Celtic vs AC Milan turned into a battle between Milan’s pride and Celtic’s will to win. It had little to do with football.
PSV Eindhoven vs Arsenal didn’t have much football going on in it.
Lille vs Manchester United was about crowd disturbance and the ref’s decisions on two controversial goals that will be talked about till the return leg at Old Trafford.
Only Real Madrid and Bayern Munich – two sides definitely not living up to their stellar reputations in domestic leagues – gave us a real game.
It was stop-start at times, it was cagey and full of drama. At one point the game ran the real danger of being all about David Beckham’s bid for a place in the England squad at Israel in March, but thankfully Madrid’s shoddy defending came to the fore and we were back to watching the game instead of daydreaming.
The match went back and forth with Bayern lacking cohesion rather than solidity and Real Madrid lacking – well, the will to defend properly.
It was good to see Hargreaves and Beckham show some form, and it was also good to see that the Ruud / Raul combo is working (not to mention the Becks/Ruud combo).
Bayern Munich still have the upper hand though, because with two away goals to their name they can afford to go all out in their home game and capitalise on Real Madrid’s shaky defence.
Real still need someone better to play alongside Cannavaro than Helguera, and in midfield they missed Diarra – Gago doesn’t have the same presence, especially when going up against players with the experience of Hargreaves and van Bommel.
Bayern, if they can keep their defence tight, should be able to win the return leg. As of now, they may be behind on goals and therefore the underdogs, but Real away from home are not strong, and it should be a fascinating game to watch.