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Europa League a Consolation for Standard Liege

After a relatively successful European campaign, as well as securing a second consecutive Belgian title last time out, Standard Liege came into this season’s Champions League with high hopes. Having automatically qualified for the group stage, the Belgian side were drawn alongside Arsenal, Olympiacos and AZ Alkmaar.

They probably reached the pinnacle of their Champions League campaign within five minutes of their opening match to Arsenal, with two early goals. Otherwise it was downhill from there, as three second half goals from the Gunners snatched victory, and that acted as a sign of things to come. The results that followed saw them take a point from AZ in Holland, and leave empty handed from their visit to Olympiacos.

They will still be having nightmares of throwing a 2 goal lead away

In the return match, goals from Congo’s Mbokani and Jovanovic of Serbia secured victory over the Greek champions. Defeat at the Emirates left them with faint hopes of progressing, and for that to happen, they would have to beat AZ Alkmaar, and hope the Gunners did them a favour in Greece. But after going 1-0 down in the first half, Dominique D’Onofrio’s side were sat at the bottom of the table. It was not until five minutes into injury time that they rescued the game, and subsequently a Europa League place. Goalkeeper Sinan Bolat trotted forward for a free-kick, and headed the equalizer. They would have liked to have continued in Europe’s elite competition, but beggars can’t be choosers.

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Bolat’s last minute goal sent Standard into the Europa League

Red Bull Salzburg would be their opponents in the Europa League’s Round of 32. The first 45 minutes of the home first leg showed little hope for the Standard Liege fans. But a brace from Axel Witsel helped them do to the Austrian side what Arsenal did to them, and came back from 2-0 down to win 3-2. The side then showed they have more about them, as they went to Austria and did the job that needed to be done, with a 0-0 stalemate enough to send them through.

Standard will now play Panathinaikos in the Round of 16, and if they come away from Greece with something… anything to play for, you can’t write them off. Standard Liege are far from favourites to win the competition, and are not even favourites to overcome Panathinaikos, as shown by their 5-1 odds. But their first half performance against Arsenal showed they can match anybody on their day. With the likes of Liverpool and Valencia still in the competition, I think the best they can hope for is the quarter-finals.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. rickybutler

    7 March, 2010 at 22:51

    Very enjoyable article.

    I could be pedantic and say that Arsenal actually pulled it back it 2-1 in the first half and not the second as you stated but that would be splitting hairs!! (I am an Arsenal fan and very particular about facts and figures so please excuse me for even bringing it up!!)

    Overall a decent effort indeed, one of my favourites.

  2. gavh

    8 March, 2010 at 12:59

    Sorry lad but I have to strongly disagree with ricky. You have hit the topics right on the head as you have mentioned about there European Campaign so far and their next match against Panathinaikos.

    However I feel that it’s not a well written piece as some bits of your grammar prove to be a bit sluggish, as most articles I have read just have that little bit extra quality.

    Sorry

  3. juandeful

    10 March, 2010 at 18:36

    Thanks for the comments. I didn’t really have time to go back over the article and improve it, so I understand it probably isn’t my best piece of writing.

    And as for the Arsenal goal, when I looked up the game, it just said 45 minutes, so for some reason I persumed it was the second half, when it would obviously be the first half.

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