DAVID SMITH - Thursday, November 22, 2012
Jermaine Jones set up the winning goal over Olympiakos to send Schalke to the knockout round while Oguchi Onyewu and Malaga secured the top spot in Group C with a draw in St. Petersburg.
FC Nordsjaelland 2 - 5 Shakhtar Donetsk
Michael Parkhurst and Nordsjaelland hung on against visiting Shakhtar Donetsk for one half of play, but a second-half explosion by the Ukrainians saw Tuesday's affair quickly turn into a rout.
The American played the full 90 minutes at right back for the Danish champions, picking up a yellow card in the final seconds of the game.
The Wild Tigers showed no fear against the Ukrainian favorites, attacking early and taking the lead after 24 minutes when Joshua John whipped in a cross from the left side which Morten Nordstrand knocked in at the far post.
Two minutes later, Shakhtar equalized in controversial fashion, thanks in large to the unmistakably unethical play of striker Luiz Adriano.
Following a brief delay in the game due to an injury to one of the Nordsjaelland players, Shakhtar midfielder Willian attempted to return possession to the Danes on an uncontested drop ball from his own half of the field.
Departing from standard sportsmanlike procedure in this kind of situation and perhaps attempting to pad his goalscoring stats in desperate yearning of a first Brazilian national team cap, Adriano ran onto the ball before it reached the keeper, and fired it into the net, much to the shock of all in the stadium and on the field.
Despite the heavy protests of the Nordsjaelland players and obvious embarrassment of Adriano's Shakhtar teammates, referee Antony Gautier had no choice but to let the goal stand.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Shakhtar players attempted to allow Nordsjaelland to walk through for a fair equalizer, however Adriano again channeled his inner Luis Suarez, and protested to his teammates until one of them caved in an kicked the ball away, further enraging the home crowd.
Fortunately for Adriano, the attentions of the audience were quickly returned to their own players, as Kaspar Lorentzen put the hosts back ahead three minutes later, finishing a quick combo with Patrick Mtiliga, firing his close-range shot into the underside of the top netting.
Nordsjaelland looked to be heading into the half with the lead, however an initially blocked shot from Alex Texeira was put in by Willian one minute before the break, leaving the score at 2-2 for the intermission.
The Ukrainians struck quickly to take the lead in the 50th minute as Willian struck a blinder from the upper edge of the box to the upper right corner of goal, and never looked in doubt for the remainder of the game.
Adriano added another pair to his tainted total, putting away a Texeira cross from close range in the 53rd minute, and bring the final score to 5-2 in the 81st with another from inside the six-yard box.
The loss statistically eliminates the Wild Tigers from European competition, as they are guaranteed to finish last place in group E. They will next pay a visit to Esbjerg in league action on Sunday.
Zenit St. Petersburg 2 - 2 FC Malaga
Oguchi Onyewu continued to see his playing time increase, earning the start in central defense for Malaga as they officially won Group C with a draw at Zenit St. Petersburg on Wednesday.
Malaga looked to be continuing their dominance in group play when they took a two-goal lead over the Russians within the first ten minutes.
Diego Buonanotte struck first, sneaking into the six-yard box and putting away a cross from Seba Fernández in the eighth minute.
Just seconds later, a bad pass from Zenit keeper Vyacheslav Malafeev was intercepted by Roque Santa Cruz, who then fed Seba in front of goal for an easy finish and the 2-0 lead.
The Zenit team regained their focus and prevented any further damage in the first half, before staging a second-half come-back to earn the point.
Four minutes after the halftime break, Danny pulled down a cross in the box from Tomas Hubocan, took a touch to control the ball and angled it just inside the far post to cut the lead in half.
Then with four minutes left on the clock, substitute Viktor Faizulin put away an initially-botched shot by Danny from 15 yards out to bring the Russians equal.
After the final whistle, late Zenit substitute Vladimir Bystrov was shown red for insulting the referee, which will force the winger to miss their crucial group finale in Milan in two weeks.
The draw is enough to guarantee that Malaga will finish the group stage in first place, based on the head-to-head tie-breaker with second-place AC Milan. They have a busy schedule in the coming weeks, beginning with a visit from Valencia in La Liga action on Saturday.
FC Schalke 1 - 0 Olympiakos
Jermaine Jones served up the assist on the winning goal on Wednesday evening, helping Schalke book their place in the round of 16 with a home win over Olympiakos.
The Greeks came into the game with a single game-plan, which was to stop the flow of play and prevent their hosts from breaking through on goal.
Despite the hosts showing occasional signs of attacking flair, the plan of the visitors worked for much of the game, and they looked as though they would emerge from a meeting with the Germans with a balanced book for the first time in recent memory.
This was however put to rest with 13 minutes on the clock, as Christian Fuchs took all in the stadium by complete surprise.
Jones controlled the ball on the right side and slapped a pass over to Christian Fuchs in the midfield. Despite being nearly 40 yards from goal, Fuchs spotted a lane in the defense and hit a long shot towards goal, which rolled in at the lower right corner for the winner.
The victory puts Schalke at the lead of Group B, one point ahead of Arsenal. They can take the group should they win on their visit to winless last-place Montpellier in two weeks, but will try to make headway in their Bundesliga campaign when they host Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday.
RSC Anderlecht 1 - 3 AC Milan
Sacha Kljestan played the full game in midfield for Anderlecht on Wednesday, as they were overpowered by Italian powerhouse AC Milan to end their hopes of reaching the knockout round.
Despite holding on for a scoreless first half, the Dutch champions were undone by a second-half flurry.
Stephan El Shaarawy put Milan ahead in the 47th minute when he pulled down and put away a cross from Riccardo Montolivo a close range.
Anderlecht quickly saw their chances for a come-back dim with 20 minutes on the clock after Bram Nuytinck was shown red for pulling down Alexandre Pato in the open field as he streaked towards goal.
On the ensuing set piece, Montolivo hit a short pass to the right to the awaiting Philippe Mexes, who chested the ball in front of him and connected with a spectacular no-look overhead kick which looped over the defense and amazingly into the far side of goal.
Tom de Sutter did pull one back for the hosts in the 78th minute with an opportunistic short-range finish, however Pato iced the game in injury time, streaking in to tap a cross from El Shaarawy into an open net.
With the loss, Anderlecht are tied on four points at the bottom of group C with Zenit St. Petersburg, and will need at least a draw on their trip to group winners Malaga in two weeks if they hope to even qualify for the Europa League.
Before then, they will try to expand their lead in the domestic standings with a trip to Berrschot on Saturday.