This will be a new article series where every time the Champions League rolls around we will recap every game and give our thoughts on it. As well as a Man of the Match for each match.
Atalanta vs Shakhtar Donetsk
Champions league week 2 action kicked off with Ukrainian representative Shakhtar Donetsk travelling to Italy, to take on Atalanta.
The two sides match up pretty well on paper; Atalanta would be recognized as a slight favourite due to being at home and having a tad more quality throughout the squad. Although they held these advantages, Shakhtar are no strangers to Champions league football; they qualify and compete almost every year and have been able to win games against top clubs from around Europe, so both teams understood they had their work cut out for them. Atalanta striker Duvan Zapata opened the scoring for the home team; after a fifteenth minute penalty shot from Josep Ilicic was stopped by Shakhtar keeper Andriy Pyatov, the Colombian got his head on the end of a twenty-eighth minute Hans Hateboer cross and directed the ball past the charging keeper to make it 1-0 for Atalanta. Not long after, the visitors were able to put a halt to Atalanta’s momentum; in the fortieth minute, striker Junior Moraes rounded keeper Pierluigi Gollini and slotted home the equalizer; 1-1. The home side were able to escape a huge scare when Shakhtar Donetsk nearly took the lead off a Marlos free kick which connected with the crossbar, just on the stroke of halftime. The two sides weren’t able to be separated until just about the last kick of the game; into the remaining seconds after added time, Shakhtar right back Dodo squeezes a perfectly weighted through ball in behind the Atalanta defenders and finds substitute striker Manor Solomon, Solomon executes and Shakhtar steals three points on the road. After a loss to Dinamo Zagreb last week, Atalanta have put themselves in a tough situation already, dead last in the group and still having to face giants Manchester City twice, it could be all over for the Italian club.
Man of the Match: Ismaily
Real Madrid vs Club Brugge
The second of the 12:55pm kickoff games was Spanish giants Real Madrid versus Club Brugge of Belgium, from the Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid.
As many would have predicted, it didn’t take long for a goal to be scored. But what people didn’t see coming was that the goal came from the underdogs. It only took nine minutes before 21-year old Nigerian striker Emmanuel Bonaventure was able to redirect a low cross past Madrid keeper Thibault Courtois and into the back of the net to give Brugge the early lead. Real; eager to reply, put on the pressure following the goal but weren’t able to beat ex Liverpool keeper Simon Mignolet. The next goal came in the thirty-eighth minute, where man of the hour Emmanuel Bonaventure gets on the scoresheet again! The Nigerian steals the ball off 2018 Ballon d’Or winner Luka Modric and finishes his breakaway into the top right corner; adding insult to injury with a cold blooded Cristiano Ronaldo celebration in front of all the Madrid supporters. The celebration of a man who owns countless amounts of historic champions league moments in that very stadium, the Nigerian had just made his own. After Halftime, Real came out determined to claw back into the contest. Struggling keeper Thibault Courtois was replaced by French backup Alphonse Areola, and the substitute was able to deny Bonaventure of his hat trick early on in the second half. Not long after, Los Blancos were able to get on the scoresheet. Following some intelligent passing around the box, the ball was whipped in by forward Karim Benzema and headed home by the Madrid captain Sergio Ramos; cutting Brugge’s lead in half with over thirty minutes to go. Real continued pushing throughout the half and were held out by Brugge until the eighty-fifth minute, when midfielder Ruud Vormer of Brugge was handed his second yellow card and sent off in the process. Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos took advantage of the spot of the foul and swung in a peach of a ball, which found the head of Brazilian Casemiro who beats Mignolet and ties the game at two. With only about five minutes to play, Madrid pushed as hard as they could to complete the comeback, but they fell just short as time ran out, although they were able to salvage a point from halftime, Real will be very disappointed with their performance and their inability to get the win against an opponent they always feel they should beat.
Man of the Match: Emmanuel Bonaventure
Manchester City vs Dinamo Zagreb
Croatian side Dinamo Zagreb visited the Ethiad Stadium to challenge Premier League champions Manchester City in a massive underdog story.
There wasn’t really anything out of the ordinary in this match up, City attacked and Zagreb defended for almost the full ninety minutes. The citizens held 81% possession, completed 820 passes compared to Dinamo Zagreb’s 192 and only conceded just 1 shot on target. Surprisingly, it took City over an hour before substitute Raheem Sterling was able to break the deadlock and give his side the lead, Dinamo never looked as they were gonna score all game and no prayers were answered, as City midfielder Phil Foden was able to seal the deal in the final minutes of added time. 2-0 it ended, it wasn’t close to what we have come to expect from Manchester City’s attack, but it was enough to get the 3 points which is all that mattered for Pep Guardiola’s team.
