Champions League Round Up - Week 3
We are halfway through the group stages now and the groups are starting to take some shape after each team completed their 3rd round of fixtures. Manchester City and Liverpool both jumped to the top of their respective groups, but the Champions League future of Manchester United and Tottenham still firmly hangs in the balance. Elsewhere around Europe, Barcelona triumphed without Lionel Messi and Real Madrid ended a 5 game run without a win at the Bernabeu.
Club Brugge 1 v 1 Monaco
Thierry Henry’s managerial debut in the Champions League didn’t quite go as planned. His Monaco side did get off to a good start through young striker Moussa Sylla. The 18 year old latched onto a Aleksandr Golovin through ball before slotting past the opposition keeper. Sylla should have had another just minutes later, but couldn’t convert from a tight angle after rounding the keeper. Brugge made Monaco pay for their missed chances with an equaliser 5 minutes before the break. Wesley Moraes met a left wing cross to firmly head past Loic Badiashile. Neither side could create a clear cut chance in the second half, and it now looks like both will be exiting the competition.
Performance of the week has to go to Borussia Dortmund after a 4-0 demolition of Atletico Madrid. The defeat was Diego Simeone’s heaviest ever as Atletico manager and the German side fully deserved their win. Axel Witsel’s deflected effort put Dortmund ahead before Raphael Guerreiro doubled the lead 15 minutes before the end. Jadon Sancho got his first Champions League goal after 83 minutes and the rout was completed after 89, when Guerriero grabbed another from a rare Atleti mistake at the back.
Lionel Messi might have been watching from the stands, but Barcelona were still a class above Inter Milan on the night. Barcelona took the lead through ex-Inter loanee Rafinha, who easily tapped in from a perfect Luis Suarez cross into the box. Inter were quiet in the first half, but nearly equalised after the break when a Matteo Politano cross nearly sneaked into the far corner. Barcelona’s continued pressure eventually paid off late on with a rare goal from Jordi Alba finishing the game off. Even with Messi out of the team, Barcelona look frighteningly good.
Tottenham left their Champions League hopes hanging in the balance after conceding a late equaliser in Eindhoven. Tottenham fell behind when Hirving Lozano pressured Toby Alderweireld into a mistake, before his deflected shot looped over a helpless Hugo Lloris. Tottenham had previously had a few chances, but made their pressure count when Lucas Moura swept home a Kieran Trippier cross. Harry Kane put Spurs ahead with a header 10 minutes into the second half, but Hugo Lloris’s late sending off immediately put Spurs on the back foot. Lloris came out of his box to win the ball but mistimed his tackle and was shown a straight red. PSV’s pressure eventually paid off through Luuk de Jong, who equalised with just 3 minutes to go.
Liverpool bounced back from their Napoli defeat with an emphatic Anfield victory. Roberto Firmino opened the scoring, firing into the roof of the net from Andy Robertson’s cutback. Mohamed Salah added to Liverpool’s lead after a deft touch from Xherdan Shaqiri put him through on goal. Sadio Mane was brought down in the area 5 minutes into the second half, giving Salah the chance to grab his second goal of the match from the spot. Mane missed Liverpool’s second penalty of the game, before scoring 5 minutes later from a Daniel Sturridge assist. If Liverpool can win the tough away leg at Red Star, then you must fancy them to win Group C.
After losing away to Liverpool, PSG needed a win at home to Napoli to assert themselves on Group C. They didn’t get off to a strong start however, as Napoli dominated the first half, hitting the bar before Lorenzo Insigne opened the scoring. The forward ran onto a through ball before expertly lobbing the ball over the top of Alphonse Areola. PSG inevitably pressured Napoli, but couldn’t find a breakthrough until the 61st minute. Mario Rui cruelly put the ball into his own net after trying to clear a Thomas Meunier cross. Dries Mertens put Napoli back ahead before a late Angel Di Maria strike sent both teams home with a point.
Lokomotiv Moscow’s poor Champions League record continued with a 3-1 loss at home to Porto. Manuel Fernandes had the opportunity to get Lokomotiv off to a perfect start, but saw his penalty saved by Iker Casillas. Porto responded with a penalty of their own, easily dispatched by Moussa Marega. Hector Herrera’s header doubled Porto’s lead, but Anton Miranchuk scored for Lokomotiv to end an entertaining first half. Jesus Corona restored Porto’s 2 goal lead just after the break with an emphatic finish that all but ended Lokomotiv’s chance of qualification.
