Sunday, November 06, 2005 

Inter and Lazio in stalemate (0-0)

Inter missed out on the chance to move into the top three on Saturday as they were held 0-0 away to Lazio. Inter striker Obafemi Martins should have had a penalty when he was tugged down by Sanchez Cribari, while Goran Pandev had the ball in the net for Lazio, only to see his effort disallowed.

The result means Inter stay fourth with 20 points from 11 matches, seven points behind Juve, who host Livorno on Sunday. AC Milan are second on 25 points with Fiorentina (22) third.

Having picked up just one point in their previous two matches, Inter desperately needed a win at Rome's Olympic Stadium to keep up the pressure on the leaders.

Lazio, however, are unbeaten at home this season and created by far the better chances in the opening half hour with Inter keeper Julio Cesar tipping Cesar's shot over the bar before midfielder Valon Behrami fired into the side-netting.

Inter played with more aggression after the break, though.

In the 63rd minute Luis Figo conjured up a defence-splitting pass to send Obafemi Martins through one-on-one with Lazio keeper Marco Ballotta but the Nigeria forward hesitated and lost possession before eventually getting a shot in.

Martins missed out again two minutes later when he lost his balance and fell at the end of a surging run into the area.

Inter pressed with increasing urgency but Lazio coach Delio Rossi pulled his team back to defend and they held out.



United end Chelsea run (1-0)

Darren Fletcher scored the only goal as Man United ended Chelsea's 40-game unbeaten Premiership run with a 1-0 triumph on Sunday. United withstood a second-half barrage from the league leaders, with keeper Edwin van der Sar sublime, to end a torrid week on a high.

It was just the sort of performance watching United captain Roy Keane will have been hoping to provoke with his inflammatory interview with the club's own TV channel.

Several of the players targetted for Keane's criticism looked determined to prove him wrong, Fletcher scored while Rio Ferdinand and John O'Shea kept Didier Drogba and Damian Duff quiet.

But it was another man in the firing line, Alan Smith who drove United to the win with a lung-bursting display of controlled aggression and determination that Keane - the man he is tipped to replace - would have been proud of.

And rather than feeling bitter towards his captain, Smith paid a tribute to the Irishman, who had been left fuming after last weekend's 4-1 humiliation at Middlesbrough.

"Sometimes you need a kick up the backside to remind you you're at a big club," said Smith. "We accept criticism when it comes. Everyone knows where that came from. A club like Manchester United should not be getting beat like that."

In truth, there was very little in the game, an assessment echoed by Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho himself, with both sides creating and then spurning chances.

Fletcher was caught sleeping just a quarter of an hour in as Asier del Horno raced in behind him to connect with a lunging volley which flew just wide, before Paul Scholes' crisp first-time drive flew inches wide of the target just two minutes later.

But United were determined to scale the heights that saw them end Arsenal's record Premiership run last season with Fletcher proving to be an unlikely match-winner.

Cristiano Ronaldo - who gave his international team-mate Paolo Ferreira a nightmare of an evening - twisted his way past the Chelsea right-back to lift a ball to the far post where Fletcher connected with a looping header that even the leaping John Terry could not keep out.

Chelsea appeared on the Old Trafford pitch a couple of minutes ahead of their opponents with a determined air that was transposed into a smothering second-half performance encamped in the United half.

But chances still came United's way, with Ruud van Nistelrooy wastefully shooting over from inside the box, before Chelsea carved out their first clear-cut opportunity only for Damian Duff to comically miss his kick completely.

Inevitably as Chelsea pressed, United retreated, and almost succumbed twenty minutes from time as Duff's ball picked out Drogba in the box - his shot had the sting taken out of it by Ferdinand, but ran into the path of the late-arriving Frank Lampard, who saw his close-range effort brilliantly parried by Van der Sar.

Del Horno again found United wanting as his burst into the box went unchecked only for the left-back to betray his defensive preferences by volleying over the bar from inside the six-yard box.

But the wind seemed to be sucked from Chelsea's sails as - despite the introduction of Eidur Gudjohnsen, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Carlton Cole - they failed to make the breakthrough which at one time had seemed inevitable.

And Wayne Rooney could have added a second as Terry and William Gallas both went for the same high ball presenting Rooney with the chance to pick his spot only for the England youngster to strike Terry with his measured effort.

"When you play the champions, it's always a big game," said United boss Sir Alex Ferguson. "It was a fantastic spectacle. For an hour we were fantastic, then up until the last five minutes, we were under the cosh, as they went for everything. That's what champions do."

