Champions League Round-Up GW4
Game-week #4 of the UEFA Champions League sealed the fate of many as a number of clubs succumbed to the elite forces of Europe and were eliminated from the competition despite having two games remaining.
The pick of the week’s ties came at Ibrox, where a rejuvenated Liverpool side thrashed Rangers 7-1 in Glasgow. The hosts took the lead through Scott Arfield, whose strike sailed into the far corner to send the home fans into pandemonium. However, their joy was short- lived as seven minutes later, Roberto Firmino equalised with a near-post header from a corner. The Brazilian then completed a brace after the interval with a smart finish under McGregor following a pinpoint Joe Gomez cross. Darwin Nunez doubled the visitor’s advantage with a clinical curling effort from inside the area. The floodgates were open, and on came Mohamed Salah who was about to make history. The Egyptian prodded the ball into the net at the front-post in the 75 th minute to score his first of the evening. He then doubled his tally five minutes later with a cool finish that took McGregor by surprise. Salah took home the matchball after scoring Liverpool’s sixth in the 81 st minute with a delicate strike that found the bottom-right corner of the net. The forward scored the fastest UCL hat-trick ever with his six minutes of magic. It was still not over, as Harvey Elliot completed the thrashing with a seventh as he volleyed home from eight yards out to score his first goal in the competition. Rangers cannot progress to the knock-out stages having lost all four of their fixtures.
Despite their stunning performance in Scotland, Liverpool are second in Group A, behind Napoli who played out a six-goal thriller with Ajax. It did not take long for Napoli to open the scoring, as Hirving Lozano broke the deadlock by finishing off a silky move. The Mexican drove at the Ajax defence and latched on to the end of a one-two to nod his side ahead with only four minutes on the clock. In the 16 th minute, the Blues’ advantage was doubled as Giacomo Raspadori fired the ball into the roof of the net, giving the ‘keeper no chance. Four minutes after play resumed following half-time, Davy Klaassen restored hope for the Amsterdam outfit with a bullet header that was too powerful for the Napoli shot-stopper. After a VAR review, the Italians were awarded a penalty for handball. Khvicha Kvaratskhelia stepped up and made no mistake to restore his side’s two-goal cushion. Another penalty was awarded and then converted with eight minutes remaining as Steven Bergwijn blasted the ball into the net. In the 89 th minute, Victor Osimhen was rewarded for his hard-work as he tackled last-man Daley Blind and tapped in to an empty net to secure the three points for Napoli in a 4-2 win.
There was another six-goal thriller, but this time at Camp Nou, where European giants Barcelona hosted three-time champions Inter Milan. It did not disappoint. Ousmane Dembele put the hosts ahead in the 40 th minute after turning in Sergi Roberto’s low-cross across the face of goal. Five minutes after half-time, Inter equalised through Nicolo Barella after Gerard Pique failed to realise the Italian was behind him. The Barcelona fans were used to seeing an Argentinian score at Camp Nou, but were left gutted when Lautaro Martinez’s powerful effort hit both posts on its way in to make it 2-1. The last ten minutes of the tie were chaotic as it was a must win for Barcelona. Who else but Robert Lewandowski stepped up to equalise. The Pole is lethal and made Inter pay for a failed clearance by scoring his 90 th goal in the competition with a smart volley. However, the Catalonians’ hearts sank in the 89 th minute when Robin Gosens put the Milanese side 3-2 up. Inter broke away following a Barcelona corner, with the German finishing past Ter Stegen after being found by Martinez. It was still not over though! As Lewandowski’s glancing header flew into the net in the second minute of injury time to hand Barcelona a lifeline. The Milan manager was dismissed in an exhilarating final few minutes that saw Barcelona slip further into the Europa League places.
In Group D, a solid first-half performance from Spurs saw them top the group. Eintracht Frankfurt silenced the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium after a quarter of an hour had been played as Daichi Kamada tapped in to an empty net following a bundle of defensive mishaps from Eric Dier and Hugo Lloris. Spurs were level six minutes later through Son Heung-Min, who calmly rolled the ball round the ‘keeper to score a 50 th goal from the Kane-Son connection. Harry Kane turned goalscorer in the 28 th minute after being bundled over in the box. The Englishman put the Whites ahead with an expertly taken spot-kick. The demolition was complete in the 36 th minute when Son doubled his tally with a brilliant volley that rocketed into the net. Frankfurt were reduced to ten men in the 59 th minute as Tuta received a second yellow card for pulling back Son. The German side made the last few minutes nervy as Faride Alidou rose highest from a corner to make it 3-2. Kane blazed a penalty over the bar in the 91 st minute, but escaped critiscm as his side progressed to the top of the group.
Bayern Munich extended their 100% record as they breezed past Viktoria Plzen at the Doosan Arena. Sadio Mane opened the scoring in the 10 th minute after concluding a sweeping move that was too good for Plzen. Four minutes later, Thomas Muller doubled the Bavarians lead by finishing off a beautiful move. It was three within 25 minutes as Leon Goretzka sent the ‘keeper the wrong way to finish into the back of the net. The midfielder then added a fourth with a sublime chip that was perfectly weighted. Bayern were dominating, but conceded in the 62 nd minute after Adam Vlkanova fired the ball past Neuer from inside the box. Plzen scored again in the 75 th minute through Jan Kliment to form a respectable scoreline.
Game-week four also produced many surprising results. Juventus fell to a 2-0 defeat against Israeli side, Maccabi Haifa. Manchester City played out a 0-0 draw away at Copenhagen despite thrashing the Danes 5-0 at the Etihad. PSG drew 1-1 with Benfica yet again after their stalemate last week. Holders of the Champions League, Real Madrid needed a last- gasp equaliser to steal a point from the hands of Shakhtar Donetsk.
Elsewhere, Chelsea departed Milan with a smile on their face after beating AC Milan 2-0 thanks to goals from Jorginho and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Fikayo Tomori was sent off against his old club to add to Milan’s woes. Also in Group E, Dinamo Zagreb and RB Salzburg played out a 1-1 draw that meant Chelsea topped the group. Jude Bellingham continued his scintillating form in front of goal, but could not inspire his side to victory as Borussia Dortmund drew 1-1 with Sevilla in Germany. Celtic’s qualifying hopes were crushed as theyfell to a 2-0 defeat to RB Leipzig at Celtic Park as Timo Werner returned to the UK with a bang. Atletico Madrid and Club Brugge played out a goalless draw despite the Belgians being reduced to ten men. Marseille climbed to second in Group D with a 2-0 win over the ten men of Sporting Lisbon who dropped to third.
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