Thursday, April 3, 2008

First legs of the UEFA Cup quarter finals were played out on Thursday. Germany is the only country with two clubs remaining in the competition with Bayer Leverkusen and Bayern Munich both playing at home to Zenit St. Petersburg and Getafe respectively. Dutch Eredivisie leaders PSV Eindhoven traveled to Italy to take on Fiorentina, while Scotland's Rangers F.C. welcomed Sporting Lisbon of Portugal to Ibrox Stadium.


Zenit St. Petersburg took a huge step towards the UEFA Cup semi-finals by thrashing Bayer Leverkusen 4-1 at the BayArena Stadium in Germany. Russia international Andrei Arshavin scored the opener for Zenit in the 20th minute when he picked up a loose pass by Tranquillo Barnetta, dribbled past the Bayer defence, and drilled the ball into the top of the net. Bayer equalized in the 34th minute through Stefan Kiessling. Vratislav Gresko ran to the by-line and crossed into the box where Bernd Schneider headed the ball towards the net. Roman Shirokov cleared the ball off the line, but only to the feet of Kiessling who shot the ball into the bottom left corner of the net. The visitors grabbed the lead back in the 53rd minute through Pavel Pogrebniak when he connected with a cross by Arshavin. Alexander Anyukov added another for the visitors with a right footed shot from outside the box, and Igor Denisov capped off the scoring in the 64th after a swift counter-attack.

Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich welcomed Getafe of Spain to the Allianz Arena. The home side scored first through Luca Toni when he headed home a cross by Bastian Schweinsteiger in the 26th minute. Getafe looked to hit back quickly, and would have if it were not for Philip Lahm clearing an effort from Mario off the line. Both teams squandered a number of opportunities in the second half including shots by Toni and Ribery for Bayern, and Casquero for Getafe. Manu then had a fantastic chance to equalize when keeper Oliver Kahn made an error, but he only manage to head the ball against the post. With the final whistle looming, Contra lobbed the ball over a charging Kahn for the crucial away goal. Getafe now have the advantage going into next weeks replay in Spain.

Fiorentina and PSV played out to a 1-1 draw in Italy on Thursday. Both goals came in the second half with Adrian Mutu opening the scoring for the home side. Giampaolo Pazzini flicked a long ball into the area and keeper Heurelho Gomes reached out to punch the ball away. Instead it hit off Mutu and back into his own net. PSV's tying goal came only 6 minutes later through Danny Koevermans. Ibrahim Afellay passed him the ball from the left and the Dutch striker netted into the top corner. The outcome of the series is now up in the air after this indecisive finish, but the Dutch side does have a slight advantage thanks to their away goal.

Sporting traveled to Scotland to take on the only British team remaining in the competition. Rangers enjoyed the majority of the possession in the match but created few clear cut chances, the best of which coming from Lee McCulloch. Sporting's best chances came on the counterattack, the best of which coming from Grimi. His storming 70 yard run looked promising but his shot was saved by Allan McGregor. Both teams pushed for a winner nearing the end, but it would end all square after 90 minutes.

Second legs to be played Thursday, April 10