After tasting only his second defeat while in charge of Chelsea, José Mourinho was in philosophical mood.

"We are disappointed, but losing after playing badly is one thing, losing after playing well is another," he said. "In the second half no-one could believe this was Old Trafford. The way Chelsea pressed them."

"Balls disappeared, players were diving to waste a few seconds. They did everything to win the game, so I give them credit."

And the outspoken Portuguese refused to draw parallels with his side and the way Arsenal crumbled after the 2-0 defeat at Old Trafford which ended their record-breaking unbeaten run last season.

"When Arsenal lost here, the other teams were quite close. At this moment in time, we are still in a comfortable position with no pressure on us," he said.

"This is the kind of match that everyone should realise we can lose. You come to a big club, with good players and they score before you. We could have scored. This is the sort of game where you are disappointed but proud."


Friday, November 04, 2005 

Hamburger SV 2 - 0 Viking FK (Uefa Cup)

Hamburger SV defeated Viking FK to make it two wins from two in UEFA Cup Group A.

Lauth decisive
The Bundesliga club built on their opening success at PFC CSKA Sofia at the AOL Arena tonight thanks to goals from Rafael van der Vaart and Benjamin Lauth. The Dutchman, who also scored the only goal in Bulgaria, struck first in the 21st minute, with forward Lauth wrapping up the points in the 66th.

Basso busy
Sergej Barbarez went close for the home side as early as the third minute when his close-range shot flew just wide. Van der Vaart's free-kick nine minutes later found Thimothée Atouba who saw his effort saved by Viking goalkeeper Anthony Basso before Daniel Van Buyten tried his luck, only to be denied again by Basso.

Opening goal
A goal seemed only a matter of time and Van der Vaart finally broke the deadlock after Piotr Trochowski found him well placed in the centre of the area, making no mistake as he powered the ball in from 12 metres. Viking's only real chance of the half came in the 39th minute when Allan Gaarde shot straight into the arms of Hamburg's Stefan Wächter.

Hamburg attack
Lauth threatened in the opening minute of the second half with a shot from 18 metres which was saved by Basso. The busy goalkeeper was in action again minutes later, saving from Barbarez after fine work from Van der Vaart. The Dutch youngster, Trochowski and substitute Alexander Laas all then peppered the Viking goal as the visitors struggled to make an attacking impression of their own.

Crucial second
The second goal arrived shortly after the hour when a cross by Mehdi Mahdavikia found Lauth neatly placed and he made no mistake with a header from the centre of the penalty area. Øyvind Svenning tried in vain for Viking in the 76th minute but was denied by Wächter as Hamburg sealed the three points.

HSV: Wächter - Mahdavikia, Boulahrouz, van Buyten, Atouba - Trochowski, Wicky (41.Laas), van der Vaart, Beinlich (75.Takyi) - Lauth, Barbarez (75.Kucukovic)

Viking Stavanger: Basso - Dahl, Hangeland, Svenning, Hansen - Gaarde (71.Tengesdal), Kopteff, Grande (67.Mambo Mumba), Nygaard - Östenstad, Nhelko (75.Ase Lunde)

Goals: 1:0 van der Vaart (21.) , 2:0 Lauth (65.)



Crvena Zvezda 1 - 2 Basel (Uefa Cup)

Julio Rossi rifled in a last-gasp winner as FC Basel 1893 claimed a fine comeback victory against FK Crvena Zvezda in Belgrade to earn their first points in UEFA Cup Group E.

Purović breakthrough
Rossi ran on to a pin-point pass from Matías Delgado with just two minutes remaining as Basel vanquished memories of their 2-0 defeat by RC Strasbourg on Matchday 1. It completed a well-earned turnaround after Milan Purović had given the home side the lead midway through the first half. Basel soon drew level when Delgado converted a penalty on the half-hour mark, paving the way for a thrilling win.

Empty stadium
The Belgrade side can usually bank on an impressive atmosphere at home, but after violent incidents marred their qualifying tie against NK Inter Zaprešic, UEFA decreed that the 1991 European Champion Clubs' Cup winners should start their Group E campaign in an empty stadium.

Early dominance
The absence of their fans did not appear to affect the home team, however, with Marko Perović, Nikola Žigić and Boško Janković all testing Basel goalkeeper Pascal Zuberbühler early on. At the other end, the visitors had a sole Scott Chipperfield free-kick to show for their attacking endeavour, and Crvena Zvezda took a deserved lead on 25 minutes when Purović converted with a sweet shot after being teed up by Žigić.

