Friday, September 9, 2011

Your friendly neighborhood UEFA NextGen report

I talked about the announcement and the "junior Champions League" is now underway. Having already taken you all through the Under-20 World Cup, our own youth prodigy Jacob will now be bringing you the lowdown on this tourney...

While Europe's top clubs scrambled to fill out and/or trim down their rosters before last Wednesday night's deadline, some of their best and brightest took to the field for the second set of fixtures in the NextGen Series . For those of you not familiar, the competition consists of four groups of four teams playing round robin Champions League style.

PSV Eindhoven visited Basel FC in their openening game of the inaugural competition. Unfortunately for Raymond Libregis's side, they were undone by Nafiu's 20th minute strike. The remaining forays forward were unfruitful for the highly regarded academy as they went on to surrender their NextGen debut.

Fellow Dutch participants and rivals Ajax were none-too-warm in their welcoming of visitors Fenerbahce to the competition. The famed academy - Cruijff, Rijkaard, Bergkamp, Seedorf, and Sneijder ring any bells? - were unlucky to be up only 2-1 at halftime. Lucky for them - and Greg - they took justice into their own hands as they slapped down a second half triple to run out 5-1 victors. Youssef Finnich will have left somewhat disappointed for not having completed his hat trick - he had a brace in the bad for over an hour - but will be undoubtedly pleased that his club now lead Group 3 by an unsettling six points.

Brisbane Road played host to Tottenham and Inter Milan's Under-19 showcase. With just under forty minutes gone, Warren Atkin sent off Tomislav Gomelt and pointed to the spot. From there Daniel Bessa buried the subsequent penalty to put Inter on the board. Unfortunately for I Nerazurri , Gomelt had already finished his hat-trick as part of Tottenham's opening volley of six goals. To add insult to injury, Alex Pritchard added his seventh to obliterate any modicum of doubt to put Spurs atop Group 4.

Further up the island, Celtic took after their senior side and Barcelona did the same as the La Masia squad triumphed 3-1. The score was even after 23 minutes, but Barca's class was plenty evident as Maza found Jean Marie Dongou to put the game out of doubt. The result nailed Celtic to the Group 1 Floor without a point with Manchester City having oddly yet to play. Barcelona top the group alongside Marseille with a win each to their name.

Rounding out the second round of group stage games was yet a fourth victory for the home team as Sporting Lisbon put down Wolfsburg 2-1 at Est·dio JosÈ Alvalade. Goals for Coelho and Chaby did the trick for Lisbon to affirm Las Sportinguistas place as Group 2 Leaders.

Liverpool however, had a thing or four to say as they put just that many past Molde to go second in the group. Because they truly are everywhere, the Reds' winning performance had a respectable vocal contingent of Liverpool supporters as witnesses. Toni Silva and England Under-20 international Michael Ngoo led the line as their collective pace, strength, and skill monopolized the attention of the Norwegian side. Unfortunately for Molde, Raheem Stirling was more than happy to further burden their defense. To make matters worse, Conor Coady bossed the midfield, limiting Molde's attacking aspirations to the counter.

Molde did manage to hold out for all of 26 minutes, before Silva started the inevitable waterfall of goals as he headed home from close range. Conor Coady's PK just before the hour mark shattered any doubt that was lingering around Aker Stadion . Brace yourselves for the whistling.

Check back in a week or so for Man City-Barca, Liverpool-Wolfsburg, and Inter-PSV among others.

- Jacob Klinger

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