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Graham Lister reflects on a winless week for the English in the Champions League.

It must be quite a while since a Champions League Matchday produced not a single English winner, but that's what we saw this week as Chelsea were well-beaten in Rome, Liverpool got the luckiest of let-offs against Atletico Madrid, Manchester United left it late to earn a draw at Celtic Park, and Arsenal fired blanks at the Emirates in a goalless stalemate against Fenerbahce.

Despite that unimpressive set of results - which reflected largely uninspiring performances from the Premier League's 'Big Four', all but Liverpool remain top of their respective groups, while the Reds trail Atletico only on goal difference.

So the damage in a winless week was minimal; but there are certainly lessons to be learned.

Chelsea, for example, had a night to forget in the Eternal City. Luiz Felipe Scolari admitted they didn't play well, and captain John Terry, who scored their consolation goal when it was already 3-0 to rampant Roma, was scathing in his assessment of his team's slipshod display.

The Blues were uncharacteristically careless at the back, Christian Panucci and the outstanding Mirko Vucinic taking full advantage. Terry, the arch-competitor, was livid, and warned his team-mates they must show much more in the way of battling qualities if they want to reach a second successive final.

He thought Chelsea were guilty of complacency, and railed: "When you play anywhere in the world, first and foremost you have to fight and show more determination than the opposition to win the game.... It has to start… with a desire to win. It was a terrible night for us really. We didn't get going. Overall it was disappointing that we didn't even fight, even after going 1-0 and 2-0 down."

Terry was all the more angry because Roma had been struggling for results recently, so the pressure was all on the Giallorossi and their beleaguered coach, Luciano Spalletti. But Chelsea failed to add to their worries, Spalletti's uncharacteristic decision to play with more than just one striker paid dividends as the Blues' defence was picked apart.

To make matters worse, Deco was sent off, and Scolari, concerned that his team gave away three goals, admitted: "We made too many mistakes, made wrong passes and had bad positions." It's not often you hear that about Chelsea.

The fact that - Uefa's investigation into reports of more crowd violence notwithstanding - the final will also be staged in Rome may have been a distraction for Chelsea. There was too much pre-match talk of returning to the Italian capital in May - presumptuous stuff that smacked of chickens being counted before they've hatched.

As Terry succinctly put it, he hopes the lesson delivered by Roma will give the Blues "a kick up the backside," adding: "The final is a big target and we want to come back here, but with that kind of performance and work-rate we have no chance."

While Chelsea were being humbled, Liverpool were re-enacting yet another Great Escape, with the aid of an Oscar-winning cameo from Scouse hero Steven Gerrard. If anything, the Liverpool skipper seemed to jump dangerously for the ball with Mariano Pernia in the fourth minute of stoppage-time at Anfield. But his collapse to the turf fooled referee Martin Hansson into awarding Liverpool a penalty from which Gerrard himself coolly scored at the Kop end to salvage a point from a game that Atletico Madrid had looked like winning.

The Spanish visitors had led from the 37th minute, when captain Maxi Rodriguez finished a stunning counter-attack that exposed Liverpool's vulnerability down the flanks, where their full-backs remain unconvincing. The Reds' other weakness was at the spearhead of their front-line in the absence of former Atletico hero Fernando Torres. He watched helplessly from the stands, nursing his hamstring, as Madrid defended with resourcefulness and resilience, frustrating their hosts.

The introduction of Sergio Aguero, boyfriend of Giannina Maradona, Diego's daughter, who is expecting their first child in February, heightened the counter-attacking threat of Atletico. But in a game in which the referee might have awarded three earlier penalties yet didn't, the Swedish official, ill-served by his assistant, got it wrong at the death to throw Liverpool a lifeline that preserved their unbeaten record in Group D.

While the Atletico players fumed, Rafael Benitez unsurprisingly insisted that the award of the penalty had been correct. "Had that offence against Steven taken place in the middle of the pitch it would have been a free-kick, so it was a penalty," said Rafa - though the real point was whether or not it was an offence, not where it occurred.

"The key for us was not to lose in such a tight match," added Benitez. The talk afterwards was of Liverpool's resilience and never-say-die spirit - and they are certainly proving very hard to beat, unless you're Harry Redknapp. Yet Rafa will know that his team came within a whisker of losing to a side who probably deserved to beat them on the night. As it is, both Liverpool and Atletico are very close to qualifying for the knock-out stages. And for the Merseysiders' next Group match, they should have Torres back on the pitch.

The night after Rafa's Reds rode their luck, arch-rivals Manchester United were completing the latest edition of the 'Battle of Britain.' Having beaten Celtic emphatically at Old Trafford two weeks ago, the return in Glasgow was billed as the Bhoys' chance to restore pride, backed by their redoubtable twelfth man, the awesome Parkhead crowd.

