The final evening of first-leg contests in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 was marked by a narrow 2-1 loss for 2009 semi-finalists Chelsea at Inter Milan. Despite the defeat the London club grabbed what could prove to be a vital away goal for the return at Stamford Bridge.
Sevilla collected an even better result away from home, eking out a 1-1 draw away against a valiant CSKA Moscow side who lacked fluency during the first half as they returned to action after a lengthy Russian domestic off-season.
Goal of the night
CSKA Moscow 1-1 Sevilla (Mark Gonzalez 66)
Picked out with a short pass some way from goal, Mark Gonzalez’s initial control let him down as he knocked the ball a little too far in front of himself. However that gave the Chilean time to wind up a sizzling shot which flew into the top-left corner of the goal from more than 20 metres past a helpless Andres Palop.
The key moments
Lapse punished: Deprived of regular competitive match action since the Russian league season ended on 8 December last year, CSKA’s defenders took time to find their rhythm. As a result, goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev and his two centre-backs were left simply watching each other as a cross came in from Jesus Navas on the right. The ball passed under Vasili Berezutsky’s nose without being cleared and that allowed Alvaro Negredo to steal in and poke the ball into the net. CSKA recovered well after the break but that shaky spell could cost them very dearly.
A perfect start: The second Anglo-Italian meeting of the round began in spectacular fashion, with Inter taking the lead from their very first attack. Samuel Eto’o directed a pass towards Wesley Sneijder and the Dutchman let the ball run through to Diego Milito before dragging a marker away from his team-mate. Milito was then able to turn past John Terry with ease and aim a right-footed drive past Petr Cech. Though containing his joy on the bench, Nerazzurri coach Jose Mourinho must have warmly savoured the moment against his former club.
Twists and turns: Having made the initial breakthrough, Inter let their opponents dominate possession and opted to attack on the counter. After Didier Drogba had connected with the crossbar from a free-kick in the first half, the game changed six minutes after the interval when Salomon Kalou equalised following excellent work by Branislav Ivanovic. That prompted the hosts to change their game plan and they immediately began taking the match to the Blues. This tactic paid off just four minutes later as a failed clearance from Ricardo Carvalho gifted Esteban Cambiasso two attempts on goal, his second a powerful volley from outside the area that finished in the back of Cech’s net. With an hour gone, the Czech custodian had to leave the field with a knee injury picked up away from the action, but his replacement Hilario was given little to do. Everything now looks balanced perfectly for a fascinating decider in London.
FIFA World Cup™ contenders
Among the galaxy of internationals on show at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, there were notable performances from Chelsea’s Ivorian pair, Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou, as well as a tireless evening’s work from Serbia’s Branislav Ivanovic and the rarely seen French winger Florent Malouda at left-back. In contrast, England’s John Terry still looks to be affected by his recent problems having been beaten for Inter's opening goal. In the Inter camp, the front three of Wesley Sneijder, Samuel Eto'o and Diego Milito were able to make use of every opening, while the mere presence of Lucio at the back seemed to reassure his colleagues.
In Moscow, CSKA’s rearguard may have failed to shine on the artificial pitch, but the display from Chile’s Mark Gonzalez must have cheered his national team’s training staff after he fractured his ankle in October. Likewise, there was an encouraging debut from Japan’s Keisuke Honda, the 23-year-old who has already notched ten international goals since winning his first cap in June 2008. Lastly, Serbia’s Milos Krasic (28 caps) put in another huge amount of work on the right flank. All will be hoping to grab the limelight in South Africa this summer.
Round of 16 second leg – commences Tuesday 9 March
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