UEFA Champions League Wednesday: Favorites Affirm Control Of Groups

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UEFA Champions League: Inter Milan, Barcelona, Manchester United In Control Of Groups

As was the case yesterday, with groups E through H achieving clarity through third round results, UEFA Champions League saw four group favorites emerge through Wednesday victories.

Moving from Group A to D:

  • Internazionale's four first half goals left little doubt that Inter would move three points clear of Spurs in Group A, but a Gareth Bale hat-trick to bring Tottenham within one will be the match's last story, with Harry Redknapp and Spurs supporters given reason to think match day four's visit from the holders will yield a result.
  • Also in Group A, Theo Janssen had apparently given FC Twente three points against visiting Werder Bremen, the midfielder's 75th minute goal breaking a scoreless tie. Then five minutes later, substitute Marko Arnautovic pulled Werder even and kept the clubs tied at the bottom of the group, each with two points.
  • Lyon's divergent European and domestic seasons continue, with the struggling Ligue 1 side staying perfect in Champions League, recording a 2-0 win at Stade Gerland over 10-man Benfica.
  • Schalke, like Lyon, has ignored domestic troubles to move to second in Group B, their 3-1 over Hapoel putting them on six, three back of Lyon. Raúl scored the match's first two goals, with José Juardo adding a third before Haopel's consolation.
  • Manchester United's now two points clear in Group C after a 1-0 victory over visiting Bursaspor. Nani's first half tally keeps Bursa without a point through their first three Champions League match, the Turkish champions having yet to score a goal.
  • Maurice Edu scored two goals, one in each goal, as Rangers were drawn by Valencia, 1-1. Rangers remain undefeated through three matches. With five points, they hold a one point advantage over Valencia heading into next round's match at the Mestalla.
  • Barcelona got a brace from Lionel Messi, the second goal coming in second half stoppage time, as the Blaugrana took first place back from Copenhagen, 2-0 at the Nou Camp. Barça's seven points puts them one ahead of the Danish champions.
  • Predictably, Panathinaikos and Rubin Kazan played to a scoreless drawn in Athens.
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Inter Milan 4-3 Tottenham Hotspur: Gareth Bale Hat-trick Pulls Spurs Within One

Gareth bale has given the footballing world pause, let alone the suddenly nervous crowd at the San Siro. Now in the 92nd minute in Milan, Bale has scored goals in the 90th and 91st minutes to bring visiting Tottenham, down 4-0 at half, to within another Bale shot of a draw.

Bale’s 90th minute tally was strangely similar to his first goal – a direct charge down the left, finished far post past Julio César. Once minute later, a Internazionale turnover in their own half saw Aaron Lennon penetrate into the box, draw defenders to him before laying-off for Bale’s third goal. As was the case with the preceding two, the shot beat Cesar far post.

Whether Spurs can find a fourth, Bale has given his club, playing with ten men through the match, reason to hope for most in round four at White Hart Lane. Then, Bale and Tottenham will welcome the holders to White Hart Lane. If today’s second half is any indication, we should see a much more competitive match then today’s Milan-controlled affair.

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Twente 1-1 Werder Bremen: Quick Response From Marko Arnautovic Equalizes For Werder

Five minutes earlier, Twente had finally broken through and looked on-track to pull even with Tottenham Hotspur for second place in Group B. Now, the scales have been evened in Enschede, with visiting Werder Bremen equalizing through Marko Arnautovic in the 80th minute.

That’s when the Austrian prospect, brought on earlier in the half for Hugo Almedia, finished high into the net after being set-up by fellow striker Claudio Pizarro, pulling back a Theo Janssen goal that looked to give Twente three points. With both clubs having played the first 75 minutes without a goal, Twente’s first goal looked to be decisive. Instead, both clubs are on pace for their second draw in three matches.

Should that come to pass, both teams would sit behind Spurs ahead of the group play’s fourth round. Then, today’s fixtures will be reversed, with Twente in Bremen to take on Werder while Inter travels to London to face Spurs.

