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All Things Footie | Thursday, October 25 | Jordan

Pilgrims Progress

Tuesday saw United guarantee their progress to the next stage with the closest 3-0 victory I've ever seen. After a tense game in which Olympiakos came close on more than one occasion—and United's attacking threat looked strangely subdued—it almost looked as though they may lose their third home game on the trot.

Not to be however, as professional substitute Ole Gunnar Solkjaer turned the game with his introduction, scoring within five minutes of his appearance. The Greek team crumbled, letting United in to score a further two goals and run out comfortable 3-0 winners.

Apart from nearly asphyxiating on the tube, delayed by a bomb scare at Kings Cross, I have to say yesterday evening was both enjoyable and relieving. The first half was a microcosm of Arsenal's season—dominating the play and playing some beautiful football—but trying to walk the ball into the net and not finishing the good chances that came our way.

Patrick Vieira was superb as were Robert Pires and Freddie Ljungberg—working tirelessly in a three man midfield (I'm still not convinced Gilles Grimandi ever left the dressing room). Thankfully Sol Campbell has finally had his first excellent game in an Arsenal shirt and Gio Van Bronkhorst is finally settling in, though he is definitely better used in midfield. To be fair there wasn't a player that didn't do himself justice (bar Gilles) and Thierry Henry's class showed through when he coolly finished under an enormous pressure in the 93rd minute to put Arsenal into the second group stage.

Liverpool meanwhile battled to a 1-1 draw at Boavista's Estadio Do Bossa, leaving it until the match with Borussia Dortmund next week before their fate is decided. A win for Dortmund (and for Boavista against Kiev) would leave Liverpool in third place and the UEFA cup. If they can manage a point against the Germans however (which they should do) they will join....

AS Roma
Real Madrid
Panathinaikos
Arsenal
Juventus
Barcelona
Bayer Leverkusen
Deportivo La Coruña
Manchester United
Sparta Prague
Bayern Munich

... in the second stage.

The Premiership games also threw up a few interesting results.... Aston Villa beating Charlton 1-0 courtesy of Hassan Kachloul's 9th minute goal, to move up to third in the table—Arsenal above them on goal difference. Chelsea suffered their first defeat of the season—away to West Ham, Michael Carrick and Freddie Kanute providing the goals. Meanwhile a six goal thriller at St Mary's gave Southampton their first point at the new stadium—Ipswich sharing the points.

Home and Away

A quick note about the Australia/France vs. big football clubs debate. I think that Arsenal, Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Fulham, Juventus, Leeds, Manchester United, Marseille, Parma, Real Madrid and Roma are perfectly within their rights to request that disruption to their seasons is kept to a minimum by asking that only one player is called up for a friendly.

Australian Soccer executive Ian Holmes is missing the point when he accuses clubs of treating Australia like a ‘subservient penal colony’, the point is that a friendly means nothing — Premiership, la Liga, Serie A and French league games are of great importance to the people who pay the players wages. When Ian Holmes' federation are paying Mark Viduka and Harry Kewell �30 000 a week to play football then they can dictate the players' appearances but until then I think it's perfectly acceptable for Leeds to request their players don't travel half way around the world and back in the middle of the season.

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