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Champions League contenders bring out their best on the road

Bayern Munich and Real Madrid demonstrate their mettle with come-from-behind victories in Switzerland and France, respectively.

September 28, 2010|By Grahame L. Jones

The ability to win away from home is always a good measure of a team, no matter what the sport. To fall behind on the road and then recover to win raises the bar yet another notch.

So it was on Tuesday that Bayern Munich and Real Madrid reinforced their European Champions League credentials with victories in Switzerland and France, respectively.

For Bayern, it was German international midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger who provided not only the inspiration but both goals in a 2-1 win against FC Basel at St. Jakob-Park in Basel.

The Swiss side took the lead early on a goal by Alexander Frei and still led at halftime. Then Schweinsteiger took command, scoring the tying goal on a controversial penalty kick 11 minutes into the second half after a foul was called on Thomas Mueller.

Schweinsteiger then scored the game-winner one minute from the end when he side-footed Danijel Pranji?'s free kick into the net on the volley.

"I'm totally disappointed with this result," said FC Basel Coach and former Bayern Munich player Thomas Fink.

In France, Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas had to endure a nervous 80 minutes against Auxerre before Argentine striker Angel Di Maria finally scored the goal that gave Real a 1-0 victory just minutes after coming on as a substitute.

Casillas' nerves were not helped when Real Madrid's Pepe headed the ball against his own post while trying to clear the danger shortly before Di Maria's goal.

But Real Coach Jose Mourinho, seeking his third Champions League title after winning European soccer's most coveted trophy with FC Porto in 2004 and with Inter Milan last season, was unperturbed.

"It's always hard to play away from home against French teams," he said. ". . . [But] even though it was an away game we took risks to win the match."

Bayern Munich and Real Madrid are a perfect two for two as the 32 teams in the Champions League tournament go about whittling the field to the 16 that will advance to the knockout phase.

Also winning on Tuesday and maintaining their unbeaten and untied starts were Arsenal, Chelsea, Shakhtar Donetsk and Spartak Moscow.

Arsenal swept aside Partizan, 3-1, in Belgrade, Serbia, where Andrey Arshavin, Marouane Chamakh and Sebastien Squillaci provided the goals for the Gunners. The victory came after Arsenal had blasted Portugal's Braga, 6-0, in its Champions League opener two weeks ago.

Again, the game-changing goals came late — in the final 20 minutes — in a strange match that saw Arshavin and Partizan's goal scorer, Cleo, both miss penalty kicks.

Shakhtar Donetsk of Ukraine kept pace with Arsenal in their group by shutting out Braga, 3-0, in Portugal to all but end the Portuguese team's hopes after only two of six group-stage games.

Chelsea, meanwhile, followed up on its opening win with a 2-0 home victory at Stamford Bridge as John Terry and Nicolas Anelka scored against Olympique Marseille.

Marseille Coach Didier Deschamps was brutally honest in his summation.

"We came here with hope and ambition but Chelsea are on another planet," he said. "It shows the gap between ourselves and teams like Chelsea, who are among the favorites to win the Champions League."

Spartak Moscow had little difficulty in recording a 3-0 victory in its own Luzhniki Stadium, where Slovakia's MSK Zilini came undone. Ari scored once in each half for the Russian side.

Said Zilini Coach Pavel Hapel: "Spartak's attack was so quick we simply could not catch up. We respected our opponents too much and lacked courage."

In Amsterdam, seven-time champion AC Milan showed that it also will be a factor in this campaign when it came from behind to earn a 1-1 tie against four-time champion Ajax.

The Dutch team took the lead on a well-executed goal, with Mounir El Hamdaoui applying the finishing touch, but Milan fought back and tied it on an equally well-taken goal by Zlatan Ibrahimovic, his fifth goal in six games since joining the Italian club on loan from Barcelona.

Two goals within two second-half minutes by Philippe Mexes and Marco Borriello earned AS Roma a 2-1 victory over Romanian champion CFR Cluj in Rome.

The Champion League continues with eight more matches Wednesday.

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