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Twente 1-0 Werder Bremen: Theo Janssen Back On The Scoresheet For Twente

As of this weekend, midfielder Theo Janssen was an injury doubt for FC Twente, but thankfully for Michel Preud’homme’s squad, the team’s most prolific midfielder recovered in time for today’s visit from Werder Bremen. Now, after Janssen’s 75th minute goal in Enschede, the Dutch international may be the only thing separating Twente from their German counterparts, both in this match and in Champion League Group A’s table.

With his left-footed finish from inside the edge of the six, Janssen may have thrown Twente back into the race for second place. With Tottenham Hotspur being routed in Milan, the Dutch champions can move to four points, even with Spurs behind Internazionale’s seven.

For Janssen, it was his second goal of Champions League, having scored against Inter on the holder’s round one visit to the Netherlands. In the Eredivisie, the midfielde rhas posted three goals in nine matches.

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Schalke 3-0 Hapoel Tel Aviv: Jose Juardo Gives Royal Blues Three Goal Lead

Attacking midfielder José Jurado, who helped set-up Schalke’s first goal of the day, has put his team up three, finishing an Ivan Rakitic pass for his first Champions League goal.

The goal continues Hapoel’s struggles, with the club destined to stay on no points after today’s match. Last year, fellow Israeli club Maccabi Haifa went without a point through group play. Hapoel has ended their league’s streak with two preceding losses. Now down three in Gelsenkirchen, Hapoel is half-way to replicating Maccabi’s feat.

Jurado’s 68th minute goal, converted from the center of the area, came after Rakitic and Junmin Hao had come on, replacing Christoph Moritz and Jefferson Farfan. Schalke has since used their final substitution, bringing on Cameroonian Joel Matip for Jermaine Jones.

With the win, Schalke looks set to move to six points and sole possession of Group B’s second place.

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Lyon 2-0 Benfica: Lisandro Doubles Lyon Lead Over Ten-Man Benfica

Lisandro needed something like twelve chances to make that shot go in, but his persistence eventually paid off. Lyon hit the post, grabs the rebound and centers for Lisandro. The Argentine’s shot is first blocked by the Benfica keeper, but Lisandro grabs it back and puts the ball in the net at Stade Gerland.

With Benfica down to ten men after Nicolas Gaitan’s sending off, it appears likely that Lyon will take all three points and pull further ahead in Group B. A Schalke win (they’re currently up 2-0 over Hapoel Tel Aviv off two goals by Raul) will still leave the French club sitting in first, having won all three matches. Benfica, meanwhile, have just one win and are sitting in third place in the group.

Lyon must be saving all their skill for Champions League play, as they remain fourteenth in the Ligue One table, with just three wins in nine played.

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Lyon 2-0 Benfica: Lisandro Doubles Lyon Lead Over Ten-Man Benfica

Lisandro needed something like twelve chances to make that shot go in, but his persistence eventually paid off. Lyon hit the post, grabs the rebound and centers for Lisandro. The Argentine’s shot is first blocked by the Benfica keeper, but Lisandro grabs it back and puts the ball in the net at Stade Gerland.

With Benfica down to ten men after Nicolas Gaitan’s sending off, it appears likely that Lyon will take all three points and pull further ahead in Group B. A Schalke win (they’re currently up 2-0 over Hapoel Tel Aviv off two goals by Raul) will still leave the French club sitting in first, having won all three matches. Benfica, meanwhile, have just one win and are sitting in third place in the group.

Lyon must be saving all their skill for Champions League play, as they remain fourteenth in the Ligue One table, with just three wins in nine played.

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Schalke 2-0 Hapoel Tel Aviv: Second Raul Goal Has Schalke On-Track For Three

Raúl Gonzalez has had a sleepy start to his Schalke career. In fact, the Spanish legend's arrival in Gelsenkirchen has since been overshadowed by Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, remarkable considering the Dutch striker is on his fourth star in as many seasons. Today, however, the former Real Madrid star has reminded people of what he was, what he can still be.

