Messi sends Barca through; Chelsea in deep trouble
Messi sends Barca through; Chelsea in deep trouble
Valencia and last season’s runners-up Bayern Munich advanced from Group F with a 1-1 draw in the Mestalla while free-scoring Shakhtar Donetsk beat Nordsjaelland 5-2 with a controversial Luiz Adriano hat-trick smoothing their progress from Group E.
The Brazilian seemed unaware that his team mate Willian was playing the ball back to the Danish side’s keeper following an injury and pounced to score his first goal sparking jeers and whistles from the crowd and angering the incredulous home side.
Messi’s brace for Barca took his tally in Europe’s flagship club competition to 56, equal second on the all-time scorers’ list with Dutchman Ruud van Nistelrooy, as the Catalans guaranteed top spot in Group G.
Juventus are favorites to join Shakhtar in the last 16 after a 3-0 defeat of Chelsea to move second in Group E.
A draw for the Italians in Ukraine in a fortnight would mean Chelsea having the dubious distinction of becoming the first defending champions to exit at the group stage.
Fabio Quagliarella gave Juventus a 38th minute lead with a deflected shot and Arturo Vidal’s second half effort was also diverted past Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech on the hour.
Sebastian Giovinco rounded off a dazzling performance from Juventus with a breakaway third in stoppage time.
“We said before the game that we have our destiny in our hands, not any more,” Chelsea keeper Petr Cech said.
“Now we need to do our bit, we need to win our last game and hope our fate is kind. Being realistic Juventus played very well and they need just a point and Shakhtar are already through.
“It’s a very sad moment.”
Chelsea coach Roberto Di Matteo left striker Fernando Torres out of the starting lineup but his plan backfired, leaving further question marks about his future after his side’s slump in form over recent weeks.
“In a big club like this if you have a few bad results you’re always going to be under pressure, I knew that from day one,” the Italian told Sky Sports.
Shakhtar trailed twice against Nordsjaelland and although their victory was ultimately comfortable it was also thick with controversy as their first goal left the home side fuming.
Willian had sportingly played the ball back to Nordsjaelland’s goalkeeper after a break in play to treat Morten Nordstrand but Adriano, seemingly unaware of his team mate’s sense of fair play, nipped in to equalize.
“Their attacker didn’t get it,” Nordsjaelland captain Nicolai Stokholm told reporters.
“I looked down at my armband, and there’s something about respect — it has to be said we didn’t see much of that.”
After their shock defeat at Celtic, Barcelona rediscovered their verve with a comfortable victory as Spartak’s artificial surface proved perfect for their passing game.
Messi scored his 79th and 80th goals of 2012 in the first half and is closing in on Gerd Mueller’s calendar year record of 85 set in 1975. Dani Alves had opened the scoring for Barca.
“We couldn’t allow what happened at Celtic to happen again,” Messi told Spanish TV.
While Barca have an unassailable 12 points, the runners-up spot is in the balance after Benfica beat Celtic 2-1, meaning they both have seven points with one game left.
Scottish champions Celtic were 20 minutes away from the score draw that would have put them through along with the Spaniards before Argentine Ezequiel Garay struck the winner on a night of torrential rain in Lisbon.
Celtic host Spartak in their final group game knowing they will have to better Benfica’s result against Barcelona.
Valencia were already certain of a last 16 place before they even kicked off against Bayern Munich after BATE Borisov’s 2-0 loss to Lille in an earlier kickoff.
Thomas Mueller’s late equalizer for Bayern then spared the German club a nervy final night in the group stage as a draw was enough to put them out of reach of BATE.
Valencia played two thirds of the match with 10 men after Antonio Barragan was sent off for a wild tackle on David Alaba in the 33rd minute.
“If you play with an extra man for an hour and have to be content with a 1-1 draw it’s not satisfactory,” Bayern chief Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said on the club’s website (www.fcbayern.telekom.de).
“We have to put our foot on the gas again.”
