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All Roads Lead to Rome as Champions League Gets Underway
By Steve MacClare
September 22, 2008



All roads lead to Rome ... 

     The journey to Rome and that prestigious Champions’ League final began in earnest this week with a variety of outcomes for the likely favorites. Last year’s penalty shoot-out winners Manchester United failed to score against Villareal at Old Trafford and had to settle for a draw. In a weak group however, both sides should progress comfortably. Chelsea who were so unlucky to lose that final in Moscow won convincingly over a disappointing Bordeaux side but it was in their group that one of the most noteworthy results transpired. Roma who finished second in Serie A and would have home advantage in this year’s final astonishingly went down 1-2 at home to unknown Romanians CFR Cluj-Napoca who were playing third tier Romanian football seven years ago. Although they fell behind in 17 minutes when Christian Panucci headed in a cross from Daniele De Rossi, two goals from Argentine midfielder Juan Emanuel Culio shocked the Italians.

     The other favorites fared better with Barcelona, Inter Milan, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Juventus all getting off to winning starts. Arsenal needed a late William Gallas equalizer in Kiev to deprive Dinamo of all three points but Portuguese Champions FC Porto beat Turks Fenerbahce 3-1 in Oporto.

     There were mixed fortunes for German sides. As mentioned Bayern were victorious, a 14th minute van Buyten goal earning them a valuable away win. Werder Bremen picked up four bookings but no goals in failing to beat Anorthosis Famagusta at home and now face a difficult trip to Inter Milan. With Panathanaikos making up the group though, Werder must still be in with a good chance of progressing.

     In Group C, Shakhtar Donetsk beat FC Basle and join Barcelona on three points. Perennial EPL no hopers but Champions League challengers Liverpool recorded an excellent 2-1 win in Marseille. Two first half Steve Gerrard goals, one a penalty, canceled out an opener by Lorik Cana. Atletico Madrid thrashed PSV Eindhoven 3-0 in the other group game.

     Group F still looks interesting and competitive. While Bayern were easing Steaua aside, Fiorentina and French Champions Olympique Lyon were drawing an exciting game 2-2 in Lyon. Two Alberto Gilardino goals gave Fiorentina a 0-2 half time lead, but second half goals from Frédéric Piquionne and Karim Benzema earned Lyon a draw and a valuable point.

     The next round of matches take place on September 30 and October 1. Potential highlights are Arsenal v FC Porto, Bayern Munich v Lyon, Atletico Madrid v Marseille, Inter Milan v Werder Bremen, and Shakhtar Donetsk v Barcelona

Seattle Sounders Make Play-offs

     The Seattle Sounders rounded off their last regular season in the USL with a 1-1 draw against Atlanta and then lost 2-3 to local derby rivals Vancouver Whitecaps. The Atlanta draw secured their play-off place where they will face Montreal Impact. Vancouver play Minnesota Thunder and both matches are two leg affairs. Portland Timbers failed to make the play-offs and will finish last unless Miami lose their final game. 

     Seattle Sounders will face Montreal at home on Friday 26 at Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila and the Whitecaps will almost certainly have their home leg on Sunday 28 at Swangard Stadium in Burnaby.

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