Man of the Match: Raheem Sterling
Red Star vs Olympiacos
Two of the most passionate fan bases in world football going at it in group B action.
Visiting side Olympiacos were the first to strike as centre back Ruben Semedo was able to get on the end of a set piece and put a weak effort past Red Star keeper Milan Borjan to make it 1-0. Red Star weren’t able to respond until they caught a break; a second yellow card issued to Yassine Benzia meant the midfielder’s day was over, and the Serbian side took advantage. Just five minutes later, Milos Vulic equalized on a left footed shot from the left side of the box which caught Olympiacos keeper Jose Sa off guard. Then with only three minutes of normal time to play, centre back Nemanja Milunovic takes advantage of the extra man and finds an open patch in their opponents box off of a corner and headers Red Star into their first lead. They were able to repeat this routine only a couple of minutes later as Ghanaian striker Richmond Bokaye was the man to score this time, wrapping up the 3 points for the home team and sending the fans home happy. This was textbook work from Red Star on how to take advantage of the extra man, as they move to second place in group B after this week.
Man of the Match: Nemanja Milunovic
Lokomotiv Moscow vs Atletico Madrid
Atletico Madrid travelled to Russia to play hosts Lokomotiv Moscow.
Moscow hoping to continue their good form from last week’s win against Leverkusen, would still need a good performance to take points from the favourites, unfortunately, they weren’t able to deliver. Although they created a few good chances, it wasn’t enough to crack the tested Atletico Madrid defence and star keeper Jan Oblak. Atletico comfortably moved the ball around the whole game; holding 62% of possession and early into the second half they were able to take their chance and convert on it. 126 million euro man Joao Felix was able to nab the first goal of his early Champions League campaign, as he put away his own rebound to give his side the lead. This goal would open up Moscow a little bit more and just ten minutes later, midfielder Thomas Partey gets on the end of a Diego Costa low ball too double Madrid’s lead. From this point on, Madrid saw out the last thirty minutes relatively easily and captured the win along with joint first place in group D. Side note: With Joao Felix scoring, he becomes the first teenager to score a Champions League goal in 60 years!!
Man of the Match: Joao Felix
Tottenham vs Bayern Munich
The German champions visited the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium to take on Spurs in Tuesday’s main event.
I don’t think anybody could have predicted this one. In what was arguably the most highly anticipated match of the week, this had all the makings to be an instant classic and well it kinda was, just not the way Tottenham fans would have seen it becoming one. After a high impact start with chances coming from both ends, you could tell an early goal was coming. Tottenham’s sparkplug Heung-Min Son was the supplier as he ran onto a through ball and struck it across world cup winning keeper Manuel Neuer and into the bottom corner to give Spurs the early lead. This lead however lasted about two minutes, as Bayern Midfielder Joshua Kimmich unleashes a 30-yard screamer that takes the game back to even. The two sides don’t back down as they traded chances throughout the first half. Finally, just before the half time whistle, Bayern’s Robert Lewandowski picks up the ball at the top of the box from a broken play and makes no mistake as he perfectly places a finish into the bottom right corner and gives his team that ever so important lead going into half. At this point, the contest was even, Tottenham actually had a slight advantage in shots. The second half however was none of the same. Feeling deserved of the lead or at least to be tied; Mauricio Pochettino encouraged his team to keep the energy and stay aggressive, Bayern knowing that Spurs would push and being the top club that they are, countered spurs aggressiveness tremendously and were able to find two goals in two minutes from former Arsenal winger Serge Gnabry which made it 4-1 to Bayern. Not long after, Spurs were awarded a penalty kick as Danny Rose was taken down in the box. Harry Kane converted from the spot to make it 4-2, possibly a sign of hope for Tottenham as the game had been so open for the first hour. Pochettino knowing he’d need to take a risk for the points brought on attacking options Christian Eriksen and Erik Lamela. This unfortunately made Tottenham’s defence look even worse than they’d been all day; conceding another three in the last ten minutes of the game and making it one of the most embarrassing losses in Tottenham’s recent history. Adding salt to the wound the undeniable man of the match was former Arsenal man Serge Gnabry who tweeted after the game that “London is red”. The German netted four goals in his return to England.
