Champions League Images: Real'ity' bites
AC Milan pulled off a smash-and-grab 3-2 win over Real Madrid on Wednesday, spoiling what should have been a dream night for Raul as the Champions League's two most successful teams traded novice mistakes.
While nine-times winners Real were pressing the self-destruct button at the Bernabeu after Raul had equalled Gerd Mueller's European goalscoring record, the rest of the tournament heavyweights were restoring normal service.
Tuesday's matches had featured a string of last-gasp goals and shock results and there was more of the same in Madrid, where an AC Milan side struggling in eighth place in Serie A handed Real an embarrassing defeat.
Real's Santiago Bernabeu stadium is hosting this season's final and after the club spent 250 million euros on players before the current campaign coach Manuel Pellegrini is under huge pressure to secure a golden ticket for the Madrid party.
Real, missing the most expensive of those recruits in Cristiano Ronaldo, looked set for their third win when Raul pounced on Dida's mistake to make it 1-0 and equal Mueller's record of 66 goals in the main European club competitions.
The game turned when Andrea Pirlo embarrassed Iker Casillas at his near post in the 62nd minute, and the Real keeper, normally among the most reliable of performers, gifted Brazilian striker Alexandre Pato Milan's second four minutes later.
Royston Drenthe equalised for Real but with two minutes remaining Pato arrived at the back post to volley the winner for seven-times winners Milan.
Milan and Real have six points apiece in Group C.
Image: AC Milan's Pato celebrates his goal as Real Madrid's goalkeeper Casillas reacts during their Champions League match
'It is not easy away from home'
Manchester United patiently wore down CSKA Moscow and a late strike by winger Antonio Valencia secured a 1-0 win in Champions League Group B on Wednesday.
United returned to Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium for the first time since their victory over Chelsea in the 2008 Champions League final and Valencia's shot from a tight angle four minutes from time secured their third successive win in the competition.
The English champions top the group with nine points and are firmly on course to reach the knockout stages as they bid for a third consecutive appearance in the Champions League final.
"It is not easy away from home," United manager Alex Ferguson told reporters. "We showed maturity and good patience. That's the key for me."
Ferguson said the pitch surface had not been a significant factor in the match.
"As I expected, the artificial turf was not a problem for us," he said. "We adapted quickly to it. I said before the game that if you're a good footballer you concentrate on the ball."
Despite missing several key players including Ryan Giggs and Wayne Rooney through injury, United dominated possession in an entertaining first half which lacked clearcut chances.
Midfielder Paul Scholes tested CSKA keeper Igor Akinfeyev with a long-range effort and United captain Gary Neville's shot sailed just over the bar.
The Russians, without injured Brazilian striker Guilherme and Chile winger Mark Gonzalez, were initially content to soak up the pressure but came alive in the second half.
Alan Dzagoyev put the ball in the net shortly after the interval but his effort was ruled out for offside.
At the other end, Nani's diving header was brilliantly stopped by Akinfeyev on the hour and Valencia hit the crossbar as the home team tired.
But the Ecuadorean made no mistake with his next opportunity, latching on to striker Dimitar Berbatov's header and driving a crisp low shot into the far corner.
CSKA have three points from three matches and their coach Juande Ramos said they were still confident of reaching the knockout stages.
"Obviously, Manchester are the big favourites in our group but the other three teams are pretty even," Ramos said. "I think we can fight with (Wolfsburg and Besiktas) for the other remaining spot."
Image: Manchester United's Antonio Valencia and Michael Owen celebrate after scoring a goal against CSKA Moscow
'It's not an insult to be behind Drogba and Anelka'
Salomon Kalou scored twice on Wednesday as Chelsea took a huge step towards the Champions League knockout round with a 4-0 thrashing of Atletico Madrid at Stamford Bridge.
With striker Didier Drogba sitting out the final game of his three-match UEFA ban, his Ivory Coast team mate Kalou grabbed his chance to impress with goals either side of halftime to put his side in charge.
Kalou's strikes deflated the struggling Spanish side before Frank Lampard's shot and a stoppage time own goal by Luis Perea completed a third victory from three matches for Chelsea in Group D.
Carlo Ancelotti's side, who went down at Aston Villa on Saturday to lose the lead in the Premier League, have nine points to second-placed Porto's six. Atletico are bottom with one point and face the prospect of elimination.
Kalou, who recently signed a new contract, plays third fiddle behind Drogba and Nicolas Anelka at Stamford Bridge but underlined his importance to the squad with an all-action performance that could have netted him a hat-trick.
