Wednesday, 17 September 2008

CL - MD1: Wednesday Review

Juventus 1-0 Zenit St PetersburgA stunning Alessandro Del Piero free kick helped Juventus defeat Zenit St Petersburg in the UEFA Champions League group stage, but a brace from Alberto Gilardino wasn't enough to pick up all three points for Fiorentina at Lyon.

Juventus marked their return to the Champions League after a three-year absence with a narrow win against Zenit St. Petersburg in Turin which was earned by a trademark free-kick from Alessandro Del Piero. The Bianconeri had failed to find their spark for most of the Group H match, only really threatening the UEFA Cup winners from set-pieces – but that proved enough. With 14 minutes to go, Zenit gave away one foul too many and Del Piero took full advantage, showing that he remains as dangerous as ever with the dead ball by lacing it into the roof of the net to secure all three points for his side.

In the other group game, Real Madrid avoided an opening-night upset as they began their bid for a tenth European Cup with a comfortable 2-0 victory over Belarussian debutants BATE Borisov. Goals from Sergio Ramos and Ruud van Nistelrooy either side of half-time gave the Spanish champions the perfect start.

Lyon 2-2 FiorentinaLYON 2-2 FIORENTINA
Lyon came from two goals down to secure a dramatic draw against Fiorentina as Group F got off to a thrilling start. Returning to the Champions League after a nine-year absence, the Tuscan outfit gave an excellent account of themselves and looked set for a superb victory after two headed goals by Alberto Gilardino, which book-ended the first half, left the French champions reeling. Substitute Frederic Piquionne's 73rd-minute controversial reply sparked a spirited fightback, however, which was sealed by Karim Benzema's shot four minutes from time. Despite not holding on to a win, Cesare Prandelli's visitors would've been more than happy to take a point before kick-off.

Group rivals Bayern Munich made a winning return to the Champions League after a first-half strike by Daniel Van Buyten secured a 1-0 victory over Steaua Bucharest in Romania.

Villarreal were no respecters of reputations when they reached the Champions League semi-finals as tournament novices in 2006 and they started their second campaign in exactly the same fashion by frustrating holders Manchester United 0-0 at Old Trafford.

Group E's other game ended goalless as well as Celtic were left to rue missed opportunities as they were forced to settle for a share of the points against a determined Aalborg, who were reduced down to 10-men late on. The Scottish champions' best chance came from the penalty spot, but Barry Robson stepped up and missed.

In Group G, William Gallas equalised with two minutes left to give Arsenal a first Champions League point in four trips to Ukraine and extend Dynamo Kiev's run without a group-stage win to 14 matches. Dynamo looked like ending that frustration when Ismael Bangoura converted a 64th-minute penalty. However, Arsenal kept plugging away and Gallas found a way through with time running out.

Porto made an impressive start in the other group game as goals from Lisandro Lopez and Lucho Gonzalez gave the Portuguese champions a good start against Fenerbahce. Daniel Guiza revived the visitors hopes but substitute Lino secured victory for the hosts in stoppage time.

[Tuesday 16 Sep] - [Wednesday 17 Sep]

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