite their near complete dominance. At least they came out to attack this evening, in stark contrast to their timid performances against Lyon and Real Madrid, but their lack of a quality finisher was starkly apparent.
Derk Boerrigter and Christian Eriksen did succeed in scoring, the latter on an injury-time breakaway, but the Dutch will need to be much sharper to pip Lyon for second place in this section.
The Champions League continues on Wednesday with Arsenal, Chelsea, Barcelona and AC Milan among those in action. Every Champions League game is brought to you live in HD this season across the FOX family of networks and DirecTV, with real-time in-game coverage on Twitter @FOXSoccerTrax and online at FoxSoccer.com.