The two Manchester clubs have been sensationally dumped out of the UEFA Champions League following the final round of matches this evening.
Three-time European champions Manchester United are out of this year’s tournament having suffered a 2-1 defeat away to Swiss champions FC Basle 1893. United only needed a point to progress but found themselves two goals down with ten minutes of the match remaining, with Basle’s Marco Streller and Alexander Frei getting the goals, before Phil Jones pulled one back to make it an anxious finish for the Swiss side. United finished third in Group C behind Basle and group winners Benfica SL, who finished their campaign with a 1-0 win over Romanian champions Otelul Galati, and must now contend themselves with a place in the UEFA Europa League early next year.
Manchester City, meanwhile, needed a win against FC Bayern München and hope that Spanish side Villarreal CF would do them a favour by taking points from Italians Napoli SSC. Despite getting the win they needed, a 2-0 victory thanks to David Silva and Yaya Toure, City had to be satisfied with a third place finish in Group A finishing one point behind the Italians and three behind Bayern after the Neapolitans won by the same score line away in Spain. For all the money spent, City are still a work in progress and will hope to have learnt some of the lessons by the time the UEFA Europa League comes round again. City went out of that competition last season at the hands of Ukrainian side Dynamo Kyiv.
Another chapter was written in Ukraine’s biggest club rivalry tonight as Dynamo Kyiv started off the 2011-12 campaign with a 3-1 victory over arch-rivals Shakhtar Donetsk in the Ukrainian Super Cup.
Shakhtar were the favourites going into the match having won the league and cup double last season. Dynamo, however, were not in the mood to let Shakhtar win the first piece of silverware in the new domestic season and started off well in Vorskla Stadion, Poltava, by taking the lead after just five minutes thanks to Oleg Gusev converting from the penalty spot.
Parity was restored just eight minutes later as Fernandinho, one of Shakhtar’s significant Brazilian contingent, equalized with a well-struck shot from inside the penalty area. But the game swung back Dynamo’s way just after the half-hour mark when Papa Diakhate regained the lead for the capital side having risen highest in the box to get his head on a Gusev free-kick.
The game would be sealed late in the game with Artem Malevskiy converting from close range following a wonderful breakaway move to give Dynamo a two goal lead they would never relinquish. It was some revenge for Dynamo who have had to take a back seat in the last couple of seasons as Shakhtar have enjoyed the status as Ukraine’s top club side after winning back-to-back championship titles. Some consolation can at least be had following their fifth win in Ukraine’s traditional season opening fixture which they also won in 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2009.
Both teams begin their Ukraine Premier League campaign this weekend with home fixtures. Champions Shakhtar face off against Obolon Kyiv, who finished in 10th place in the 2010-11 campaign whilst Dynamo Kyiv have a potential tricky fixture against Metalist Kharkiv, who are an established third force in Ukrainian football having finished in third place for the last five seasons.
Ukrainian champions Shakhtar Donetsk are beginning to run away with the Ukraine Premier League title as it enters its three month hibernation period for the winter. Mircea Lucescu’s men completed the year with a 4-0 win over Arsenal Kyiv and with eternal rivals Dynamo Kyiv already a distant twelve points behind the Miners it appears that the title already seems destined to end up in eastern Ukraine once again.
With nineteen matches played it is already past the halfway stage in the Ukrainian Premier League as each team plays thirty games to complete a league campaign. The only reverse that Shakhtar have suffered in the league so far is a shock 1-0 away defeat at Obolon Kyiv on Matchday 9 but that was as played in early September, at which point Shakhtar’s advantage over Dynamo Kyiv was a mere two points. Since then Shakhtar have been in great form, winning all ten of their league matches including a 2-0 home defeat of Dynamo Kyiv on Matchday 12 in early October. Dynamo have only picked up twenty of the available thirty points since September and that is the reason for the huge gap that now exists between the two clubs.
This Saturday saw Dynamo narrow the gap temporarily to nine points with a laboured 2-0 win over PFK Sevastopol, who lie second from bottom in the table. Roman Eremenko gave Dynamo the lead as early as the 10th minute but then the home side had to wait until midway through the second half to secure the game when Ognjen Vukojević doubled their lead. On Sunday Shakhtar made easier work of sixth place Arsenal Kyiv with all of the goals coming from South Americans. Brazilian Jadson gave the Miners the lead on 17th minutes from the penalty and Bolivian Marcelo Moreno doubled the lead eight minutes before half-time. After the break another pair of Brazilians got in on the act to complete the rout. Eduardo made it 3-0 just after the hour mark before Douglas Costa got the fourth from the penalty spot in the 79th minute.
