Teams from the English Premier League have been dominant thus far in the 2009 UEFA Champions League, and this week was no different.
Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, and Liverpool all advanced to the quarterfinals this week, many times at the expense of Italian squads.
Arsenal vs. Roma – Arsenal advances on a shoot out
With both teams winning on their home pitch, and neither side able to score an away goal, tensions were high at Roma’s Stadio Olimpico last night. With Roma’s Juan tallying early in the game (only 9 minutes into the first half), Roma needed one more goal and some solid defense to earn a trip to the quaterfinals. Despite numerous chances, Arsenal’s goalkeeper Eduardo da Silva and the Gunner defense kept Roma at bay and forced a shoot out. After several saves made by both goal keepers, Arsenal’s Diabi fired home a PK past Mirko Vučinić. Max Tonetto stepped up to the spot for Roma and could not convert, leading to an Arsenal celebration on Roma’s turf.
Manchester United vs. Inter Milan – ManU advances (2-0 agg.)
After playing to a 0-0 draw in Italy last week, ManU and Inter met up at Old Trafford for the 2nd leg of the elimination round. Despite an early goal by center back Nemanja Vidić, who put a header past Júlio César off of a corner kick from Ryan Giggs, the Red Devils work was not yet over. If Inter were to tie the game, the Italians would advance because of the away goal stipulation. And despite getting off to a slow start, Inter certainly had their chances later in the game, including a Zlatan Ibrahimović header that bounced off the cross bar following a set play. In the end, ManU just had too much experience and too much class. Cristiano Ronaldo had the second goal off of a Wayne Rooney cross; the midfielder-striker duo continues to build on-pitch rapport. The Red Devils remain unbeaten in 21 consecutive Champions League matches, which is a UEFA record.
Liverpool vs. Real Madrid – Liverpool Pounds Madrid (5-0 agg.)
Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres led a potent Liverpool attack past a Real Madrid side that looked shell shocked in the 2nd leg after giving up an away goal to Liverpool in the first leg. Liverpool’s fluid and fast movement exposed several Real defensive weaknesses. Liverpool is playing top-notch soccer right now, and may be the favorite at this point in time to take home the European title.
Chelsea vs. Juventus – Drogba’s Heroics Push Chelsea To The Quarterfinals (3-2 agg.)
Juventus, the third Italian Serie A team to fall to an EPL foe in the first elimination round, thought they had it all wrapped up after Alessandro Del Piero’s free-kick forced a hand ball in the box. Del Piero was afforded the opportunity to finish what he started, as he nonchalantly rolled a shot past Chelsea’s Petr Čech, who guessed wrong on the penalty. The PK goal put Juventus up 2-1, which drew the aggregate score even at 2. In the 83rd minute, however, Chelsea striker Didier Drogba scored off of a centering pass from Juliano Belletti, a substitution that manager Guus Hiddink certainly did not regret.
Other teams to advance: FC Porto (Portugal), FC Barcelona (Spain), Bayern München (Germany), and Villareal (Spain).
The draw for the quarterfinals will occur a week from Friday at UEFA headquarters. And with four of the eight teams representing the English Premier League, British soccer clubs have once again re-established their dominance in international competition.