UCL: Arsenal squander their chance to go top of Group A, while Man City book their place in the Round of 16.

Screen Shot 2016-03-07 at 14.51.50 by JAMES LING

Arsenal were held to a draw by Paris St-Germain leaving their hopes of toping Group A out of their hands.

The Gunners knew a win would put them in pole position to top the group and ensure themselves an easier draw in the Round of 16.

Edison Cavani opened the scoring for the French champions in the 18th minute as the Parisian side cut through Arsenal’s defence.

A perfectly weighted pass across the face of goal for the Uruguayan to slide home was enough to give PSG a well deserved lead.

Arsenal were lacklustre and derived of ideas. A penalty appeal was denied for Aaron Ramsey, after he was bungled over by Thiago Silva, but it was half hearted at best.

The Gunners would pull one back on the stroke of half time after Grzegorz Krychowiak fouled Alexis Sanchez in the box, and Olivier Giroud converted the resulting penalty.

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Giroud celebrates his equaliser. (Image Credit: metro.co.uk)

Arsene Wenger’s side would take the lead on the hour mark, when a shot rebounded off Marco Verratti and flew into his own net.

Despite being down and out, PSG continued to look dangerous.

Unai Emery’s men would level the match again, this time with an own goal of their own, after Lucas’ header came off Alex Iwobi.

The result leaves Arsenal staring down the barrel of another runner up spot for the sixth season in a row, with PSG now firmly in the driving seat to top the group.

The other game in Group A finished Ludogorets 0-0 Basel.

Over in Germany, David Silva’s goal on the stroke of half time secured Manchester City’s place in the Round of 16 for a fourth consecutive season after they drew at Borussia Monchengladbach.

City fell behind when Raffael fired home from 15-yards out past Claudio Bravo.

Silva would pull one back though just before half time, with Kevin De Bruyne’s low cross finding the Spaniard at the back post.

The home side would find themselves down to 10 men when captain Lars Stindl saw red.

However, despite a much improved second half, City were unable to break down the resilient German outfit.

Fernandinho picked up a second yellow card late on for a needless tug on Raffael’s shirt to make sure each side finished with 10 men.

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Fernandinho sees red as City claim priceless point. (Image Credit: skysports.com)

The point, along with Celtic’s  2-0 defeat to Barcelona, clinches second place for Pep Guardiola’s men in Group C, with the Catalan club topping the Group.

 

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UCL: Tottenham exit doesn’t come as a surprise.

screen-shot-2016-10-30-at-18-09-54 by LIAM RICHNER

A confession: I like Mauricio Pochettino. I cannot fault his managerial approach to the game. His philosophy is exciting and attack-minded. However, elimination from the Champions League last night confirmed what some would have denied pre-match: these are worrying times for Tottenham. 

Ever since that draw at home to West Brom back in April, a draw which some suggest gave up any hope of Spurs lifting the title ahead of eventual winners Leicester City, Pochettino’s side haven’t really got back into fifth gear.

They let slip a two-goal lead at Chelsea to draw one of the fieriest games in Premier League history, before relegated Newcastle thumped them on the last day of last season 5-1.

Rewind the clocks 12 months, and Spurs were one of the most exciting teams in Europe. With their free-flowing attacking style, the likes of Delle Ali, Erik Lamela, Christian Eriksen, Son-Heung Min and Harry Kane lit up White Hart Lane and the rest of the Premier League. As a result, they qualified for the Champions League for the first time since 2010/11.

In August, they were drawn against CSKA Moscow, Bayer Leverkusen and Monaco in group E. Compared to other groups, this was a plum draw for Tottenham. Or so we thought.

Defeat to Monaco at Wembley on matchday one was never written in the script, but Spurs quickly made amends with victory in Russia over CSKA.

A hard-fought 0-0 draw in Leverkusen seemed a good point at the time, but a 1-0 defeat to the German side three weeks ago put Spurs in a nervous position ahead of their trip to Monte Carlo.

With CSKA and Leverkusen drawing in Moscow, Pochettino’s side knew a defeat would see them out of the competition.

As it turned out, Tottenham were totally outclassed once again by Monaco.

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Pochettino looking deflated at full-time. (Image Credit: sportskeeda.com)

Djibril Sidibe’s header gave the hosts the lead on 53 minutes, before Harry Kane equalised with a penalty.

Just 53 seconds after Tottenham were level, Monaco retook the lead through Thomas Lemar’s drilled shot.

Despite Hugo Lloris saving a Radamel Falcao penalty in the first half, there was not much for Spurs fans to cheer about.

