UEFA Cup thoughts:

Starting with the one I actually got to watch first:

Manchester City 1-1 Groclin Dyskoblia: Wow. Just...wow. Just at halftime, City should have been 3-0 or 4-0 up. Anelka took his early chance very well, but after that, it was a cavalcade of missed chances. It's somewhat of a shame, too, because their midfield play was absolutely superb in the first 45. Claudio Reyna was going well especially, but he took a knock around 32' or so, and had to come off. Once the second half rolled around, I think that killed City...Captain America is probably their most creative midfield player, and they certainly missed him in the second half. Also, Sylvain Distin played an absolute blinder, a performance that might make France's manager think once or twice. However, after that, City were never really in the game...the Poles composed themselves during the break, and came out organized and determined...even putting together some probing attacks early on. The midpoint of the second half was just dreadful...City couldn't get through the midfield, but neither could Groclin. David Seaman spent about 10 minutes as a virtual spectator...you or me could have been in City's net with no real trouble. However, they got one good attack, and got a dangerous free kick. I saw the placement of the wall, and saw that Sebastien Mila (their best player by a long, long, LONG way) was hovering over it...and I said "Fuck me, this is gonna go in!" Sure enough, Mila sent an absolute beauty curling over the despairing dive of Seaman, and they got not only their equalizer, but a HUGE away goal on top of it. City then resorted to the tactic of bombing long balls into the area, which, as whoever was doing color for FSW pointed out (I know Max Bretos called the game, dunno who the color man was), was never going to work with Anelka and The Shell of Robbie Fowler trying to get on the end of them. Fowler, for his part, had muffed at least 2 or 3 chances that he would have put away in his Liverpool heyday...I don't know what happened to him, but he's nowhere NEAR that player anymore. Anyway, the 1950s gameplan worked a little better once Fowler was taken off for Paulo Wanchope (who should be starting for them anyway...he's a big reason Costa Rica's been so good the last few years). They got a dangerous free kick, and I also thought this one was going in...Distin was taking it, and it was VERY close, right in the center of the field. His kick screamed past the wall, but Mariusz Liberda (yes, I looked his name up on Soccernet...sue me) got a kick on it, despite starting to dive the wrong way. Really, it was one of the most magnificent saves I've seen all season (rivals the big one Kiely came up with on Monday), and that was that. Now, City have to go into Poland and have to at least get a 1-1 draw. Frankly, I don't see it happening. This Polish side look very capable of frustrating the Light Blues for about half an hour, then coming up with something on the counterattack. City are in dire straits, friends. It's too bad, really...I usually cheer on the other English (and Scottish) sides in Europe, unless they're Man U or something.

Other major results:

AS Roma 1-0 Hajduk Split: This has to be counted as a bad, bad result for the Romans. Those Eastern European clubs can be especially tough at home, so it always helps to have a 2 or 3-goal cushion at least before heading out there. Actually, Soccernet says that Roma only got their goal in injury time in the second half...Hajduk were *this* close to escaping with a 0-0 draw before Antonio Cassano got one...looking at the lineups, Roma REALLY gambled by playing a reserve side (in a major European competition...pretty ballsy). With the margin being so thin, I betcha they don't rest Pelizzoli or Chivu or Dacourt in the return leg.

Gaziantepspor 3-0 Lens: I don't know what it is with these nobody Turkish sides this year, but they're getting some big results in the UEFA this time around...then again, I heard that Lens is in something like 14th place in Ligue 1 this year, so maybe this isn't as much a surprise as everyone says it is.

Schalke '04 2-1 Brondby: Didn't expect Brondby to get an away goal, but there you go...it certainly isn't out of the realm of possibility that Brondby steals it in the return leg. I always wondered where former Celtic midfielder Morten Weighorst ended up...he had suffered a quite debilatating disease a few years back, so it's good to see him still playing meaningful matches. Meanwhile, Schalke left Hatim Altintrop on the bench, which perhaps wasn't the brightest move in the world.

