When will a British team play a Champions League game without high-drama, controversy and performances worth talking about for the following three weeks?
Now I am not moaning at all. But one does wonder how much more nail-biting, edge-of-seat action us supporters can take. Lets look at what has unfolded over the past two days in Europe, and what it means for the teams involved.
On Tuesday night two Premier League Clubs took the stage. Firstly there was Arsenal- the were taking on Schalke 04, who currently sit top of group B. The Gunners found themselves two goals ahead with a Theo Walcott goal Giroud header, until Klaas-Jan Huntelaar drilled one home at the stroke of half time. This saw the momentum shift and Schalke eventually drew level through Jefferson Farfan. Walcott had a glorious chance to snatch all three points for his club, but was denied by Lars Unnerstall. The game finished all square at 2-2. Meaning Schalke remains top with 8 points, whilst Arsenal's 7 points keeps them in second position. Just. Victory for Olympiakos over Montpellier moves them just a point shy of Wenger's men, with 6 points. Arsenal's future in the competition remains in the balance going into their last two group games.
The second Premier League side playing on Tuesday were Mancini's Manchester City- in the "must win" game against Ajax. After a concession of two late goals, the English side showed character to draw equal through Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero. But that was not where the drama ended, the equaliser set up a frantic 17 minutes at the end of the game. Three minutes from time, Mancini's men were disallowed a goal which should have stood. And in the final passage of play, the notoriously volatile Balotelli was pulled down in the penalty box- the referee blew for time, in place of a penalty. The Manchester City side were furious and it has been reported that Mancini screamed at an official that they "were finished". This means that Man City are currently sitting bottom of "The Group of Death" and will need to win their next two games against Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund, to stand any chance of qualifying.
On to day two. Firstly there was Chelsea against Shakhtar Donetsk. Chelsea lost leads twice with quick equaliser by the visiting Ukranians- Torres (pictured with some Diamond Football euipment) scored first and was followed by Oscars technically beautiful finish, both taking advantage of mistakes by the keeper. At times, the London side were hanging on for dear life as Shaktar took advantage of Chelsea's weak left side. But during other parts of the game, looked the better side. The thrilling finale began to lose steam during stoppage time, as both sides seemed to concede a draw. Until Chelsea won a late corner. Step forward super-sub Victor Moses (who replaced the terrific Oscar) with his second goal for the Blues- a powerful header into the Shakhtar goal. This was the last play of the game. Chelsea are now top of Group E alongside Shakhtar, with 7 points. They are due to take on Juventus (who outclassed their opponents with a 4-0 home win) in Turin- who currently sit in third position, a point shy of the leaders.
Manchester United were in Portugal against Braga, yesterday. The English side were simply being outclassed by their opponents, as they looked set for 1-0 defeat. Until an electrical fault with the flood lights meant the game needed to be stopped and then restarted. From the restart, Manchester United looked a revived side- they became the dominant team. Van Persie equalised with 10 minutes of normal time left. And then the inevitable happened- a Rooney goal on the 85th minute, followed by a comedy goal by the in form Javier Hernandez. The game finished 1-3. Manchester United qualified for the knock out stage with two games to spare.
The one result which will be remember for years to come, however, is Celtic 2-1 Barcelona. Celtic once again found themselves one goal ahead of Barca. But instead of being broken down late in the game by the Spanish side, like they were in the previous encounter, the Celtic Park team held strong. The Scotsman went 2-0 up, with Barcelona scoring a goal late in the game. Celtic Park erupted at the final whistle, whilst the club celebrated the greatest win in their history. Celtic are now second in Group G behind Barcelona, with 7 point. They are 3 points clear of Benfica- could Celtic qualify from this group.
The next Champions League games are in two week, so atleast our hearts have some rest. But wait, it is the Premier League this weekend...