Suspense and intrigue were very much in evidence during the first instalment of Matchday 2 of the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday, as were goals, with teams hitting the net 23 times in eight matches, an average of nearly three per game. Bayern Munich, comfortable 2-0 winners at home to Manchester City, and Real Madrid, who saw off Ajax 3-0, both confirmed their status as serious contenders for the trophy.
Elsewhere, newly-appointed Inter Milan coach Claudio Ranieri guided his side to a crucial 3-2 win in Moscow, while Manchester United gave their fans a fright before salvaging a point in a 3-3 draw at home to Basel. Napoli, meanwhile, confirmed that they are a force to be reckoned with this year by overcoming Villarreal 2-0.
The big game
Manchester United 3-3 Basel, Group C
Goals: Danny Welbeck 16 18, Ashley Young 90 (Manchester United); Fabian Frei 58, Alexander Frei 60 76 (Basel)
Old Trafford was the place to be on Tuesday, as fans were treated to an action-packed 90 minutes that far exceeded pre-match expectations. The evening had started well for Manchester United who, although missing both Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez up front, had built up a 2-0 lead by half-time thanks to a pair of well-worked goals – both created by Ryan Giggs – from Danny Welbeck. Despite this solid cushion, the United defence had nevertheless appeared shaky at times during the first period.
Just before the hour mark, the match proceeded to turn on its head. First, Red Devils goalkeeper David de Gea failed to deal with a corner effectively, and his hesitancy was punished when Fabien Frei slammed the loose ball into the net. Two minutes later, the same player burst down the right before sending in the perfect cross onto the head of namesake Alexander Frei, who nodded home the equaliser.
Basel were not finished, and continued to press Alex Ferguson’s men, who appeared visibly rattled at this point. The Swiss side’s adventurous approach paid off when Antonio Valencia brought down Marco Streller in the box. Alexander Frei kept his nerve and wrong-footed the goalkeeper from the penalty spot to give the away side an unexpected lead.
Nani was sent on from the bench to rescue his side, and he did just that, floating in a great back-post cross for Ashley Young, who dispatched the ball into the net with a firm header in the final seconds of the match. The English champions will likely be disappointed by their second successive stalemate in Group C, but can take comfort from some fine individual performances on the night.
The other games
Bayern Munich 2-0 Manchester City
Bayern Munich showed patience and experience in overcoming Manchester City, who were given a harsh lesson in the realities of Champions League football. Franck Ribery was a thorn in the side of the English outfit for most of the evening, and it was the Frenchman’s initial shot that brought about the opening goal, Mario Gomez finally turning the ball in after City keeper Joe Hart had pulled off a fine double save, first from Ribery and then from Thomas Muller. The Bavarians’ second goal again saw Hart excel to no avail; the Englishman managed a great stop from Daniel Van Buyten's header, but was powerless to prevent Gomez slotting the rebound into the back of the net.
Napoli 2-0 Villarreal
Amidst an electric atmosphere at San Paolo stadium, the home side did not disappoint their expectant fans, who had waited a long time to see their team perform in Europe’s premier club competition once again. In the 16th minute, Napoli’s Ezequiel Lavezzi swung in a deep cross that caught out the Spanish defence and found an unmarked Marek Hamsik, who made no mistake from close range. Three minutes later, Edinson Cavani’s penalty put the Italians in the driving seat, and 2-0 is how the match would finish.
CSKA Moscow 2-3 Inter Milan
CSKA Moscow came close to repeating their heroics of a fortnight ago, when they clawed back a two-goal deficit in Lille. 2-0 down after just 23 minutes following goals from Lucio, his sixth in 75 Champions League encounters, and Giampaolo Pazzini, the Russians pulled one back right before half-time through Alan Dzagoev’s well-placed free-kick, before equalising in the 77th minute via Vagner Love’s low strike. These efforts would ultimately be in vain, however, as two minutes later Mauro Zarate scored an impressive winner for Inter, helping his team's fans to forget about the surprise loss to Trabzonspor on Matchday 1 in the process.
Trabzonspor 1-1 Lille
French champions Lille appeared to be on their way to collecting all three points in Turkey after forward Moussa Sow had opened the scoring with a fine finish from a tight angle. But the Trabzon-based outfit refused to give up hope, and produced an equaliser from the penalty spot in the second half. The result sees the Turks maintain top spot in the section.
Otelul Galati 0-1 Benfica
Despite missing an enormous number of chances on the night, Benfica will content themselves with having secured three precious points in Romania, especially as they now sit joint top of their group alongside Basel. Brazilian Bruno Cesar scored the winner for the Portuguese side, finishing in style after being put through by an excellent lofted pass from Nicolas Gaitan.
Lyon 2-0 Dinamo Zagreb
Lyon were rarely troubled by Dinamo Zagreb, and in beating the Croatians clocked up their one hundredth Champions League victory. Bafetimbi Gomis set the tone with a delightful chip from the edge of the box, before Bakary Kone’s header sealed the win just before the break.
Real Madrid 3-0 Ajax
After having weathered a Dutch storm during the early period of the match, during which Ajax wasted numerous good chances, Real Madrid took charge of the match, scoring three times without reply, courtesy of Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka and Karim Benzema.
20-year-old Daniel Nii Tackie Mensah Welbeck, better known as Danny Welbeck, put in a performance that belied his age versus Basel at Old Trafford on Tuesday, as he twice finished with aplomb, following accurate assists from Ryan Giggs. The young England international (he received his first cap in March), is a product of Manchester United’s youth academy, and has managed to keep Dimitar Berbatov out of the starting XI so far this season.
Goal of the night
Real Madrid 1-0 Ajax (Cristiano Ronaldo 26)
In a lightning-quick counter-attack that started in their own half and involved practically all of Real Madrid’s attack-minded players, Mezut Ozil eventually fed Karim Benzema on the right-hand side of the box. The Frenchman sent in a low cross towards Cristiano Ronaldo, who expertly fired the ball on the half-volley past Kenneth Vermeer in the Ajax goal.
923 – The number of minutes that Bayern Munich goalkeeper Manuel Neuer has now gone without conceding a goal.
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