Delgado penalty
Purović's joy was short-lived, however, as five minutes later he conceded a penalty after handling the ball, and Delgado kept his cool to convert from the spot. So dominant before the equaliser, Crvena Zvezda eased off thereafter, with much of the game played in the middle third, but either side could have edged to victory in an exciting finish.

Basel determination
Basel striker Eduardo sent a shot just wide with 20 minutes remaining, before Radovan Krivokapić's effort sailed just over the crossbar for the home side, but it was the Swiss side which looked the most likely winners. David Degen and substitute Mladen Petrić both went close and Basel's persistence eventually paid dividends when Rossi earned a last-gasp victory.



VfB Stuttgart 0 - 2 Shakhtar Donetsk (Uefa Cup)

FC Shakhtar Donetsk made it two wins from two in Group G after recording an impressive 2-0 victory against Bundesliga outfit VfB Stuttgart at the Gottlieb-Daimler-Stadion.

Group leaders
Fernandinho and Ciprian Marica were both on target as the Ukrainian side added to their Matchday 1 victory against PAOK FC to open a three-point lead at the top of the section. Stuttgart remain on three points courtesy of their 2-0 win at Stade Rennais FC a fortnight ago, although they appeared in control early on against Shakhtar.

Early opening
Christian Tiffert's powerful long-range effort for the hosts was caught by Dmytro Shutkov after just 20 seconds as the home side started positively. Denmark striker Jon Dahl Tomasson produced the next shot on goal but his effort from outside the area went wide of the post.

Fernandinho strikes
Tiffert and Danijel Ljuboja both had attempts on goal as the German side established a firm foothold in the game but neither forced a save from Shutkov. The away team then took an unexpected lead on the half-hour, Fernandinho getting on the end of a Darijo Srna cross and placing his header past Stuttgart goalkeeper Dirk Heinen.

Attacking intent
Stuttgart coach Giovanni Trapattoni signalled his intent by bringing on striker Cacau at the interval for the more defence-minded Christian Gentner, although they struggled to fashion any meaningful opportunities. Danish winger Jesper Grønkjær was then brought on for Silvio Meissner, but the stubborn Ukrainian outfit held firm and went close themselves on the hour mark when Brandão had an effort saved.

Late second
Shutkov kept out a header from Marco Streller - a replacement for Tomasson - late on, before Shakhtar capped their performance with a second goal, when another substitute, Marica, struck with two minutes remaining after good work from Anatoliy Tymoschuk.



Slavia Praha 4 - 2 CSKA (Uefa Cup)

Slavia recorded a first win in the group stage of the UEFA Cup after defeating CSKA Sofia 4:2, the goals were scored by Pavel Fort (2), Stanislav Vlcek and Karel Pitak. The spectacular match ended with celebrations! More to come.

Attacking play a two early goals
Slavia missed only Patrik Gedeon and Adauto who are recovering from their injuries and midfielder Cesareo Victorino who is not available for this stage of the UEFA Cup. The spectacular evening started with Slavia attacking and early goal in the net of keeper Dejan Maksic. Stranislav Vlcek sent a low cross from the left wing and our forward Pavel Fort directed the ball with a one-touch shot to the counter movement of the keeper.

Emil Garagov equalises in 10th minute
The tenth minute brought an equaliser. After a reluctant touch of our defence Sakaliev prepared the back bass to Garagov whose low shot went to the net. But Slavia were not stunned by the response and capitalised on the mistakes of Bulgarian midfield which led to counter-attacks of Matej Krajcik and Stanislav Vlcek.

Slavia take the lead again
The one-touch passing attacks led to Slavia second goal. Karel Pitak prolonged the ball to Stanislav Vlcek and our in-form forwad sent it with the first touch to the net. Pitak then could have added the third, but his volley from the penalty box flew over the bar.

Two more goals within two minutes
The third and fourth goals were scored within a short time. Karel Pitak had a solo attack which he ended with a shot that was blocked by Maksic back to him and the rebound was easy. A minute later Stojko Sakaliev lit up the hope of the visitors with a precise header.

Pavel Fort seals the win
Dusan Svento ran through CSKA defence on one of his typical unstoppable runs in 75th minute and sent the ball to Pavel Fort, our forward made a dummy move and falling scored the decisive fourth goal. Few minutes later his header missed the left post which meant our forward missed hattrick he would have deserved for his performance.

