Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Minnows fail to trouble European giants


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Paris: A trio of European football giants headed by Chelsea gave Champions League minnows a stark lesson in the gap between them in the latest round of group matches.

Chelsea, who are yet to realise billionaire owner Roman Abramovich’s dream of winning the trophy, crushed Belgian side Genk 5-0 with Spanish striker Fernando Torres grabbing a first-half double yesterday.

Torres’ first goals in the competition in 875 minutes helped Chelsea to their biggest Champions League win since beating Galatasaray by the same scoreline in 1999.

AC Milan and Barcelona also recorded victories over two of the lesser lights though not by such large margins, Milan beating BATE Borisov 2-0, Kevin-Prince Boateng scoring a great second, while holders Barcelona edged Viktoria Plzen 2-0.

The victories, though, leave the two of them all but certain to qualify and the only question remaining is who finishes top of their Group H.

That was certainly the matter on Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri’s mind.

“It was an important win tonight to help with qualification, we still need points but our aim is to be playing Barcelona for first place, that would be an important result for the subsequent draw,” he said.

Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola admitted that his side’s performance had lacked the cutting edge.

“It was a good game but not an exhibition of football from us,” he said.

“It is never easy when the opposition is defending very deep but it was not just a case of the ball not going in, we were not clinical enough.”

Chelsea manager Andres Villas-Boas could afford to make six changes to the starting line-up that beat Everton last Saturday and saw his side wrap up the match in the first-half.

Torres’ double and one apiece from another former Liverpool player Raul Meireles and Branko Ivanovic left Genk reeling before Salomon Kalou added another in the second half.

“We were happy to score very early,” Villas-Boas said. “That put us in a very comfortable position.

“In a game that everyone expects you to win surprises can happen but we were able to keep our concentration and get a good result.”

Chelsea lead Group E by a point from German side Bayer Leverkusen, who showed great spirit in coming from 1-0 down at home to Valencia to win 2-1.

Two goals in three second-half minutes from Andre Schurrle and Sidney Sam getting them a crucial win.

Chelsea’s struggling Premier League rivals Arsenal – who like Chelsea have yet to capture the trophy having lost in the one final they also contested – scored a late winner through Aaron Ramsey to come away from Marseille with a 1-0 win.

The win takes Arsenal to top of Group F, a point ahead of Marseille while Greek side Olympiakos are three points behind the French outfit after recording their first win with a 3-1 victory over disappointing German champions Borussia Dortmund.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger accepted that his side had got lucky.

“We left it very late,” admitted Wenger.

“There was a bit of luck, of course, but the three points are very welcome, even though it was very difficult to swallow for Marseille.”

His Marseille counterpart Didier Deschamps tried to look on the positive side.

“It makes things difficult but we shouldn’t get too down about the standings. We still have six points, and with Olympiakos beating Dortmund, everything is possible.”

Group G looks as if it will go down to the wire for both of the knockout places as Wednesday’s matches both ended in draws.

APOEL Nicosia remain the surprise of the quartet and top the table after grabbing an impressive 1-1 draw away at Portuguese giants Porto.

Shakhtar Donetsk – quarter-finalists last year – and Zenit St Petersburg fought out an entertaining 2-2 draw in the other match, though, the Ukrainian side probably need to win their next clash of they are not so slip out of contention for the top two places. (AFP)


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