The only 0-0 of the round was at Galatasaray v Schalke. Both sides are now left to fight over second place as Porto look to be taking the top spot in Group D. The match was dominated by goalkeeping performances, with Fernando Muslera and Alexander Nubel both impressing. Schalke striker Breel Embolo had the best chance of the match, firing against a defender after his initial shot was saved by Muslera. Schalke did have a goal disallowed, but Embolo was clearly offside and a 0-0 draw was a fair result.
In one of Tuesday’s early kick offs, German giants Bayern Munich scored twice in 2 minutes for a much needed win in Group E. Bayern had been struggling in both European and domestic competitions so far this season, putting manager Niko Kovac under pressure. Javi Martinez reacted first in the box to grab the first goal of the game. Just 2 minutes later, Robert Lewandowski had all the time in the world at the back post to easily finish for 2-0. Bayern have another game against Athens next time out and will be aiming to overtake Ajax at the top of the group.
Ajax are one of the most surprising sides of the Champions League so far, currently sitting top of Group E. The young Dutch side left it late against Benfica, winning 1-0 thanks to a Noussair Mazraoui goal in the 92nd minute. Ajax were the better team throughout the game and arguably should have been ahead in the first half, but Kasper Dolberg’s looping volley was cleared off the line. Benfica keeper Odisseas Vlachodimos kept his team in the game with a stunning save to deny Donny van de Beek from the edge of the area. Vlachodimos was powerless to stop Mazraoui’s goal however, which just evaded the keeper after a couple of deflections.
Shakhtar 0-3 City
Shakhtar were the first team to beat Manchester City last year, but Pep Guardiola’s side got their revenge this time around. City dominated the first half, particularly on the counter attack. Riyad Mahrez had a couple of chances to put his team ahead before David Silva finally provided the first goal. Aymeric Laporte added a second just minutes later after he was left completely open in the box. City remained in control and grabbed a 3rd goal after 70 minutes. Substitute Bernardo Silva led another City counter-attack before finishing with a low shot into the bottom corner. After a shaky start, City now sit top of Group F.
In potentially the game of the week, Hoffenheim grabbed a late equaliser in a dramatic 3-3 draw with Lyon. Bertrand Traore opened the scoring after making the most of a Hoffenheim defensive error. Lyon’s lead would only last for a few minutes however, before Andrej Kramaric scored his first Champions League goal of the campaign. Kramaric grabbed his second just after the break, before Lyon fought back again through Tanguy Ndombele. Lyon forward Memphis Depay carried on his impressive run of form to make it 3-2, but Hoffenheim would strike back again. With almost the last kick of the game, Joelinton made it 3-3, giving Hoffenheim a hope of qualifying from the group.
Real Madrid won for the first time in 5 matches against Plzen on Tuesday night. Madrid took an early lead through Karim Benzema’s powerful header. Real were still clearly experiencing problems at the back and Plzen had chances on more than one occasion in the first half. Marcelo added Madrid’s second after the break, but would be forced off with an injury before the match was over, ruling him out of this weekend’s Clasico. Plzen got a late consolation, but it wasn’t enough to stop Madrid taking the 3 points.
3 goals within 20 minutes gave Roma a comprehensive victory over CSKA Moscow. Edin Dzeko’s remarkable Roma form continued with 2 first half goals. The Bosnian scored with 2 first time finishes as he continues to evade defenses with his movement and always end up in the right position. If Roma are to repeat their run from last year, then Dzeko will be key to that. Cengiz Under scored the pick of the goals with a volley from just inside the box, finding the top of corner of the net.
Manchester United’s inconsistent start to the season continued with a 1-0 home loss to Juventus. Much of the build-up was focused around Cristiano Ronaldo’s return to Old Trafford for only the second time since his 2008 exit. With Ronaldo the focus of the build-up, it seems that many pundits forgot just how strong Juventus are in other areas. Paulo Dybala has established himself as one of Juventus’ best players and he proved it once again with a goal at Old Trafford. Without David De Gea, Juventus could have had 4 or 5, but United came the closest in the second half. Paul Pogba’s long-range effort hit the post, before somehow rebounding off Wojciech Szczesny out of play.
Honours were shared in Switzerland as Young Boys earned their first point of the Champions League campaign against Valencia. On loan striker Michy Batshuayi opened the scoring by taking the ball around Young Boys keeper Marco Wolfli before slotting into an empty net. Young Boys responded and had chances to score, before being awarded a penalty after 55 minutes. Veteran striker Guillaume Hoarau took the penalty and equalised for the Swiss side as they continued to push for a winner. 1 point was not an ideal result for either side, with both teams now looking like exiting the Champions League at the group stage.
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