Some of Europe’s most illustrious outfits enjoyed a flying start in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday as the teams not involved on opening day got their campaigns up and running. The most one-sided encounters included a 6-0 victory for Arsenal over Braga and Chelsea’s 4-1 win away against Zilina, while Real Madrid swept Ajax aside 2-0 and a Bayern Munich side eager to impress saw off Roma by the same scoreline.
Overall, a total of 20 goals were scored as Wednesday’s encounters produced the same tally as the games held on Tuesday night.
Match of the day
Bayern Munich 2-0 Roma
Goals: Thomas Muller 79, Miroslav Klose 83
Bayern’s best attacking intentions proved futile for a full 79 minutes against Roma as the visitors implemented an effective defensive shield and waited for chances on the break. That strategy looked as if it would secure the Serie A side at least a point and Bayern fans were left cursing the absences of Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery, but last season’s runners-up eventually forced a way through thanks to sparkling young prodigy Thomas Muller. Latching on to a headed pass from Daniel Van Buyten, the adidas Golden Boot winner at the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ took just one touch to guide the ball past Julio Sergio and into the far corner with the outside of his boot. That set Bayern on the road to victory and they sealed the result when, only minutes after coming on, a predatory Miroslav Klose got his foot to a Holger Badstuber free-kick and turned it in just in front of the Roma No1 to register his 14th effort at this level.
Also in Group E, Romanian outfit Cluj got the better of Basel thanks to a pair of goals in the opening 12 minutes as both Ionut Rada and Lacina Traore registered with headers. That explosive start left the Swiss visitors reeling, and although Cluj's lead was halved by Valentin Stocker’s header just before the break, Basel were unable to restore parity.
In Group F, Chelsea collected a healthy 4-1 victory away against Zilina to give the Slovakian champions and tournament newcomers a chastening introduction to life at this level. Michael Essien opened the scoring from a fine Nicolas Anelka cut-back, and it was Anelka who then buried the following two goals, latching first of all onto a Florent Malouda pass before turning in the rebound after John Terry had headed a corner against the crossbar. Daniel Sturridge added the fourth before Zilina grabbed a consolation goal early in the second half.
For their part, French champions Marseille made a disastrous start to the group stage by slipping to a 1-0 defeat at home against Spartak Moscow. The former European champions failed to convert their chances and were undone by a late Cesar Azpilicueta own goal, the defender unfortunate enough to turn a cross past Steve Mandanda. That strike left OM ruing a clutch of missed chances, including a header for Lucho Gonzalez that the Argentinian playmaker turned wide and a shot against the woodwork from Andre-Pierre Gignac.
Group G minnows Auxerre defended valiantly for 66 minutes at San Siro until the array of individual talents on display at AC Milan finally made the difference. Operating for the first time together in a European club encounter, Ronaldinho and Zlatan Ibrahimovic combined almost instinctively to break the deadlock, the Brazilian schemer working with compatriot Robinho before setting his Swedish colleague up to open the scoring. When the new-look Rossoneri finally manage to find their feet, any number of European sides could be left counting the cost.
Elsewhere in the same section, Real Madrid contested a focused and committed match against a seemingly nervous Ajax side, Los Merengues impressing more than anything due to their collective effort. On an individual level, Mesut Ozil was in particularly fine form as the Spanish capital outfit laid siege to the Ajax goal from the start, but it took a goal-mouth scramble to finally make the difference. Under pressure from Gonzalo Higuain, Ajax’s Vurnon Anita turned the ball into his own net to hand the hosts the lead. The Argentinian predator then got his name on the scoresheet with 73 minutes gone as he slid in to finish after Ozil’s shot had only been partially cleared.
In Group H, lastly, Arsene Wenger’s young charges made light work of Braga in a 6-0 success made all the more remarkable given it came against a side that overcame Celtic and Sevilla to reach the group stage. The Gunners’ rapid one-touch play left the Portuguese outfit chasing shadows and both Cesc Fabregas and Carlos Vela helped themselves to a pair of goals, with Marouane Chamakh and Andrei Arshavin also on target in a performance that was shot through with fluid attacking play. The win took the Gunners top of the section alongside Shakhtar Donetsk, who required a curling free-kick from set-piece specialist Dario Srjna to see off Partizan Belgrade 1-0.
406 – The number of Champions League matches Real Madrid’s players have under their belts, compared with 54 for Wednesday’s opponents Ajax. That difference in top-level European experience undoubtedly played a role as the Spanish side set about collecting maximum points.
Goal of the day
Arsenal 3-0 Braga, Marouane Chamakh 32
Prowling on the edge of the area in front of goal, the Moroccan striker chested down a pass from Samir Nasri before feeding Jack Wilshere to his left. His young colleague struggled to control the ball at first but made up for his momentary clumsiness with an excellent back-heel, which allowed the now closely marked Chamakh to advance on goal and finish through the legs of defender Luiz Felipe for his sixth Champions League goal and his first in the competition for Arsenal.
The second round of matches from these groups will take place on Tuesday 28 September
Group E: Basel-Bayern Munich, Roma-Cluj
Group F: Spartak Moscow-Zilina (18h30), Chelsea-Marseille
Group G: Auxerre-Real Madrid, Ajax-AC Milan
Group H: Partizan Belgrade-Arsenal, Braga-Shakhtar Donetsk
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