Football

Champions League round-up

Barcelona booked their ticket to the knockout stages (©GettyImages)
Barcelona booked their ticket to the knockout stages (©GettyImages).

Match-day four of the Champions League saw some of the biggest clubs in Europe go head-to-head, with teams looking to clinch a spot in the knockout stages, and others looking to top the group. 

Tuesday was headlined with Juventus hosting Real Madrid. While an inform Cristiano Ronaldo was able to steal the show with a goal and an assist, tying the record for most goals in the UCL group stage, Madrid were held to a 2-2 draw. Gareth Bale found the back of the net to put Real in front, however the joy was short lived as Fernando Llorente equalised for the Italians to put an end to a highly entertaining match-up.

Manchester United looked to regain their once dominant form as they visited a somewhat surprising Real Sociedad. Ryan Giggs took to the pitch for the 950th time in a United jersey as United had a chance to take the lead early on after Ashley Young made yet another tumble in the area, which saw Robin van Persie take to the spot. Justice seemed to prevail as Sociedad keeper Claudio Bravo kept the ball out of his net to keep the scores level at 0-0, and played a pivotal part to keep them that way until the final whistle. 

Manchester City kept their form as they thrashed CSKA Moscow to be the first team to clinch a spot in the knockout stages in match-day four. Aguero fired 2 for City and summer signing Alvaro Negredo netted a hat-trick to complete a 5-2 win for City. 

Other matches had Shakhtar Donetsk play to a 0-0 draw to Bayer Leverkusen, Kobenhavn surprised Galatasary as they took the mach 1-0. Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored a goal against a courageous Anderlecht who held PSG to a 1-1 draw at the Parc de Princes. Olympiacos scored the lone goal against Portuguese powerhouse Benfica to take the game 1-0. Manchester City thrashed CSKA Moscow 5-2 to book a spot in the knockout stages and current title holders Bayern Munich found the net once and kept a clean sheet to defeat Plzen 1-0.

Wednesday also saw big name teams in action, with a lot up for grabs. With multiple key matches, Borussia Dortmund vs. Arsenal seemed to be making headlines everywhere, and both teams lived up to expectations. Arsenal keeper Szczesny made a few crucial saves to keep the game tied up, until a cross of Mesut Ozil found it's way to the inform Aaron Ramsey, who head home the only goal of the night, to put Arsenal 1-0 up to take top spot in the Group of Death. This marked yet another win for the high-flying Gunners, who are coming off a spectacular 2-0 win to Liverpool, and look set to clinch another three points at Old Trafford against Manchester United.

Atletico Madrid had a chance to book their ticket to the knockout stages with a win against Austria Wien. Atletico smashed four goals past the helpless Wien net, all coming from different scorers. The thee points means Atletico remain unbeaten in the Champions League. 

Moving onto Group H where Barcelona played host to a struggling AC Milan. Mario Balotelli did not get to start at the Camp Nou, however did cause some damage after being substituted in shortly into the second half. Lionel Messi came into this match attempting to shrug off criticism that his best days were over after only netting one goal in October, and not scoring in three straight matches. He put an end to this in the 30th minute, after a controversial penalty was awarded after Neymar had been taken down in the box. Messi converted and Busquets put home a header after a free kick from Xavi just five minutes before half-time. Although an unlucky own goal from Pique saw the lead cut in half, Messi put home a spectacular goal to end the game after a brilliant one-two with substitute Cesc Fabregas. The win sees Barca guarantee a spot in the final 16 of the competition.

Other games that took place on Wednesday included Napoli winning 3-2 over Marseilles to fall to third behind Arsenal and Dortmund in Group G. The loss means Marseilles will not be in the Final 16, and will be officially eliminated after the two final games.

Chelsea looked to continue their fine form in the Champions League despite star man Fernando Torres being injured and unavailable for selection. However, Jose Mourinho's side slotted home three goals (two from Eto'o and one from Demba Ba) to defeat a helpless Schalke. 

Zenit's main man Hulk scored once and saw a penalty denied against his former club as Zenit drew Porto 1-1. Basel and Steau also concluded in a 1-1 draw after a very late equaliser from Sio snatched the win from the hands of Steau.

Finally, Schone scored the lone goal in a 1-0 win for Ajax over Celtic. However, man-of-the-match winner Fraser Forster had a tremendous game, and has much to look forward to in his future.

With the fourth week of UEFA Champions League concluded, the football world was graced with world class goals, top drawer saves and some of the most entertaining matches anyone would've expected. Ranging from historic rivalries to modern day classics, the UEFA Champions League matches are never short of anything but spectacular, and this match-day was no exception.

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Football
UEFA Champions League

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