Curtain Rises On Champions League Drama The Big Picture

Curtain Rises On Champions League Drama

There were mixed fortunes for the British clubs on matchday one of the Champions League with good wins for United, City, Chelsea and Tottenham. Liverpool could only draw, while Celtic received a footballing lesson from PSG amid chaotic scenes as a pitch invader tried to kick Kylian Mbappe, one of the world’s most expensive players. It was the closest anyone got to him all night!

Celtic were given a rude reminder of their true standing among Europe’s elite as they suffered a 5-0 drubbing at the hands of PSG at Celtic Park on Tuesday night. Despite going into the game with so much hope, the gulf between the two sides was obvious from the first whistle as the visitors, who included two of the world’s most expensive players in Neymar and Mbappe among their ranks, looked a class apart from their hosts. Celtic laboured gamely without ever threatening to register on the scoreboard. It was their heaviest ever home defeat in Europe and it could have been far, far worse.

PSG’s performance lays down a serious marker for the French club’s chances of winning the competition this year. Neymar, Cavani and Mbappe look to have forged a good understanding already and will create plenty of chances against even the best defences. Despite their big spending, they have never been beyond the quarter-finals in the Champions League. Could this be their year at last?

The result leaves Brendan Rogers’ side rooted to the bottom of Group B on goal difference below Belgian side Anderlecht who lost 3-0 to Bayern Munich in Germany. Given the strength and experience of both Bayern and PSG, it looks like Celtic are realistically in a battle for third spot and a place in the Europa League knock-out stages. It means they must now get something out of their trip to Brussels on matchday two if they are to have any chance of prolonging their European adventure into the new year. It is a sad reflection on the gulf between the Scottish Premier League and the top European leagues, a gulf that is likely to continue to grow in the years ahead. Half a century on from the Lisbon Lions, their achievements may never be matched again.

The disaster was compounded by the reckless actions of a home supporter who invaded the pitch just before the break and appeared to aim a kick at Mbappe. Fortunately, he missed but the damage was done and UEFA are sure to come down hard on the club.

Chelsea romp

It was a different story for reigning Premier League champions Chelsea who thrashed Azerbaijani side Qarabag 6-0 at Stamford Bridge. Goals from Pedro, Zappacosta, Azpilicueta, Bakayoko, Batshuayi and an own goal from Medvedev late on sealed the most comprehensive of victories for the home side and puts them top of Group C. Manager Antonio Conte will have been pleased to see deadline day signing Zappacosta get his name on the scoresheet in his first start for the club, but more pleased to see Hazard return from a long injury lay-off to make his first appearance of the season off the bench.

True, Qarabag were not expected to provide the sternest of challenges, but it was a job well done for the Blues who looked impressive throughout. However, they will face a much sterner test when they travel to Spain to take on Atletico Madrid on matchday two on September 27th. The Spanish side got their campaign off to a solid start with a goalless draw against Roma in the Olympic Stadium.

Good start for United

Manchester United were too good for Swiss side Basel at Old Trafford. Goals from Fellaini, Lukaku and Rashford, the latter pair on their Champions League debuts, secured a fairly comfortable 3-0 victory to leave them top of Group A. United fans would have had very clear memories of the 3-3 draw the teams played out at OId Trafford followed by a 2-1 defeat in Switzerland that saw Sir Alex Ferguson’s side fail to make it out of their group.

There was to be no repeat this time, however, although the home side coughed up several decent chances to the visitors and noticeably took their foot off the pedal after going 2-0 ahead early in the second half. They were criticised for some wayward passing afterwards by manager Jose Mourinho, who accused them of playing PlayStation football. "We played quite well up until the 2-0. After that we forgot to play, we forgot to sing, we stopped to play seriously, we stopped to make the right decisions on the pitch,” he said.

“We could put ourselves in trouble but they didn't score. Bad decisions, fantasy football, PlayStation football, tricks and when you stop to play as a team and stop to play seriously I don't like it and you gamble a little bit. Probably the players felt the game was under control with 2-0 but football is football and you have to respect opponents."