"Drogba is still Drogba," Kalou told reporters. "It's not an insult to be behind him and Anelka because they are two of the best strikers in the world right now. But I'm pleased to get on the pitch and take my opportunity and do my best.
"We have proved that even without our main striker we have the character to win without him. But he will be back next time and that is very important for Chelsea even though its hard to accept if you are not playing."
Image: Salomom Kalou of Chelsea celebrates scoring during their Champions League soccer match against Atletico Madrid
'We saw a good Bordeaux this evening'
Girondins Bordeaux came from behind to win 2-1 at home to Bayern Munich, who were reduced to nine men after young striker Thomas Mueller -- a man who surely dreams of matching the feats of his namesake Gerd -- and Daniel Van Buyten were sent off.
The Group A clash was a thriller which saw the French side missing two penalties.
Victory saw the French side go sole top of the group, two points clear of Juventus.
The Bordeaux reverse angered Bayern's authoritarian Dutch coach Louis van Gaal.
"The defeat has really angered me," said the Dutchman, who won the trophy with Ajax in 1995.
"After the early goal we made too many poor passes. We were better in the second-half with 10 men than we were in the first-half with 11."
Bordeaux coach Laurent Blanc rued the two missed penalties but was still happy with the three points.
"I thought beforehand we were going to play a big match, and we did. I'm very satisfied with my players, they showed their hunger in their mentality and in their attack.
"We saw a good Bordeaux this evening, the players gave everything and they respected what we said during the week - don't forget the basics."
Image: Girondins Bordeaux's team celebrates after Michael Ciani scored against Maccabi Haifa
'What we wanted at all costs today was three points'
Juventus ended a run of five games without a win when Giorgio Chiellini's header sealed a 1-0 victory over Maccabi Haifa in Champions League Group A on Wednesday.
The Italy centre back nodded in Diego's free kick from close range just after the break to give the hosts five points from their opening three games.
Maccabi, bottom of the group on no points, had substitute Tiago Dutra sent off midway through the second half after a studs-up tackle on Chiellini.
The Israeli champions strangely had their best spell after the dismissal with Vladimer Dvalishvili among those to test keeper Gianluigi Buffon but Juve, who have struggled in Serie A for the last month, just hung on.
"What we wanted at all costs today was three points. Winning is the only thing that counts, whether we did it effectively is for others to judge," Buffon told Sky television.
"We conceded a few corners when they were a man down and there was a bit of tension."
Maccabi striker Dvalishvili had also missed a good early chance in the pouring Turin rain when his diving header was expertly palmed away by a full-stretch Buffon.
Juve then increased the tempo but failed to create many clearcut opportunities. Rather than employ his usual two-man attack, Juve coach Ciro Ferrara opted for David Trezeguet as a lone striker in order to make playmaker Diego move closer to the opposition goal.
The change in tactics only worked in patches with Trezeguet flicking a decent chance wide in one good attack.
The French forward was also tugged back by Maccabi centre half Jorge Teixeira but the referee ruled contact was just outside the box amid Juve protests.
Mauro Camoranesi hit the post late on for the home side, whose Brazilian midfielder Felipe Melo was in tears when forced off with an ankle injury.
Image: Juventus Georgio Chiellini celebrates at the end of the match against Maccabi Haifa
We can do better, says Didier Deschamps
Argentina defender Gabriel Heinze sidefooted a second-half winner to give Olympique Marseille a 1-0 win at FC Zurich and their first points in Champions League Group C on Wednesday.
The former Manchester United and Real Madrid player met compatriot Luis Gonzalez's cross with a first-time shot following a quickly-taken throw-in after being left unmarked in the penalty area in the 69th minute.
The win pulled the French team level on three points from three games with the Swiss champions, who rarely looked like producing a repeat of their stunning 1-0 win at AC Milan last month as they slumped to their second home defeat in the group.
Real Madrid and AC Milan are firm favourites to progress from the group.
"I didn't see a great match," said Marseille coach Didier Deschamps.
"We started very passively until the last few minutes of the first half, there was a lot of physical play and impact and Zurich didn't have any chances.
"We can do better."
His Zurich counterpart Bernard Challandes said his team were too inexperienced.
"Maybe we're too young for the Champions League," he said. "We were too naive at Heinze's goal."
The visitors had Laurent Bonnart sent off in stoppage time for a second bookable offence.
Marseille, who lost their previous six away games in European competition, had the ball in the net in the third minute when Brandao headed home a rebound after Johnny Leoni failed to hold Benoit Cheyrou's free kick.
