Champions League Group C wrap: Milan held by Anderlecht

19 September 2012 00:36

AC Milan’s stuttering season continued as they were held to a goalless draw by Anderlecht on Tuesday.

Milan have struggled to replace stars Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva – who both made big-money moves to French giants Paris Saint-Germain – and lost their first two home fixtures of the Serie A season.

And their poor form at home did not stop in continental competition, with Anderlecht of Belgium coming away from the San Siro with a deserved point.

The visitors started well with Milan goalkeeper Christian Abbiati called into action regularly, with Guillaume Gillet going the closest to opening the scoring.

Milan also had chances, with Mathieu Flamini firing a low drive at the feet of Anderlecht goalkeeper Silvio Proto while Urby Emanuelson’s half-volley was also saved.

The best chance of the match fell to Anderlecht though, with a sublime through-ball from Dieudonne Mbokani putting Lucas Biglia through on goal early in the second half.

Biglia wasted the chance though, firing his effort over the bar to the relief of the increasingly frustrated home fans.

Milan coach Massimilano Allegri introduced Stephan El Shaarawy on the hour-mark for the below-par Kevin-Prince Boateng and the substitute was lively.

He had a near-post header saved by Proto shortly after coming on before he hit a clever pass for Emanuelson, who failed to make the most of the chance, shooting high and wide.

Allegri would have been disappointed with his side’s failure to create clear-cut chances in the latter stages though as they continued their sloppy start to the 2012-13 campaign.

In the other Group C fixture, Malaga eased to a 3-0 win over Zenit St Petersburg in their Champions League debut.

Early goals from Isco and Javier Saviola in the first 13 minutes set up Malaga’s win, although the Russian side had a series of chances to at least pull a goal back.

They were made to pay for their missed opportunities when Isco sealed the win 14 minutes from time with his second strike.

Despite selling Santi Cazorla and Jose Rondon in the off-season, Malaga sit second in La Liga and are unbeaten in all competitions this season.

Championship wrap: Rovers stay unbeaten

19 September 2012 00:20

Blackburn’s terrific start to the Championship season continued with a 2-1 win over Barnsley on Tuesday.

Steve Kean’s side, who were relegated from the English Premier League last term, are one of only two sides still unbeaten in the Championship after six matches, with Rovers coming from behind to beat Barnsley at Ewood Park.

Jacob Mellis fired the south Yorkshire outfit into a surprise lead after 32 minutes before Jordan Rhodes – who was a deadline-day arrival from Huddersfield Town for a reported fee of eight million pounds – netted his third goal in as many matches for the club.

Rhodes’ leveller on the stroke of half-time gave Blackburn a boost and although they left it late, Portuguese forward Nuno Gomes struck the winner five minutes from time.

Blackburn lead the table with 14 points, but Blackpool, Brighton and Hove Albion, Hull City and Cardiff City are all just one point behind after they also won.

Blackpool were the most impressive, scoring two goals in each half as they beat Middlesbrough 4-1 at Bloomfield Road.

Aston Villa loanee Nathan Delfouneso bagged a first-half double and although Andre Bikey’s goal just before half-time kept the losers in it, Thomas Ince put the match to bed with his 56th minute effort.

Frenchman Elliot Grandin sealed the win with a penalty four minutes from the end as Blackpool made it three wins from three home matches this season.

Steve Bruce’s Hull City won 3-2 at Elland Road in a derby against Yorkshire rivals Leeds United.

Leeds started brightly and took the lead after a Luciano Becchio penalty on eight minutes but goals from Ahmed El Mohamady and Abdoulaye Faye saw Hull leading at half-time.

Robert Koren’s 76th minute goal wrapped the win up for Hull, despite Andy Gray’s late consolation for Leeds who are now winless in three matches.

Brighton won 1-0 at Watford thanks to Scottish forward Craig Mackail-Smith’s second-half penalty while goals from Peter Whittingham and Craig Noone helped Cardiff to a 2-0 triumph at Millwall.

Nottingham Forest remained unbeaten after a 1-1 stalemate at Crystal Palace, with Dexter Blackstock’s late leveller giving Sean O’Driscoll’s side a point while Derby County held off a fast-finishing Charlton Athletic to win 3-2 at Pride Park.