Following-up on his first half goal, Raúl has given Schalke 04 a 2-0 lead, scoring in the 58th minute of the Blues' match with Hapoel Tel Aviv, putting last year's Bundesliga runners-up on track for six points and second place in Group B.

Benfica, also entering today's matches with three points in Group B play, currently trails group-leading Lyon, 2-0 at the Stade Gerland.

Schalke has struggled in Germany, sitting 16th after eight rounds. That form has not carried over to UEFA Champions League, where Felix Magath's team is on-track for their second victory in two matches.

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Inter Milan 4-1 Tottenham Hotspur: Gareth Bale Brilliance Pulls One Goal Back

Gareth Bale is not giving up on Spurs' match in Milan, if his 52nd minute effort is any indication.

A long run by the Spurs' left-sider beat Maicon, Javier Zanetti and Walter Samuel, and with the Welsh international's finish past goalkeeper Julio Cesar, Spurs were finally on the board, narrowing Inter Milan's lead to 4-1.

The effort met with mild celebration from a Spurs team that was as surprised as their counterpart, left shocked by another exhibition of brilliance from a young player that's becoming one of the most dynamic wide players in the world.

And while Bale's effort many not make a difference in today's match, the goal could help build some momentum for Spurs' next Champions League match: Internazionale's visit to White Hart Lane.

With FC Twente and Werder Bremen still scoreless in Eschende, today's loss at the San Siro would keep Spurs in Group A's second place, two points head of their Dutch and German couterparts.

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Rangers 1-1 Valencia: Maurice Edu Turns From Hero To Villian

Maurice Edu, who scored for Rangers in the first half, has opened the second half by scoring for Valencia, heading the ball into his own net.

Valencia, seeking to move up in Group C, came out at halftime seeking the equalizer—now they’re most certainly chasing the winner.

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Lyon 1-0 Benfica: Nicolas Gaitan Sees Red

Benfica, already down at goal at Stade Gerland, are now down a man, Nicolas Gaitan picking-up his second yellow card for a challenge on Lyon’s Anthony Revelliere.

The Eagles midfielder picked-up his first yellow in the 34th minute for a poor challenge on Jimmy Briand. Now tracking back against defender Revelliere, the Argentine earned his second booking.

Benfica had hoped to pull even with Lyon atop Group B with a win, but Lyon’s path to nine points has been paved by Gaitan’s exclusion.

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Twente 0-0 Werder Bremen: Werder Goalkeeper Tim Weise Forced To Leave Before Half

Werder Bremen goalkeeper Tim Wiese has been forced out of his team’s match in Enschede. Though details are scare, it’s been reported his substitution is due to injury. Sebastian Mielitz has replaced him.

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Rangers 1-0 Valencia: Maurice Edu Wins Jump Ball With Cesar, Heads Hosts In Front

Maurice Edu has Rangers up on Valencia 33 minutes in, out-jumping goalkeeper César to a corner kick, heading the most team in front.

From a corner to the left of goal, Edu went toward the back post on a ball played to six yards out. Edu remarkably leaped above César's outstretched arms, putting Rangers ahead, paying the price in the process.

Edu fall to ground after his collision with César and needed treatment on the pitch. After a couple of minute, Edu got up and slowly walked off the field. After a few moments spent collected himself, a smile finally broke across the midfielders face, apparently realizing his name had been added to the short list of United States players to have scored in Champions League.

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Inter Milan 4-0 Tottenham Hotspur: Eto'o Gets a Brace

The misery continues to get piled on for Spurs as Samuel Eto'o easily beats his man and finishes past Carlo Cudicini. Incredibly simple. Basically walked it in. Anyone taking bets on the goal total in this game? Could we have a nine goal winning margin?

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Lyon 1-0 Benfica: Jimmy Briand Header Gives Lyon The Lead

In Lyon, Michel Bastos fires a shot that bounces off the post. Yoann Gourcuff collects and sends back to Bastos, who then crosses for Jimmy Briand to head in from 12 yards out.