For Dynamo the second half of the season could prove to be a useful rebuilding exercise ahead of the 2011-12 season as, barring miracles, it seems that nobody will be able to dig away at Shakhtar’s 12 point lead.
Following the sacking of Dynamo Kyiv coach Valeri Gazzaev last week the Ukrainian capital club faced a difficult task on Sunday in trying to recapture the league leadership from arch-rivals Shakhtar Donetsk. Both clubs have dominated Ukrainian football since the second championship of an independent football league in 1992-93 and this season looks like both teams will be the likely contenders for the title yet again. Therefore it was important for both teams to gain a psychological advantage for the current campaign with Shakhtar just two points ahead of record champions Dynamo before Sunday’s match kicked off in Donetsk.
The match was played in the impressive setting of the Donbass Arena in Donetsk which is a testament in itself to the amount of work put into building the club by chairman Rinat Akhmetov. Having beaten Dynamo Kyiv to last season’s league title and the UEFA Cup in 2008-09 the club located in eastern Ukraine have been a thorn in Dynamo’s side in recent years but it was the visitors who looked the most likely to score in the first half with the likes of Andriy Shevchenko and Oleh Husyev having good chances to score. However it was Shakhtar who ended the half stronger and, despite the 0-0 scoreline at half-time, continued to attack their more illustrious opponents in the second half.
The breakthrough came on 64 minutes when Brazilian Luiz Adriano turned the ball home from close range following a deflected effort from Yaroslav Rakytskyi. The game wasn’t settled until the second minute of stoppage time when another Brazilian, Alex Teixeira, coolly slotted the ball home to increase the home side’s advantage and gain another notch into their battle for domestic superiority with Dynamo. For Dynamo the defeat signalled that the balance of power has shifted eastwards once again and makes the timing of Gazzaev’s sacking all the more questionable. Not only do Shakhtar have the advantage over Dynamo in the table (the gap between the top two increased to five points in Shakhtar’s favour) the Donetsk club also have UEFA Champions League football this season whilst Dynamo must slum it in the UEFA Europa League after they were knocked out in the Champions League qualifying rounds to Ajax Amsterdam. Unless the momentum changes Shakhtar are in a great position to win a second consecutive championship and keep Dynamo where they want them.
WATCH SHAKHTAR v DYNAMO HIGHLIGHTS HERE:
Who’s the biggest club NEVER to win the Champions League (formerly European Champions Cup)? There are clubs who have a decorated history in the other UEFA club tournaments over the past fifty years but have, sadly for them, failed to lift the greatest prize of all. The UEFA Champions League resumes next week and “Stoppage Time” is conducting a poll with a difference. We have selected six clubs who, we think, could be considered the best of the failures. Do you agree with any of our choices? If so please place your vote otherwise there is a space to choose another team if you so desire:
ARSENAL FC (13x English League, 10x English Cup, 1x Fairs Cup, 1x Cup-Winners’ Cup)
It still irritates the fans of Arsenal that, for all their domestic success, their North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur have won more trophies at European level, winning three to Arsenal’s two. However Arsenal’s success since the formation of the Premier League in 1992-93 has led them to be regular contenders for the UEFA Champions League but, thus far, they’ve failed to deliver the big prize to their loyal fans. The club’s first European final was the 1970 Fairs Cup (now Europa League) where they beat Belgian side RSC Anderlecht 4-3 on aggregate. Ten years later Arsenal would lose their first European final on penalties as they failed to beat Spanish giants Valencia CF in the 1980 Cup-Winners’ Cup. The nineties saw the “Gunners” reach back-to-back Cup-Winners’ Cup finals winning one against Italian team AC Parma (1994) but losing the other to Real Zaragoza (1995), the Spanish team winning in the last minute of extra-time thanks to a former Spurs player’s goal from the halfway line. Two further European defeats in the 2000 UEFA Cup (now Europa League) final to Galatasaray (losing on penalties) and, most painfully, the 2006 Champions League final to FC Barcelona rubbed more salt into Arsenal’s European wounds.