Monaco could have easily scored three or four this evening, with themselves and Leverkusen now progressing to the last 16.

It isn’t a surprise though. Let’s not forget Tottenham are also out of the EFL Cup and performances domestically have not been of a good enough standard recently. It’s surprising that they are still unbeaten in the league.

Yes, they are fifth. Yes, they have good quality players, and yes they have shown good character to get back into games, but their luck will run out eventually if they carry on playing the way they are and will fall down the table rather than rise up.

West Ham last weekend was a prime example. Spurs were outplayed by the Hammers right up until the final few minutes. Had it not been for Slaven Bilic’s side not taking their chances the game could have been dead and buried with twenty minutes to go. Instead, a bit of luck led to Harry Kane equalising, before the Englishman turned it around with a penalty in stoppage time.

Apart from their 2-0 win over Manchester City at the start of October, it’s difficult to remember a performance from Tottenham that has had everyone talking for the right reasons. Yes they are unbeaten, but they have only won half of their games so far this season (P12 W6 D6). They are currently four points off the top with a smaller goal difference than all the teams currently above them.

Like I said before, I like Pochettino. I don’t think all the blame can be put on his shoulders for the recent half-hearted performances.

Recruitment over the summer seemingly to took a backwards step. Vincent Jansson, a £17m purchase from AZ Alkmaar has struggled to adapt to the Premier League. Moussa Sissoko has failed to find that spark that lit up the Euro 2016 final back in June since he joined from Newcastle for £30m.

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Moussa Sissoko in action v Monaco last night. (Image Credit: yahoonews.com)

Is their more pressure on Spurs this season? Absolutely. Many will be expecting them to repeat the tricks of last season and challenge again for the title, despite a resurgent Chelsea and goal-friendly Liverpool joining the mix. Alongside Guardiola’s Man City and arch-rivals Arsenal, it’s going to be a lot tougher than last season, but Spurs have the players capable to match their title opponents.

Others have even come out and stated they want Spurs to win a trophy this season. It’s been almost nine years since they won what was then the Capital One Cup, so it’s about time they dusted off the cobwebs in the White Hart Lane trophy cabinet.

But for now, Spurs must focus on finding that winning formula again and get a run together of consecutive wins to get the ball rolling. They have a huge match against league leaders Chelsea, who are carrying a lot of momentum with them at the moment, this weekend.

They then face a crucial match against CSKA at Wembley in their final game in the Champions League this season. They must avoid defeat to remain in Europe but the question is: Do Spurs fans want another bite at the cherry in the Europa League?

 

 

 

 

 

UCL: Leicester and Tottenham both win on Matchday 2.

 

by LIAM RICHNER and MACAULAY DALEY

Tottenham secured their first win in the Champions League group stage with a comfortable 1-0 win over CSKA Moscow in Group E.
Heung-Min Son’s fifth goal in as many games secured all three points for Mauricio Pochettino’s side, as they bounced back from their defeat to Monaco.
Spurs dominated proceedings and had the better of the chances in the opening exchanges. Christian Eriksen’s long ball found Dele Alli, but his touch deserted him and the ball went out for a goal kick.
Alli was unlucky not to put the English club ahead shortly after. A loose ball fell to the 20-year-old on the edge of the area and his right footed effort smashed the top of the crossbar.
Just before half-time they had another good chance to take the lead. Toby Alderweireld, scorer in the first match, was found unmarked in the area, but his header was straight at Moscow goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev.
With time running out, Erik Lamela played in Son, who’s effort at goal squirmed through Akinfeev’s grasp and trickled slowly into the unguarded net.
It’s a trip to Germany next up for Pochettino’s side on Match day 3, which means a return to Leverkusen for Son for the time since leaving the Bundesliga club for White Hart Lane.
GROUP E RESULTS
CSKA MOSCOW 0-1 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR
MONACO 1-1 BAYER LEVERKUSEN
GROUP E TABLE

 

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Leicester made it back to back wins in Group G after they defeated Portuguese giants FC Porto in what was the first ever Champions League match at the King Power Stadium.

Islam Slimani, a man feared by Porto fans after his impressive record against them for Sporting CP this year, scored the only goal of the game with a header, as Claudio Ranieri’s side took early control of what could become a straight forward group.

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Slimani has found the net six times now against Porto in 2016 for Sporting and Leicester. (Image Credit: SkySports.com)

Slimani, known as the Dragon Slayer in Portugal after netting five times against them for his former employers in 2016 alone, converted Riyad Mahrez’s cross in the 25th of the match.

