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Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Squarefootball Diary - Thursday September 18 2008

An unreasonable five English teams are competing in this season's UEFA Cup, with all maintaining a good chance of reaching the group stages after tonight's second round first leg ties.

First to Bulgaria where Aston Villa secure a 3-1 success over Litex Lovech.  Martin O'Neill's side must come from behind when Ivelin Popov opens the scoring after 10 minutes, but manage all that and more with goals from Nigel Reo-Coker, Gareth Barry and Stilyan Petrov;

"It was a very sluggish start." says O'Neill, offending slugs everywhere.

There's also an away win for Manchester City.  The newly crowned Richest Club In The World suffer a Villa-like set-back when Klodian Duro puts Cypriot side Omonia Nicosia one up just after half-time, but a double from Brazilian striker Jo retrieves the situation for Mark Hughes' side;

"It is important for a striker at a new club to get off the mark and make an impression and he did that." he observes.

Portsmouth have little trouble in easing to a 2-0 win over Vitoria Guimaraes at Fratton Park.  Lassana Diarra and Jermain Defoe are on the mark for Harry Redknapp's side;

"It was a great night for supporters and they have deserved it. They have had to endure the bad times for years." says Harry.

Juande Ramos cannot buy a win in the league with Tottenham but having twice won the UEFA Cup with Sevilla this was always a competition with the potential to be kind to him.  And so it proves as a Darren Bent header seals a 2-1 home win over Wisla Krakow.  David Bentley's 33rd minute opener is cancelled out by Thomas Jirsak within a minute and a half, before Bent settles the score 17 minutes from time;

"Let's hope this starts a positive run leading to better results." says Ramos with as much conviction as he can muster.

The only English team failing to win on the night is Everton.  David Moyes' side draw 2-2 with Standard Liege at Goodison Park, with all four goals coming in the first half.  Dieudonne Mbokani puts the Belgians in front but Everton are level when Aiyegbeni Yakubu shoots home.  A Joseph Yobo own goal throws a spanner in the works before Segundo Castillo rifles in his first goal for the Toffeemen;

"Hopefully we will play better and defend better in the return leg." Moyes comments with a confidence that could best be described as Ramos-esque.

Motherwell will hang on to their hopes just as tightly, that despite losing 1-0 to AS Nancy in France.  Pascal Berengeur's header is the only goal of the game, but Graeme Smith's save from Issiar Dia's penalty keeps the SPL side in the tie;

"It's a good result for us but we didn't play well or get forward and threaten enough." says manager Mark McGhee.

Tournament favourites AC Milan help themselves to a 3-1 win over FC Zurich at the San Siro, while there are also routine wins for Ajax (4-1 at the amusingly named Borac Cacak), Sampdoria (5-0 over FBK Kaunas, are you watching Rangers?) and Sevilla (2-0 against SV Salzburg). 

The standout ties see Napoli edge out Benfica 3-2 in Italy and Udinese's 2-0 win at Borussia Dortmund.  Those who like a shock will have enjoyed Feyenoord's 1-0 loss at home to Kalmar FF and SK Brann's 2-0 success over Deportivo La Coruna.  Other highlights include Galatasaray's 4-3 win in Switzerland over Bellinzona and Norway's Rosenborg holding off Denmark's Brondby 2-1 in a distinctly Scandinavian affair.

By Stephen Orford

24 September 2008   

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