‘Tis a little late, but here are the highlights from Wednesday night’s Champions League ties, in case you missed any of the action. And if you did, well, you missed some exciting moments, great finishes, and near misses, which is where we’ll kick off the highlights.
Arsenal 0-0 AC Milan
Of Emmanuel Adebayor’s 22 goals this season, a grand total of zero have come in Europe.
Adebayor had an excellent chance to break his European duck and give Arsenal a precious advantage heading into the second leg at the San Siro, but the bar denied Ade’s close-range chance the Gunners a last-gasp victory and sent things into the second leg all square at goose eggs.
If a goal was going to come from this tie, it would have likely come from Arsenal, but thanks to the bar, the offside rule, some good saves from Zlatko Kalac, and a lack of quality finishing touches, there weren’t to be any celebrations.
Will the inability to grab a goal at home is going to come back to bite Arsenal in the second leg? Well, if AC Milan employ the ‘early goal, then defend, defend, defend for the rest of the night’ philosophy, it could.
Lyon 1-1 Manchester United
Try as they might, Manchester United couldn’t break down Lyon for well over 80 minutes.
In the meantime, the defending (x6) French champions went ahead thanks to a terrific finish by Karim Benzema, who took what little space he had for a shot and whistled one low and out of the reach of a diving Edwin van der Sar.
United pressed for a pivotal equalizer, and with time running out, persistence paid off, as Carlos Tevez, who came on as a sub in the 65th minute, poked home from a couple of yards out to get United a vital away goal.
You’ve got to fancy United’s chances going back to Old Trafford, especially with Tevez’s goal, but Lyon certainly aren’t out of it.
Lyon 1-0 Manchester United: Benzema in the 54th
Lyon 1-1 Manchester United: Tevez’s 87th minute equalizer
Celtic 2-3 Barcelona
Lionel Messi picked a fine time to start scoring again, didn’t he?
Celtic went ahead twice over the 2005/6 Champions League winners, but Barca valiantly battled back to grab a win at Hampden, and in the process, give Celtic a momentous hill to climb at the Nou Camp.
The reigning Scottish champions started out as brightly as one would hope, as Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink powered a header home past Victor Valdes to put Celtic up inside 16.
But, as I mentioned, Messi picked Wednesday night to start scoring again, and just as quickly as the Dutchman had sent the home fans into an uproar, Messi quieted them with his equalizer. He played the ball to Ronaldinho just outside of the area, and Ronnie laid it off for Leo, who beat his marker to the ball and chipped it over Artur Boruc into the top of the net.
But, Celtic weren’t flattened by the blow, and hit back through new boy Barry Robson to go ahead again shortly before halftime. Robson, playing in the Champions League for the very first time, had every right to celebrate after his header from near the penalty spot looped over the stunned Valdes and in.
But, his and his teammates wouldn’t have much to dance about in the end. Barcelona got back on level terms in the 52nd, as terrific Thierry produced a vintage Henry-like moment, curling a shot around a defender and well out of Boruc’s reach at the far post.
But, it was Leo’s night to shine, and he broke Celtic hearts with his 79th minute winner. The ball unluckily came off of Stephen McManus in the area, Messi collected it, and as he was falling to the ground, fired a shot that bounded past Boruc to give Barca the lead for the first time on the night.
Both the lead and the resulting win were expected, but it’s not how many times you take the lead, but when you have it, and the margin that Barca has is far more commanding than one goal, as it leaves Celtic needing to win away from home, which, well, isn’t their forte in Europe, in the least.
Celtic 1-0 Barcelona: Vennegoor of Hesselink on 16
Celtic 1-1 Barcelona: Messi on 18
Celtic 2-1 Barcelona: Robson on 38
Celtic 2-2 Barcelona: Henry on 52
Celtic 2-3 Barcelona: Messi’s 79th minute winner
Fenerbahce 3-2 Sevilla
The Celtic-Barca tie may have been the best of the eight first-leg matches, if not for the cracking match that took place in Istanbul.
Fenerbahce went ahead twice, only for Sevilla to go back level both times, but Semih Senturk’s 87th minute winner gives the Turkish champions an edge going back to Spain.
Just like Celtic did, Fenerbahce took an early lead, with Mateja Kezman keeping up his great run of form by finding the net in the 17th minute.
But, that lead lasted only a few minutes. A cross came into the Fener penalty area, and defender Edu Dracena attempted to boot it out of play, but instead, it ended up in the net, and it was 1-1 on 23.
That’s how it stayed until the 57th minute, when another defender made up for Edu’s error, and put the home side ahead. It was a Brazilian connection, as Alex’s corner came in to Diego Lugano right on the penalty spot, and his header tickled the threads to make it 2-1.
But, just like the first lead, the second didn’t last long, as Julien Escude bundled home from close range in the 66th minute to make it 2-2.
However, as with the above tie, it’s not how many times, it’s when, and the last blow was to be dealt by Zico’s side, as Semih Senturk struck in the 87th minute to put Fenerbahce ahead with just minutes remaining.
This time, they held on to the lead, and as a result, are in a slightly favorable position heading into the second leg.
The two away goals for Sevilla, or more importantly, that early own goal, mean that Fenerbahce will be in for a nervy second leg in Seville, given how well Sevilla produce at home. But, thanks to Senturk’s late winner, if they can manage a draw, even if it’s a 5-5 draw, that will send them through to the final eight.
Fenerbahce 3-2 Sevilla: goal highlights
With most of ties still far from decided, we should be in for some tense, action-packed second legs in a fortnight.
So, make sure you keep up with SL, as we’ll have all of the latest in the Champions League from here until Moscow.