Friday, 11 December 2015

Champions League Matchday Six Review

Ahead a long winter break for the Champions League which will see eight sides exit European competition and eight more drop down to the Europa League, matchday six saw the final structure of the last 16 confirmed with a few surprises in the mix.

Already qualified PSG played host to a Shakthar Donetsk side who were preparing for a drop into the Europa League but hoping to exit this competition on a high. However, it was to be the French side who ended the group stage with success as they secured a 2-0 win with second half strikes from Lucas Moura and Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the 57th and 86th minutes.

Real Madrid were guaranteed top spot in the group having already qualified but they fielded a strong side as they hosted already eliminated Malmo FF. Malmo's campaign has been a miserable one and after a 5-0 loss to PSG in the previous game, anything less would be a slight consolation. Real had other ideas though as they raced into a 2-0 lead inside 24 minutes courtesy of a brace from Karim Benzema and with Cristiano Ronaldo adding a third on 39 minutes, it was set to be a long night for the Swedes.

Ronaldo stunned the visitors by completing a 19 minute quadruple as after adding strikes in the 47th and 50th minutes for his hat-trick, he made it 6-0 overall in the 58th minute. Humiliation confirmed for the visitors but it got even worse as Kovacic added a seventh on 70 minutes and Benzema completed his treble for 8-0 in the 74th minute.

PSV Eindhoven hosted CSKA Moscow knowing a win would guarantee them a spot in the last 16 while the visitors harboured chances of securing the consolation prize of the Europa League spot.  A tight game coupled with eyes on the other from the Dutch fans left them going into the last 15 minutes at 0-0 but on course to advance but they fell behind after Sergei Ignashevich scored a penalty for 1-0 but a superb fightback saw De Jong level within two minutes before Propper sealed a 2-1 win and qualification in the 85th minute.

Wolfsburg hosted Manchester United in the battle to secure top spot ad both knew that a draw coupled with a CSKA win would see them both through to the last 16. United started the better of the two as they took an early lead inside ten minutes via Anthony Martial's opener. However, the hosts wasted no time in levelling as Naldo equalised in the 13th minute. The turnaround was complete in the 29th minute as Vierinha put the hosts 2-1 ahead but their fate was on a knife-edge with eight minutes to go as Guilavogui deflected into his own net to bring United level at 2-2. The Germans had one more ace up their sleeve though as Naldo sealed a 3-2 win just two minutes later with his second goal which meant the EPL side dropped into the Europa League.

Benfica hosted Atletico Madrid in a battle to top the group with both sides having already qualified for the next stage. The visitors opened up a 1-0 lead inside 22 minutes with a strike from Niguez before doubling the advantage ten minutes after the restart as Vietto made it 2-0. The hosts remained in the hunt with a 75th minute effort from Mitroglou but were unable to draw level meaning that the Spanish side secured top spot and the hosts finished in second.

Due to the top two having qualified for the last 16, Galatasaray hosted FC Astana in a battle to secure the Europa League spot and avoid propping up the group standings. The visitors had yet to claim a win so far at this stage but boosted such hopes with an opener on 62 minutes from Twumasi only to be rapidly pegged back by Inan's leveller within two minutes for 1-1. The sides remained level until the end meaning that the Turks dropped into the Europa League and the Kazakhs ended their first Champions League group campaign with four draws in six games.

Already qualified Manchester City hosted a Borussia Monchengladbach side who were looking to secure the Europa League spot with a win and prevent City from topping the group. The hosts started the better of the two sides with David Silva putting them 1-0 up only for Korb to level for 1-1 within three minutes. The turnaround was complete for the visitors in the 42nd minute as Araujo made it 2-1 but City battled back in style with three goals in the space of five minutes as Raheem Sterling struck a brace in the 79th and 81st minutes ahead of a strike from Wilfried Bony for a 4-2 victory.

After reaching the competition as a prize for their Europa League triumph, Sevilla looked to continue their pursuit of a trilogy of titles by securing the Europa League spot with a win over already qualified Juventus. The hosts secured the win they needed with a 1-0 success courtesy of a 65th minute strike from former Juve striker Fernando Llorente and his haunting of his former side meant that the Italians had to settle for second spot in the group.

