Champions League Round-Up: Arsenal and Chelsea Qualify; Valencia Don’t
Arsenal and Chelsea qualify for the knockout stages of the Champions League, but Gary Neville’s first game in charge at Valencia ends in a defeat that sees them stumble into the Europa League.
With the Premier League championship way past Jose Mourinho’s bedtime, there are many who believe a deep run in the Champions League is the only way to save his job.
After failing to qualify for the Champions League knockout stages once in their history, failure to pick up, at least, a point at home to Porto was unthinkable. But this is Chelsea. They were at home. And then you remember Bournemouth.
In the end, it was a cakewalk for the Blues. Diego Costa was back in the starting lineup after a few weeks in the naughty corner. It didn’t take him long to make an impact, albeit more through luck by anything skill related. The busy Eden Hazard putting Costa through on goal, only for the Spaniard to strike straight at the onrushing keeper. Fortunately, the ball ricocheted off the keeper’s feet, onto the head of a Porto defender and into the back of the net.
Costa was the centre of attention again in the 19th minute. This time, his petulance sent the referee dashing in his direction waving the yellow card after Costa had kicked Iker Casillas for no apparent reason. There is no changing an old dog.
Chelsea was dominant. Willian was running the show. Oscar looked all grown up. Kurt Zouma held the backline together with superglue. Nemanja Matic was like a mask wearing rock. Jose Mourinho’s men went in at half-time with a one-goal lead.
The second half was a stroll. Porto offered very little in an attacking sense and Thibaut Courtois looked impervious. Willian sealing the three points with a 51st minute smash into the back of the net a mere minute or two after missing one from a similar position.
Chelsea goes through on top of Group G, and Dynamo Kiev joins them as runner-up.
Arsene Wenger’s sides had not failed to qualify for the knockout stages in their past 16 attempts. Their record has extended to 17 after an incredible victory in Greece against Olympiacos.
Arsenal needed to win by two clear goals and needed to score three times in the process. And they did that courtesy of a hat trick from their French talisman Olivier Giroud.
Arsenal goes through to the knockout stages as Group F runners-up with Bayern Munich topping the group. Arsenal could now face the likes of Barcelona, Athletico Madrid or Real Madrid in the next round.
Last night we saw Man Utd fail to make it to the knockout stages, and Valencia will join them in the Europa League after lifelong Red Gary Neville failed to guide them through to the knockout stages in his first game in charge. The Spanish side lost two-nil at home to bottom club Lyon. FC Zenit and KAA Gent are the two teams that go through in Group H.
The draw for the second round will take place on Monday morning. Here are the sides that will be in the hat.
Real Madrid, Paris St Germain, Wolfsburg, PSV Eindhoven, Athletico Madrid, Benfica, Man City, Juventus, Barcelona, Roma, Bayern Munich, Arsenal, Chelsea, Dynamo Kyiv, FC Zenit and KAA Gent.
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