Even with a Schalke win, if Lyon collect all three points against Benfica, they’ll stay first in Group B.

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Barcelona 1-0 Copenhagen: Lionel Messi. Of Course.

Barcelona is on the scoresheet early at the Nou Camp, with Lionel Messi's left-footed strike from 20 yards banging in off the left post, giving the Blaugrana a 1-0 lead.

The ball was laid-off from the area's edge, with the Argentine superstar running-on from midfield. The ball, coming ever-so-slightly off the outside of this left foot, curled onto the post, ricocheting in for the host's first goal.

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Inter Milan 3-0 Tottenham Hotspur: Yeah, We're Struggling To Keep Up Again

Inter Milan have scored yet again, this time through Dejan Stankovic. A great passing sequence coupled with some poor defending by Spurs lead to an easy finish for Stankovic to pile on the misery for Spurs.

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Manchester United 1-0 Bursaspor: Nani Goal Gives United The Lead:

United only needed seven minutes to begin dismantling the defense of Champions League newcomers Bursaspor.

Nani picks up a through-ball on the right and runs to goal before curling in a shot from 22 yards.

Manchester United remain tied with Rangers for first in Group C, but from the looks of the visiting Turkish side, it seems unlikely they’ll fail to get all three points.

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Inter Milan 2-0 Tottenham Hotspur: Samuel Eto'o Converts

After a long delay as a result of the sending off of Gomes, Samuel Eto'o has converted his penalty attempt, putting Inter Milan up 2-0 over ten man Spurs.

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Tottenham Hotspur Down To Ten Men, Are Bad At Football

In the seventh minute, the match has already ended for Spurs. Gomes took down Jonathan Babiany in the box, denying a clear goal-scoring opportunity. He was sent off and Inter Milan were granted a penalty kick. Goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini has been substituted on for attacking midfielder Luka Modric.

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Schalke 1-0 Hapoel Tel Aviv: Raul Puts Royal Blues Up Early

In the third minutes in Gelsenkirchen, the most prolific player in Champions League history has Schalke 04 up on visiting Hapoel Tel Aviv.

Raúl, off to a disappointing start with Schalke, took a pass from José Jurado and, with his left-foot from outside the area, put the home team up on their first shot of the game.

Schalke comes into the match in second place in Group B. Hapoel has yet to register a point.

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Inter Milan Go Up On Tottenham Hotspur Through Zanetti In Only 70 Seconds

Argentinian veteran Javier Zanetti has put Inter Milan ahead 1-0 on Tottenham Hotspur after only 70 seconds of play at the San Siro. Creeping wide and forward from his holding midfield position, Zanetti creeped to the left side of the penalty area completely unmarked. Samuel Eto'o slid the ball to him and he easily finished past Gomes at the far post.

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UEFA Champions League Wednesday: Barcelona, Manchester United, Inter Milan Seek Control Of Their Groups

As much as Tuesday's UEFA Champions League action was about first-versus-second in groups E through H, it was also about clubs taking control of their groups, with Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Real Madrid, and Arsenal staying perfect through three rounds, applying rear naked chokes to their respective groups. On Wednesday, the tournament's last three champions look to do the same, with the day's most intriguing match-up seeing the holders, Inter Milan, welcoming Tottenham Hotspur to the San Siro.

Beyond performances from perennial powers, Wednesday's matches will be about redemption. Werder Bremen was expected to compete for second in Group A, but having been routed at the San Siro after being drawn by Spurs in Bremen, Werder needs to beat FC Twente to keep their knock-out round hopes alive. Benfica were Group B's favorites, but losing to Schalke's forced reconsideration. Formerly Group C-leading Valencia lost at the Mestalla to then-struggling Manchester United, while (in Group D) Panathinaikos seeks to revitalize hopes against Rubin Kazan.