Barcelona travelled to face Bayer Leverkusen having secured top spot and qualification but looking to end the group with an unbeaten record while their hosts knew a win could be enough to join the Catalans in the next stage. The hosts struck an opener after 20 minutes as Javier Hernandez made it 1-0 only for his effort to be rapidly cancelled out within three minutes as Lionel Messi equalised for 1-1. The sides both pushed for a winner but had to settle for a share of the point leaving the Germans hoping for a Roma-BATE draw in order to progress.

AS Roma and BATE Borisov faced off with both knowing a win coupled with a failure to win from Leverkusen would seal a place in the next stage. However, the sides were unable to outdo each other and shared the points in a 0-0 draw, this meant that the Italians advanced due to their superior record against Leverkusen who in turn dropped into the Europa League leaving BATE propping up the group.

Bayern Munich had already secured top spot and qualification as they travelled to face a Dinamo Zagreb side playing their last European game due to finishing bottom of the group. The Germans continued their near perfect run in the group with a 2-0 win that saw the in-form Robert Lewandowski strike in the 61st and 64th minutes to secure the three points which saw Bayern finish on 15/18 overall.

Olympiakos hosted Arsenal in a battle to finish second to Bayern and join them in the last 16 but for the EPL side only win by two clear goals would be enough to force the Greeks into the Europa League spot. The Gunners' pursuit of a comfortable win saw them take a 1-0 lead in the 29th minute as Olivier Giroud continued his good form in front of goal before he added the crucial second goal just four minutes after half time. At 2-0, Arsenal were on course for the next stage but when they were awarded a 67th minute penalty, Giroud stepped up to complete his hat-trick and confirmed the win for the Gunners who advanced into the last 16 for the 16th year in a row.

In the tightest group of all, three sides went into the final game all with the chance to qualify so when Chelsea hosted FC Porto both sides had the chance to qualify even if they shared the points. The Blues were boosted early on by a Sierra own goal which gave them a 1-0 lead inside 12 minutes and they looked to have sealed the win and top spot in the group when Willian made it 2-0 in the 52nd minute. Porto battled to close the gap but were unable to breakthrough a strong Blues defence leaving them to hope Dynamo Kyiv failed to win in order to join Chelsea in the next stage,

Dynamo Kyiv hosted already eliminated Maccabi Tel Aviv knowing that a win coupled with a Porto defeat would see them reach the last 16 and thereby leave their opponent rock bottom of the group without a single point from 18.  The Ukrainians needed just one goal to secure a crucial win as Garmash struck the winning goal in the 16th minute and due to the positive result for them in the other game, they sealed a place in the last 16 while Maccabi Tel Aviv joined the list of sides who failed to claim a single point in the group stage.

KAA Gent hosted already qualified group toppers Zenit St Petersburg looking to prevent the Russians from completing a perfect campaign by sealing a spot in the next stage with a win coupled with a negative result for Valencia in the other game. The Belgians pursuit of a surprise win was boosted early on as they took a 1-0 lead via a strike from Depoitre in the 18th minute. However, Zenit drew level just after the hour mark as Dzyuba extended his superb scoring streak for 1-1 but the hosts secured the win with 12 minutes left as Milicevic made it 2-1 and handed the Russians their first loss of the group stage leaving them on 15 points.

Valencia hosted already eliminated Olympique Lyonnais needing to win and hoping Zenit avoided defeat in order for them to progress to the last 16. Lyon had yet to claim a win in the group but boosted their hopes with an opening goal in the 37th minute from Cornet for 1-0. The visitors doubled their lead in the 76th minute through Lacazette who made it 2-0 which is how it ended meaning that they avoided joining a list of sides who failed to earn win in the group but in doing so ensured Valencia dropped into the Europa League in their first game under the charge of Gary Neville.

Last 16- Real Madrid, Wolfsburg, Atletico Madrid, Manchester City, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Chelsea and Zenit St Petersburg.

Europa League- Shakthar Donetsk, Manchester United, Galatasaray, Sevilla, Bayer Leverkusen, Olympiakos, FC Porto and Valencia.

The draw for the next stage will be posted alongside the Europa League draw next week before the break in writing until the competition resumes in February 2016.