Galatasaray kept alive their chances of reaching the knockout phase with a 1-0 victory over already-qualified Manchester United.
They are vying with CFR Cluj for the runners-up spot in Group H after the Romanians beat Braga 3-1 with a first-half hat-trick from Rui Pedro doing the damage.
‘Good, but not good enough’: Juan Antonio Pizzi on Saudi Arabia’s defeat to Uruguay
- A Luis Suaréz goal midway through the first half gave Uruguay a 1-0 win
- Pizzi had spoken passionately about the need for his side to demonstrate a higher level of focus and performance
ROSTOV-ON-DON: Good, but not good enough.
That was what Juan Antonio Pizzi stated as he declared himself pleased with his team’s performance in the 1-0 defeat to Uruguay on Wednesday night.
But he lamented his side’s lack of firepower as they exited the World Cup after just two matches.
Pizzi had spoken passionately about the need for his side to demonstrate a higher level of focus and performance in Rostov-on-Don after losing their opening game 5-0 to hosts Russia in Moscow last week.
The Argentine got his wish with a display that saw the Green Falcons fight throughout and edge possession against a Uruguay side ranked 14th in the world.
A Luis Suaréz goal midway through the first half after poor goalkeeping from Mohammed Al-Owais, however, was enough to hand the Green Falcons a 12th successive World Cup defeat.
The result means that even with a win against Egypt on Monday, the Green Falcons are no longer capable of progressing to the knock-out stages from Group A.
“We had a lot of ball possession and were able to impose our style of play and distribution,” said Pizzi. “We conceded a goal from a random play and didn’t have the weapons or tools to try to equalize. We kept the ball well and weren’t really troubled defensively, but lacked that ability to score.”
Indeed, for all their possession, Saudi Arabia have managed just three shots on target in 180 minutes of football. Against Russia, they failed to muster a single effort on target and the managed just three against Uruguay, two of which came in the final minutes when they knew they had to score or face elimination. None of the three shots came from a striker.
“This is our weakness. We have good ball possession, but no effectiveness. We lack the depth and skill required to win these games,” Pizzi added. “We have that deficiency and have looked for solutions, but we haven’t quite come up with one yet. But that is one of the reasons great forward are in high demand and are the elite players in world football.”
Pizzi had made four changes ahead of the match, dropping goalkeeper Abdullah Al-Mayouf in favor of Al-Owais and introducing Ali Al-Bulayhi at the heart of the defense alongside Osama Hawsawi. Further upfield, Hattan Bahberi came in for Yahya Al-Shehri and Fahad Al-Muwallad replaced Mohammed Al-Sahlawi. The changes, particularly the inclusion of Bahberi, seemed to give the side more impetus in midfield.
“The difference between the performance in the first game and this game is enormous,” Pizzi said. “The only way to compete at this level is to play at the level we did here. And even then it was not enough even to get a draw. Undoubtedly there were other factors aside from the pressure of playing in the opening game that made a difference, but it’s true that the difference was enormous.”
Many critics had predicted a deluge of goals from the likes of Suarez and Cavani, yet both were kept at bay. Save for a couple of half-chances early on, neither came close to scoring until the 23rd minute.
A corner from Carlos Sanchez sailed into the area and when Al-Owais came for it but failed to connect with his punch, Barcelona forward Suaréz was left with the simplest of tap-ins. He was so caught off-guard, he actually looked surprised as he reeled away in celebration.
“I believe you cannot be relaxed in any match,” Suarez said when asked by a Uruguayan journalist whether he had taken it easy against the Saudis.
“We wanted to win and to progress to the knock-out stage and this game simply showed how difficult it is. That’s the World Cup for you though and we are obviously delighted with how we have performed so far to progress.”
Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez did not share his striker’s sentiments.
“Saudi Arabia wanted to excel and give a better account of themselves after losing to Russia,” he said.
“They did that very well and we have to respect them. But what surprised me the most is how we played. We underperformed.”