Man of the Match: Serge Gnabry
Juventus vs Bayer Leverkusen
Leverkusen looked to bounce back from a week 1 loss, as they faced Italian champions Juventus.
Leverkusen were uninspiring last week against Lokomotiv Moscow, and this week was much of the same, the German side go a second week without registering a goal. Conceding early to a marvelous Gonzalo Higuain strike, they never seemed in the game from that point. Leverkusen held 55% of possession but amazingly enough failed to get even one shot on target! Juventus had no problem not having the ball if the opponents wouldn’t do anything with it, they took their chances to counter and did…. Easily. If it wasn’t for keeper Lukas Hradecky it could have looked a lot worse for Leverkusen. Juventus handedly walked out of this one victorious; adding two more goals to their lead in the second half, courtesy of Frederico Bernardeschi and Cristiano Ronaldo.They now sit joint first place with Atletico Madrid in group D. As for Leverkusen, they really need to figure something out if they want to continue their Champions League campaign, so far things have looked very poor.
Man of the Match: Gonzalo Higuain
PSG vs Galatasaray
Finally, Paris travelled to Turkey to take on Galatasaray.
The travelling team faced a little bit of fatigue as Paris seemed a little bit tired moving forward throughout the contest, but they were still able to defend well; conceding only one shot on target in the entire game, they weren’t tremendously tested by any means but after new signing Mauro Icardi was able to give PSG their first lead in the fifty-first minute. The French giants did a great job at sustaining their lead and committing to keeping it. Thomas Tuchel probably would have liked to seen his team score more than just the one, but no Neymar and Mbappe starting means that the whole front three would operate differently. PSG have been one of the best defensive teams in world football so far; keeping a clean sheet in 9/10 games this season. If defence wins championships, this could be PSG’s year to go all the way.
Man of the Match: Angel Di Maria
Genk vs Napoli – 0-0
We start in Belgium where Napoli, coming off a 2-0 home win against Group E favourites Liverpool in matchday one, travelled cross-continent to face off against Genk who lost 6-2 to RB in the first week. This was an extremely open game that somehow ended up with zero goals. Arkadiusz Milik missed 5(five!!!) big chances and Napoli as a team hit the woodwork twice. Genk even had their fair share of chances including a goal-line clearance from Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly. The scoreline really should have read 5-2 for Napoli, but in the end, Genk run out with their first point and Napoli sit atop Group E with 4 points.
Man of the Match: Kalidou Koulibaly
Lille vs Chelsea – 1-2
In what is shaping up to be the most exciting group of them all, Group H brought another tantalizing fixture with Chelsea going to France to face off against Lille. Both teams started off their campaigns with losses and were looking to get on the board. The game lived up to the hype as it was end to end with plenty of chances. N’golo Kante finally returned to the Chelsea lineup and he showed why they missed him so much. The game’s first goal came from Tammy Abraham who neatly took down a Fiyako Tomori ball, turned and slotted it past the Lille keeper. Lille started to make headway after that goal and finally broke through in the 33rd minute thanks to rising star striker Victor Oshimen. The 20-year-old has 9 goal contributions in 10 games so far for Lille with 7 goals. His powerful header beat Kepa and the game entered the break tied. Both teams shared chances until in the 78th minute Willian broke the deadlock with a wonderful first-time volley that bounced and looped over Mike Maignon into the Lille net. Chelsea fans may not like Willian, but that goal gave them their first win in Europe under Frank Lampard and puts them 2nd in Group H. Lille are now the only team in the group without a point.
Man of the Match: Willian
Zenit vs Benfica – 3-1
Benfica’s rough start to the Champions League got even worse Wednesday, they were absolutely outclassed by Zenit from start to finish. Zenit opened the scoring through Artem Dzuyba after a silly error by Lubojmir Fesja, the Benfica midfielder was caught on the ball inside his own box and Dzyuba capitalized. Zenit scored their second in the 70th minute after a lovely ball from Wilmer Barrios split through the Benfica defence onto the foot of Vyacheslav Karavaev who crossed in only to have Benfica defender Ruben Dias turn it into his own goal. Sardar Azmoun wrapped up the 3 points for Zenit after he was sent through one v one from a quick free-kick. He promptly rounded the keeper and slid it home to ensure Zenit went home with all three points. Raul De Tomas scored a screamer (ahhhhhhhh) late on but it was just a consolation. Benfica is stuck on zero points and Zenit is atop Group G with 4.
