Lyon and Copenhagen secured their second consecutive UEFA Champions League victories on Wednesday night to advance their qualification claims. They joined Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Spartak Moscow, Real Madrid, Arsenal and Shakhtar Donetsk on half a dozen points after all six sides registered second wins on Tuesday.
The continent’s leading lights did not have everything their own way on the second night of action in Europe's leading club competition, even if holders Inter Milan celebrated the first victory of their title defence by downing Werder Bremen 4-0. Spanish giants Barcelona were made to toil far harder at recent tormentors Rubin Kazan, before sealing a 1-1 draw.
The big game
Inter Milan 4-0 Werder Bremen
Goals: Samuel Eto'o 21, 27 and 81, Wesley Sneijder 34
Beaten in Serie A on Saturday, European champions Inter bounced back in comprehensive style against a Werder Bremen side clearly struggling for stability at the back. Freed of his defensive duties and returned to the front lines by new coach Rafael Benitez, Samuel Eto’o responded with a convincing display of his talents, twice using his pace to outfox the visitors’ static rearguard in the opening half an hour. After that, he turned provider by curling a through ball into the path of Wesley Sneijder, who waited for the perfect moment before lobbing Werder goalkeeper Tim Wiese. The German custodian was his team’s most impressive performer, but he still had to pick the ball out of his net one more time, Sneijder returning the favour for Eto’o and the Cameroonian international slotting in for his hat-trick.
The other games
Tottenham Hotspur fans will have hardly noticed the rain that beat down on their match against Twente, as the London club claimed a 4-1 success from a game rich in incidents. Rafael van der Vaart was fully involved for the hosts – missing a penalty, opening the scoring and then seeing red – but Tottenham made light of his dismissal as they secured their first victory in Group A. Roman Pavlyuchenko buried a pair of penalties to make sure of the win and put Spurs level at the top of their section with Inter, three points clear of their opponents and Bremen.
For their part, Lyon carved out their second straight win in Group B away against Hapoel Tel Aviv to boost their chances of sealing a last-16 berth. Michel Bastos made the difference for the French contenders from a pair of set-pieces, first converting a penalty and then finding the net after the home side had failed to deal with a corner. In the same pool, Benfica held out for 73 minutes at Schalke before Jefferson Farfan exploited a defensive error. The Bundesliga outfit made sure of the points when Klaas-Jan Huntelaar rounded off a superb team move to make it 2-0.
Manchester United were missing several key figures in their Group C outing at Valencia, yet they came away with a 1-0 triumph thanks to the unparalleled experience of manager Sir Alex Ferguson. Having watched his charges soak up pressure without offering an attacking threat, the veteran Scotsman shook things up in the closing moments by throwing on young strike duo Javier Hernandez and Federico Macheda. His gamble worked, because with five minutes to go Hernandez offered further proof of his goalscoring prowess to earn the visitors victory from almost their only venture forward all night. In contrast, Valencia were left cursing an approach that perhaps afforded their opponents too much respect. Rangers, meanwhile, joined their English neighbours at the top of the table when Steven Naismith secured them a 1-0 win over Bursaspor.
In Group D, lastly, Barcelona were reacquainted with Rubin Kazan, one of the few European teams they have never beaten. The Russian champions snatched five points off Barça last term and troubled their illustrious opponents once again by recording a 1-1 draw. The hosts ignored the Spanish club’s obvious attacking riches and chose instead to harry an unusually fraught defence. Rubin’s pacy forwards created all manner of trouble and their efforts were duly rewarded when Ecuadorian midfielder Christian Noboa converted from the penalty spot. A Barça side lacking Lionel Messi struggled to put the final touch to their moves, but just as the 2009 FIFA World Player of the Year was warming up to come on, his side pulled level. Andres Iniesta won a penalty and David Villa did the rest, and that eventually clinched a share of the spoils for Josep Guardiola’s men, even if they were almost undone when Obafemi Martins fired against a post with three minutes remaining. The Liga powerhouses now lie second in the section behind Copenhagen, who posted an excellent 2-0 success away against Panathinaikos thanks in part to an eye-catching effort from the Greek side’s former striker Dame N’Doye.
400 – The impressive number of goals scored by Barcelona in Europe’s premier club competition. David Villa had the honour of racking up the Catalan club’s milestone with a penalty against Rubin, his spot-kick counting as one of a record 13 on a single night of action in the competition.
Goal of the night
Tottenham 2-0 Twente, Rafael van der Vaart 47
Tom Huddlestone picked out rangy striker Peter Crouch and his team-mate headed the ball down to Rafael van der Vaart, who calmly controlled with his chest before cracking a shot beyond Ivan Mihailov.
The third round of matches in these groups will be held on 20 October:
Group A: Inter-Tottenham, Twente-Werder Bremen
Group B: Schalke-Hapoel Tel-Aviv, Lyon-Benfica,
Group C: Rangers-Valencia, Manchester United-Bursaspor
Group D: Panathinaikos-Rubin Kazan, Barcelona-Copenhagen
Have your say
Which two teams will claim the top spots in Group C?