By Patrick Hart
Form, they say, is temporary, class permanent. Well, French champions Olympique Lyonnais proved the old adage right on Wednesday night as they belied mid-table league status to claim Internazionale FC's scalp at San Siro.
A team effort
The 2-1 UEFA Champions League victory, courtesy of goals from Sidney Govou and Sonny Anderson, put Paul Le Guen's men top of Group D. But just as important as the scorers had been the "solidarity, rigour and application" of the team. Le Guen told the French press: "Everyone played a part and we showed we have the talent. It is no small feat to score twice in Milan."
French league leaders AJ Auxerre will take note. According to Parisian sports daily L'Équipe, Guy Roux's "new generation, however promising, are probably still too tender for the Champions League". This after Gilberto's solitary strike for Arsenal FC left Auxerre joint bottom of Group A. "Silva gives Gunners lustre," offered the Guardian in England.
Reds smell of roses
The same newspaper was confident "life among Europe's élite will seem rosier for Gérard Houllier this morning" after Liverpool FC made FC Spartak Moskva "look weak to the point of embarrassment last night". The Reds' 5-0 win was their first in Group B.
Liverpool's display might have sated the Anfield appetite, but it was section leaders Valencia CF who "devoured the bun". That was the view of the Spanish press, with Marca hailing a "feast of football" after the 6-2 home defeat of FC Basel.
Barça almost there
FC Barcelona are the other Spanish team with a 100 per cent record after their 3-1 Group H success at FC Lokomotiv Moskva. They are "almost in the second round", said coach Louis van Gaal. But Real Madrid CF dropped points in a 3-3 draw at AEK Athens FC. "Poor defending" cost the tournament favourites, opined Marca. By contrast, the Eleftherotypia newspaper praised AEK for "coming close to achieving a miracle".
Worst of Roma
Still, Madrid lead the way in Group C with AS Roma, 1-0 conquerors of KRC Genk, second. The headline in the Gazzetta dello Sport - "Cassano lifts Roma" - underlined the Giallorossi's debt to their match-winner after a display which coach Fabio Capello termed "the worst in my time at the club".
What now for Bayern?
No such worries for Capello's former club, AC Milan. They bolted all doors at FC Bayern München to walk away with three points thanks to another flourish of goals from Filippo Inzaghi in a 2-1 triumph. Bayern have just one point from three games, prompting the tabloid Bild to ask: "What now Herr Hitzfeld?" "German champions threatened by an early exit," was the bleak prognosis.
Depor on the way
Elsewhere in Group G, RC Deportivo La Coruña consolidated second place by beating RC Lens and are "halfway to the second phase", according to coach Javier Irureta.
Better news for the other 1. Bundesliga representatives. With Manchester United FC defeating Olympiakos Piraeus FC on Tuesday night, Bayer 04 Leverkusen took the opportunity to revive their Group F hopes with a 2-0 win at Maccabi Haifa. "They are now in a promising position," insisted the Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger newspaper. BV Borussia Dortmund too "are on course for the second round after a deserved victory" over PSV Eindhoven in the Netherlands, wrote Kicker.
But back to the vagaries of form. The Gazzetta dello Sport proclaimed the "renaissance of Alessandro Del Piero" after Juventus FC's Group E triumph over Newcastle United FC. Flavour-of-the-month frippery or taste of things to come? Only time will tell.
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