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Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Squarefootball Diary - Wednesday September 17 2008

The British success from last night cannot be replicated as none of Manchester United, Arsenal or Celtic can muster a win in their opening Champions League matches.

On the plus side none of them lose either, with perhaps Arsenal's 1-1 draw at Dynamo Kiev the most impressive of the three results.  Ismael Bangoura's penalty looks to have given the Ukranians a winning start but William Gallas is on hand to scramble a late equaliser.  Arsene isn't sure if his glass is half empty or half full;

"The game is a mixture of frustration and relief." he comments, adding;

"Frustration because it was agame that should have been over at half-time as we created clear-cut chances. It was relief as we were 1-0 down with three minutes to go.

FC Porto are top of Group G, two points clear of Arsenal and Kiev after beating Fenerbahce 3-1

More frustration at Old Trafford where defending champions Manchester United cannot find  a way past Villarreal.  The returning Cristiano Ronaldo almost creates a winner but Jimmy Evans' header rebounds off a post to keep the scores blank;

"I have no complaints. On another day we could have scored four or five." claims Sir Alex, possibly referring to a Friday.

United will be disappointed but perhaps not as much as Group E rivals Celtic.  Gordon Strachan's side are presented with a golden opportunity to make a winning start against Aalborg but Barry Robson sees his 28th minute penalty saved by Karim Zaza.  Referee Matteo Trefoloni sends off the wrong Michael with 10 minutes left, dismissing Michael Jakobsen for a foul committed by Michael Beauchamp on Giorgos Samaras.  However the Bhoys are unable to make the extra man count and must settle for just a point;

"We've got to go and try and win a game away from home, it becomes imperative now." warns Strachan, whose side haven't won a game away from home in the Champions League in any of their five previous campaigns.

Group F's early starters are Bayern Munich.  The Bavarians return to the competition after failing to qualify for last season's event, and make an immediate impact with a 1-0 win over Steaua Bucharest.  Lyon and Fiorentina share four goals in an entertaining affair in France.

Real Madrid and Juventus will expect to progress from Group H, and both open with wins.  Juve will be delighted with their 1-0 victory over UEFA Cup and Super Cup holders Zenit St.Petersburg, while Real are too strong for Belarussian newcomers Bate Borisov, winning 2-0.

Contrasting fortunes for East Anglian sides in the Championship, as Norwich City are beaten 1-0 at home by Queens Park Rangers while Ipswich Town draw 2-2 at Southampton.

By Stephen Orford

23 September 2008

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