The first instalment of Matchday 6 of the UEFA Champions League saw Paris St Germain and Schalke secure top spot in Group A and Group B respectively, joining Malaga (Group C) and Borussia Dortmund (Group D) as group winners and earning the right to play the second leg of their Round-of-16 duels on home soil in the process.
Second-placed quartet Porto, Arsenal, AC Milan and Real Madrid, on the other hand, will hope to build up formidable first-leg leads to see them through to the quarter-finals.
Elsewhere, Dynamo Kiev, Olympiacos, Zenit St Petersburg and Ajax will continue their European adventures in the UEFA Europa League. Dinamo Zagreb, Anderlecht, Montpellier and Manchester City, meanwhile, will have to wait until next season to make a more significant mark on the competition. FIFA.com rounds up all the action from Tuesday night.
The big game
Paris St German 2-1 Porto
Goals: Thiago Silva 29, Ezequiel Lavezzi 61 (Paris St Germain); Jackson Martinez 33 (Porto)
In a bad-tempered match that was unpredictable right up to the final whistle, Paris St Germain pulled off a significant victory over Porto at Parc des Princes, gaining revenge for their defeat in Portugal and attaining first place in Group A at the same time.
The tone was set on the half-hour mark, as Thiago Silva’s powerful header opened the scoring for the French side. Four minutes later, Porto drew level via Jackson Martinez, who escaped his marker to nod Danilo’s pacey cross into the net. The game was decided by an individual error, as Porto goalkeeper Helton let Ezequiel Lavezzi’s near-post effort slip under his body, a miscalculation that was reminiscent of Luis Arconada’s memorable mistake against France in the final of UEFA EURO 1984.
The Brazilian custodian partially made amends towards the end of the 90 minutes, saving a goal-bound strike from Javier Pastore, but that did not prevent PSG from stretching their unbeaten home run in Europe to 21 matches.
The other games
Dinamo Zagreb 1-1 Dynamo Kiev
Dynamo Kiev appeared to have done enough to earn all three points in the Zagreb snow, having taken the lead through an Andriy Yarmolenko volley that flew in off the bar. But in the final seconds of the match, an Ivan Krstanovic penalty helped the Croatians to pick up their first and only point of the tournament.
Montpellier 1-1 Schalke
Olympiacos 2-1 Arsenal
After drawing 2-2 in Germany earlier in the campaign, Schalke again shared the spoils with Montpellier, but Benedict Howedes’ diving header proved sufficient for the Germans to maintain their unbeaten European record (three wins and three draws) and to secure first place in the section.
In Greece, meanwhile, Ioannis Maniatis’ close-range finish and Konstantinos Mitroglou’s superb right-footed shot enabled Olympiacos to overcome a misfiring Arsenal team and exit the event with their heads held high.
Malaga 2-2 Anderlecht
AC Milan 0-1 Zenit St Petersburg
Anderlecht snatched a last-minute point in an exciting encounter with Malaga, whose results will go down as the best ever by group-stage debutants. As if this were not remarkable enough, the Spaniards have also managed to open the scoring in each of their six matches.
Another already qualified team, AC Milan, narrowly lost out at home to a motivated Zenit side, who consequently claim third place and the Europa League spot that goes with it.
Borussia Dortmund 1-0 Manchester City
Real Madrid 4-1 Ajax
In the end, Dortmund finished comfortable winners of the ‘group of death’, and did more than enough to see off a lacklustre Manchester City, whose best player on the night was goalkeeper Joe Hart. The winning goal was netted by Julian Schieber, who slid in to poke home a Jakub Blaszczykowski cross.
Against Ajax, Real Madrid produced a carbon copy of their triumph in the corresponding away fixture, courtesy of Cristiano Ronaldo’s sixth goal of the competition, one that sees him provisionally lead the race to finish top scorer, a clinical brace from Jose Maria Callejon, and an impressive strike by Kaka.
25-year-old Antonio Adan, who was part of Spain’s UEFA U-19 Championship-winning XI in 2006, is usually the back-up ’keeper to Iker Casillas at Real Madrid. But he is also in the process of becoming something of a lucky mascot for Los Blancos, having just secured his fourth Champions League victory in as many matches.
There are currently two players who jointly hold the record in this particular category, which currently stands at six wins in six games in Europe’s flagship tournament: PSG’s Senegal-born defender Oumar Dieng in 1994 and Spartak Moscow defensive midfielder Vassily Kulkov in 1995.
Goal of the night
AC Milan 0-1 Zenit St Petersburg, Danny 35
Danny burst into the left-hand side of the Milan box and slipped the ball inside for Sergei Semak, who was immediately closed down by two Italian defenders. The ball found its way back to the Portuguese midfielder, whose finely placed shot escaped the outstretched right hand of home No1 Christian Abbiati, giving Zenit a lead they would maintain until the final whistle.
13 – The number of consecutive years that Arsenal have qualified for the last 16 of the Champions League, including nine seasons as group winners. The Gunners were playing familiar foes in the form of Olympiacos on Tuesday evening, as they have been drawn with the Greeks for three out of the last four campaigns. The Piraeus-based side’s 2-1 win was the sixth successive time that the home team has emerged victorious in this fixture.
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