Heartbreak for the hoops. Shamrock Rovers put on a fine display at the Toumbas Stadium against Greek side PAOK in Group A of the Europa Cup. Many feel the Irish champions deserved a point from the tie. Sadly it was not to be. Costin Lazar’s spectacular 25-yard strike put the Greeks ahead early on before Karl Sheppard headed the equaliser just after half time. Then, on 63 minutes, Blackburn target Vieirinha scored what turned out to be PAOK’s winner. Rovers were second best on the night. But Rovers weren’t humiliated by any stretch of the imagination. PAOK are certainly beatable back in Dublin 24.
Also in Group A, Tottenham beat Rubin Kazan by 1-0 courtesy of a Roman Pavlyuchenko goal. Spurs lead the group with PAOK and Kazan following. Rovers are still last – but the Tallaght club won’t be giving up just yet. Elsewhere, in Group H, Birmingham City travelled to the Jan Breydek Stadium to take on Club Brugge. The blues’ 19-year old striker Chris Wood’s goal – after 10 minutes of stoppage time – earned City’s win to put them joined-top with the Belgians. Stoke City are still unbeaten in Group E and their 3-0 win against Maccabi Tel Aviv sits them comfortably in first place of the group. Things aren’t looking up for Neil Lennon though. Celtic have yet to win a game in Group I. A 1-1 draw against Rennes puts the Glasweigans disappointingly in last position.
In the Champions League, Manchester City and rivals Manchester United (who both face each other this Sunday) recorded their first Champions League wins. City‘s win against Villareal was a major confidence boost as Sergio Aguero’s 93rd minute winner sent the blue half of Manchester into ecstacy as it was also the club’s first ever win in the Champions League. Two Wayne Rooney penalties earned the Red Devils their first three points against Oțelul Galați in Bucharest.
In Group E, Chelsea earned their three points with their five goals against Belgian side Genk at Stamford Bridge. £50 million signing Fernando Torres got his name on the score-sheet twice. Not that Chelsea were particularly good as much as Genk were, on the night, pretty bad. Arsenal travelled to France to take on Marseille – and were blessed to go back to London with anything. But they did. Aaron Ramsey’s 92nd minute winner was the result of Arsenal’s persistence. Arsene Wenger can be pleased. He got, in the end, the points he needed to put the Gunners top of Group F.
Elsehwere, Real Madrid‘s 4-0 thrashing against Lyon at the Bernebeu puts the Spanish side top of their group – five whole points ahead of 2nd place Ajax who won their fixture 2-0 away to Dinamo Zagreb. Madrid’s bitter rivals Barcelona played 90 minutes of sheer wonderful football at the Camp Nou against Czech side Viktoria Plzeň. The Barça faithful in the 98,500 arena applauded and cheers the pure possesion, skill and showboating from Iniesta, Xavi and, of course, you-know-who. But it was their two goals that got the biggest cheer on the night. I’m sure Pep Guardiola will feel that Barça should have scored another two or three easily.
The next Champions League nights are 1st & 2nd November, while the next Europa night is on the 3rd – when Rovers will host the Greek side that broke their hearts tonight.