DYNAMO KYIV (13x Ukraine League, 9x Ukraine Cup, 13x USSR League, 2x Cup-Winners’ Cup, 1x European Super Cup)
Dynamo Kyiv are an institution in Ukraine and were very much the flagship club during the heyday of the Soviet era. Dynamo were the most successful team before the USSR broke up in 1991 with 13 domestic championships and, since independence, have continued to dominate the new Ukrainian set-up having won their 13th title in the 2008-09 season. In Europe Dynamo enjoyed Cup-Winners’ Cup success in 1975 defeating Hungarian side Ferencvaros 3-0 (following this up with a win in the European Super Cup against FC Bayern Munich) and in 1986 winning their second CWC against Spanish giants Atletico de Madrid (also 3-0). In terms of the Champions League Dynamo have reached the semi-finals, most notably against FC Bayern in 1999, but sadly the final continues to elude them.
GALATASARAY (17x Turkish League, 14x Turkish Cup, 1 UEFA Cup, 1x European Super Cup)
“Gala” created history when they defeated Arsenal in the 2000 UEFA Cup final to become the first, and so far only, Turkish team to win a European trophy. This was followed up by a 1-0 European Super Cup victory against European champions Real Madrid to create a new chapter in the history of this massive Turkish club. The fans of Galatasaray always provides a hostile welcome to visiting teams, most famously their ‘Welcome to Hell’ episode against Manchester United in 1993-94, but even this doesn’t give Gala an advantage as they have yet to even reach a semi-final of Europe’s elite competition. Despite the regular domestic success and a massive fan base Gala’s record in the Champions League is not worthy of their place amongst Europe’s biggest clubs.
GLASGOW RANGERS (52x Scottish League, 33x Scottish Cup, 1x European Cup-Winners’ Cup)
Despite being the world’s most titled club (over 100 domestic trophies if you include the Scottish League Cup triumphs) the blue side of the “Old Firm” are forever in the shadow of their eternal rivals Glasgow Celtic when it comes to European success. Whilst the Hoops won the 1967 European Champions Cup with the famous Lisbon Lions side, Glasgow Rangers could only muster a solitary European Cup-Winners’ Cup triumph in 1972 when defeating Dinamo Moscow 3-2 in Barcelona. All the other finals that Rangers have participated in have ended in defeats: 1960-61 CWC final against Fiorentina, 1967 CWC final against FC Bayern and, most recently, the 2008 UEFA Cup final against Zenit St. Petersburg. The best that Rangers have done in the elite competition is the semi-final of the 1959-60 tournament where a heavy 12-4 aggregate defeat to German champions Eintracht Frankfurt denied them a ‘home’ final at Hampden Park against the mighty Real Madrid. In the first ever Champions League of 1992-93 Rangers reached the group stage, the winners of which would go on to contest the final, but just didn’t have enough luck as they narrowly failed to top the group losing out to eventual winners Olympique de Marseille.
SPORTING LISBON (18x Portuguese League, 15x Portuguese Cup, 1x European Cup-Winners’ Cup)
Sporting Clube do Portugal, to give their correct name, are very much the third force of Portuguese football having never won the European Champions Cup nor Champions League in contrast to their rivals SL Benfica and FC Porto who have each been European champions on two occasions. Sporting’s only European success came in 1964 after they defeated Hungarian side MTK Budapest in the Cup Winners’ Cup final 1-0 after a replay. They had a great chance in 2005 to add to their honours as they reached the UEFA Cup final which was played at the club’s home stadium. However Russian side CSKA Moscow shocked the expectant ‘home’ support in the stadium by winning the game, therefore adding to Sporting’s European woes.
VALENCIA CF (6x Spanish League, 7x Spanish Cup, 2x Fairs Cup, 1x Cup-Winners’ Cup, 1x UEFA Cup, 2x European Super Cup)
Valencia’s record on the European stage is remarkable and would be truly complete if they could win the Champions League. Valencia’s run of success began when they won two consecutive Fairs Cups against FC Barcelona in 1962 and Dinamo Zagreb in the following year before losing their first final in 1964 against compatriots Real Zaragoza. Their next European success came via a penalty shoot-out against Arsenal FC in the 1980 Cup-Winners’ Cup final following that with a Super Cup win over Nottingham Forest. It would be another two decades before Valencia reached another European final but when they did it was in two consecutive Champions League finals where they lost convincingly to Real Madrid in 2000 and unluckily to FC Bayern on penalties in 2001. In 2004 Valencia won the UEFA Cup beating Olympique de Marseille 1-0 before going on to claim their second Super Cup later that year beating FC Porto 1-0.