Bordeaux 0-1 Hearts: Now, this just may be the shocker of the entire tournament (other than the game I'm getting to next). I don't have much respect for Scottish sides not named Celtic or Another Glasgow Team...mainly because they have a singular habit of not being able to seriously threaten the Old Firm, let alone Europe. However, this is a fantastic win for the Edinburgh side, Mark de Vries getting the winner in the 78th. Luckily for fans of the French outfit, Bordeaux are more than capable of going into Tynecastle and winning by 2 or 3 goals...they're certainly not out of this one yet.

Feyenoord Rotterdam 0-2 FK Teplice: THIS is the only match that could top the previous one for the "holy shit!" factor. Holders 2 years ago, now they're losing to some anonymous Eastern European side in the second round. DAMN. Despite being third fiddle in the Eredivisie (not the strongest of leagues, mind you), Feyenoord still has no shortage of talent available to them...so, for them to capitulate at home to these guys? Unbelievable. Scanning the lineups, the only guy on Teplice that rings a bell from my zillion hours spent playing Championship Manager is Tomas Postulka, the friggin' backup keeper. However, all they have to do is not get beat too badly at home, and they slay the giants. Good for them, I say.

Genclerberligi 1-1 Sporting: After doing so well to knock off the sick wildebeest known as Blackburn Rovers (FIRE SOUNESS NOW for your own good, kids), Genclerberligi perhaps as met their match in the Portugese outfit...hard to see the Turks overcoming the away goal in the second leg. By the way, what IS it with Portugese keepers and ridiculous squad numbers? Vitor Baia wears 99 for the Diving Cheating Unsportsmanlike Cunts (sorry...FC Porto), and Sporting have some guy (Ricardo, but there's like 3,928,710,183,028 players with that name, so I dunno if it was the guy from Man United) who wears 76. This ain't hockey, guys...get a real number, will you please?

Panionios 0-3 Barcelona: After making heavy weather of the away leg against Matador Puchov in the 1st round, Barca obviously had no intentions of having to repeat the 8-0 drubbing they gave Puchov in the Nou Camp. Luis Garcia, Kluivert (Arsenal's next partner for Henry?) and Xavi netted for the Catalans, in an impressive performance (Greek sides are HARD to play on the road...their fans are animals). Also, they can probably do what Roma did in this round, and feel much safer about it.

Steaua Bucuresti 1-1 Liverpool: I don't have much love for the Scousers by any stretch of the imagination, but to go into a place like Bucharest and get a draw (and an away goal) when you're not playing very well is an admirable accomplishment. Djimi Traore got the lead on 23', and they held on until 69'. Still, a draw with the away goal is all they need, because the Romanians don't have much of a realistic chance to do much at Anfield.

FC Basle 2-3 Newcastle United: Good for the Geordies! As a Celtic fan, I know firsthand what happens to sides who underestimate the Swiss (Hakan Yakin especially being one hell of a player)...Basle found the net as early as the 11th, but Newcastle came right back in the 14th through Laurent Robert (saw the highlights of this game...Robert's goal was VERY well-taken). They lost their focus a bit, though, and Aussie international Scott Chipperfield bundled past Shay Given to give the hosts the lead again. But, Newcastle kept at it, and 8 minutes before the break, Titus Bramble equalized. Finally, Shola Ameobi struck well in the 75th to give the visitors the win and 3 away goals. You'd have to say the Magpies are sitting pretty heading into the return tie.

Borussia Dortmund 2-2 Sochaux: This is a shocker, but not REALLY to anyone who's seen Sochaux play this season. They're a good side, they've got some dangerous attacking players, and they don't seem to ever give up. They're a well-coached outfit, which you have to be to get an away draw against one of the Bundesliga's giants. Santos opened the scoring for the vistors early, and the player I REALLY like on Sochaux, Pierre-Alain Frau, doubled the lead in the 27th. Frau is a guy who has an amazing talent for getting the garbage goal...the "fox in the box" that Arsenal thought they were getting in Francis Jeffers (when the packaging really should have said: "Hyperactive oft-injured twit, more than a bit shit, ridiculous jug ears included."). Dortmund ended up clawing their way back into it, but I have to say I like the French side's chances heading into the other leg.


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