Birmingham City toppled Bolton Wanderers 2-1 while Peterborough United remain without a point after slumping to a 2-1 home defeat against Bristol City.

Champions League Group B wrap: Gunners strike early

19 September 2012 00:00

Two goals in as many first-half minutes saw Arsenal triumph 2-1 over Montpellier in their Champions League opener.

The Ligue 1 champions went ahead through penalty from Younes Belhanda after just eight minutes, before two goals in as many minutes saw the game switch in the Gunners’ favour as first Lukas Podolski and then Gervinho showed good composure to give their side the lead at the break.

The Champions League debutants were handed a foothold in the game when Thomas Vermaelen’s clumsy challenge upended Belhanda inside the area.

The Moroccan international picked himself up and dinked a cheeky penalty past the helpless Mannone for his club’s first goal in the competition.

The lead did not last long – just seven minutes in fact – as slack defending allowed Santi Cazorla and Giroud to combine and play in Podolski for a neat finish from 16 yards.

And Arsenal took the lead just two minutes later when another fantastically well-worked goal, started and finished by Gervinho – who has been excelling in a more advance role this season – as the Ivorian set Carl Jenkinson free down the left before ghosting past more half-hearted defending from the hosts to collect the left-back’s low cross and tuck the ball past Geoffrey Jourdren.

Responding impressively after going behind, Arsenal looked dangerous on every building attack whereas, at the other end of the pitch, their French opponents where having to make do with pot-shots from distance, their best effort of the half falling to Marco Estrada’s low drilled effort from 25 yards out that Mannone did well to see around his near post.

Aside from the clever through-ball for Podolski’s equaliser, Giroud was not having the most successful of returns to his old club – much industry but little end product, which was summed up by a twisting run into the area before flashing the shot from 12 yards past the near post in the final action of the first half.

Montpellier came out stronger after the break and were almost gifted another goal when Diaby tried to trick his way out of trouble in his own penalty area and allow Remy Cabella to pinch the ball off him but fire high and wide.

The hosts upped the ante further and again went close when Cabella spotted Mannone off his line and attempted a glorious chip from over 25 yards that thwacked off the deputising goalkeeper’s bar and into touch.

In an attempt to make up for his earlier mishap, Diaby embarked on a surging run just after the hour mark that took him past three Montpellier players before feeding Cazorla for a stinging drive that Jourdren could only push away.

Meanwhile, Schalke capped off a confident display to crown their return to the Champions League by dispatching Olympiakos 2-1.

Goals from Benedikt Howedes after 41 minutes and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar in the 59th minute sealed the tie, with Olympiakos netting scant consolation with an equaliser from Djamel Abdoun in the 58th minute.

But Huntelaar quickly went from hero to villain, missing a penalty after Tranquillo Barnetta was brought down in the box following his sublime piece of skill.

Huntelaar stepped up to take the spot-kick, but beat keeper Balasz Megyeri, only to see the ball come off the post.

Champions League Group D wrap: Ronaldo hits Real winner

18 September 2012 23:31

Cristiano Ronaldo scored the winner in the 90th minute as Real Madrid defeated Manchester City 3-2 at the Santiago Bernabeu.

All five goals came in an incredible final 20 minutes of the second half in which City twice were in front.

Edin Dzeko came off the bench to give the visitors the lead after 69 minutes following a surging run from midfield from Yaya Toure, but Marcelo quickly replied with a curling shot.

The home supporters were left stunned when Aleksandar Kolarov’s free-kick drifted untouched into the bottom corner of Iker Casillas’ goal but Karim Benzema again pulled Madrid back with a sublime turn and finish.

And Ronaldo ensured that Jose Mourinho’s team put their early season woes behind them with a dipping shot that flew past both Vincent Kompany and Joe Hart.

Ronaldo tested City early and Hart was called into action again when Gonzalo Higuain deflected a powerful shot with his head from close range.

Two adventurous midfield runs by Toure began with promise but ended without troubling Casillas and Higuain went close again when he latched on to Di Maria’s cross to the back post before the half was out.