In the second half of our look at the Champions League group stage “Stoppage Time” focuses on groups E-H:
GROUP E (OLYMPIQUE LYONNAIS, FIORENTINA, LIVERPOOL FC, DEBRECENI)
The biggest disappointment in this year’s competition, without any doubt, was five-time European champions Liverpool. After the opening group match against Hungarian champions Debreceni the Reds were caught short against group rivals Lyon and Fiorentina. Too many mistakes at crucial times proved Liverpool’s undoing and this was emphasized in the last minute of Matchday 6 where Alberto Gilardino was able to capitalize on a defensive error to give Fiorentina the three points needed to top the group. Lyon were impressive throughout especially in their games against Debreceni, against whom they scored eight goals without reply in two matches. Fiorentina finished top on fifteen points, two more than Lyon, whilst Liverpool have to be content with a Europa League place finishing on a dismal seven points in a group they were widely expected to qualify from. Debreceni’s maiden Champions League finished, as expected, in last place but no doubt their team would’ve enjoyed the experience.
GROUP F (FC BARCELONA, INTERNAZIONALE, RUBIN KAZAN, DYNAMO KYIV)
This was the most open group in the Champions League. All four teams harboured hopes of qualification to the Round of 16 prior to Matchday 6. In the end the big boys, FC Barcelona and Internazionale, managed to qualify but they were made to work hard for their place. Jose Mourinho’s Inter had the upper hand in their final game at home against Russian champions Rubin Kazan thanks to goals from Samuel Eto’o and Mario Balotelli whilst European champions FC Barcelona had to come from behind to beat Dynamo Kyiv in Ukraine 2-1. Goals from Xavi and Lionel Messi were sufficient for the Catalans to finish top of the group, two points clear of Inter. Rubin Kazan’s first season in the Champions League provided much drama, the 2-1 win against Barcelona in the Camp Nou was one of the highlights of the tournament so far. However they just didn’t have enough killer instinct to put the group to bed but at least they can be content with a Europa League place. For Andriy Shevchenko and his Dynamo side it’s another disappointing exit from a European campaign but they should be back next year barring a dismal second half to the domestic season in Ukraine.
GROUP G (SEVILLA CF, VfB STUTTGART, UNIREA URZICENI, GLASGOW RANGERS)
Sevilla were the clear winners of the group remaining undefeated through the campaign. Their 4-1 win over Rangers at Ibrox Park on Matchday 2 was their most convincing of the tournament thus far. The chase for second became a Matchday 6 “cup final” between VfB Stuttgart (who fired coach Markus Babbel and replaced him with Christian Gross in the weekend prior to the game) and Unirea Urziceni (coached by Chelsea legend Dan Petrescu). The German side started like a train and were 3-0 up inside eleven minutes. Despite Unirea pulling a goal back early in the second half the Germans managed to preserve their lead and the three points allowed them to overtake the Romanians into second place. Unirea go into the Europa League whilst Glasgow Rangers must swallow their pride and be hopeful that they can be back next season.
GROUP H (ARSENAL, OLYMPIAKOS, STANDARD LIEGE, AZ ALKMAAR)
Arsenal were comfortably the best team in the group and had already qualified for the Round of 16 when they went to Greece to play Olympiakos on Matchday 6. They played a young team with an average age of 21 but Arsene Wenger’s men couldn’t maintain their unbeaten record in Athens going down 1-0. Zico’s Olympiakos finished second thanks to some good results earlier in the tournament against Standard Liege and AZ Alkmaar. The third and fourth placed teams came up with some drama of their own on Matchday 6 in Belgium. Dutch champions AZ took the lead in the first half through Jeremain Lens and they held on to their advantage until five minutes into stoppage time. A free-kick was whipped in at pace and among the crowd of players in the penalty box was Standard’s goalkeeper Sinan Bolat who headed home to gain the ‘Liegeois’ a precious point and a place in the Europa League.