Much was made of the fact that Celtic had beaten United 1-0 at home two years ago in the Champions League, but the Hoops' camp were also stressing a gulf in class between the two squads. Ex-Rangers forward Sir Alex Ferguson, whose team ran out in a provocative all-blue kit calculated to inflame Old Firm passions, appeared to narrow that gulf by naming a United starting XI that will probably bear little resemblance to the one at Arsenal on Saturday.

The home supporters were ecstatic on 13 minutes when Scott McDonald put the Bhoys ahead with a sublime lob. It was Celtic's first goal in this Champions League campaign - and the first one conceded by defending champions United.

Ferguson's side responded by pinning Celtic back in their own territory for much of the first period, but were kept at bay by some committed defending. However, Ryan Giggs headed an 84th-minute equaliser for United after Celtic keeper Artur Boruc could only parry a Cristiano Ronaldo shot. The Red Devils deserved the goal for their pressure and possession - and Dimitar Berbatov missed a gilt-edged chance to snatch all three points in the closing minutes. That would have been hard on Celtic, who must win their last two matches and hope that Villarreal, level with United on eight points, fail to pick up any more. As for
United, they require just a point to make certain of qualification.

Arsenal will need to beat Dynamo Kiev at home later this month to ensure their progress to the knock-out stages, after being held to a disappointing 0-0 draw at the Emirates by Fenerbahce. Two weeks ago in Istanbul, a pulsating, open game had seen Arsene Wenger's side record a comprehensive 5-2 victory. And the Gunners started brightly enough in the North London return, creating several early chances that promised a similar outcome.

Yet they failed to put any away, with striker Robin van Persie either unlucky or guilty of profligacy, depending on your take. And after dominating the first-half with nothing to show for it, they somewhat lost their way after the break, when Fenerbahce looked decidedly more comfortable.

Arsenal's season took a wrong-turn a week ago against Tottenham, and they have now gone three games without winning. With a host of injuries, and Manchester United due at the Emirates at midday on Saturday, there is every prospect of that unwanted run stretching to four games.

Against their Turkish visitors' packed defence on Wednesday they lacked a cutting edge in the absence of Emmanuel Adebayor and Theo Walcott. Mikael Silvestre's suspected broken nose, courtesy of Semih Senturk's elbow, merely added to their frustration.

The build-up to the game was dominated by the fall-out from the Gunners' defeat by Stoke last weekend. Wenger's allegations that the Potters had deliberately tried to hurt his players was anything but ideal preparation for the Fenerbahce game, and will give United great encouragement ahead of Saturday's clash.

Arsenal currently look in need of a genuine leader on the pitch. True, if they had converted one of their first-half chances, the pattern of the game would probably have been markedly different. But ifs and maybes don't cut it at this level, as Wenger knows all too well.

So, was it a collective off-day for the English clubs or a timely reminder that the Premier League is not so far ahead of the rest as it likes to think? All four Premier League sides will almost certainly progress to the next stage, but they will doubtless need to raise their game for the sterner challenges that lie ahead.
 

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Didnt read all that but I get the jist of it.
The Prem is by far the most demanding league in world football
and thats the main reason for this weeks bad results imo.
 

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Huge surprise that not one team could manage a win!

Ony 3 points from a possible 12! (As such)

Liverpool - Didn't deserve a point
Chelsea - Fair result
United - How we didn't manage three??
Arsenal - Didn't see it but heard that they had enough chances to win it.


Wonder if all the top 4 , as Jazz said, are feeling the strain?
 

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Tbf, United and Chelsea were away from home at very tough places to go.

Don't forget that we lost 2-1 in Rome a couple of seasons ago and had Scholesy sent-off, which is not dissimilar to losing 3-1 and having Deco sent-off!

Only 1 team (Barcelona) has beaten Celtic at Celtic Park in the Champions League and teams such as the then European champions AC Milan, Lyon etc have lost.

And Liverpool and Arsenal are pants. :D

Seriously though, both teams have had a dip in form just before this week. Liverpool lost for the 1st time this season against Spurs and Arsenal had thrown away a 2 goal lead against Spurs and then lost to Stoke so could not have been going into the game with much confidence.
 

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reddwarf said:
Tbf, United and Chelsea were away from home at very tough places to go.

Don't forget that we lost 2-1 in Rome a couple of seasons ago and had Scholesy sent-off, which is not dissimilar to losing 3-1 and having Deco sent-off!

Only 1 team (Barcelona) has beaten Celtic at Celtic Park in the Champions League and teams such as the then European champions AC Milan, Lyon etc have lost.

And Liverpool and Arsenal are pants. :D

Seriously though, both teams have had a dip in form just before this week. Liverpool lost for the 1st time this season against Spurs and Arsenal had thrown away a 2 goal lead against Spurs and then lost to Stoke so could not have been going into the game with much confidence.

Good point Dwarfy...also, the last British side to beat Celtic on their home patch
was Nottingham Forest....year escapes me! :eek:
 

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Yep Barca are the only team to have beaten us at home in the CL. Mind you United had a good bash last night. If we hadn't been so good defensively then United would probably have hammered us
 
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