Champions League: Round 2, Day 1

MIKE CUMMINGS: Welcome to the official thread for the inaugural Perpetual Post Champions League Liveblog® (PPCLLB, patent pending). Let’s pray this works.

I’ll be watching Partizan-Arsenal and to a lesser extent Chelsea-Marseille. Both English clubs are looking to bounce back from disappointing weekend losses, and both should be favored.

HOWARD MEGDAL: I’m looking at primarily Auxerre v. Real Madrid and Basel 1893 vs. Bayern Munich. Curious to see if poor Auxerre can fight their way into the group, and if Bayern is as strong as they looked last time out against Roma.

MC: Is it good or bad, or pathetic, that I’m praying for Almunia to be fit?

HM: Mainly first and third.

MC: Ahh, the Champions League anthem. It cracks me up every time. Are they ever going to change it? Add any lyrics?

HM: I hope not! After Spurs qualified, I made it my ringtone.

MC: I have a stupid bet going with my buddy concerning Jack Wilshere’s scoring chances tonight. I took the negative side. I’m such a negative Nelly.

It is Fabianski in goal for Arsenal. Ick. And not surprisingly, an uninspiring start for Arsenal.

HM: Wow, early on it is clear Auxerre is ready to play. Would love to tell you how early, but the television coverage has done away with the game clock and score.

MC: Partizan get a breakaway in the ninth minute thanks to some slow defending from Arsenal. Nothing comes of it, but not because of Arsenal’s defense. They looked pretty poor there.

Oh my. Now it’s the 10th minute and Partizan have another breakaway. They really should have scored, but Fabiansky made a decent play on a one-on-one. This looks like Arsenal circa 2001 in the Champions League.

Arsenal really need Tommy V. I’m not sure why he’s not playing.

Meanwhile, Chelsea are already 1-0 up on Marseille. They seem pretty comfy playing at home.

HM: That Auxerre early start faded in a hurry. Three good opportunities in the span of about two minutes for Real Madrid.

MC: Partizan’s Cleo skins Djourou outside the box but shoots well wide. Another escape for Arsenal. The first 15 minute have been nervy.

GOAL!! 1-0 Arsenal! Suddenly Arshavin scores on the other end after some good build-up work by Wilshere. Nice.

I have to say that was unexpected from Arsenal. Wilshere and Arshavin pulled that goal from thin air right after Cleo missed a half chance on the other end for Partizan. A minute ago I was saying this looked like Arsenal’s old CL performances, but maybe I was overreacting.

MC: Things have settled down a bit in Belgrade. In London, Chelsea looks like it’s toying with Marseille. Is the Blue Machine back?

MC: Arsenal almost goes up 2-0 after an Arshavin breakaway, but the keeper saved well.
Is the live blog already fading?

MC: Back in London, it looks like Chelsea has a penalty. Anelka will take … and he scores with a cheeky chip. I bet he wishes he could have done that well in Moscow a couple years ago.

HM: Holy cow! Basel scores! Inexplicable lack of marking inside the six by Bayern.

MC: Go Basel. Which language do you say that in? Can’t be German against Bayern.

So Chelsea is up 2-0 and Arsenal finally looks comfortable … Until Denilson gives away a penalty for a handball in the box. Uh oh. And they were just settling in.

MC: Partizan levels against Arsenal through Cleo’s penalty. Fabianski had no shot. Almunia, where are you? (Can’t believe I’m saying that). Partizan deserved a goal in the opening 15 minutes, but then Arsenal looked ready to dominate. They can be so frustrating sometimes.

HM: 8-1 in shots for Real Madrid. Back to Basel!

MC: Well, it’s halftime in Belgrade. Arsenal 1, Partizan 1. The opening 15 minutes were awful for Arsenal, but then Arshavin scored a nice goal that gave Arsenal some momentum. Arsenal looked ready to dominate before Denilson gave up a questionable penalty. Cleo leveled from the spot and killed all of Arsenal’s momentum.

HM: Absolutely fantastic counterattacks from Basel all through this half. 1-0 at the break, and could easily be more.

KIYAN SOBHANI: At the half, Madrid looks very comfortable in every aspect except for putting the ball in the back of the net. They have about 70% possession and are controlling the game with Mourinho’s new 4-3-3 formation. But they problem is they haven’t been able to create chances since there is not much transition between the midfielder (Alonso, Khedira, Lass) and the attack (Ronaldo, Higuain, Benzema). And when they do manage to create good chances, they just haven’t had their finishing boots on.

Standouts for Madrid Pepe and Marcelo who seems to be the most improved player under Mourinho.

MC: Other scores around the Champions League: AS Roma 0, Cluj 0; Spartak Moscow 3, MSK Zilina 0 (full time); Ajax 1, AC Milan 1; Braga 0, Shakhtar Donetsk 0.

***SECOND HALF***

MC: Fox Soccer Channel really has some solid halftime analysis. Warren Barton is always spot on, as is that dude they had on during the World Cup. Can’t remember his name, but he looks like an American Steve McManaman.

So it looks like Arsenal, Real Madrid, Bayern and AC Milan (to a lesser extent) are on upset alert. Which loss would be most shocking?

KS: Madrid are playing well, but it’s beyond the players’ control at this point. Mourinho needs to make changes as there is no transition between the three defensive midfielders and the three forwards. Ozil needs to come in for one of the DMs. Madrid need the 3 points here.

KS: Amazing Lass hasn’t been carded yet. He’s just all over the place with his tackles. He’s playing great though. Tactical fouls I would call them.

MC: With Ajax and AC Milan tied, I don’t think Real absolutely needs to win. They just need to avoid a defeat, unless Milan wins. OK, maybe you’re right.