Mancini had already introduced Kolarov from the bench when Samir Nasri suffered a hamstring injury in the first half and with both benches littered with attacking talent, more changes seemed inevitable.

Dzeko was next to take the field, replacing David Silva, and the Bosnian would provide the cutting edge that had been missing.

Toure, who had looked City’s biggest threat all night long, broke out of the midfield again to create a two-on-one attack and this time successfully found his target with a simple through ball. Dzeko took the pass in his stride and beat Casillas with a composed, low left-footed finish.

The Spanish champions immediately looked more dangerous in the final third following the changes, though, and Marcelo curled a right-footed shot into the top corner after shaking off Kompany just outside the penalty area.

Set-pieces have troubled Madrid all season and after Pablo Zabaleta had failed to get contact on Carlos Tevez’s low cross, Kolarov delivered a free-kick that found its way into the back of the net.

Incredibly, though, there was more to come, and Roberto Mancini’s celebrations on the sideline were short-lived. Benzema was next to strike after a mazy run from Di Maria, turning on the edge of the box and firing a powerful, low shot into the bottom corner.

And City’s hearts were broken when Ronaldo stepped inside Zabaleta – who had relieved Maicon of his duties of marking the Portugal star – and released a dipping shot that beat the partially obscured Hart after Kompany had put himself in the way of the ball but failed to head clear.

Meanwhile, Robert Lewandowski’s goal three minutes from time earned Borussia Dortmund the points in a 1-0 home win over Ajax.

Lewandowski collected a high ball from the right, evaded Toby Alderweireld’s tackle, and fired home from close range.

Champions League Group A wrap: PSG score emphatic win

18 September 2012 23:07

Paris Saint-Germain returned to the Champions League for the first time in eight years with a 4-1 win over Dynamo Kiev.

All the damage was done in the first half by the home side, who threw down a warning to Europe’s biggest sides with the emphatic win.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic converted a penalty to break the deadlock before debutant defender Thiago Silva made his mark by shooting home from a corner.

Alex made it 3-0 shortly afterwards from a similar scenario, allowing the hosts to play the second period at walking pace. Miguel Veloso belatedly pulled one back for the guests, but Javier Pastore grabbed a fourth for the hosts in stoppage time.

From the outset Carlo Ancelotti’s side looked enterprising and dangerous, threatening as early as the second minute when Jeremy Menez released Javier Pastore to flick a shot against visiting goalkeeper Maksym Koval.

Although PSG’s early storm seemed to have been weathered, Menez’s trickery in the box induced a rash challenge from Taras Mykhalyk, who caught the attacker’s foot, sending him to the turf. Ibrahimovic was able to step up and create history, slotting his penalty down the middle to become the first player to score for six teams in the Champions League.

Thereafter, the home side simply swept their opponents away, and only heroics from Koval prevented Ibrahimovic completing a hat-trick before the interval. The Swede got in behind the visiting rearguard simply from a terrific pass from the outstanding Marco Verratti, but the goalkeeper positioned himself well to block, and then repelled the follow up from Pastore.

The teenager could not stop his side slumping to a three-goal half-time deficit, let down by a defence that failed to police PSG adequately from corner kicks.

Silva was the first to benefit, showing admirable composure on his debut to control a loose ball in the box and then slide a shot in off the post.

Alex struck the third shortly afterwards, hammering the ball into the net with a fine volley, although the ball should never have reached him on the penalty spot.

The second half was simply a procession for the hosts, who slowed the tempo of their play noticeably.

With a handful of minutes remaining, Veloso’s tremendous cross deceived everyone and flew into Salvatore Sirigu’s net, but the shine by Pastore in stoppage time as he squeezed home a low shot.

Meanwhile, a goal in each half saw Porto notch a 2-0 win at Croatian outfit Dinamo Zagreb.

In front of a paltry crowd of less than 5,000 fans, Porto captain Lucho Gonzalez opened the scoring after 41 minutes.

And although they had to wait until stoppage time of the second half to seal their victory, Belgian midfielder Steven Defour’s late effort ensured Vitor Pereira’s men would head back to Portugal with all three points.