Matchday 3 of the UEFA Champions League group phase kicked off on Tuesday with Arsenal, Bayern Munich, Chelsea and Real Madrid each posting a third consecutive victory to move within touching distance of the knockout rounds.
In marked contrast Auxerre, Partizan Belgrade and Zilina all tasted a third straight defeat to remain at the bottom of their respective groups without a point.
The big game
Real Madrid 2-0 AC Milan
Goals: Cristiano Ronaldo 13, Mesut Ozil 14
Cristiano Ronaldo and Mesut Ozil showed further signs of their increasingly telepathic partnership at the Bernabeu, linking up to great effect and scoring within a minute of each other to seal another three points for a well-organised Real Madrid side. The Portuguese star opened the scoring when he threaded a free-kick through a gap between Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Clarence Seedorf in the Milan wall. Ronaldo turned provider just seconds later, setting up the German international for a shot that deflected off Daniele Bonera and into the net.
Outpaced and outmanoeuvred in defence, the visitors only kept the score down thanks to some wayward finishing, as Madrid passed up chance after chance, including a four-on-two situation. The introductions of Robinho and Pippo Inzaghi gave I Rossoneri some presence up front, but it was not enough to stop the hosts from avenging last season’s 3-2 home defeat at the same stage of the competition.
The other games
Basle moved into contention in Group E by pulling off a shock 3-1 defeat of Roma at the Olimpico, with Alexander Frei, Samuel Inkoom and Adelson Cabral all scoring fine goals for the Swiss outfit. Dominant for most of the evening, the Italians paid for their profligacy in front of goal, even if Marco Borriello’s cool finish momentarily pulled them level.
Section leaders Bayern Munich were made to work to keep their 100 per cent record intact against Cluj, who conceded two own goals in a 3-2 loss. Cadu gave the Romanians the lead only to put through his own net moments later, the same fate suffered by team-mate Cristian Panin as half-time approached. Mario Gomez kept his goalscoring run going to put last season’s runners-up two goals to the good, before Celio ensured some late excitement by pulling one back four minutes from time. The result leaves the Germans six points clear, with their three rivals all tied on three points.
Something had to give in Group F as Spartak Moscow and Chelsea put their perfect records to the test in the Russian capital. The Londoners proved too strong for their hosts, surging into a 2-0 lead through Yuri Zhirkov’s classy volley and Nicolas Anelka’s steered finish before defending their advantage with aplomb, thanks in no small part to an imperious display from John Terry. Anelka now stands level with Inter Milan’s Samuel Eto'o as the leading scorer in the competition with four goals.
Down in the south of France, meanwhile, Marseille did just enough to edge out Zilina 1-0 and revive their hopes of advancing to the next round.
While Real Madrid overpowered Milan, ten-man Ajax saw off Auxerre 2-1 to pull level with the Italians on four points. Splendid first-half strikes from Demy de Zeeuw and Luis Suarez put the Dutchmen in charge, but a red card for Andre Ooijer and a Valter Birsa goal ensured a nervy last half-hour for Martin Jol’s men.
The big showdown between the two leaders in Group H proved to be a one-sided affair as Arsenal outclassed Shakhtar Donetsk to take charge of the section. Superior in every department, the Gunners were not flattered by the 5-1 scoreline. The footnote to the game was provided by Marouane Chamakh, who hit Arsenal’s fifth to become the only player in the history of Europe’s leading club competition to score in six consecutive matches.
In the other game in the section, tournament debutants Braga climbed off the bottom with a 2-0 defeat of Partizan Belgrade, Lima setting the Portuguese side on the road to victory with a stunning free-kick.
104 - The number of UEFA Champions League matches Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas has now played, one more than former Bayern Munich custodian Oliver Kahn.
Goal of the night
Spartak Moscow 0-2 Chelsea (Yuri Zhirkov 24)
Latching on to a loose ball just outside the Spartak penalty box, Yuri Zhirkov struck a superb volley on the run, giving the hosts’ goalkeeper Andrey Dikan little chance. Formerly with Moscow rivals CSKA, Zhirkov celebrated his wonder strike to a chorus of whistles from the home fans.
The 16 teams are back in action on Wednesday 3 November:
Group E: Basle-Roma, Cluj-Bayern Munich
Group F: Chelsea-Spartak Moscow, Zilina-Marseille
Group G: Auxerre-Ajax Amsterdam, AC Milan-Real Madrid
Group H: Partizan Belgrade-Braga, Shakhtar Donetsk-Arsenal
Have your say
Can AC Milan exact revenge on Real Madrid when they meet in a fortnight’s time?