BRENDAN WIMBERLY - Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Jermaine Jones put in a solid shift in Schalke's victory over Olympiakos while Michael Parkhurst and Nordsjælland got a rude introduction to the Champions League in Ukraine.
AC Milan 0 - 0 Anderlecht
Sacha Kljestan went the distance for Anderlecht as they fought AC Milan to an impressive scoreless tie at the San Siro.
The California native nearly gave his team a shock lead in just the 12th minute when he cut in from his spot on the left side of midfield and fired a right footed shot towards net from 20 yards out. The attempt forced Milan goalkeeper Christian Abbiati into making a nice save as he stretched out low to his right to deflect the ball out of harm's way.
Holding 52 percent of possession on the evening, Kljestan was part of a hard working Anderlecht midfield which made life difficult for their Milan counterparts. Anderlecht captain and Argentina international Lucas Biglia's effort was exceptional, moving frenetically from box-to-box, disrupting the work of Nigel de Jong, Mathieu Flamini and Antonio Nocerino all night in the center of the field.
Despite the commendable work of the Anderlecht midfield, Silvio Proto was called into action numerous times by the Italian's attacking forces. With time waining and second half introduction Stephen El Shaaraway finding space in the box between two Anderlecht defenders, Proto somehow managed to punch away a powerful bouncing header from the Italian youth international.
Kljestan picked up a yellow card in the 79th minute for a foul on Mathieu Flamini. The ensuing free kick was not able to inflict any harm, but Kljestan must now be careful as another yellow card in the group stage will result in a one match suspension.
Anderlecht's next Champions League action comes on October 3rd when they will host group leaders Malaga. They will head back to Belgium this weekend to take on SV Zulte Waregem.
Olympiakos 1 - 2 Schalke 04
Schalke became the first German team to beat Olympiakos at home in the Champions League on Tuesday as Jermaine Jones contributed a fine performance in midfield before being removed a minute into extra time.
Schalke were the more aggressive team in the first half, and their persistence was rewarded in the 41st minute in the form of a Benedikt Howedes header. Jefferson Farfan delivered a corner towards the near post where the unmarked Schalke captain was able to usher it into the lower right corner with his forehead.
Olympiakos evened the score in the 58th minute through Djamel Abdoun. After teammate Rafik Djebbour failed to control a long goal kick at the top of the box, Abdoun latched onto the bouncing ball and sent a nice left footed shot through the legs of Schalke goalkeeper Lars Unnerstall from 10 yards out.
Olympiakos' joy would be short lived, however, as Jones helped set up a Klaas Jan Huntelaar go-ahead goal in the 59th minute. The Yank sent a pass to Lewis Holtby just outside of the penalty area who found Huntelaar in a good position in the center of the box. The Dutch goalscorer extraordinaire turned and finished nicely with his right foot from eight yards out to make the score 2-1.
Huntelaar should have put his team ahead by two in the 61st minute, but his penalty shot slammed off the left post and out.
Schalke's slim road lead would hold however. Jones was one of four Schalke players to pick up a yellow card on the afternoon, his coming for an ill advised 53rd minute foul on David Fuster, before being removed a minute into extra time for Marco Hoger.
Schalke's next Champions League match will be at home against Montpellier on October 3rd while they get back to Bundesliga action on Saturday when they host last year's Champions League runner-up Bayern Munich.
Shakhtar Donetsk 2 - 0 FC Nordsjælland
Henrik Mkhitaryan's two clinical finishes were enough to sink Michael Parkhurst and Nordsjælland in Ukraine. Parkhurst got the start at right back for the defending Danish champions in their Champions League debut.
Despite not having a single player with Champions League experience on their roster, Nordsjælland showed no signs of discomfort at the start. The visitors controlled the tempo in the early portion of the match as they looked for a way through the hosts.
There was cause for concern in the 30th minute when Parkhurst stayed down for a few minutes after taking a powerful volley on the side of the head. After spending a brief stint on the sideline with the trainers, the American made his way back on to the field and showed no ill effects of the injury.
As the first half wore on, the hosts began to inflict their will on the match and chances started coming thick and fast for the Ukranian power.
Mkhitryan put the hosts ahead in the 44th minute. Luiz Adriano sliced down the left side of Nordsjælland's defense before cutting back a pass to the charging midfielder who thrashed a volley into the lower right corner from close range to make the score 1 - 0.
Parkhurst was a big part of the Nordjælland attack throughout the game. Pacing up and down the right side, the right back provided his team with a good option out wide.
Nordsjælland continued to push, looking for an equalizer, but Mkhitryan's second goal in the 76th minute put the hosts on top 2-0. After the midfielder's attempted pass to Alex Texeira was deflected back his way, Mkhitryan took the matter onto his own foot, cooly slotting his shot into the upper left corner of net from just inside the box for his 14th goal in his last 10 games.
With their loss and Chelsea and Juventus battling to a tie, Nordsjælland begin their Champions League campaign at the bottom of the tough group.
Danish Superliga action resumes this weekend for Nordsjælland when they face Randers on Saturday. Their next Champions League game comes October 2nd when they host Chelsea.