Giants of Europe pepper-sprayed in Champions League

Giants of Europe pepper-sprayed in Champions League

Giants of Europe pepper-sprayed in Champions League

They were battered and bruised, dejected and humiliated, boiled and barbequed. Real Madrid, AC Milan, Arsenal and Man City. When was the last time you had a roll call of the fallen reading like this? On a night the giants of European football thought they could get routine wins, they ended up catapulted and capitulated. Their fans breathed disbelief, many are still singing the song ‘Speechless’.

The Citizens knew their task ahead. It wasn’t going to be an easy one, but Ajax Amsterdam represented their only realistic chance of progression into the knockout phase of the Europe’s elite club competition. And they had taken the lead, courtesy of Sami Nasri. Maybe they got excited, maybe they got nervous, but the manner in which their defense was to open up like a bottle of cold water in a searing desert, only highlights the wobbly nature that has been their season.

Roberto Mancini has himself to blame for changing the system from a 4-4-2 to a 3-5-2, one that enabled the hosts to ran rampage. But let’s give credit to two legends of the game, Dutchmen Frank de Boer and his right hand man, Dennis Bergkamp. Courtesy of their script, the Sky Blues are facing the grim reality of an early flight out of continental matters.

For Ajax to come from behind and thump the City Slickers 3-1 is, by no means, an easy feat. Goals from Siem de Jong, Niklas Moisander and sensation Christian Eriksen condemned the nouveau riche side to an emphatic defeat. The Citizens had been mauled, their tactics ripped apart, their objectives passed through the shredder.

 With Borussia Dortmund beating Real Madrid in Germany, we can safely bet on this; City will not progress, and if they can’t beat Ajax at Etihad in two weeks’ time, it’s domestic matters for them. So much for the money spent on building a multi-million pound squad.

 Over to the Emirates, and what a sight that was. Arsenal flatter to deceive, and when they are found out, it’s a painful experience to their fans. They begin the season well, only for fault lines to occur as the campaign progresses. Fresh from a Norwich defeat over the weekend, the Gunners faithful knew Professor Arsene Wenger’s team could recharge and produce a master class against visiting Schalke 04.

 It wasn’t to be. This is the first time since they moved to the Emirates for the North Londoners to suffer a defeat by a non-English side in 46 attempts. Even Barcelona, Real Madrid and AC Milan have visited and left without a victory. To lose 2-0 at home is a sucker punch for any watching fan. But Schalke produced a masterful display. Wonder no more why the Gunners was booed off the pitch.

Arsenal’s defense was woeful, with Andre Santos the chief suspect. Le Prof’s men were brutally exposed by the likes of Jefferson Farfan, Ibrahim Afellay and Jan-Klass Huntelaar. Even in attack, they were below par. Santi Carzola was rendered ineffective, while Gervinho couldn’t lead the line well.  Fourteen minutes to the end, Huntelaar struck first. 10 minutes later, Afellay finished the job. That was simply excruciating to the unbelieving fans. Some left even before the fulltime whistle.

The thriller was at Signal-Iduna Park, where the German champions Borussia Dortmund were taking on La Liga holders Real Madrid. BVB are becoming a serious force to reckon with. After all, didn’t they go to the Etihad and make mockery out of Man City? In Los Blancos they had a more formidable opponent, but they were not awed, emerging 2-1 victors and now topping the group with seven points, one ahead of Jose Mourinho’s men.

 Even with Cristiano Ronaldo in the team, the Black Yellows were very efficient. And they took advantage of some defensive blunders to make the top of Group D their abode. Robert Lewandowski struck the opener, taking advantage of a Pepe error to fire in past Iker Casillas, only for Cristiano Ronaldo to score with a sublime chip two minutes later.

Jurgen  Klopp’s men were deservedly the better team of the two, and clinched their winner when Marcel Schmelzer took advantage of San Iker’s weak clearance and sent in a low shot. These two teams certainly look like storming into the knockout phase, and that makes the Santiago Bernabeu clash, in two weeks’ time, a mouthwatering affair. Who will go top?

What about AC Milan? What about them? They are being owned by most teams they are facing lately, and they may actually find themselves playing Thursday Night football. Malaga handed the Rossoneri a 1-0 defeat that sent the Spanish side top of Group C with maximum 9 points. Remember the Milan giants have only four points, one ahead of Zenit St. Petersburg. Certainly, no one can be jealous of the position Masimiliano Allegri finds himself in. No one can envy his state of mind.

Stranger things continue to happen and last night was a shocker, even to the neutrals. That’s what makes us have a love affair with football. Its unpredictability can give any prophetic octopus a run for its money.

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