British clubs shine in Champions League

Scottish giants Rangers led the way with a 3-0 victory over six-time French champions Lyon on a superb night for British clubs in the latest Champions League action on Tuesday.

English powerhouses Arsenal and Manchester United both won 1-0—Arsenal away at Steaua Bucharest and United with Wayne Rooney’s first goal of the season at home to Roma—to add to Rangers’ first away win in their last 10 Champions League matches.

Rooney was not the only striker to end a goal drought as flamboyant Swedish international striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored twice in Inter Milan’s 2-0 home win over PSV Eindhoven for his first goals in the Champions League in nearly two years.

While both Arsenal and United lead their groups after two matches, Rangers are second, behind Barcelona on goal difference, the Catalan mammoths having beaten VfB Stuttgart 2-0 in Germany.

Barca’s fellow Spaniards Sevilla got on the winning track—the two-time Uefa Cup titleholders having lost to Arsenal in their opener—in fine style beating Slavia Prague 4-2 with former Spurs striker Fredi Kanoute opening the scoring for them.

If Rangers thought they had a dreadful away record then they had nothing on Sporting Lisbon, who ended their record of not winning any previous away matches in their Champions League history by winning 2-1 against Dynamo Kiev.

Rangers, though, were magnificent as they tore apart a Lyon side and heaped the pressure on coach Alain Perrin, who boasts a record of just one win in eight Champions League matches.

The Scottish side’s performance left manager Walter Smith rather surprised but delighted as well.

“It was a fantastic result, no one could have expected that,” said Smith, who left the Scotland coaching post for a second spell with Rangers.

“We were hoping to sneak a result.

“But those two goals early in the second half killed the match off. We’ve had some fantastic results in the past but this must be up there with them.

“It was a very good performance from us.”

Perrin, who has done better at lesser clubs than when in charge of bigger ones, was honest about the feelings in the changing room.

“We are all dreadfully disappointed, we will have to assess this very quickly. Tonight [Tuesday] was a nightmare.”

Arsenal showed character to defeat the Romanian side, displaying a side not often shown by them in that their football was more workmanlike than pretty to watch.
leaving manager Arsene Wenger purring with delight.

“But it’s not just that we are winning the games, it also says a lot about the resolve of the team. The focus they had shows there is something special in the team.”

United also showed grit in a match they were perhaps fortunate to come away with the three points and manager Sir Alex Ferguson was confident that the goals would start flowing despite six of United’s seven wins this season coming by a 1-0 margin.

“Sometimes you go through these spells. But it won’t last forever. Some day we’re going to hit a few goals and hopefully it will start soon,” said the Scot.

Roma coach Luciano Spalletti bemoaned his side’s bad luck—although in reality it was dreadful finishing that cost them. Simone Perrotta and Mauro Esposito in particular missing absolute sitters in the closing stages.

“When a team puts on that kind of display, really at the end of the match they should not be on the beaten side, even against opponents of the stature of Manchester United,” Spalletti complained.

“If anyone deserved to score more goals today [Tuesday] it was us rather than Manchester.”

The sometimes highly strung Ibrahimovic was on his best behaviour—not that that could be said of two of his teammates who were sent-off—and earned plaudits from both coaches, though, Inter handler Roberto Mancini contented himself by saying everyone was very happy for him.

Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard was certainly not in the same frame of mind as Mancini and was far from satisfied with the performance.

“I was not impressed with the first half,” he said.

“We started well, but we were thoughtless with our chances. Those are problems which we must address, because you can’t afford to waste them in a competition like this.”

On that basis Ferguson will be content to keep on winning 1-0 and Wenger that winning ugly is better than playing pretty and ending up with nothing.—AFP

Pirate Irwin

Pirate Irwin

Pirate Irwin is a journalist with Agence France Presse , who has been based in Paris for 16 years having initially arrived for just a six month summer stay. Born in Ireland in 1965 and educated at Eton and Institute for Foreign Students in Tours after missing out on University by a large margin. His first name is a gift from his grandfather inspired by Radio Caroline but not appreciated by a Roman Catholic priest at christening.  Read more from Pirate Irwin

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