European Competitions

Spanish teams all head their respective groups of the Champions League after day 3, and all four teams in the UEFA cup qualified for the next round. Real Madrid had a good win against close rivals Oporto and Barcelona and Valencia drew. Details were as follows:

Champions League

Group B: Barcelona 1 - Arsenal 1
Adisappointing night at the Camp Nou, with a Barcelona team who paid the price for deciding to sit on a one goal lead rather than play their natural attacking game. Van Gaal left Patrick Kluivert on the bench and played Dani up front after his hat-trick at the weekend. The Dutch striker's silky skills were sadly missed as Dani, a good worker but a bit of a plodder, struggled to get to grips with the experienced Arsenal defence. Barcelona started well, taking the lead on the quarter hour when Luis Enrique scored a goal that only he could have got, winning the ball off Vieira after Manniger had failed to hold on to Cocu's shot. Barcelona continued to push forward in the first half, but after the break they seemed to disappear completely, and Arsenal started to take control. Rivaldo was not his usual self, possibly because he was wearing new custom made Mizuno boots which at one time flew off as he was running forward. Davor Suker came on for Arsenal substituting a tired Bergkamp (he drove from London due to his fear of flying) together with Henry and Ljungberg, and the ex Madrid striker was whistled at each time he touched the ball. Guardiola in particular tried to convince the referee that Suker had caused him a serious injury, but the actor's union refused his appeals and advised him to take more acting lessons if he wanted to be more convincing. He was a few minutes later however, when Grimandi elbowed him in the face, and the Arsenal defender was sent off with a direct red card leaving his side with ten men. Barça did not have time to take advantage of their numerical superiority though, as Arsenal broke away almost immediately and equalised, Kanu following up after Hesp blocked Suker's shot from outside of the area. Arsenal closed up shop and the game ended with a point each. At times the match seemed like an Ajax reunion, with Overmars, Bergkamp and Kanu joining the De Boers, Litmanen et al in the Barcelona side, and Dutch national manager Frank Rijkaard was in the 95,000 crowd to check out the form of 10 of his players who were in the two squads. The two sides meet again in 3 weeks time in the reverse match at Wembley, a hallowed ground for Barça who won their one and only European cup in the stadium.

Group E: Real Madrid 3 - Oporto 1
Madrid recorded a good win against their closest rival in Group E to move to the top of the group. Geremi was still absent - he was due to come back from Cameroon after his mother's funeral when an uncle died (reminds me of a chap in our office who had three grandfathers). Toshack therefore brought in Iván Helguera to join Redondo in midfield, and the ex Espanyol defensive midfielder proved to be the star of the match. It was Helguera's clever pass to Raúl in the 22nd minute which set up the first goal, Raúl flicking the ball on to Morientes to score. Madrid's lead only lasted one minute however, as reserve keeper Bizarri, playing his first Champion's League game, dropped the ball at Jardel's feet. Helguera reestablished the lead ten minutes from half time with his first goal for his new club - McManaman's corner was headed on by Julio César to Morientes, who laid the ball off for him to shoot past ex Barcelona keeper Vitor Baia (curiously wearing 99 on his back). In the second half McManaman picked up an injury and was replaced by Clarence Seedorf, back himself after a one month injury when Iván Campo took him out in a training match. Many people never expected to see Seedorf play in a Real Madrid shirt again after his altercations with the manager and multi-million Dollar offers from outside of Spain, and his enforced lay off seems to have calmed everything down. In the 68th minute the referee awarded a dubious penalty to Real Madrid after Peixe was ruled to have fouled Roberto Carlos, and Hierro gleefully placed the ball past Baia to put the result beyond doubt. Real Madrid now have seven points, one more than Oporto who they play again in Portugal in three weeks time.

Group F: Bayern Munich 1 - Valencia 1
Valencia recorded another good away point, although they felt that the referee robbed them of a victory at the end of the match. Graziano Cesari blew the full time whistle just as Claudio López shot was going in to the net. Although Cesari claimed that his watch showed eight seconds over the three minutes injury time, the official UEFA report recorded a time of 2 minutes 56 seconds, which would mean that the goal would have counted. Cesari is now public enemy number one in Valencia, and reports in the local press that he wears shoulder pads and gets his sun tan from UV sessions do nothing to assuage the suffering of the fans. Valencia started off with a similar line up to previous matches, with Kily González recovering from flu to play, and Palop playing in goal in place of the injured Cañizares. The first goal of the match came early, Munich's Brazilian striker Elbar following up on a powerful shot from Salihamidzic which Palop couldn't hold. Both teams could have scored in the first half, with Tarnat hitting the post for Bayern. Cúper brought on Ilie for Juan Sánchez on the hour, and in the 80th minute Valencia equalised, Kily's cross being headed on by Claudio López before Gerard headed past Kahn. Despite the incident in the last minute the result was a good one for Valencia, and with the two home matches to come in the last three games they have a good chance of going through. They lead the group on 5 points, ahead of Bayern Munich on goal average.

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