But the Brazilian was ruled to be offside.
Zurich midfielder Milan Gajic nearly found the target with a low, 25-metre effort but it was their only serious goal attempt in a half where Marseille goalkeeper Steve Mandanda was a spectator.
Leoni produced the first half's high point when he denied Brandao with a stunning point-blank save. Gonzalez also threatened with a 25-metre shot and then tested Leoni with a header.
Mandanda finally saw some action immediately after Heinze's goal when he tipped Gajic's vicious 35-metre free kick onto the crossbar after the ball flew through a crowd of legs.
Image: FC Zurich's Johann Vonlanthen kicks the ball next to Olympique Marseille's Gabriel Heinze
'Our position in the table is fair and our wins were fair'
Burly Brazilian forward Hulk scored twice to help Porto come back from a goal down and beat APOEL Nicosia 2-1 in a Champions League Group D match on Wednesday.
The win leaves Porto second in the group with six points, three adrift of leaders Chelsea but five clear of a struggling Atletico Madrid and APOEL.
"Our position in the table is fair and our wins were fair. Logic may lead us to believe that passing to the next stage is very close... but from experience we know that the final two or three Champions League group match days sometimes produce illogical results," Porto coach Jesualdo Ferreira said.
Porto lacked creativity in the absence of playmaker Fernando Belluschi but Hulk and Falcao compensated with several long-distance shots.
Just as Porto were starting to create flowing moves, APOEL stunned them by scoring with their first attack on 22 minutes. Helio Pinto crossed from the left and, trying to prevent Constantinos Charalambides reaching the ball, Alvaro Pereira deflected the ball into his own net.
"We needed a strong, serene and intelligent Porto to beat this opponent but things got complicated with their goal," Ferreira added.
The Portuguese champions took 11 minutes to react and equalised when irrepressible Colombian striker Falcao stole the ball on the edge of the Cypriot box and passed to Hulk who scored with a well-placed left-footed drive on 33 minutes.
In the first minute of the second half, Elias handled the ball in the box and Hulk converted from the spot to give the hosts a deserved lead.
"I have no complaints about my players but I think we could have played better. We did make some mistakes and at this level mistakes are costly", APOEL coach Ivan Jovanovic told reporters.
With APOEL failing to pile on any pressure, Porto pressed ahead as they searched for a third goal.
Hulk strode forward in the 52nd minute and squared perfectly for Falcao but the striker sent an easy tap-in wide.
Three minutes later, Falcao and Hulk combined again, with the Brazilian forward's thunderous shot blocked by Dionisios Chiotis.
Porto went down to 10 men when Mariano Gonzalez was sent off for lashing out at Marinos Satsias in the 74th minute but could not be denied the three points.
Image: Porto's Hulk celebrates his second goal against Apoel Nicosia
'We did not score when we could have'
VfL Wolfsburg missed a series of chances and hit the woodwork before having to settle for a 0-0 draw with Besiktas in Champions League Group B on Wednesday.
The result left the Germans second in the group on four points, behind Manchester United on nine following the English champions' 1-0 win over CSKA Moscow. Besiktas are bottom with just one point.
Wolfsburg dominated the game until striker Grafite was sent off for hitting an opponent late in the second half as the Turks settled back waiting for a chance to break.
"We did not score when we could have. I think we were unlucky as well," said Wolfsburg coach Armin Veh. "Our crosses were a bit too long. We seemed to play well up until the box. We wanted those three points."
The hosts came close after 10 minutes when striker Edin Dzeko, left completely unmarked in the box, connected with a deep Zvjezdan Misimovic cross but his header narrowly sailed over the bar.
Besiktas, who had lost all their previous matches against Bundesliga teams, quickly responded with a chance of their own but Ibrahim Kas's volley was blocked by keeper Diego Benaglio.
With the Turkish side built around a compact defence waiting to launch quick breaks mainly with Nihat Kahveci, Misimovic continued to feed fellow Bosnian Dzeko with crosses from out wide.
The German champions laid siege to the Turkish goal early in the second half, with Christian Gentner firing just over the bar five minutes after the restart. Dzeko hit the near post three minutes later with a low drive from the left.
The Germans were reduced to 10 men in the 74th minute when Brazilian forward Grafite, struggling for position in the box, struck Kas in the face with the back of his hand.
"We still have the keys for the next round in our hands. We are still in the running," said Wolfsburg defender Sascha Riether.
Image: VfL Wolfsburg's Grafite receives red card from referee Rosseti during Champions League soccer match against Besiktas