The underdogs from Cyprus, APOEL put on an impressive defensive show in France while Bayer Leverkusen were unable to hold of reigning champions Barcelona despite a strong first half. Arsenal suffered at the hands of AC Milan at the San Siro and the Russians Zenit St. Petersburg came from behind to snag a win against Benfica.
Tuesday February 14, 2012
Lyon 1-0 APOEL: The French side was unconvincing against the Champions League newcomers from the little nation of Cyprus but managed to win the first of their two Champions League fixtures. Lyon dominated and held the most possession with several shots on goal while French international keeper Hugo Lloris had a relatively quiet night. Lacazette was finally able to break past the visitors defense in the 58th minute with a beautiful shot that he lofted over the top of the APOEL defense and keeper. APOEL did were not able to score an away goal, but they are still very much in the fixture if they can defeat Lyon without conceding at home in the return match.
Bayer Leverkusen 1-3 Barcelona: Despite a fantastic header to put the home side level after Alexis Sanchez scored Barcelona’s first, the German side was unable to fend off the Spanish champions. The German side had the clear height advantage and proved to be better in the air, but it was all in the passing as Barcelona outplayed them, holding 72% of possession. In the 52nd minute, Kadlec out-jumped the Barcelona defense to put his side level after Alexis’ first goal in the 41st minute but the little Chilean forward got his second goal just three minute later, tapping the ball past the keeper with the composure of the classic Barcelona player. Alexis was subbed off before he was able to get a Champions League hattrick but Barcelona would get their third away goal from none other than Lionel Messi in the 88th minute, finishing off the Germans and giving them a very daunting task on the return leg in Spain.
Wednesday, February 15, 2012
AC Milan 4-0 Arsenal: Arsenal’s chances of progressing on to the next stage look unlikely as they were picked apart by AC Milan’s Kevin-Prince Boateng, Robinho, who netted two and Zlatan Ibrahimovic who scored from the penalty spot. Boateng netted yet another fantastic Champions League goal to open the scoring in Italy just fifteen minutes after the starting whistle. Robinho netted his first of the match in the 38th minute off an assist from Ibrahimovic and his second after the restart in the 49th minute on a great shot from just inside the box. Ibrahimovic then forced a penalty from the Arsenal defense in the 78th minute and made the scoreline 4-0. Arsene Wenger will find himself in hot water if they see a similar scoreline in the next game at the Emirates.
Zenit St. Petersburg 3-2 Benfica: Benfica took the lead in the 20th minute, snagging a vital away goal when Pareira was able to beat the Russian defense to a saved free-kick to put the visitors ahead. Roman Shirokov put the home side back in the game with a beautiful volley just seven minutes later and it wasn’t until the 71st minute that the Russians were able to snag another goal. In the 87th minute, Oscar Cardozo surely though Benfica had the away draw, but a second goal gave Zenit the dramatic late win in front of their home fans.
Tuesday, February 21, 2012:
CSKA Moscow vs Real Madrid – The Russians will face the Spanish giants at home in the first of their two fixtures. Jose Mourinho’s side will face a disciplined Russian defense and will want to get as many away goals as possible to avoid a tough return leg at the Santiago Bernabeu. This should be no problem since they finished the group stage with nineteen goals for them and only two against.
Napoli vs Chelsea – Napoli barely squeaked by Manchester City in the group stage and now face English giants Chelsea FC. Napoli held Man City to a draw in the first match the two teams played out in the group stage and defeated them in the second, so Chelsea will need to be wary of the Italian side. Chelsea themselves are facing a bit of a crisis and could use some European success as Portuguese manager AVB is in hot water.
Wednesday, February 22, 2012:
Marseille vs Inter Milan – The French side made it through a tough group facing the likes of Arsenal and the strong Greek side Olympiacos while Inter finished top of their group but are currently struggling domestically. Milan will rely on top goalscorer Diego Milito to get them some valuable away goals while Marseille will hope for goals from Loic Remy and young Ghanaian striker Andre Ayew.
FC Basel vs Bayern Munich – FC Basel will host a tough Bayern Munich and play them for the second season in a row. The two sides met in group play last season with Bayern proving to be the better team and advancing at the expense of the Swiss side. Basel will hope for strong performances from their young midfielders and playmakers Granit Xhaka (19) and Xherdan Shaqiri (20) who will be transferringto the German side this summer. Bayern’s Champions League experience will put them at an advantage as they face the knockout-stage newcomers.