Schurrle lifts Wolfsburg, Man United disappoints in Champions League
The last 16 of the Champions League is beginning to take shape. The second day of Matchday 5 saw Real Madrid confirm top spot in its group as Cristano Ronaldo scored two and set two up in a 4-3 win away to Shakhtar Donetsk, while Paris St-Germain is through to the next round after Zlatan Ibrahimovic marked his return to Malmö with a goal in a 5-0 victory.
Benfica and Atlético Madrid also progressed. Benfica had to come from 2-0 down to draw in Kazakhstan against Astana while Antoine Griezmann scored twice in Atlético’s 2-0 win over Galatasaray.
Neither Manchester club could win. City lost 1-0 away to Juventus, with Mario Mandzukic getting the only goal. Man City was already assured of a place in the last 16, but now must beat Borussia Mönchengladbach and hope Sevilla beats Juventus if it is to take top spot in the group. United, meanwhile, was held to a 0-0 draw at home by PSV Eindhoven, and must beat the group leaders Wolfsburg away in two weeks if it is to be sure of progressing after the Bundesliga side recorded a vital 2-0 win in Moscow against CSKA.
Player of the day: Andre Schurrle (Wolfsburg)
Wolfsburg went to Moscow needing to beat CSKA to keep alive realistic hopes of reaching the last 16 of the Champions League. It did so thanks largely to Schurrle. It was his shot, midway through the second half that the CSKA keeper Igor Akinfeev allowed to squirt under his body. The keeper was once one of the most highly rated in Europe, but two serious knee injuries meant he never achieved his potential and this was a howler to add to a string of high-profile errors in European games. A crisp first-time finish from the edge of the box with two minutes remaining secured Wolfsburg’s victory and made certain CSKA will not reach the second phase.
Goal of the day: Luka Modric (Real Madrid)
Perhaps you could blame Shakhtar for getting caught too far upfield, but still, there was something impressively clinical about the way Real Madrid converted the opportunity to make it 2-0 early in the second half. Ronaldo, who recorded two assists for the first time in a Champions League game, chased almost to the goal-line to keep a ball over the top in play, checked back and measured his pass superbly for Luka Modric to slam the ball into the roof of the net, despite slightly overrunning the cross. It was, remarkably, Modric's first goal from inside the box for Madrid.
Eye-opening result of the day: Borussia Mönchengladbach 4, Sevilla 2
Borussia Mönchengladbach has been much-improved since Andre Schubert took charge at the end of September, winning seven out of eight in the Bundelsiga and scoring 21 goals in doing so but, still, its 4-2 win over Sevilla came as a major surprise. It was Gladbach’s first win in the Champions League this season and, while its chance of reaching the last 16 has gone, it leads Sevilla by two points in race for Europa League qualification. Lars Strindl got two of the goals, the others coming from Fabian Johnson and Raffael. It was Gladbach’s first home win over Spanish opposition since the fabled 5-1 win over Real Madrid 30 years ago.
Turning point of the day: Astana draws again at home
Poor Astana. Yet again it produced a good performance at home and again they drew – its third successive draw at the Astana Arena. It even took the lead against Benfica – the first time the Kazakhstani club has ever been ahead in the Champions League. But after headers from Patrick Twumasi and Marin Anicic had put Astana 2-0 up, another header from Raul Jimenez got Benfica back into the game four minutes before half-time. The forward leveled with an angled volley on 73 minutes.
Major takeaway of the day: Manchester United still lacks cutting edge
United began well enough against PSV Eindhoven but after the early goal failed to materialize, its play became increasingly nervous and lacking in focus; Anthony Martial put two chances straight at the PSV keeper Jeroen Zoet and Jesse Lingaard blazed a clear opportunity over the bar with 17 minutes remaining. This was all too familiar a story for United this season, its fifth goalless draw in all competitions. United could be top of the Premier League on Saturday night, but the boos that rang round Old Trafford at the final whistle told their own story: the problems of creativity that have dogged United throughout Louis van Gaal’s reign have not been solved. It must now win away to Wolfsburg in the final round of games to be sure of making it through to the last 16.