With Copenhagen the other team in their group, some Leicester fans may be dreaming of a 1st place finish in this group, which would award them with a supposedly easier round of 16 opponent and more crucially, a second leg at home.

Ranieri named the same side that dismantled Brugge two weeks ago 3-0, but this time is wasn’t as straight forward for the Foxes and Premier League Champions.

Porto did make a game of it, and nearly had their equaliser had Jesus Corona not hit the post with a volley in the final few minutes.

GROUP G RESULTS

LEICESTER CITY 1-0 FC PORTO

COPENHAGEN 4-0 CLUB BRUGGE

GROUP G TABLE

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OTHER RESULTS

GROUP F

BORUSSIA DORTMUND 2-2 REAL MADRID

SPORTING CP 2-0 LEGIA WARSAW

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GROUP H

DINAMO ZAGREB 0-4 JUVENTUS

SEVILLA 1-0 LYON

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UCL: Leicester’s dream debut, Tottenham’s lacklustre return and City convincing.

by LIAM RICHNER AND MACAULAY DALEY

About two or three minutes after Leicester lifted the Premier League trophy, fans began to dream about their side competing in the Champions League for the first time. 

The Foxes defied the odds to win England’s top division last season, and as a result, went into this years European competition as a Pot One side and were drawn a favourable group which included Porto, Copenhagen and tonight’s opponents Club Brugge.

Not many would have expected such a dominant performance by Claudio Ranieri’s team, as the debutants won 3-0 in Belgium.

Marc Albrighton gave Leicester an early lead, before a brace from Riyad Mahrez, one of which a superb free kick, sealed the all important three points.

Like most Premier League teams last season, there was a sense of complacency from the Brugge players.

They underestimated the quality that the Foxes have to their disposal and were undone like many last term. Jamie Vardy’s pace caused nightmares for the two centre halves, with Mahrez’s twinkle toes and tricks fooling the full backs on either wing.

All three goals came in the form of a defensive mistake from the home side, who nearly went ahead on the night through Jose Izquierdo. But the striker lashed his shot wide in the third minute.

For the first time this campaign, we saw the Leicester side that won the league. That Champions mentality, everyone working for one another.

It was the biggest of occasions and Leicester City truly delivered.

They next face Porto on what will be a historical and memorable night at the King Power in two weeks time, with the Portuguese outfit drawing at home to Copenhagen this evening.

GROUP G

CLUB BRUGGE 0-3 LEICESTER CITY

PORTO 1-1 COPENHAGEN.

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Tottenham’s first Champions League appearance for six years ended in a disappointing 2-1 defeat to Monaco at Wembley.

In front of a record home attendance of 85,011, Mauricio Pochettino’s men performed well under par in their opening Group E match.

Heung-Min Son had a shot cleared off the line as Spurs made the stronger start.

But the North Londoners found themselves behind in the 15th minute. Erik Lamela gave the ball away in midfield, and Bernardo Silva strode forward and fired home a fine left foot finish from just outside the area.

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Bernard Silva opens the scoring at Wembley. (Image Credit: telegraph.co.uk)

In the 31st minute, Monaco shocked Wembley once again as they doubled their lead. With Spurs failing to clear a cross into the area, Thomas Lemar smashed the loose ball into the roof of the net from close range.

With half-time approaching the home side grabbed a goal back, Toby Alderweireld powering in a header from Lamela’s corner.

Despite having the momentum firmly in their favour at the start of the second period, Spurs couldn’t find a second goal, with their best chance falling to Harry Kane who fired straight at Monaco goalkeeper Daniel Subasic from 12 yards out.

Fans and pundits alike are wondering what could have been, if the match was played at White Hart Lane, with some questioning whether Wembley creates the same atmosphere.

Fortunately, CSKA Moscow and Bayer Leverkusen drew 2-2 in Germany.

GROUP E

TOTTENHAM 1-2 MONACO

BAYER LEVERKUSEN 2-2 CSKA MOSCOW

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Manchester City comfortably breezed past Borussia Monchengladbach 4-0, with Sergio Aguero netting a fine hattrick at the Etihad.

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Sergio Aguero has scored two hattricks already this season. (Image Credit: skysports.com)

After the game was postponed last night, both teams had a chance to rethink strategies, especially after the result in Barcelona.

Kelechi Iheanacho added a fourth in stoppage time, as the current Premier League leaders continued their 100% to the campaign in all competitions.

Pep Guardiola’s side never needed to break out of third gear, with Gladbach’s defence struggling to cope with the pace and tricky of City’s forward play.