Pavel Fort happy to help the team
"I am happy I could help my team to win with two goals, we all deserved it. The first goal was very nicely prepared by Stanislav Vlcek and it was a clear chance which should be taken. On the other hand I was lucky to have scored the second, I was falling and did not see the shot. Our win is important at this stage of the group," Pavel Fort, the man of the match, said.

Goals: 5. a 75. Fort, 36. Vlcek, 56. Pitak - 10. Gargorov, 57. Sakaljev.

Slavia: Kozacik - Krajcik, Latka, Suchy, Hubacek - Pitak, L. Jarolim (90. Kratochvil), Hrdlicka, Svento - Fort (87. Pesir), Vlcek (90. Svec).

CSKA: Maksic - Todorov, Zabavnik, Gueye, Tiago - Janev (71. Dah Zadi), Jakirovic, Gargorov, Jurukov (46. Ivanov) - V. Dimitrov (90. Matko), Sakaljev.



Fiorentina Renaissance

The Renaissance was a cultural revolution that swept through Europe in the 15th century, but the major changes first occurred in Florence: writers, painters, architects and philosophers all made the city a model of the movement. Now, in footballing terms at least, Florence is experiencing a new renaissance.

Dissolved in 2002 because of bankruptcy, AC Fiorentina, one of the most traditional clubs in Italy, were forced to restart with the name of Florentia Viola from Serie C2, the fourth division. The Viola, later renamed ACF Fiorentina, quickly returned to Serie A and, after avoiding relegation in the last match of last season, they are now third after ten games.

Main man Toni
Perhaps the main man behind Fiorentina's brilliant start is Luca Toni. The Italy striker, who joined Fiorentina from US Città di Palermo last summer, has scored 12 goals in ten games and the fans love him with the same passion as they loved former striker Gabriel Batistuta, the top scorer in Fiorentina's history with 152 goals. Batistuta, who coincidentally also scored 12 goals in the first ten games of the 1994/95 campaign, retired from football earlier this year but Fiorentina is still close to his heart.

'Very organised structure'
"Toni is a very good player and not only because he is beating some of my records," the former Argentina striker told Florence-based newspaper La Nazione. "He is in a fantastic period and Fiorentina can finally count on a great striker. But Toni is not the only important factor in Fiorentina's success, because there is a very organised structure behind the team this year."

Instant impact
Toni himself is surprised at the instant impact he has had at his new club. "Everything seems easy in this period," he said. "I score very often so I can afford to try even the most difficult things. I don't know how many goals I will score by the end of the season but it was very important to start well. I have to thank my team-mates, who always put me in the situation to score."

Fiore's assists
Most of the assists for Toni have so far been provided by Stefano Fiore, the former S.S. Lazio player who is experiencing his own renaissance after a difficult spell in Spain with Valencia CF. If Fiorentina fans are comparing Toni with Batistuta, they are likening Fiore to Rui Costa, another former idol from the pre-bankruptcy days.

"I'm proud of this comparison," the 30-year-old midfielder said. "But we have to stop thinking about the past and focus on the present. We are a strong side, the group is very united, everyone is making a great contribution and we can count on an extraordinary striker like Toni. We can achieve important results this season."

Right mix
But Fiorentina is not only Fiore and Toni. The club has the right mix of experience and promising youngsters such as former Atalanta BC talents Riccardo Montolivo and Giampalo Pazzini, as well as Bulgarian prodigy Valeri Bojinov.

Long-term project
Shoe magnate Diego Della Valle, who bought the club after bankruptcy, has built an important structure with a long-term project in mind, starting with Cesare Prandelli, one of the brightest and most promising coaches in the country. "We are all improving match after match and we have to thank our coach Prandelli for this," said Pazzini, an Italy Under-21 forward.

Best start
Under Prandelli Fiorentina have enjoyed their best start since three points were first awarded for a win in Italy. They have 22 points after ten games, one more than the team coached by Claudio Ranieri in 1994/95 and Giovanni Trapattoni's class of 1998/99. As director of sport Della Valle has appointed Pantaleo Corvino, who has a reputation as one of the best talent scouts in Italy after his spell at US Lecce. Corvino's experience will be vital to the long-term ambitions and development of the club.

'Feet on the ground'
"The first team is playing particularly well, but we have to keep our feet on the ground because there are other clubs who can afford to invest much more money than us in the transfer market," Corvino told "However we don't have to limit our objectives, we just need to continue on this path and see where we are at the end of the season."

