Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Embarrassing Early Exits by Liverpool and Juventus in Champions League

This year's Champions League was hailed as the most predictable of all time. But as we stand, before the year turns, some of the game's biggest names have crashed and burned and exited the competition in embarrassing fashion. Liverpool and Juventus are easily the two most prominent clubs to bite the dust...

Group A saw Juventus crash out on the last day as Ciro Ferrara's men succumbed to Bayern Munich in the Stadio Olimpico. Juve only needed one point, against a Bayern side who are struggling on the domestic front this year, to progress to the next round.

Juventus took the lead in the 18th minute through David Trezeguet, and then decided to turn off as if the match was over.

Goalkeeper Hans Jorg Butt equalized for Bayern from the penalty spot, the third time he has scored against Juve in his career.

That spiked Mark van Bommell into action, and he dictated the match until his eventual substitution, but the damage had already been done before Tymoshchuk made it an unbelievable 4-1 on the night.

Ferrara, a phenomenal defender in his day and a real leader of men, will almost certainly be sacked after this embarrassing exit.

Group B went right down to the wire with three teams capable of qualification. But it was Manchester United who decided the fate of the group in every aspect.

Having guaranteed entry into the next round, United travelled to Wolfsburg without 15 first team squad members through injury and illness, to face the German Champions who needed to win to go through.

Even Alex Ferguson admitted that the task might be too much for his "experimental" side. But a Michael Owen hat trick later and a full strength Wolfsburg were limping out of the competition as CSKA Moscow pulled off a fantastic result by beating Besiktas 2-1 in Turkey to take second.

Group C pretty much went as planned with Real Madrid going through in first place as AC Milan finished as runners-up. Poor old Marseille can count themselves as being very unlucky to have ended up in a group with such heavyweights.

Group D was carved up between Chelsea and FC Porto. However, one of the biggest surprises of this years tournament saw Atletico Madrid collapse in incredible fashion.

The team who finished sourthth in Spain last year were tipped by many to be the team to watch this year, but they did not win a game and exited with only three draws to their name.

Group E produced perhaps the biggest shock of this year's Champions League. Liverpool FC, who have won the cup on five previous occasions, and one of the pre-tournament favourites crashed out with two games left to play.

Their performances throughout were dismal at best, and were very hard to take for fans of the club, especially when you consider that they were red hot favourites to progress after being drawn in what was perceived as an easy group.

Group F
was always going to be between Barcelona and Inter Milan, but it went right down to the final game as Jose Mourinho's men vanquished Rubin Kazan 2-0 at home to progress. Before the last game both teams were level on points so it was a real cup final for both teams.

However, Dynamo Kiev surprisingly finished at the bottom of the group and as such don't have the parachute of the Europa League to fall back on.

Group G looked a tight group on paper. Sevilla, Stuttgart, and Rangers were expected to battle it out while lowly Unirea Urziceni thanked the Gods for participating with such well known teams.

As it was, Unirea eliminated Rangers with a brilliant 4-1 win at Ibrox that will live long in the nightmares of Gers fans. The Glasgow side then went on to only take two points from their six games and the gulf between Europe and Scotland never looked bigger.

Group H was Arsenal's from the start with Standard Liege, AZ Alkmaar, and Olympiakos fighting for that runners up spot.

AZ Alkmaar's collapse as Dutch champions has been one of the most dramatic in some time. Without the influence of ex-manager Louis van Gaal, the loss of Dick Scheringa has been catastrophic for the club, who may never compete in Europe's premier trophy again.