Champions League Round Up - Week 1
The Champions League is back and it certainly hasn’t disappointed in it’s first week. From wonder goals and late winners to dramatic red cards, the Champions League has proved why we love it so much. Read on to see how your favourite European team has got on this week, as well as getting the latest Champions League betting odds for the next round of matches.
Atletico Madrid and Borussia Dortmund ran out victorious in Group A on Tuesday night. 3 goals in the first half settled Monaco v Atletico, with the Spanish side winning 2-1. Winger Samuel Grandsir scored on his Champions League debut for Monaco to give the principality an early lead. Diego Costa equalised just 13 minutes later however, as Atletico started to dominate. A Jose Gimenez goal in first half stoppage time wrapped up the game as Atletico look forward to another European campaign.
Christian Pulisic saved Borussia Dortmund from a poor result in Belgium with his late winner. Club Brugge stepped up to Dortmund’s standards for the majority of the match, but tired legs certainly played a part as the game drew on. This was a must win game for Dortmund, who will be expecting to advance from the group stage. Winning their next match against Monaco will almost get the German’s off to a great start in Group A.
Leo Messi is well known for strong performances in Europe and he’s started this campaign as he means to go on. A hattrick against PSV included a free kick and a first time volley to prove he is still the best around. Moussa Dembele goal also impressed, starting with a drag back to beat 2 PSV defenders before a curling effort into the bottom corner. It was a difficult start for PSV and it won’t get any easier, as they host Inter in their next game.
The dutch side need a miracle to qualify, with Bet UK’s [sports betting](All odds from Bet UK’s online sportsbook correct at the time of writing.) feature already offering odds of [9/1 for PSV to qualify from Group B](/betting/football/uefa-champions-league).
At the San Siro, 2 late goals ensured that Inter Milan were successful on their return to Europe’s premier competition. Christian Eriksen’s deflected goal gave Spurs a deserved lead just after the break. The goal appeared to spark Inter into life as they instantly improved. Mauro Icardi’s equaliser might be the goal of the round, hammering a 20 yard volley into the bottom corner from a cross. A late Inter corner was headed back into the box before Matias Vecino finished past Michel Vorm to win the game in the 92nd minute.
Anfield’s european nights are legendary and this week’s match against PSG will be another one to remember. Daniel Sturridge put Liverpool ahead in the first half on his return to the first team, before James Milner scored a penalty just 6 minutes later. Thomas Meunier brought one back for PSG before the break, but Liverpool were by far the better side. PSG’s front 3 didn’t impress during the match, but Kylian Mbappe still scored late on as the French side thought they had done enough for a point. But, there was more to come. Roberto Firmino came off the bench after his horrific eye injury to fire in a late winner, giving Liverpool the perfect start.
In Belgrade, Napoli dominated the match for 90 minutes but failed to capitalise on their performance. Napoli completed almost 3 times as many passes, had 20 shots and had 74% possession during the match. The Red Star fans created a hostile atmosphere that might have affected the opposition more than initially expected. Known for being one of the most hostile grounds in Europe, the Red Star fans will look to replicate their performance against PSG and Liverpool.
They travel to Paris for their next game, and Bet UK make Red Star 33/1* to win against PSG.
Group D is one of the lowest profile groups in the Champions League this season, but may turn out to be the closest. Galatasaray got off to a strong start with a 3-0 win against Russian champions Lokomotiv Moscow. Galatasaray return to the Champions League after 2 years in the Europa League and they appear to be making up for lost time.
The other game in Group D was a much closer affair, Porto and Schalke playing out a 1-1 draw in Gelsenkirchen. After a poor first half, Breel Embolo gave Schalke the lead just after the hour mark. A Porto penalty 10 minutes later set the game back level, which was an overall fair result. Both teams will be hoping to advance to the next round, especially given Schalke’s success last season and Porto’s European experience.
In Amsterdam, 2 Nicolas Tagliafico goals helped Ajax to a 3-0 win against AEK Athens. AEK Athens had beaten Celtic to reach the Champions League group stages, so may have came into the game with some hope. After a dull first half, any AEK optimism was broken as Ajax scored 3 without return after the break. Tagliafico’s late volley has caused debate over whether it was a shot or a cross, but either way, it certainly looked impressive. A looping volley from a tight angle found the far corner, but there were some suspicions that he was trying to find a teammate in the box.
Renato Sanches scored on his return to Benfica, and his return to the Bayern Munich starting line up. After an early Robert Lewandowski goal, Benfica never looked like getting back into the game. Sanches scored his first club goal since leaving Benfica, after a quiet start at Bayern and a disastrous spell at Swansea City. His old club will now struggle to get out of the group after Ajax had such a strong start.
Lyon’s win at Manchester City was the shock of the first round. The French side raced into a 2-0 win at half time thanks to goals from Maxwel Cornet and Nabil Fekir. Fekir was a high profile Liverpool target during the summer and looked like he had a point to prove. He completely ran the match in the first half, outplaying Manchester City’s midfield. City improved in the second half, but without Pep Guardiola on the touchline, they didn’t look impressive.
Hoffenheim got off to an impressive start at Shakhtar Donetsk with a 2-2 draw. The German side were making their first appearance in the Champions League group stage and it could have been even better. Hoffenheim were 2-1 up at half time and managed to hold their lead deep into the second half. Shakhtar’s European experience may have paid off in the end however, as a late Maycon equaliser sent both teams back with a point.
Real Madrid’s Champions League defence started strongly with a 3-0 win against last season’s semi finalists, Roma. Without Cristiano Ronaldo, there was a worry that Real wouldn’t perform as well. But with Gareth Bale, Benzema, Isco et al still remaining at the Bernabeu, Madrid are still a force to be reckoned with. New number 7 Mariano Diaz scored the pick of the goals, cutting in from the left hand side before firing a shot into the top right hand corner.
Following their win last night, Real Madrid are 8/1* to win the Champions League at Bet UK.
The other game in the group had more goals, but less quality on the pitch. Viktoria Plzen and CSKA Moscow played out a 2-2 draw in Plzen, thanks to a 95th minute penalty from Everton loanee Nikola Vlasic. Michael Krmencik scored twice for Plzen to give them an early lead in the first half, before the Czech side crumbled. CSKA are the stronger side and their superiority was clear after the break. Although they may have been lucky with a last minute penalty, CSKA deserved the draw in the end.
After a poor start to the season, Manchester United seem to be finding their feet. A 3-0 win at Young Boys was another step in the right direction, with Paul Pogba standing out in Switzerland. For his first goal, quick feet and a powerful finish perfectly showed everything that Pogba does well. Another penalty took his tally up to 3 for the season, before Anthony Martial grabbed his first goal of the season.
The biggest story of Wednesday night was at the Mestalla, where Cristiano Ronaldo was sent off on his return to Spanish football. The forward lightly tapped the head of Jeison Murillo and was punished by Felix Brych’s assistants. Ronaldo left the field in tears, but watching his team win 2-0 without him might have helped. Miralem Pjanic scored a penalty either side of half time to ensure that Juventus survived without their new talisman. Valenica then missed a penalty of their own as Wojciech Szczesny saved from Dani Parejo.
*All odds from Bet UK’s online sportsbook correct at the time of writing.