'Appetite comes with eating'
Meanwhile Della Valle admitted he is ready to strengthen his team in January should Fiorentina still be competing with the top clubs in Serie A. "L'appetito vien mangiando is an Italian proverb which literally means appetite comes with eating," said Della Valle. "We will see if there are good opportunities during the transfer window. However, I'm very proud of what the current players are doing." The new renaissance in Florence may have only just begun.


Thursday, November 03, 2005 

Benfica 0 - 1 Villarreal

BENFICA: Rui Nereu, Nélson, Luisão, Anderson (83', Nuno Assis), Léo, Petit, Manuel Fernandes, Karagounis (70', Mantorras), Geovanni (70', João Pereira), Simão e Nuno Gomes.

VILLARREAL: Barbosa, Venta, Gonzalo, Alvarez, Arruabarrena, Josico, Marcos Senna (90', Peña), Sorín, Riquelme, José Mari (70', Guair) e Diego Forlán (51', Figueiroa).

Goal: 81', Marcos Senna


Wednesday, November 02, 2005 

PSV 1 - 0 AC Milan (CL - Derby United)

PSV Eindhoven defeated AC Milan in a home UEFA Champions League encounter for the second time this year. But unlike last season's ultimately futile semi-final victory, this 1-0 win gives them an excellent chance of progressing as Group E winners.

Teenage kicks
The result was definitely a triumph for youth over the Milan old guard, with the home side fielding two teenagers and the winner coming from 21-year old Jefferson Farfán. Indeed, the biggest surprise in PSV's starting lineup was the inclusion of midfielder Ismaïl Aisatti, Guus Hiddink staying true to his pre-match statement that he would not hesitate to hand the 17-year-old his full debut if the situation demanded it.

Stam dismissed
Experienced defender Michael Reiziger, fleetingly a Milan player, dropped to the bench as the coach fielded an attacking XI, while Alberto Gilardino partnered Christian Vieri in attack for the visitors. Former PSV favourite Jaap Stam started at right-back for the Rossoneri, but ended with a premature exit after collecting a second yellow card in the 84th minute.

Brisk start
The game started briskly with the first clear opening arriving as early as the first minute, Dida saving a Phillip Cocu header. Less than 60 seconds later, Vieri shot straight at Heurelho Gomes from the edge of the box following a mistake by Cocu. Both teams continued to play at a high tempo, pushing forward at every opportunity, and it was no surprise when PSV took the lead after eleven minutes. Kakha Kaladze only succeeded in heading a speculative clearance by Gomes into the path of Farfán, leaving the Peruvian international to stride into the area and smash a low drive in off Dida's near post.

Instinctive block
Milan playmaker Andrea Pirlo curled a free-kick narrowly over soon after, but it was only Dida's instinctive block after 20 minutes that prevented fellow Brazilian Alex doubling PSV's advantage with a powerful header. Last season's UEFA Champions League runners-up were determined to pull level, and came within centimetres of doing so as a powerful long-range effort from Clarence Seedorf whistled past Gomes's right-hand post just after the half-hour mark. The keeper was almost embarrassed after 37 minutes, recovering to knock the ball behind after almost punching Seedorf's corner into his net.

Succession of corners
As the half drew to an end, the visitors pushed deeper into PSV territory, forcing a succession of corners. Gomes had to get down smartly to parry a Vieri snap-shot, and the same player buzzed another effort just wide moments before the break. Milan coach Fabio Capello responded by adding width to his left flank by bringing on Serginho and Marek Jankulovski for Gennaro Gattuso and Kaladze, yet DaMarcus Beasley carved out the first real chance, evading two challenges and cutting in from the left before drilling in a low attempt that Dida turned behind.

PSV hold firm
A deflected Seedorf strike then almost sneaked in under the bar before Hiddink substituted midfielder Ibrahim Afellay for full-back Reiziger, a sign that his side were content to defend their lead. However, Cocu kept Dida busy with a stinging low shot seconds later, while Milan were finding it difficult to break PSV down aside from Paolo Maldini heading Pirlo's free-kick over.

Shevchenko chance
Ancelotti took a final gamble by introducing Andriy Shevchenko in the 74th minute, and within 60 seconds the fit-again Ukrainian unleashed a spectacular free-kick which produced a save of equal merit from Gomes. Milan's task got even more difficult when Stam, booked in the 45th minute, picked up another caution for hauling down Beasley. It said much for PSV's performance that Aisatti went closest to scoring late on, firing an effort from outside the area just over. Still, it was a debut to remember.


