Sep 16, 2009

Champions League Round 1, Day 2: Arsenal come from way back to win at Liege

Down two goals after just four minutes, Arsenal mounted a furious comeback at Standard Liege to capture an improbable 3-2 victory on the second day of Champions League group stage openers Wednesday. Eduardo cost Gunners the first goal with a miserable clearance off a corner, but made good for his mistake by scoring the winner nine minutes from time. The Belgian side doubled their lead off a penalty just four minutes in. Nicklas Bendtner got Arsenal on the scoreboard shortly before halftime and Thomas Vermaelen (ironically a Belgian) equalized on 78 minutes. Standard complained (not without merit) of offside on the equalizer but this being soccer and not tennis or (American) football they did not have any means with which to challenge the call.

The win is significant for Arsene Wenger's club, which had previously suffered consecutive defeats in the Premiership and dropped to 14th in our Top 25 rankings (after starting the season fourth, a decision we'd admittedly like back). But Gunners obviously have a long way to go. Standard Liege are not a top tier club by any means. If Arsenal are going to have any pretensions at any silverware this season (to say nothing of a top 10 spot in our rankings) they'll need to start putting away clubs like that by wider margins.

The marquee match of the round, between Inter Milan and FC Barcelona, ended scoreless. This lends a little credence to our decision to keep the Spanish champs second in our Top 25 (but not much. The game was played in Milan, after all).

In the second-most intriguing match of the day, Olympique Lyon got a late goal from Miralem Pjanic to defeat Fiorentina at the Stade Gerland. Both clubs had been hot coming into the game (and both in our Top 20; Lyon 15th and Fiorentina 18th). Lyon appear on a mission to recapture some of the glory they lost last season, but with Girondins Bordeaux they'll have some stellar competition for the Ligue Un crown.

We said Glasgow Rangers (23rd in our rankings) faced a good test at Stuttgart. Consider having passed the test. Rangers played well in the second half to secure a 1-1 draw. The group is by far the weakest of the eight, with just Sevilla presenting a challenge. We'll find out just how much of a challenge next week when they visit Ibrox Park.

The only upset of the day (if it can even be called that) took place in Greece where Olympiakos defeated Dutch champions AZ Alkmaar. We had the Dutch side ranked 17th. Expect that to change.

Elsewhere, No. 7 Liverpool beat Debreceni by the narrowest of margins, No. 11 Sevilla had no problems with Romanian side Unirea Urziceni (who were 21st but will now in all likelihood drop out of the top 25) and No. 20 Dynamo Kiev rallied from a 1-0 halftime deficit to put away No. 22 Ruben Kazan by 3-1.

Photo supplied by Wikipedia.

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