|FC Basel celebrate Valentin Stocker's late goal|
Real Madrid will have their work cut out for them at the Santiago Bernabeu after the Russian side CSKA Moscow were able to hammer in a late goal to tie the match up 1-1 while Napoli outplayed and outscored a struggling Chelsea side at home, defeating them 3-1. The second set of fixtures saw the two underdogs prevail with 1-0 wins. Olympique Marseilles defeated Inter Milan at their home stadium while FC Basel defeated German giants Bayern Munich at St. Jakob Park.
CSKA Moscow 1-1 Real Madrid: Despite a cool strike from Cristiano Ronaldo right under the hands of third string keeper Sergei Chepchugov, the home side, and most certainly the underdogs, came back to score in stoppage time to put the scoreline level. If a 0-0 draw is the result in Madrid in the second fixture, Real Madrid will move on as they were able to score an away goal, but the Russian side will certainly not be underestimated again by Jose Mourinho’s side. The Russians were the first to attack a seemingly sleepy Madrid, who were still struggling to adapt to the icy conditions. Madrid were not outplayed, but the Russians held 48% of possession, not an easy thing to do against the Spanish giants who top La Liga ten points clear of Barcelona. CSKA were calm and poised on the ball, quickly transitioning back to deal with the repeated attacks up and down the wings and through the middle from Madrid’s quick dribblers. CSKA managed to hold off the visitors until the 28th minute when Cristiano Ronaldo was left unmarked at the top of the box and slid one in far post past Chepchugov. The keeper had a splendid game despite being the third string goalie called up due to injuries for the first and second picks. His substitution? A sixteen-year-old pulled from the youth ranks. The home side would repeatedly threaten the opposing goal but their efforts would be in vain until stoppage time when midfielder Pontus Wernbloom would volley in a loose clearance past Iker Casillas and give his side hope for the return leg. CSKA will travel to Madrid on March 12th.
Napoli 3-1 Chelsea: Chelsea’s woes continue as they fell 3-1 in Italy to a strong Napoli after they were originally leading 1-0 off of a goal from Juan Mata. The visitors game didn’t get off to a good start as they had to substitute Ashley Cole on for the injured Jose Bosingwa early on in the match. Cole didn’t seem accustomed to his role of substitute and took a few moments to settle in, conceding some blatant fouls before he got into the rhythm of the game. Chelsea dominated the first half and netted the first goal of the game with some help from the home side. Mata capitalized on a defensive blunder from Napoli in the 27th minute when Pablo Cannavaro was dealt a funky ball that he cleared over the back of his head and right to the feet of the Chelsea striker. Mata tapped it in but Andre Villas-Boas’ side was only able to hold on until the 39th minute when Lavezzi put his side level. Just before the halftime whistle in stoppage time, the home side pulled netted another goal to put them up 2-1 at the break. The second half was very much Napoli dominance with Chelsea failing to create very many goal scoring opportunities. Lavezzi would net his second in the 65th minute to give his side the 3-1 win and Chelsea quite the task to wrap their heads around on the return leg to London.
Marseilles 1-0 Internazionale: Inter Milan find themselves in a pickle as they struggle with their form and with producing results in all competitions. Claudio Ranieri’s side had managed to hold off a dominant Marseilles side thanks to some world class saves from Julio Cesar, until Andre Ayew found the back of the net in stoppage time. The sides were equal in on-target attempts but the attacking power of Diego Forlan and Wesley Sjeijder was not enough to snag a precious away goal. The home side repeatedly threatened Inter’s goal, taking fourteen shots on the goal to the visitor’s five. They played a dominant style of soccer and left the Italian side disoriented as they passed through the middle, carried down the wings and switched the field of play. Thanks to Julio Cesar’s acrobatics back in goal, the score was 0-0 at the half, but Marseilles picked up where they had left off and continued to threaten the goal. It wasn’t until stoppage time when Ayew’s efforts were rewarded. The striker netted his fourth Champions League goal this season off of a corner kick that gave his side an advantage when they travel to the San Siro.
Basel 1-0 Bayern Munich: FC Basel seem to be living a fairytale as substitutes Jacques Zoua and Valentin Stocker snatched a goal from a crumbling Bayern defense to give their team the lead and an advantage when Basel travel to the Allianz Arena in March. Bayern were unable to snatch that valuable away goal that they were surely seeking against an often underestimated Swiss side and now have their work cut out for them in the return leg. The first thirty minutes of the match were some of the most exciting so far this season and defined what Champions League football is all about. Both teams fought fair and hard and created several scoring opportunities with Basel’s Dragovic hitting the post and striker Alex Frei tapping the crossbar. Manuel Neuer in the Bayern goal and Yann Sommer in the Basel goal definitely had their work cut out for them. Sommer had some spectacular saves and was hailed as man-of-the-match while Neuer saved his side from conceding early on as well. The remainder of the first half was mostly one-way traffic flow to the Basel goal with the Swiss side packing their box with defensive players and slowly breaking down the Munich attack one tackle at a time. Basel were quick on the counter and despite Bayern holding the most possession they were able to create several opportunities to put their side ahead in the first half. The half ended 0-0 and both coaches kept their squads the same coming out of the halftime break. Young manager Heiko Vogel would make the first change of the match as he subbed on promising youngster Valentin Stocker in the 66th minute for Fabian Frei on the wing. Stocker immediately impacted the game, breaking up attacks from Arjen Robben on the wing and carrying the ball forward into the danger area. It wouldn’t be until the 84th minute that Stocker would make his true impact. He received a through ball from fellow substitute Jacques Zoua and slammed it into the far corner through the legs of Neuer. Basel’s dream campaign continues, but they will be going up against a strong Bayern side on their own turf.