[UEFA CUP] It was a good night for U.S. players in Thursday's UEFA Cup group action, with Brad Guzan earning a shutout to help Aston Villa to victory on his European debut at Slavia Prague, and Oguchi Onyewu anchoring the Standard Liege defense that kept out Sevilla of La Liga for a 1-0 victory in Group C.
The win gave Villa a clear lead with six points from two games in Group F, with the only goal coming in the first half when a Steve Sidwellshot took a deflection off striker John Carew. Guzan made a number of saves in both halves to keep Villa's side of the score sheet blank. "We were really great in the first half," said Villa manager Martin O'Neill. "Maybe we could have scored more goals. I think we deserved to win. I believe now that seven points [overall] will definitely get us through" to the knockout phase.
Reigning Belgian champion Liege has slipped down to fourth place in the Jupiter League, but it met another team out of form in Sevilla, which has lost its last two Spanish league games. Congolese striker Dieumerci Mbokaniscored the game's only goal to give Liege and Onyewu its first points of the European campaign. "In the league we have problems, but in Europe we play great," said Standard captain Steven Dufour.
It was a poor night all round for Spanish clubs. Valencia was held at home 1-1 by FC Copenhagen, and Racing Santander suffered the same scoreline hosting German side Schalke 04, who came back from a goal down when Orlando Engelaar quickly canceled out Mohamed Tchite's second-half go-ahead goal for Racing. "We reacted well to their goal," said Schalke coach Fred Rutten. "Looked at objectively, a draw was about right." In Group A Schalke is one point ahead of Manchester City, whose 3-2 win over Twente included a superb goal from Brazilian striker Robinho.
AC Milan beat Braga of Portugal on a 20-yard shot in the dying seconds of stoppage time fromRonaldinho, who had come on as a second-half substitute. Coach Carlo Ancelotti rested several first-choice regulars, including Kaka, and Braga often had the better of play. In the same group, Bundesliga side Wolfsburg punished Heerenveen of the Netherlands for taking the lead by hammering it, 5-1, including a brace from Bosnian striker Edin Dzeko. "The result tells you everything about the game," said Heerenveen coach Trond Sollied. "Strangely the game was very equal up until we scored, but after that I'm afraid we let in way too many easy goals."
Tottenham Hotspur's revival under new manager Harry Redknapp continued, with Darren Bent netting a hat trick in the 4-0 home win over Dynamo Zagreb, although the goal of the night came from Tom Huddlestone, who volleyed home a corner from around 25 yards out. "There's competition for places up front," noted Redknapp, doubtless with some satisfaction. In the other Group D game, Udinese won 2-1 on the road at Spartak Moscow, both of its goals coming from Fabio Quagliarella.
Another striker to net twice was Stuttgart's Mario Gomez with two late goals in his team's 2-0 home win over Partizan Belgrade. "They deserved the victory," conceded Partizan coach Slavisa Jokanovic. "In the last quarter hour they exploited our weaknesses and showed the difference between our league and the Bundesliga." Stuttgart is level on points in the tight Group C with Liege, Sevilla and Sampdoria.
The third in five rounds of group play will take place Nov. 27.
Manchester City 3 (Wright-Phillips, Robinho, Mwaruwari) FC Twente 2 (Elia,
Racing Santander 1 (Tchite) Schalke 1 (Engelaar)
DID NOT PLAY: Paris St. Germain
Standings:Schalke 04 (4 points), Manchester City (3), FC Twente (3), Racing Santander (1), Paris St. Germain (0),
Benfica 0 Galatasaray 2 (Asik, Karan)
Metalist Kharkiv 0 Hertha Berlin 0
DID NOT PLAY: Olympiakos
Standings:Galatasaray (6 points), Hertha Berlin (2), Metalist Kharkov (1), Benfica (1), Olympiakos (0)
Standard Liege 1 (Mbokani) Sevilla 0
VfB Stuttgart 2 (Gomez 2) Partizan Belgrade 0
DID NOT PLAY: Sampdoria
Standings:Sampdoria (3 points), Sevilla (3), Standard Liege (3), VfB Stuttgart (3), Partizan Belgrade (0)
Tottenham Hotspur 4 (Bent 3, Huddlestone) Dinamo Zagreb 0
Spartak Moscow 1 (Rodriguez) Udinese 2 (Quaglieralla 2, 1 PK)
DID NOT PLAY: NEC
Standings: Udinese (6), Tottenham Hotspur (3), Dinamo Zagreb (3), NEC (0) Spartak Moscow (0)
AC Milan 1 (Ronaldinho) Braga 0
Wolfsburg 5 (Dzeko 2, Batista Grafite, Misimovic, Krzynowek) Heerenveen 1 (Vayrynen)
DID NOT PLAY: Portsmouth
Standings:AC Milan (6 points), Wolfsburg (3), Braga (3), Portsmouth (0), Heerenveen (0)
Slavia Prague 0 Aston Villa 1 (Carew)
Ajax Amsterdam 1 (Suarez) MSK Zilina 0
DID NOT PLAY: Hamburg
Standings:Aston Villa (6 points), Hamburg (3), Ajax (3), Slavia Prague (0), MSK Zilina (0)
Valencia 1 (Morientes) FC Copenhagen 1 (Santin)
St. Etienne 3 (Ilan, Paulo Machado, Mirallas) Rosenborg Trondheim 0
DID NOT PLAY: Club Brugge
Standings: St. Etienne (6 points), Valencia (1), Club Brugge (1), FC Copenhagen (1), Rosenborg (1)
Lech Poznan 2 (Peszko, Stilic) AS Nancy 2 (Malonga Ntsayi, Zerka)
Feyenoord 1 (Van Bronckhorst) CSKA Moscow 3 (Berezutsky, Wagner Love 2)
DID NOT PLAY: Deportivo La Coruna
Standings:CSKA Moscow (6 points), Nancy (4), Lech Poznan (1), Deportivo La Coruna (0), Feyenoord (0)
Format:Top three teams from each group qualify for next knockout round, together with the eight third-placed teams from the Champions League group phase.