Tuesday, November 01, 2005 

Cruz control revives Inter

Two goals from second-half substitute Julio Cruz helped Inter to a 2-1 win over Porto at the San Siro on Tuesday after Hugo Almeida had put the visitors in the lead with a 16th minute free-kick.

Porto went in front after 16 minutes when Hugo Almeida - preferred to Benni McCarthy up front - lashed home a thirty yard free-kick.

Inter pressed and eventually got their rewards, Julio Cruz coming on for Adriano and converting a 72nd minute penalty before heading home a David Pizarro corner to seal the win for Roberto Mancini's side.

Inter Milan started the game top of Group H with six points but struggling domestically after picking up only one point in their last two games.

Porto - while bottom of their group - were at least in second place domestically and confident in the knowledge that their 2-0 win in the corresponding fixture in Portugal gave them a psychological edge before this match.

As expected Inter piled on the pressure early on, the first quarter of the hour seeing only one Porto attempt at an attack.

But Adriano and Martins looked rusty and in spite of Pierre Womé and Luis Figo huffing and puffing on the wings it was Porto who took the lead on 16 minutes, a long-range free-kick smashed into the top left-hand corner by Hugo Almeida as Julio Cesar somewhat bizarrely attempted to use his right hand for the diving save when surely the left would have been better.

Inter continued to press but to little avail, Adriano looking tired and uninspired and Porto able to play Inter on the break through the middle almost at will.

The time came for Roberto Mancini to earn his coin. Not having the best of times results or discipline-wise at home - receiving a two-match ban in Serie A after insulting a referee - Mancini saw the problems and brought on Julio Cruz for the ineffective Adriano, Estaban Cambiasso for the energetic but ultimately too-wide Pierre Womé, and Sinisa Mhajlovic as a set-piece option for Walter Samuel.

Inter came back into the game somewhat fortuitously, Pedro Emanuel trying to pull his leg away as David Pizarro cleverly went over on the edge of the box, Julio Cruz making no mistake to send the subsequent spot-kick low and hard into the bottom left on 72 minutes.

Then wonderful save from a typical Mihajlovic free-kick earned Porto a reprieve and Vitor Baia a sore knee, the Portugal international landing awkwardly on the post while diving to his right.

A series of corners came as a direct result of the save, the final delivery headed home powerfully by Julio Cruz again to give Inter a hard-earned lead.

The Italians continued to press, eager to keep the ball as far away from Julio Cesar's goal as possible, and held out for the win with the relief tangible on Mancini's face.

Inter now top Group H with nine points from four games after three consecutive wins, Porto in the fourth and final position.



Betis shock Chelsea

Real Betis ended Chelsea's unbeaten record in the Champions League this season with a 1-0 win in Seville on Tuesday. Substitute Dani scored the winner for Betis, sliding a ball past Petr Cech just moments after coming on for the injured Ricardo Oliveira.

The victory sees Betis move up to six points - just one behind second-placed Chelsea.

With all the talk of Chelsea requiring a win to virtually seal their passage into the knockout stages, it was the hosts that got out of the blocks the fastest, William Gallas sticking out a foot to prevent Joaquin putting Ricardo Oliveira clean through on goal.

In a fast and furious opening, Betis were forced to make two substitutions after just 20 minutes, with Oliveira forced out of the game and replaced by Dani.

And just three minutes later, the substitute found the net. Capi drilled in a cross from the left, Edu dummied, and Dani was left to prod the ball under the onrushing Cech.

And on the brink of half-time it was so nearly two. A speculative attempt from Edu swerved and could only be parried by Cech straight to Dani, who sent the follow-up wide.

Chelsea pressed for an equaliser, with Arjen Robben breaking through the Betis defence only to see his shot saved by Pedro Contreras, and Eidur Gudjohnsen was guilty of the biggest miss, blasting over with just the goalkeeper to beat when put clean through by a long ball from Joe Cole.

With Blues boss José Mourinho bringing Didier Drogba on for Gudjohnsen at the break, the Ivory Coast striker almost grabbed the equaliser in the 73rd minute, rounding both Juanito and Contreras before being cut off by Melli with the goal gaping.

And two minutes later, the signs were beginning to show that it was the Spanish side's night. With Chelsea on a counter-attack, Shaun Wright-Phillips burst down the right wing before cutting a ball back to Michael Essien, whose shot came back off both posts.

Essien had the ball in the net 12 minutes from time, only to see the goal disallowed for an infringement in the build-up, and Betis held on doggedly for a famous victory.



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