Arsenal slipped up in their bid to top their Champions League group on Wednesday as they went down to rivals FC Porto 2-0 in their final group match.
While they ended as runners-up they at least avoided the fate of having to play against Real Madrid, coached for the first time by former Spurs manager Juande Ramos, whose new team eased to a 3-0 victory over UEFA Cup holders Zenit St Petersburg.
A double from iconic Real striker Raul ensured that Ramos, who was sacked by Spurs earlier this season, but who replaced Bernd Schuster on Tuesday, got off to an ideal start. It took Raul’s total to a record 66 goals in the Champions League — Filippo Inzaghi is next best on 64 and his club AC Milan are not in this season’s competition.
Ramos, who enjoyed great success with Sevilla winning two successive UEFA Cup titles with them, was impressed by the spirit the players showed.
“It’s a good result, which boosts team morale. I really liked the players’ attitude,” Ramos said.
Sporting director Pedja Mijatovic, the power behind the Bernabeu throne, noted that there had been an evident change of atmosphere amongst the team.
“Now we are a little calmer. We saw something different with the change of coach,” Mijatovic said.
Juventus still topped the group after drawing 0-0 at home to Belarus outfit BATE Borisov.
Wenger’s youngsters were unable to ever get to grips with FC Porto and it left Arsenal goalkeeper Manuel Almunia fuming.
“We were not in the game at any moment, we were not aggressive, we didn’t pass the ball well and this is why we lost,” the Spaniard said. “I’m very disappointed. Everyone is wearing the Arsenal shirt and has to give 100 percent. That was not the case.”
Two players turned coaches who used to play for Wenger in his days as Monaco coach provided the match of the evening, as Jurgen Klinsmann’s Bayern Munich forged into a 3-0 lead — thanks mainly to a double by Miroslav Klose taking him to five for this campaign — over French champions Lyon, coached by Claude Puel, only to just edge them 3-2.
Victory ensured Bayern finished top of the group with Lyon in second, though, Klinsmann was slightly alarmed at the manner in which his side had allowed Lyon back into the game.
“I think we missed out on our opportunities of making it 4-0 and then mentally relaxed a bit,” the former Germany coach said. “We made two mistakes and I think it was down to a lack of concentration. You can’t do that against such a good side as Lyon.”
Arsenal’s bitter Premier League rivals Manchester United fared better, drawing 2-2 with Danish side Aalborg, though it was Scottish champions Celtic that ensured Sir Alex Ferguson’s side topped the group by beating 10-man Villarreal 2-0 for their first win of the campaign.
While Ferguson thought his side would have won comfortably if they had been more accurate in front of goal, he was ebullient about entering the knockout stages and with a second leg at home as they set their sights on a third Champions League title under his reign.
“[We will] come to Old Trafford with a full house and a really good atmosphere,” he said. “We are there, have got the track record and the players, so let’s go and have a go.”
Celtic do not even have the UEFA Cup as a consolation, but victory was still a welcome relief for manager Gordon Strachan.
“That match was there to make us feel better about ourselves,” he said.