Wednesday, September 16, 2015

It Also Happened in Europe: Zagreb upset Arsenal, Chelsea wins easy

One more day to wrap up the first week of Champions League Group Stage play means another afternoon didn't watching six games at once and blogging about eight. Loads of fun, for sure.

Group E
Roma 1-1 Barcelona
Defending champions, and favorites to repeat, Barcelona are expected to cruise through this group with relative ease. their first goal here came 21 minutes in courtesy of the head of Luis Suarez. Roma equalized in curious fashion just after the half hour. Right back Alessandro Florenzi was flying up the right flank. As he reached the halfway line he just flung the ball towards goal, where Marc-Andre Ter Stegen was out of position and could only watch the ball float into his net. Just after the hour mark, Barcelona took a bit of a hit as Rafinha was the victim of a reckless challenge and had to be carted off with injury. Roma was able to defend their way to a week ragged opening draw against the tournament favorites.

Beyer Leverkusen 4-1 Bate
It was a quick start for Leverkusen as Admir Mehmedi scored for them in the fourth minute against the Belarusian champions. But Bate were not too disturbed by conceding early. Nemanja Milunovic headed home a corner in the 12th to level the score. Leverkusen went back ahead two minutes into the second half with a rather flukey goal. Hakan Calhanoglu took a shot that was deflected and sent way high over the keeper and into the goal. Chicharito made it 3-1 to the home side in the 58th. The fourth came from Calhanoglu again in the 75th to complete the rout.

Barcelona won't get too hung up on dropping points in Rome, they should still be fine going forward. Roma had to consider the point a victory and a big step towards a second place finish, ever with Leverkusen winning big.

Group F
Dinamo Zagreb 2-1 Arsenal
Not wanting con continue England's rough run of form in the Champions League, Arsenal were handed a tricky road trip to Croatia to open their campaign. In the 25th minute, Dinamo Zagreb were able to grab a counter attack and Josip Pivaric was able to poke through the Arsenal defense and his shot took a deflection off Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for the own goal. Zagreb continued to get forward as Arsenal's presses did next to nothing. It went from bad to worse for Arsenal in the 40th minute when Olivier Giroud was shown his second yellow card for a bad foul. Ten man Arsenal were lucky not to concede at the start of the second half. Only the outstretched arm of David Ospina kept it a one goal game. They did concede their second in the 58th on a very poorly defended corner that Junior Fernandes got his head to. Theo Walcott died in the 79th to make it look better, but this was still an ugly affair for the Gunners.

Olympiakos 0-3 Bayern Munich
Olympiakos scrapped their way to a goalless first half against the German giants.But Bayern wouldn't keep their zero for long in the second half. Thomas Muller floated one into the top corner for a rather anti-climactic first goal in the 52nd minute. Goals from Mario Goetze and Muller again right near the final whistle sealed the easy Bayern win.

Arsenal falling is what shakes up this opening week. Thankfully, Dinamo Zagreb aren't exactly going to keep up this form against Bayern or Olympiakos. Arsenal will need to grab some crucial home points ave escape Greece with at least a draw to feel better about themselves after today.

Group G
Chelsea 4-0 Maccabi Tel-Aviv
Hosting a team from Israel, Chelsea was probably England's best hope to grab a win in the first week of Champions League play. They got off to the right start when Willian put them ahead 1-0 a quarter hour in. Oscar added one from the spot just before the halftime whistle to double the lead. Chelsea's domination continued in the 58th minute with a Diego Costa volley to make it 3-0. Cesc Fabregas finished the blowout in the 78th.

Dynamo Kiev 1-1 FC Porto
Oleg Gusev got Kiev started in the 20th minute, but Vincent Aboubakar levelled for Porto all of three minutes later. Aboubakar scored his second of the match in the 81st to get Porto in front, starting a wild final ten minutes in Kiev. Vitaliy Buyalsky have the home side a share of the spoils by tying the score in the 89th.

This group is all about finishing service place. Chelsea has firm control and was already the favorites to win it. The bathe will be between Porto and Dynamo Kiev for that second spot. With the draw here, the return leg in Portugal will be the all important match to watch in Group G.

Group H
Valencia 0-2 Zenit St. Petersburg
It was the visiting Russians and their Brazilian striker Hulk with the first goal in this one in the ninth minute. He struck again a minute before halftime to make it 2-0. Valencia was able to battle back thanks to Alex Witsel scoring an own goal in the 54th and Andre Gomes scoring the conventional way in the 73rd. Witsel was able to mage up for his misfortune in the 76th and gave St. Petersburg the surprise points on the road.

Gent 1-1 Olympique Lyonnais
It took a while, but Christophe Jallet final put Lyon ahead of the Belgian opponents in the 58th minute. Gent struck back ave were able to earn a draw in their first ever Champions League group stage match thanks to Danijel Milicevic ring things up in the 68th minute.

St. Petersburg got three huge road points in this wide open group. I'd have called for Valencia to hold serve at home and claim them, but the Russian ambush shakes things up a bit. Gent earning a draw does hurt Lyon a bit, but it won't be a major issue for the French side going forward.

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