But the most alarming thing for United on the night was the sight of talisman Pogba limping off early on with a suspected hamstring strain, an injury that could keep him out for up to six weeks. Fellaini’s career at United looked to be over when Mourinho took over at the beginning of last season, but he has since emerged as a key member of the Portuguese’s squad. He will be needed more than ever now.

In the other game in Group A CSKA Moscow came from behind to beat Benfica 2-1 in Lisbon. The Portuguese champions travel to Basel on matchday two on September 27th with both sides looking to get their campaigns back on track. CSKA host United in a fixture that could go a long way towards deciding who will qualify for the knock-out phase next year.

City on fire

United’s rivals City got their campaign off to a flyer with a comprehensive 4-0 victory over Feyenoord in Rotterdam to take them to the top of Group F. Early goals from Stones and Aguero put them in control. It was the Argentine’s 23rd Champions League goal for the club in just 41 games. Jesus added a third on 25 minutes before Stones added his second just after the hour mark to complete the rout.

City have flattered to deceive in this competition many times before, having only once gone beyond the round of 16 (they lost to eventual winners Real Madrid in the semi-final two years ago), but they look a more assured proposition this time around in Pep Guardiola’s second season in charge. The kept a clean sheet on Wednesday evening against a fairly average Feyenoord side, but they will face tougher opposition and it will be their defence rather than their attack that will ultimately define their campaign.

In the other game in the group, Shaktar Donetsk beat Napoli 2-1. City host the Ukrainian outfit on matchday two while Napoli entertain Feyenoord. A win for Guardiola’s side on September 26th would see them take control of the group and put them in a great position to advance to the knock-out stages.

Tottenham end Wembley woes

Tottenham banished the bitter memories of last year’s disastrous Wembley adventure as they beat Borussia Dortmund 3-1 in an entertaining game at their temporary home. Son opened the scoring with a superb finish on four minutes and, although Yarmolenko equalised for the visitors with a fine curling strike shortly afterwards, Harry Kane restored Tottenham’s advantage on the quarter-hour mark before putting the result beyond doubt with a second on the hour mark.

Mauricio Pochettino’s side join Real Madrid at the top of Group H after the holders easily saw off Apoel Nicosia 3-0 at the Bernabeu, with Ronaldo scoring twice to take his Champions League tally to 107. Tottenham travel to Cyprus on matchday two knowing that they need to get something from the game if they are to progress from what is a very tough group.

Liverpool held

Liverpool were left to rue a missed penalty by Roberto Firmino late in the first half as they were held 2-2 by Sevilla at Anfield in Group E. It was the same old story for Jurgen Klopp’s side who, as always, looked menacing going forward but seemed all at sea at the back.

They were a goal down within five minutes as a Lovren slip allowed Ben Yedder to capitalise from close range. However, they were level on 21 minutes when Firmino finished off a fine intricate move involving Henderson and Moreno before going ahead eight minutes before the break courtesy of a deflected Mo Salah effort. Mane was felled in the box shortly afterwards, but Firmino was unable to capitalise as his penalty struck the outside of the post and bounced away to safety.

It marked a significant turning point in the game which seemed to drain the confidence of the home team and inspire the visitors and it was no real surprise when Correa cut through the Reds defence to curl home a leveller with 18 minutes remaining. The dismissal of Joe Gomez in injury time for a second bookable offence just added insult to injury.

It was a disappointing result for Klopp’s team, but they will still fancy their chances of progressing from one of the weaker groups in the competition. In the other game, Slovenian side Maribor and Russian outfit Spartak Moscow drew 1-1. Liverpool travel to Moscow on matchday two, while Sevilla host Maribor. But the big question is - just how expensive will Firmino's penalty miss prove come December?

It’s been an intriguing opening week of Champions League games. So much to ponder! Roll on matchday two in a fortnight!

Images: Getty

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2 comments on this article


You can see here how much appreciation friv1001 has received from other members.

Occasional Visitor 9 months ago
I think the players played very well in this match
Thanks forums, forums are very useful and meaningful, everyone playing the game is on the following link

You can see here how much appreciation friv1001 has received from other members.

Occasional Visitor 9 months ago
friv1001 wrote:

I think the players played very well in this match
Thanks forums, forums are very useful and meaningful, everyone playing the game is on the following link
Friv 100

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