Champions League: ManUnited and Bayern qualify – Chelsea in Europa League

06/12/2012 no comments »
Champions League: ManUnited and Bayern qualify – Chelsea in Europa League

On an eventful night in the Champions League which drew a conclusion to the 2012/13 group stage. Wednesday night saw 21 goals between the eight European ties and history made.

For the first time ever in the competition the previous year’s champions (Chelsea) were knocked out in the early group phase. This came despite Rafael Benitez recording his first victory as Chelsea coach with a 6-1 thrashing over Danish side FC Nordsjaelland. In what was a kamikaze first half, saw three dubious penalties awarded inside the first 39 minutes all of which were given for supposed handball. After each side took a turn a piece of missing a penalty, Chelsea’s David Luiz scored the third penalty to open the scoring on the 39th minute. The good news for Chelsea from the night was that misfiring striker Fernando Torres finally ended his drought by netting a brace making it his only 5th and 6th goal in 25 champion league appearances. Perhaps the Benitez magic is working off on the Spaniard who began to show signs of hitting form again. FC Nordsjaelland did cause a scare inside the first minute of the restart by pulling a goal back, however, the goal showed to be nothing but conciliation to the traveling fans as Chelsea then ran riot with a more than convincing 6-1 victory.

This meant that Italian “invincible’s” Juventus had to beat Shakhtar Donetsk in order for both teams to progress. A task easier said than done. Despite Shakhtar having already qualified, away games in Donetsk are one of the toughest fixtures in Europe.  Yet on the night the Ukrainian crowd was not enough to intimidate the Italian side who edged a 1-0 victory after some more debatable officiating as an offside decision was not given in the build-up to the goal. After a flag failed to come the goal stood and the Italian side topped group E.

Manchester United was already qualified and it was likely Sir Alex Ferguson had one eye on Sunday’s top of the table clash with Manchester City. This was evident in the line-up that started the game with no fewer than 10 first team players rested – creating a great opportunity for CFR Cluj to become the first Romanian side to progress past the group stages. It was a chance which they capitalised on after scoring the goal of the night with a wonder strike from Luis Alberto to record a shock win in which is United’s first defeat in a European competition in over three years.  It also led to being the worst performance as a whole by English teams in the champions League with statistics showing that it was fewest wins, most goals conceded and fewest points earned by all four English teams in any one group stage. However, Galatasary ended Cluj’s dream by coming from behind against Braga to win 2-1 sending the Romanian side crashing out into the Europa League on head-to-head ruling.

Elsewhere, FC Bayern ensured topping the group in another convincing thriller that saw the German side ease past BATE with a 4-1 victory. The game eventually became a 10 a side match after Jerome Boateng was shown a straight red card for a two footed lunging tackle. He was then followed down the tunnel by BATE’s Palyakow for a second bookable offence. The highlight off the night was Bayern’s star striker Mario Gomez suggesting he has shaken off his injury which has had him side-lined for a large period of the season as he opened the scoring in his first European start of the season.

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