Ikay Gundogan made his first start for the home side since his summer transfer from Borussia Dortmund, and the midfielder seemed to instantly click with his teammates.

This group already looks to be shaping up the way we thought it would, with heavyweights Barcelona and City ready to lock horns for top spot.

Celtic and Gladbach may be set for a Europa League spot shootout.

GROUP C

MANCHESTER CITY 4-0 BORUSSIA MONCHENGLADBACH

BARCELONA 7-0 CELTIC (Tues 13th)

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OTHER RESULTS

GROUP F

LEGIA WARSAW 0-6 BORUSSIA DORTMUND

REAL MADRID 2-1 SPORTING CP

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GROUP H

LYON 3-0 DINAMO ZAGREB

JUVENTUS 0-0 SEVILLA

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UCL: Arsenal defiant, Celtic hapless.

Screen Shot 2016-03-07 at 14.47.27 BY LIAM RICHNER

The Group Stages of the 2016/17 UEFA Champions League kicked off last night, with Arsenal and Celtic the British representatives on opening night.

Manchester City were also meant to be in action, however a monstrous thunderstorm and heavy rain in the North West saw their clash with German outfit Borussia Monchengladbach postponed until tomorrow night (19:45 KO).

Arsene Wenger’s men only narrowly scraped past Southampton at the weekend, and travelled to Paris to face a PSG side stuttering in Ligue 1.

The Gunners knew avoiding defeat could play a huge boost in their chances to try and win a group also contested by Swiss champions FC Basel and Bulgarian side Ludogorets.

That task became a whole lot tougher when Edinson Cavani nodded the French champions ahead just 45 seconds into the match.

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Cavani celebrates his goal. (Image Credit: goal.com)

But where in the past PSG have gone on to dominate and add to an early lead, the home side struggled to convert any opportunities they created.

Partly, this was due to a fantastic performance from David Ospina, who started in goal ahead of regular no.1 Petr Cech.

The Colombian shot stopper produced save after save to thwart PSG in arguably his best 90 minutes in an Arsenal shirt.

Then again, Cavani had a shocker up top.

The Uruguayan forward was consistently put through on goal, only for the PSG number nine to either strike the ball wide or straight at Ospina.

Arsenal though remained in the game and got their equaliser through Alexis Sanchez, after Alex Iwobi’s shot was saved by Alphonse Aréola.

There was late drama as both Olivier Giroud and Marco Verratti were sent off in stoppage time.

But the Gunners managed to hold on for a point, and any away point in Europe is a good return, let alone coming away from the Parc de Princes.

The other two sides in Group A, Basel and Ludogorets, also drew 1-1 in Switzerland.

GROUP A:

PSG 1-1 ARSENAL

BASEL 1-1 LUDOGORETS

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Meanwhile, Celtic faced the enormous task of trying to repeat Alaves’ shock success at the Nou Camp last weekend against Barcelona.

Buoyed by their 5-1 win over Old Firm rivals Rangers last Saturday, Brendan Rodgers and co. knew that they had to keep the Catalans at 0-0 for as long as possible.

However, things didn’t quite go to plan.

‘MSN’, aka ‘Messi, Suarez, Neymar’, started a game together for the first time this season, and boy..didn’t all three turn up.

Lionel Messi hit a hattrick, Luis Suarez netted twice and Neymar produced four assists as Barcelona ran out 7-0 winners.

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The deadliest attack in world football. (image credit: totalsportek.com)

Andreas Iniesta added the other goal as the Scottish Champions suffered their biggest ever defeat in Europe.

At times the Spanish giants were unplayable, others, Celtic’s defence was simply not good enough.

To somehow go from winning 5-1 four days ago, to lose 7-0 last night.. is well…shocking.

Moussa Dembele missed a pentalty for Celtic with the score at 1-0, and that was really the start of a bad night for Celtic, as the wheels came well and truly off.

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Moussa Dembele’s missed penalty was just the beginning of a forgetful night for the Bhoys. (Image Credit: skysports.com)

Serious questions will be asked of Rodgers and his coaching team, as already it looks a daunting task for his side to progress.

Both sides will be casting an eye on the City-Gladbach game tomorrow, as both know each game in this group provides a different challenge.

GROUP C

BARCELONA 7-0 CELTIC

MANCHESTER CITY P-P BORUSSIA MONCHENGLADBACH

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Other Results

GROUP B

DYNAMO KYIV 1-2 NAPOLI

BENFICA 1-1 BESIKTAS

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GROUP D

BAYERN MUNICH 5-0 FC ROSTOV

PSV EINDHOVEN 0-1 ATLETICO MADRID

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