It was another busy week for Offside in Europe with action taking place across the continent in both the Champions League and Europa League on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evening.
First up was Malmo versus Atletico Madrid. Offside’s Spanish associates, Marca, made the trip to Sweden to watch the reigning La Liga champions and last year’s Champions League runners up in action.
Talk before kick off centred on the hosts’ abilities to spring an upset, yet while Diego Simeone’s men hardly romped home with the three points on the night, a more cautious approach did hand them a rather routine victory.
Koke opened the scoring just as he did in the reverse fixture in October, but this time didn’t have to wait for the second half. He needed just half an hour to find the net.
Raul Garcia’s finisher followed 48 minutes later near the death of the match to make it 2-0.
Over in Germany, Galatasaray faced off against Borussia Dortmund, who’s indifferent league form continued to have no effect upon their effectiveness in Europe. Witters provided the images.
Jurgen Klopp’s side secured qualification into the last 16 with a solid 4-1 win over the Turkish champions at home at the Westfalstadion.
Marco Reus opened the scoring just before the 40 minute mark, but it was a collective effort that saw the home side rack up the goals.
Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Ciro Immobile and an own goal by Semih Kaya added to the scoreline as the game went on, with Galatasaray pulling one back through Hakan Balta.
Moving on to the south of Europe and Juventus took on Greek champions Olympiakos in a tussle to decide who would be in the best position to snatch second place behind Atletico in Group A.
IPP were on hand to snap the match, which saw a laser-sighted freekick fired in by the ever-green maestro Andrea Pirlo.
It was a goal that hauled the Italian giants back into the game after Alberto Botia snatched the lead early on for the visitors.
The Greeks however later took the lead again in the second half, requiring the Old Lady to come back once more to level the score and then take the win through a Paul Pogba strike after 66 minutes.
Many expected Liverpool to crumble up against reigning European champions Real Madrid at the Bernabeu, but with Brendan Rodgers approaching his team selection with a policy of damage limitation, the margin of defeat was narrow.
Marca once again provided the pictures.
Kolo Toure had an excellent game keeping Cristiano Ronaldo quiet, but Karim Benzema, who is currently in good form under Carlo Ancelotti, found a way through after 27 minutes.
Liverpool never really threatened to muster a proper response, with their counter attacks often failing to produce the penetration and finish required.
And so it stayed at 1-0, much to the disappointment of the Bernabeu crowd and pundits who had tipped the Reds to humiliate themselves in Spain. Though given their pragmatic team selection, some still found a way to deride their efforts on the night.
Offside’s Marc Atkins was at the Emirates for Arsenal’s showdown with Anderlecht, with Arsene Wenger’s team needing to stave off the possibility of a major upset against a team they were lucky to comeback against in Belgium.
By half-time it appeared that the Gunners had managed to keep it professional, heading into the break with a 2-0 lead.
Mikel Arteta opened the scoring from the penalty spot while Alexis Sanchez doubled the score just before the half hour mark.
Even after the break things looked good for Arsenal. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain made it 3-0 after 58 minutes.
But then the rot set in and Anderlecht cam roaring back.
Anthony Vanden Borre scored a penalty and another goal from open goal to claw the game back for the Belgians, and with the game balanced at 3-2 to the hosts going into the final moments, the atmosphere grew tense in North London.
Step up Aleksandar Mitrovic who scored the injury time equaliser to leave Wenger in despair on the touchline.
Back in Germany, Bayern Munich welcomed AS Roma for rematch after destroying the Italians on their own home turf in the previous round of group game fixtures.
Witters snapped the action at the Allianz Arena.
Yet there this wasn’t to be another route. Rudi Garcia’s team still lost, but by a less embarrassing scoreline of 2-0 rather than 7-1.
Goals came for Pep Guardiola’s team through Franck Ribery and World Cup winner Mario Gotze who hit the back of the net mid-way through either half, respectively.
Another German side in action in the Champions League were Schalke, who travelled to face Sporting in Lisbon, Portugal.
L’Equipe were the providers of the pictures as the hosts ran out 4-2 winners over the Bundesliga challengers, who are now managed by former Chelsea boss, Champions League winner, Roberto Di Matteo.
Nani, on loan from Manchester United at his old club in Portugal for the season, was one of the stars of the show alongside in-demand midfielder William Carvalho.
Paris Saint-Germain once again failed to entertain or unleash their attacking potential against APOEL Nicosia, with Laurent Blanc’s team only managing a 1-0 win at home.
L’Equipe were again the picture providers for a match that saw Edinson Cavani break the deadlock in the very first minute, but the Uruguayan’s goal proved to be a singular moment in a strike-starved fixture.
PSG did dominate however. They enjoyed the vast majority of possession and took almost 20 shots to the visitor’s three. Yet goals just didn’t come for the Parisians.
Manchester City would likely have given almost anything for such an uneventful night at home. Simon Stacpoole was Offside’s man on the sidelines.
Visitors CSKA Moscow were thought to be an obstacle for the English champions to overcome in order to straighten out their European record rather than a stumbling block.
How wrong City’s well-wishers were.
It took only two minutes for the Russians to take the lead, with Seydou Doumbia opening them up almost instantly.
The striker’s pace was too much for Vincent Kompany and Co to deal with, and even though Yaya Toure equalised moments later on the eight minute mark, his goal wasn’t to be the start of a comeback.
CSKA took back the lead after 34 minutes, again through Doumbia, and that was the last of the goals on a woeful night at the Etihad for Manuel Pellegrini and his team.
Their misery was compounded by second half dismissals for Fernandinho and Toure, which will surely hamper any attempt to turn around their Champions League campaign from the bottom of Group E.
Simon Stacpoole was again in action on Thursday night at Goodison Park for Everton’s Europa League clash with Ligue 1 side LOSC Lille.
The Toffees’ visit to Northern France ended in 0-0, with plenty more action taking place off the field in a few, minor running battles between Evertonian fans and police. The return fixture was far more successful for the Blues.
Roberto Martinez’s side may be looking a bit jaded in the Premier League, but in Europe they are now undefeated in four games, and scored three past their French visitors.
Leon Osman got the scoring under-way after 27 minutes, and was soon joined on the score sheet by Phil Jagielka and Steven Naismith, who struck on the 42 and 61 minute marks in the first and second halves.
The result secures their progress into the knock out round, but not necessarily as group winners. With the Toffees just a point ahead of Wolfsburg, they must still go all out to ensure they take as many points as possible in their remaining two games.
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