At the halfway point of the group stages the top teams continue to show their quality. Free-scoring Arsenal and Raul broke records and some new faces made their mark in the Champions League, including a brilliant hat-trick from Tottenham Hotspur’s Welsh winger Gareth Bale.
Group A – FC Twente; Inter Milan; Tottenham Hotspur; Werder Bremen
Never has a game been so aptly described as ‘a game of two halves’. The first belonged to Inter as they were 4-0 up at half-time. But ten-man Spurs owe their comeback to Gareth Bale who put in another performance to attract the plaudits, becoming only the sixth British player* to score a hat-trick in Europe.
Twente drew at home to Bremen to leave both teams on two points and fighting for the chance to take the consolation prize of playing in Europe’s second-string competition.
Group B – Benfica; Hapoel Tel-Aviv; Lyon; Schalke 04
Raul showed that form is temporary but class is permanent, scoring two goals to help Schalke to a 3-1 home win against Hapoel. Now Europe’s top scorer, he shows no signs of slowing down and it could well be his genius that inspires his new team to qualify from the group.
Lyon continued their 100% record in the competition with a comfortable 2-0 win over Benfica. Paulo Fernandes will now be planning on a return to the Europa League, a competition that they won last year.
Group C – Bursapor; Manchester United; Rangers; Valencia
Bursapor may feel they were unlucky not to get a point at Old Trafford after they gave United a run for their money, only being undone by a Nani goal on seven minutes. The visitors gave a good account of themselves, but the home team’s experience in this competition showed. However, they did look less potent in front of goal without ‘he who shall not be named’.
Rangers will be feeling confident about progressing from the group after another good performance. Scorer Maurice Edu went from hero to zero as he scored an own goal just after the restart to bring Valencia level. Walter Smith may be impressed by the player’s obvious heading abilities.
Group D – Barcelona; Copenhagen; Panathinaikos; Rubin Kazan
Leo Messi scored both goals in a 2-0 win for the Spanish champions, although their attack warranted a couple more with Barcelona back to their offensive best. They now lead the table on seven points, but this was a vital win with their opponents Copenhagen, now sitting just one point behind them.
As expected, the tie between Panathinaikos and Rubin Kazan had no goals and not many talking points. Djibril Cisse thought he had a goal for the home team on 77 minutes but he was rightly flagged offside. Rubin lead them by one point in the table and will be hoping to finish the group in what would be a respectable third position.
Group E – Basel; Bayern Munich; CFR Cluj; Roma
The Germans were helped to a 3-2 win by two Cluj own goals in the space of six minutes. With Bayern’s first place virtually assured they will be happy at the mid-point of the group stages.
Basel beat Roma at home to leave three teams fighting to progress from the group alongside probable group winners Bayern. Roma may be the likely favourites as they have more CL experience than the other two clubs.
Group F – Chelsea; Marseille; MSK Zilina; Spartak Moscow
Chelsea leave Russia with better memories than their last visit, but still no CL trophy. Yuri Zhirkov scored his first goal for the club in his homeland, while Nicolas Anelka scored his first 50th goal for the Blues.
Marseille continue to get back in the mix with a win at home. CL winners in 1993, the players were clearly committed to the cause as they picked up four yellow cards on their way to beating Slovakia’s MSK Zilina. Didier Deschamps was visibly happy with his players’ commitment following two previous CL defeats.
Group G – AC Milan; Ajax, Auxerre; Real Madrid
Cristiano Ronaldo scored one and made one as Real beat Milan 2-0. The Bernabeu was rocking as both goals were scored in the first 15 minutes to give them another three points in the competition. Massimiliano Allegri was unhappy with his side’s complacency and will be looking for a big improvement in the reverse fixture on match day four.
Ajax dominated the first half against their French visitors with an early goal from Demy de Zeeuw and another from Luis Suárez just before half-time. Auxerre came back into the tie with a spectacular free kick from Valter Birsa, but that wasn’t enough as the home team held on for a 2-1 win.
Group H – Arsenal; SC Braga; Partizan Belgrade; Shakhtar Donetsk
Arsenal continue to run riot in Group G with five different scorers helping them to a 5-1 scoreline. The visitors’ consolation was scored by former Gunner, Eduardo, and was met with a standing ovation from all corners of the stadium and pitch. Arsenal now take the record from Inter (12), for the most goals scored in the first three CL matches, with 14.
Braga earned their first ever CL points with a 2-0 win at home to Belgrade. Lima was recalled to the side and grabbed the manager’s attention with a neat free-kick while Matheus scored another for the home side in injury time. Partizan continue to sit at the bottom of the group with zero points.
Top Five Players: Gareth Bale (Tottenham Hotspur); Samir Nasri (Arsenal); Samuel Eto’o (Inter Milan); Lionel Messi (Barcelona); Lima (Braga).
* British players with hat-tricks in Europe before 20/10/2010 – one unless stated: Andy Cole (2); Michael Owen (2); Mike Newell; Alan Shearer; Wayne Rooney