It was another exciting week of games in the Champions League; all four English sides were in action, with both Manchester sides and Chelsea emerging victorious, whilst Arsenal were thrashed 5-1 away to Bayern Munich. In a year where the Premier League’s European coefficient is at risk, English sides need to recapture the form of previous seasons and make it through to the later stages of the tournament. Let’s see how the English sides got on this week and what that means in terms of their qualification chances going forward in the Champions League.
Manchester United finally find the net
Manchester United secured a much needed victory at home to CSKA Moscow on Tuesday night. The Red Devils now top the group after the slender 1-0 victory. After disappointing back to back nil-nil draws in the league, a win was vital and goals were even more so. It was a better performance all round for United than their previous games, the side looked to create more chances. However it was still frustrating for the fans to see a lack of goal mouth action. Youngster Jesse Lingard was superb on the night and was energetic throughout the game. Lingard got the vital assist to tee up Wayne Rooney to head the ball into the net, in what was a great team move. Rooney has taken a great deal of criticism as of late and his goal took some of the pressure of the Red Devils’ captain. However fans would have expected more from Louis Van Gaal’s side, to only see one goal against a CSKA side that never really troubled during the game was a disappointment. The fans started to get on Van Gaal’s back on Tuesday night, with chants of attack, attack, attack ringing out around Old Trafford and plenty of booing when Anthony Martial was perplexingly substituted off for Marouane Fellaini.
Ultimately Manchester United got the much needed three points and qualification seems in the bag, albeit not guaranteed. For all the criticism, Louis Van Gaal’s Manchester United seem a good fit for the Champions League, they may not play the most exciting football, but it is effective.
City secure qualification
Manchester City became the first English side to guarantee qualification into the knockout stages, with a convincing 3-1 win over Spanish side Sevilla. Since Manchester City have competed in the Champions League, they have never really advanced as far as some would expect, considering the talent at their disposal. However with the win over Sevilla, City secured their place in the knockout stages. It didn’t take the Manchester side long to score, and were 2-0 up in just over 10 minutes. Raheem Sterling, causing havoc out wide, scored the first, and played a major role in second, which Fernandinho finished off. Sevilla managed to half the deficit through an unmarked header from left-back Benoit Tremoulinas, but the game was wrapped up in the first half with Wilfried Bony adding a third in the 36th minute. City had chances to extend their lead in the second half, but couldn’t get past the Sevilla keeper.
An impressive performance considering Manchester City were without key players; David Silva and Sergio Aguero, and if City continue this kind of form they’ll certainly improve their previous showings in the competition. They have learned from previous European experiences, and have strengthened considerably this summer, with appears to be paying dividends so far.
Willian saves Mourinho once again
Whilst most Chelsea players have gone missing this season, Brazilian playmaker Willian has been the one standout. Week-in week-out he is the only player attempting to make things happen, and this game was no different. Chelsea got a much needed win Wednesday night at home to Dynamo Kiev. The Blues went in the lead through an Aleksandar Dragovic own goal, and controlled the game afterwards, but the pressure mounted in the second half. Redemption then came for the Austrian centre-back Dragovic, who in the 77th minute managed to score in the correct goal to bring the Ukrainian side level. The sides were level for only six minutes, when substitute Eden Hazard won a free-kick 25 yards out. Up stepped Willian, who expertly curled in a top corner screamer, to save Mourinho’s blushes and restore some of Chelsea’s confidence. This was his third goal of the group stages, all of which have been from free-kicks, but his best was this against Dynamo Kiev.
Chelsea are now in a favourable position to qualify, as they sit second in their group on 7 points, three points adrift of Porto at the top.
Arsenal battered by Bayern
Unfortunately it wasn’t a full house of English victories in the Champions League this week. Arsenal were faced with the toughest tie of the round, away to German giants Bayern Munich. Confidence was high going into the return fixture, after the North London side surprisingly defeated Bayern 2-0 at the Emirates two weeks ago. However the Bavarian side got their revenge in a 5-1 victory at the Allianz Arena.
Arsenal were simply blown away by the powerhouse that is Bayern Munich. Robert Lewandowski opened the scoring after 10 minutes, and Thomas Muller doubled the lead after just 30. Just before halftime, Austrian all-rounder David Alaba hit a thunderous left-foot strike to make matters worse for Arsenal. Bayern weren’t done in the second-half, as Arjen Robben arrived into the game, and with his first touch the Dutch winger scored in the 55th minute. Arsenal were to pull one back through a tremendous finish from Olivier Giroud. Alas this was all in vain when Muller once again restored the Germans’ four goal lead in the last few minutes of the match.
All in all Arsenal were well and truly beaten, and have paid for previous failings in games against Dinamo Zagreb and Olympiacos. There weren’t many positives to take out of the game for the London side. Arsenal remain bottom of their group, with an away trip to Olympiacos now a crucial game for the Gunners, especially as the Greek side won on Wednesday night to compound even more misery on Arsene Wenger’s side. Arsenal face almost certain exit from the Champions League, and may not even make Europa League at current standing. However there is still hope, and if Mesut Ozil can continue his fine form, you’d give them a great chance in the remaining group stage fixtures for potential qualification.
- Images from Bleacherreport.com, The Mirror, Daily Mail, Skysports.com