KS: 50′ Ball Possession – Posesion: Auxerre 29% – 71% Real Madrid.

MC: Is it just my games, or has everything calmed down a bit? Maybe it’s the calm before the storm.

MC: Once again I spoke too soon. Arsenal earns a penalty after Jovanovic takes down Chamakh in the box. The ref didn’t look quite sure, but he ended up giving Jovanovic the straight red.

The replay shows Chamakh went down pretty easily.

Anyway, Arshavin takes the penalty, and it’s saved. Damn.

KS: Ozil in for Benzema. Strange change by Mourinho. It should have been one of the 3 midfielders to come out. Plus Benzema has been better than Higuain.

HM: Wow. An awful call on a penalty. Muller inside the 18 falls down on a 50-50 ball on the ground. Schweinsteiger converts the penalty. The Basel home crowd still upset, and rightfully so.
1-1, 58th minute.

MC: Chelsea still up 2-0. Yawn. Arsenal look disinterested/deflated at the moment.

HM: Bastian gets a yellow card. That’s some make-up call there.

MC: The Pig Riser makes an appearance! Best literal name ever!

MC: OK, it’s time to tempt fate again. Boy these games sure are making me lose interest!

MC: Shakhtar Donetsk have taken the lead on Braga. If the scores hold, Arsenal will be in second place in Group H.

KS: Cristiano Ronaldo with his best action of the game so far. Forces a beautiful save from a beautiful free-kick, then heads it just over the bar from the corner.

MC: More awesome: Brandão or Brando? Or bizarro Brando?

KS: Finally a positive substitution from Mourinho against the 17th placed side of Ligue 1. Di Maria for Lass.

MC: Essien hits the post for Chelsea. First action in that game for an hour.

MC: Oops, I’ve apparently missed Arsenal’s goal while goofing off. Hey, finding a good picture of Tim Brando was harder than I thought. Arsenal are ahead 2-1 and surely have the points wrapped up now against a 10-man Partizan. Right?

KS: Di Maria immediately causing danger. His cross to the far post barely stays out.

KS: Langille comes off for Marseille after being shut down by Pepe for 77 minutes.

KS: After all of Madrid’s domination, Marseille almost took the lead. Header beats Casillas but not the post.

MC: Apparently it was Chamakh who scored for Arsenal. Damn you, Tim Brando.

MC: I think I’m watching the wrong game. Your game sounds much more interesting than mine, Kiyan.

KS: GOL DEL MARDID! Di Maria scores from a nice touch and volley to finally put Madrid’s hard work to good. One has to wonder why Di Maria wasn’t in sooner.

HM: The Basel counters produce a dangerous free kick in the 80th min, right into the Bayern wall.

MC: Arsenal’s goal really killed the game off. Partizan look content to leave it at 2-1.

But! Squillaci scores his first goal for Arsenal with a glancing header off a corner! Nice goal. 3-1 Arsenal.

KS: 83rd Minute Possession: Real Madrid 65% – Auxerre 35%

MC: What’s this now? The ref calls a penalty against Arsenal?

No problem. Lukasz Fabianski is a stud. He will destroy you and steal your women away from you! Don’t test him! Translation, he saved the penalty. What were the chances of that before the match?

That makes two saved penalties in one match, and one by an Arsenal keeper. Who’d-a-thunk?

KS: Mourinho continues his obsession with defensive football. M. Diarra comes in for lone-striker Gonzalo Higuain.

HM: Great action here as we hit final five min of Basel-Bayern. Muller great run into space, but shot goes wide. Neither team settling for a point.

MC: Over on FSN, Andy Gray says there’s nothing like match day. Hmmm. Okie dokie. Meanwhile, Essien grazes the outside of the post with a stinging shot. This game is way over. Chelsea marches on.

HM: Wow! Fairly pedestrian pass into the far side of the goal, but Schweinsteiger manages to corral it into the goal at 89 min. Heartbreaking for Basel. 2-1 in extra time.

MC: The final whistle blows in London. Chelsea 2-0 Marseille. Arsenal are about to wrap up their 3-1 win, too. For a while it looked like there might be some drama, but no dice this time. The knockout phase can’t come soon enough, as far as I’m concerned.

MC: Fabianski makes another great save on a point-blank shot. Could the goalkeeper situation be working itself out for Arsenal?

HM: That’s all she wrote. Van Gaal ought to pay Schweinsteiger a percentage of his contract extension.

KS: Real Madrid comes away with the win. A very ‘defense first’ approach to the game for Los Merengues. If I were a reporter, the first question I would ask Moruinho in the post-match interview is ‘Why did you feel the need to field 3 defensive midfielders against a team that’s currently placed 17th in Ligue 1′?

MC: There’s the final whistle. A good night all around for Arsenal, despite failing to keep a clean sheet. I’m trying to think back to Partizan’s goal, and I’m drawing a blank. The point is, Arsenal looked good for most of the match, save the opening 15 minutes. The defense was ok, the offense scored enough, and Fabianski actually played well in goal.

MC: Well, I guess that’s about it for the inaugural PPCLLB®. The local high school marching band is kicking it up a notch today, and it’s driving my dogs nuts. Guess it’s time to take them for a walk

About Mike Cummings

Mike Cummings lives and works in Cullman, Ala., the seat of a dry county in the hills of North Alabama, not too far from Birmingham. To pass the time without booze, he plays classic Playstation games on his buddy's PS3 and obsessively watches Jersey Shore whenever it's on. His work has also appeared on Salon.com, and he occasionally blogs at mikesbestguess.wordpress.com. Email him at mike.cummings37(at)gmail.com.
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