Fiorentina went into their second match of the Champions League group phase with troubles. Club president Andrea Della Valle had stepped down after falling out with fans, and target-man Alberto Gilardino was suspended for the game. However, the latter’s absence allowed Cesare Prandelli to showcase the abilities of emerging star Stevan Jovetic. The 19-year-old justified his nickname ‘Montenegrin Messi’ and showed exactly why top European clubs are making inquiries about him. Jovetic scored both the goals in the first half – the first arising from a delightful through pass by Christian Zanetti and the second being deflected in off a powerful Juan Manuel Vargas shot. La Viola’s slick, classy football overpowered Liverpool and even earned praise from sections of the English press.
With all due respect to the Russian Champions, Rubin Kazan were supposed to be the whipping boys of Group F. So everyone was surprised when they took the lead against Inter on 11 minutes, through an Alejandro Dominguez goal. The Nerazzurri’s creative problems in midfield are well documented and although they equalized midway through the first half, when Maicon’s excellent cross was headed in by Dejan Stankovic, they did not get many chances to take the lead. Mario Balotelli had started the match in place of the injured Diego Milito. However, the youngster’s temperament is still volatile and he was shown a red card in second half for a second bookable offence. Although this result is not the end of world for Inter, their chances of topping the group are next to nothing.
The most hyped encounter on the second match-day was that between Bayern Munich and Juventus. The tie ended 0-0, both sides missing plenty of scoring opportunities, especially Bayern Munich in the first half. The highlight of the match came in 19th minute when Frank Ribery slipped past Georgio Chiellini and Zdenek Grygera with some silky footwork in the penalty area. However, his chipped effort just went over the crossbar. Bayern created several more chances in the first half, but could not convert any. The second half saw a more balanced encounter, with both sides creating and wasting chances. This fourth consecutive draw in all competitions sees Juventus in third position in the group, behind Bayern and Bordeaux.
Milan’s problems worsen after a shocking 0-1 defeat at home at the hands of Swiss minnows FC Zurich. The space here is not enough to document the Rossoneri’s problems but if one goes through all of them, the result is perhaps not that shocking. Within Italy, clubs no longer fear playing Milan, at home or away, and the same is happening on the European stage. Finnish defender Hannu Tihinen was left completely unmarked at a 10th minute corner and performed an aerial backheel to score the winner. Milan did create several chances, but lacked the killer instinct. This result leaves Milan in third place and with the double encounter with Real Madrid still to go, Coach Leonardo must be starting to feel the heat.