Friday, October 24, 2008

UEFA cup roundup - Spurs Lose yet again

AC Milan won 3-1 at Heerenveen in its first UEFA Cup group match, and Sevilla, Hamburg, Udinese, CSKA Moscow and Schalke also opened with victories on Thursday.

Milan, which failed to qualify for the more prestigious Champions League when it slumped to fifth place in Italy’s Serie A, took an early lead on an own goal and added goals by Genaro Gattuso and Filippo Inzaghi.

Bundesliga leader Hamburg scored twice in the first half for a 2-1 road win at MSK Zilina, Udinese beat two-time UEFA Cup winner Tottenham 2-0, CSKA routed Deportivo La Coruna 3-0 and Schalke downed Paris Saint-Germain 3-1.

Aston Villa defeated four-time European champion Ajax 2-1, while Galatasaray and Sampdoria also racked up victories in the day’s 16 matches.

Milan scored twice in four first-half minutes through an own goal by Heerenveen defender Calvin Jong-a-Ping and then a close-range shot by Gennaro Gatusso—the Italy midfielder’s first goal since January.

Inzaghi, who scored both of Milan’s goals when it won the last of its six European titles in 2007, stretched the lead in the 69th, a margin that was trimmed only four minutes before the end when Danijel Pranjic nailed a penalty.

Braga beat visiting Portsmouth 3-0 and has the early edge in Group E over Milan on goal differential.

Sevilla, which won the UEFA Cup in 2006 and 2007, eased to a 2-0 win over Stuttgart after Ndri Romaric and Renato scored within a minute of each other in the first half.

Romaric hit a free kick into the top corner in the 15th and Renato converted a header to put Sevilla top in Group C, which also featured Sampdoria’s 2-1 win at Partizan Belgrade.

Hamburg, which has lost just one of its eight matches in the German league, took the lead in Slovakia behind Mladen Petric’s goal. The Croatia forward headed Thimothee Atouba’s cross from the left past goalkeeper Dusan Pernis in the 16th minute.

Another Croatia forward, Ivica Olic, extended the visitors’ lead in injury time with a low shot into the bottom corner, and Hamburg held onto the win despite a 69th-minute goal from Zilina substitute Emil Rilke.

Aston Villa also won 2-1 in Group F on goals by Martin Laursen and Gareth Barry. Villa’s good night was spoiled, though, by a knee injury to striker Gabriel Agbonlahor in injury time.

“It was very important to start with a win, especially at home, and also to get Ajax out of the way,” Barry said.

While Hamburg continued its great start to the season under Martin Jol, Tottenham’s problems without Jol, the manager it fired a year ago, continued in Italy.

Spurs began well despite being in the middle of their worst start to an English season, with captain Ledley King helping marshal a defense that mostly contained Serie A’s second-place side until goalkeeper Huerelho Gomes committed a penalty in 24th minute. Antonio Di Natale hit the resulting penalty kick low to Gomes’ right.

While Gomes compensated for his error with two big saves—the best being a one-handed, midair scoop off the line from Fabio Quagliarella’s lob—Tottenham played the last 33 minutes with 10 men after receiving its third red card in two matches when midfielder Jamie O’Hara received two yellows in a span 52 seconds.

Darren Bent almost equalized for Tottenham with a header before Simone Pepe made it 2-0 with a shot off the post.

Also in Group D, Dinamo Zagreb beat NEC Nijmegen 3-2.

CSKA and Nancy top Group H together after both recorded 3-0 victories. CSKA, which is trying to earn Russia a second straight UEFA Cup title following Zenit St. Petersburg’s win last season, went up 2-0 inside 12 minutes behind two goals by Alan Dzagoev. Vagner Love scored in the 61st to complete the scoring.

Nancy beat Feyenoord, meaning that FC Twente, with a 1-0 win over Racing Santander, was the only Dutch club to win.

Schalke leads Twente in Group A after Kevin Kuranyi and Halil Altintop added to an early own goal to give the German club a 3-1 win over PSG.

In Group B, Galatasaray beat Olympiakos 1-0 and Hertha Berlin beat Benfica by the same score. St. Etienne won 3-1 at FC Copenhagen in Group G, which also featured a 0-0 draw between Rosenborg and FC Brugge—the only scoreless match of the round.

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