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Champions League Round-Up Part 2

Two goals by the ‘Little Pea’ Javier Hernandez ensured that Manchester United came out on top in a tense 2-1 victory over Marseille. The newly dubbed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer struck in both halves to put Manchester United into the last eight of the Champions League. It was not a vintage United display as Marseille took the game many a time during the ninety minutes to the reshuffled United defence and they had many chances that night to stun Old Trafford. Marseille had the chance to snatch a crucial away goal but missed golden opportunities through Andre-Pierre Gignac and Souleymane Diawara who will doubtless have nightmares of what could have been.

United opened the scoring through Javier Hernandez after fantastic work by Rooney on left as he drove an effort across the face of goal where Hernandez was waiting to pounce from close range in the fifth minute. It was the dream start for United but they regressed as the half wore on and invited Marseille forward. Andre Ayew’s flick sent Gignac clear but he sidefooted over with only Van der Sar to beat. Heinze headed just wide from Gonzalezes’ corner .United escaped again when Taye Taiwo’s corner was met by the head of Diawara who, to Ferguson’s great relief, failed to trouble Van der Sar as another opportunity for an equaliser was snubbed.

The second half was full of as the next goal threatened to turn the tie in either team favour particularly Marseille’s. Cheyrou forced a smart save out of Van der Sar with a pile driver from outside the box before the Hernandez struck his sixteenth goal in 33 appearances to double United’s advantage with another close-range finish thanks to a perfect cross by the ageless Giggs.

Marseille pulled a goal back as Brown diverted another Gonzalez corner into his own net with seven minutes left and the tension returned as United threatened to throw away a two goal advantage, which is not the first time we can say that this season.

Marseille failed to take the initiative and United survived and remain on course for potentially one of the most unspectacular trebles in history. It is the hallmark of champions though despite it not being a vintage United campaign, they have failed to dazzle for an entire season. But then again they march on and United fans won’t care as long as the season ends in silverware

A 0-0 draw at Stamford Bridge was enough to ensure Chelsea’s passage to the Champions League quarter finals for a sixth time in eight seasons. This result may not send shockwaves round Europe, but Carlo Ancelotti remains confident that his side can win the Champions League and in all honesty Chelsea and Inter are the only realistic sides with the potential sides that can halt the Barcelona steamroller in the competition.

In all honesty it was a comfortable night for Ancelotti’s men who were safeguarded at Stamford Bridge by Nikolas Anelka’s two away goals in the first leg. Chelsea were dominant and are beginning to recapture the form of last season playing some exciting, crisp football only to fall at the final hurdle as the likes of Torres, Anelka, Zhirkov, Drogba and John Obi Mikel spurned numerous opportunities to crush Copenhagen and put the tie completely out of reach for the Danes. Torres was denied twice which confirmed the £50 million striker’s continuation of having failed to net for Chelsea in six appearances. Chelsea were given a scare when a Copenhagen free kick thundered against Cech’s crossbar, but they managed to contain the Danes by large

Real Madrid reached the quarter finals for the first time since 2004 after beating Lyon comprehensively at the Santiago Bernabau. It was seventh time lucky for Real who, had previously failed to successfully negotiate a Champions League knock-out tie on the last six consecutive occasions. They took the lead through an exquisite goal by Brazilian left back Marcelo who after exchanging passes with Cristiano Ronaldo slotting past the despairing Lloris. The goal settled Madrid’s nerves who took the game by the scruff of the neck and imposed themselves on Lyon with a solid attacking display. Benzema’s second goal of the tie in the 66th minute settled it before Di Maria wrapped up the proceeding in the 76th minute.

It was a thriller at the Allianz Arena as Bayern Munich were denied vengeance against champions Inter Milan as they came out on top 3-2 winning on away goals in what was a cracking game of football. Inter Milan became only the second team to overturn a home first-leg Champions League deficit with an away goals win over Bayern Munich in the last 16. Trailing 1-0 from the first leg, the holders levelled the tie in the third minute when Samuel Eto’o slotted home. But keeper Julio Cesar had another howler as he spilled the ball from a tame Robben shot to gift Mario Gomez an equaliser before Thomas Muller put Bayern in control. Bayern failed to capitalise with Cesar keeping Bayern at arm’s length in the first half. Wesley Sneijder’s curling finish gave the Italians hope and Goran Pandev struck late on to send them through. The goal came after Breno allowed Eto’o space to tee up Pandev in the box and his rising shot from 12 yards beat Kraft to break Bayern hearts. Neither defence will look back on that game with pride.

The quarter final drew up some tantalising pairings. Potentially we could have Chelsea or Manchester United facing Inter Milan as well as a semi-final El Classico. Were the latter to happen, it would mean four of the historic fixture for the two teams in the space of nineteen days, with one in La Liga, the Copa del Rey Final and the two legs of the Champions League semi-final. Wembley draws ever closer….

Matthew Williams

 

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