Each of those clubs had knock-out round expectations, but losses on Wednesday could shift some foci to Europa League.

Group A

Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
Italy Internazionale 2 1 1 0 6 2 +4 4
England Tottenham Hotspur 2 1 1 0 6 3 +3 4
Netherlands Twente 2 0 1 1 3 6 −3 1
Germany Werder Bremen 2 0 1 1 2 6 −4 1

  • Samuel Eto'o is tied for the tournament lead in goals scored (four) and is going against a Spurs defense that - and I know this is going to shock you - lost Ledley King to injury on Saturday. Spurs will also be without Rafeal van der Vaart, suspended after picking-up a red card against Twente, so while Tottenham could normally come close to matching Inter's talent, Wednesday will see them hamstrung.
  • In ten matches this season (Bundesliga and Champions League), Werder's allowed 23 goals. Twente isn't normally associated with firepower, but with Marko Janic and Theo Janssen recovered from injury, Michel Preud'homme will have a full team (to go with home pitch) as he tries to keep knock-out round hopes alive.
Group B

Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
France Lyon 2 2 0 0 4 1 +3 6
Germany Schalke 04 2 1 0 1 2 1 +1 3
Portugal Benfica 2 1 0 1 2 2 0 3
Israel Hapoel Tel Aviv 2 0 0 2 1 5 −4 0

  • Though Benfica may have already let Porto get too far away in Portugal, their recent win over Braga shows they may be back on track. While Lyon's had even more troubles in France, sitting in 14th place, the raw talent on the pitch at Stade Gerland will justify our attention. With the teams having combined for eight goals in their respective weekend matches, that talent may be ready to assert itself Wednesday.
  • Conversely, Schalke's talent is still in hiding. Though they defeated Benfica in Gelsenkirchen last round, they've been unable to build any momentum in league. Granted, the Royal Blues are no longer in the relegation zone, having climbed all the way to 16th place, but if they were playing somebody other than Hapoel Tel Aviv on Sunday, you'd expect them to struggle. As is, Schalke will still be second at day's end.
Group C

Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
England Manchester United 2 1 1 0 1 0 +1 4
Scotland Rangers 2 1 1 0 1 0 +1 4
Spain Valencia 2 1 0 1 4 1 +3 3
Turkey Bursaspor 2 0 0 2 0 5 −5 0

  • Wayne Rooney or not, Manchester United should have no trouble against Bursaspor, whose first Champions League experience continues to be a learning one. In Wednesday's match at Old Trafford, the Red Devils shouldn't have any trouble with Turkey's champions (and leaders). Particularly after losing in Glasgow, Bursa's yet to show they know how to manage Champions League.
  • For a couple of Valencia players, this will be their second trip to Scotland in a week, the Spanish national team having won 2-3 at Hampden Park last Tuesday.  Against Walter Smith's five defenders, Los Che will have to be much more aggressive than they were last match day against United, barely threatening their visitors at the Mestalla.
Group D

Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
Denmark Copenhagen 2 2 0 0 3 0 +3 6
Spain Barcelona 2 1 1 0 6 2 +4 4
Russia Rubin Kazan 2 0 1 1 1 2 −1 1
Greece Panathinaikos 2 0 0 2 1 7 −6 0

  • Barcelona saw Xavi Hernández, David Villa and Pedro Rodriguez return for this weekend's win over Valencia, though only the last two are probables for Wednesday match at the Nou Camp. Barcelona goes into the game in second place, with Copenhagen surprisingly perfect through two rounds. While Barcelona lost to Rubin Kazan at a similar point in last year's tournament, the Blaugrana will use Wednesday's match to vault back into first.
  • At the onset of Group D play, pundits seemed split in picking Rubin or Pana for Group D's second place. Now, each are five points behind Copenhagen, and while the Lions' trip to Camp Nou could serve as a chance for one team to close that gap, the more likely result in Athens sees each club earning a point. Perhaps the teams will realize that, though even if they do, it's unclear which side can take three points.
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