Man of the Match: Artem Dzyuba
Slavia – Dortmund – 0-2
Dortmund picked up a tough away victory and made it look easy well doing so. Slavia Prague is never an easy team to play away from home but thanks to Acraf Hakimi who scored twice, Dortmund did the business. Other than Hakimi, whose two goals were brilliant, Julian Brandt looked worth every penny for Dortmund. He started in the Number 10 role and was sending his teammates in on goal left and right, ending up with both assists on the goals. Keeper Roman Burki also made some big early saves to keep a clean sheet. Hakimi, traditionally a fullback, is enjoying life as a remade winger. His pace and ability to use both feet make him deadly on counters and Slavia were way too open to stand a chance in this game. Dortmund is now tied with Barca atop the group with four points and Slavia is tied bottom with Inter on one point.
Man of the Match: Acraf Hakimi
Barcelona – Inter – 2-1
Barcelona played their best half of the season in the second half to come from behind and beat Inter 2-1. Luis Suarez rolllllled back the years with a couple of fantastic goals. The first being an incredible volley from the top of the box that thrashed its way into the bottom corner past Samir Handanovic’s outstretched arm. Lionel Messi then put on a show, dribbling past and around four Inter defenders before whipping a low ball into Suarez whose first touch took him right past Diego Godin and right into the box where all he had to do was slide it home. Barcelona started horribly, going down 1-0 in the 2nd minute thanks to a lovely finish from Lautaro Martinez. They then needed a couple of big saves from Marc Andre Ter-Stegen who kept them in the game. Maybe this is the game Barca needed to kickstart their season. They now are atop Group F.
Man of the Match: Luis Suarez
RB Leipzig vs Lyon – 0-2
Probably the most shocking result on Wednesday saw Lyon go to Germany and beat Leipzig 2-0. Leipzig seemed destined to score first but the usually deadly Timo Werner missed a glorious chance from 10 yards. Then in the 10th minute, a few mistakes from Leipzig’s young French CB pairing of Dayot Upemacano and Ibrahim Konate allowed Hassem Aouar to go through on goal, Memphis Depay ended up picking the ball up from his teammate and slotting home as Lyon went 1-0 up. Werner missed another huge chance in the 22nd after he put himself through, he chipped over the bar on a one v one. He then forced Lyon keeper Anthony Lopes into a lovely save which ensured Lyon went into the break ahead. Leipzig was trying to find an equalizer when in the 64th minute their other young French defender Nordi Mukiele made a calamitous error which sent through Martin Terrier who scored Lyon’s second. Lyon who entered on a 7 game winless run, went home with an undeserved win but they don’t care. They are on four points after 2 games, Leipzig 3.
Man of the Match: Hassem Aouar
Valencia vs Ajax – 0-3
Ajax has picked up where they left off after last year’s semi-final appearance, starting this campaign with two 3-0 victories. They just overran Valencia with everything they had and although Valencia had a couple of chances including a Dani Parejo penalty miss, they had nothing to show for it. Hakim Ziyech scored a contender for goal of the year to open the scoring. Lobbing Jasper Cillesen from the top left corner of the box, leaving the keeper with nowhere to look but down. After Quincy Promes made it 2 for Ajax, their third goal was a thing of beauty. They strung together 9 passes (yes I counted) in 30 seconds to cut through Valencia within the final ball being a lovely slip pass by Dusan Tadic to put through Donny Van Der Beek who slotted home smartly.
Man of the Match: Hakim Ziyech
Liverpool vs RB Salzburg – 4-3
What is it with Red Bull and Soccer teams?!?!?!? The best match of the week happened at Anfield Wednesday. Liverpool went 3-0 up after half an hour through goals from Sadio Mane, Andy Robertson and Mo Salah. Salzburg then got one back just before half time through a magical goal by Hwang Hee-Chan, the winger dropped Virgil Van Dijk and smashed one into the top right corner. Shortly after the break Takumi Miniamino took advantage of a very open LFC defence and hit a brilliant first-time volley into the corner to cut the lead to one. Then teenage wunderkid Erling Haaland came on and tapped in Miniaminos cross to put his tally at 5 goals in two games in the competition and complete the comeback. American RB Manager Jesse Marsch ran the length of the pitch to join the celebrations. All of which was for nothing as in the 69th minute (Very Nice) Roberto Firmino nodded in Salah’s path who finished expertly to ensure Liverpool would go home with all three points. Group E is now a bit of a mess, Napoli on four, LFC and RB on 3 and Genk on 1 point.
Man of the Match: Takumi Miniamino