Italy's 100 per cent record in this season's UEFA Champions League ended on Wednesday night, with Matchday 2 draws for AC Milan and S.S. Lazio. This prompted the Gazzetta dello Sport to ask of the holders: "Where was the real Milan?"
Carlo Ancelotti's side, the paper went on, "seemed paralysed" during a 0-0 stalemate with Group H rivals RC Celta de Vigo in Spain. Meanwhile, Lazio were indebted to Simone Inzaghi in the 2-2 home draw against AC Sparta Praha in Group G. "Inzaghi double saves Lazio," trumpeted the Gazzetta after Inzaghi's second-half goals secured a point.
The football pink celebrated another striker in Internazionale FC's Christian Vieri, the Nerazzurri's late matchwinner in the 2-1 Group B victory against FC Dynamo Kyiv. "Half an hour was enough for the striker to get his side three points." The plaudits in the Corriere dello Sport, however, went to "Magic Nedved" after the Czech's two-goal salvo earned Juventus FC a 2-1 triumph at Olympiacos CFP in Group D.
The winning habit that the Italian teams lost, was picked up by Turkish side Besiktas JK, who ended a run of three Champions League defeats for Super Ligi sides with a 2-0 triumph at Chelsea FC in Group G. "New masters of Europe," wrote the Hürriyet newspaper. "
Ten-man Besiktas destroyed a team worth nearly £100m." But Galatasaray SK saw "all their hopes ruined" by Xabi Alonso's goal in a 2-1 home defeat by Real Sociedad de Fútbol in Group D.
Another lesser-ranked nation that had cause for joy was Scotland. The Daily Telegraph underlined Henrik Larsson's contribution to Celtic FC's 2-0 Group A win against Olympique Lyonnais, saying: "Henrik Larsson, belittled beforehand as a performer of little note, chose to serve revenge, supplying both Miller and Sutton for their goals." Meanwhile, Rangers FC took credit for the 1-1 draw at Panathinaikos FC which gave them leadership of Group E. The Daily Record wrote: "Rangers almost pulled off a perfect raid at a venue that has found bigger and better teams wanting."
Sloppy and stretched
For the English, though, there were mixed fortunes. While Arsenal FC drew 0-0 away to FC Lokomotiv Moskva in Group B - "Arsenal stretched to the limit," said the Telegraph - there were defeats for Chelsea and Manchester United FC. According to the Guardian newspaper, United were "sloppy" in losing 2-1 at VfB Stuttgart in Group E.
Naturally, the German press had a different take on events. Bild described the result as "madness", adding: "
The side that surprised the Bundesliga last year has now shocked Europe." Express, meanwhile, applauded "a brilliant performance by Stuttgart's youngsters who showed no respect for United's big names". FC Bayern München, however, were "less than impressive", said Kicker, in drawing 1-1 at RSC Anderlecht in Group A.
Real Sociedad achieved a "European graduation" not unlike Stuttgart's when they beat Galatasaray in Turkey, said the Spanish paper AS. Meanwhile, Marca praised Deportivo La Coruña striker Walter Pandiani, who set a club record by scoring in his seventh consecutive match in the 2-0 Group C victory against PSV Eindhoven.
AS commended RC Celta de Vigo on their performance against Milan which "lacked only a goal", while Mundo Deportivo acclaimed Real Madrid CF's "terrific" 3-1 win against FC Porto in Group F. Madrid, according to Portugal's Record, had been "too much" for the UEFA Cup winners.
Like Madrid, AS Monaco FC have six points out of six, and Le Parisien paid tribute to their "merciless" display in the 4-0 dismantling of Group C rivals AEK Athens FC. L'Equipe found a "phenomenon" in Olympique Marseille's Didier Drogba, the hat-trick hero of the 3-0 Group F triumph against FK Partizan. Meanwhile, the Serbian Sport newspaper wrote of a "good start but disappointing finish" for Partizan.
Top marks in the Dutch daily Volkskrant went to Belgian international Wesley Sonck, AFC Ajax's double goalscorer in the 2-0 win against Club Brugge KV in Group H. "He finally succeeded against his fellow countryman", after "struggling to justify the reputation he had built up in Belgium".
Elsewhere in Europe, Sparta Praha were dubbed "magnificent" by the Czech daily Sport, Brugge were told to wake up by the Het Laatste Nieuws, while the Greek press spoke of "shattered dreams" and "European shipwrecks" after defeats for AEK Athens and Olympiacos. "
Greek football is Europe's second division," concluded the Filathlos.
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