Champions League Round-Up GW2
Game-week #2 of the 2022/23 UEFA Champions League produced the quality entertainment expected from the prestigious competition at the pinnacle of club football.
The early kick-offs on Tuesday set the tone, as Tottenham slipped to a late 2-0 loss to Sporting Lisbon, whilst Inter Milan claimed their first points as they saw off Viktoria Plzen at the Doosan Arena. The North Londoners conceded late twice to let Sporting leapfrog them in Group D. After 90 minutes had been played, it was still goalless, with Spurs failing to captivate on two halves of dominance. They were made to pay by Paulinho and Arthur who stunned the whites in the 90th and 93rd minute. Inter cruised past the ten men of Plzen, with Edin Dzeko and Denzel Dumfries scoring the goals that saw the Milan club move up to third in Group C.
Liverpool were saved by a Joel Matip bullet header to defeat Ajax at Anfield in a vintage European clash between two heavyweights. Mohamed Salah put the Reds ahead, but his strike was cancelled out ten minutes later by a pinpoint Mohammed Kudus strike that rattled the bar as it flew in. The Scousers greatly dominated the tie, but were unsuccessful in finding a winner until Matip rose highest from a corner and headed past Remko Pasveer in the 89th minute. The Anfield crowd went wild, as Liverpool responded to their 4-1 humbling handed to them by Napoli last week.
Elsewhere in Group A, Napoli silenced Ibrox by beating Rangers 3-0 in Glasgow. The visitors started as they meant to go on, hitting the woodwork after only two minutes had been played. After a goalless first half, James Sands was dismissed as he accumulated two yellow cards. Sands brought down Giovanni Simeone in the box as the striker was about to pull the trigger. Piotr Zieliński stepped up from twelve yards, but was denied an opener by the diving Allan McGregor who kept the score at 0-0. However, the Gers celebrations were short-lived, as Matteo Politano converted the rebound. The goal caused chaos and was ruled out due to the referee deeming the penalty as invalid, owing to encroachment. As a result, the penalty was retaken, but again McGregor saved! The ‘keeper denied Zieliński yet again to keep his clean sheet intact. Rangers luck ran out eventually though, as Napoli were awarded another penalty in the 68th minute for a handball. Politano swept the ball under the arms of McGregor to finally break the deadlock. The hosts could not find an answer to the Italian pressure, and the visitors doubled their tally with five minutes remaining. Giacomo Raspadori finished well from close range to supress any Rangers fightback. Tanguy Ndombele added to the Scots woes in the first minute of injury time, putting Napoli at the top of the group in style.
Bayern Munich hosted Barcelona in a classic Champions League affair that has produced many memories such as the 8-2 rout of the Catalonians and Lionel Messi sitting down Jerome Boateng and chipping Manuel Neuer. Bayern defeated Barcelona to make it two wins from two in the competition. Lucas Hernandez and Leroy Sane completed the scoring for the German giants, who cruised past the Spaniards. Robert Lewandowski faced his old side, and should have opened the scoring in the 18th minute. Barcelona broke away thanks to sublime skill from Ousmane Dembele. The Frenchman played in Lewandowski, who blazed his shot over the bar. The Pole was presented another great opportunity three minutes later, when he was found by new signing, Marcos Alonso at the back-post. Lewandowski sent his header goalward, but saw his effort palmed away by Neuer. All the missed chances had consequences for Barcelona, who trailed Bayern after Hernandez nodded in a Joshua Kimmich corner. Only three minutes later, Sane extended the host’s lead and secured the points for his side.
AC Milan topped Group A by defeating Dinamo Zagreb 3-1. Milan were awarded a penalty on the stroke of half-time after Rafael Leao was hacked down. Olivier Giroud stepped up and sent the goalkeeper the wrong way to break the deadlock and give his side a deserved lead heading into the interval. Shortly after play resumed, Alexis Saelemaekers capped off a great team move to make it 2-0. Milan smoothly transitioned defence into attack and extended their lead. However, in the 56th minute, Miroslav Orsic scored his second in as many games to halve the deficit. The Croatian linked-up expertly with Bruno Petković, who assisted Orsic with a one-two. Tommaso Pobega wrapped up the points at the San Siro with an emphatic finish that saw AC Milan move into first.
Graham Potter managed and attended his first ever Champions League game as he saw his new Chelsea side held to a 1-1 draw against RB Salzburg at Stamford Bridge. Raheem Sterling scored the first goal of the Potter era in the 48th minute, but his opener was cancelled out by Noah Okafor who equalised in the 75thminute. Potter will have to work his magic, as Chelsea are rock bottom of Group E; having picked up only one point from their first two games.
Erling Haaland grabbed the headlines once again as Manchester City narrowed past Borussia Dortmund at the Etihad. Jude Bellingham put the visitors ahead in the 56th minute using his head to nod past Ederson. The midfielder got on the end of a precise Marco Reus cross in front of the Dortmund fans to give the yellow and black the advantage. John Stones was the unlikely hero as he thumped the ball into the back of the net from distance to equalise. The defender set his sights and sent the ball flying into the goal with ten minutes to go. City were searching for a goal, and if any man was to score, it would be that man: Erling Haaland. The Norwegian haunted his former club by showing incredible athleticism to poke the ball home. Special players produce special moments. Joao Cancelo lifted the ball into the box using the outside of his boot, and Haaland was there to turn it in. Whilst in mid-air, the striker kicked the ball in using a stamping-like motion, with the underside of his boot connecting with the ball. The Etihad erupted and the comeback was complete.
Current holders, Real Madrid continued their defence of the trophy with a 2-0 victory over RB Leipzig at the Bernabeu. The Madristas left it until the 80th minute to score, with Federico Valverde netting the first goal of the game with ten minutes remaining. Marco Asensio added a second for Los Blancos in the 91st minute to confirm the victory.
Juventus continued their poor run of form this season as they slipped to a 2-1 defeat at home to Benfica. The Old Lady went ahead following Arkadiusz Milik’s near-post header from a set-piece in the fourth minute. Benfica were awarded a penalty after Fabio Miretti was penalised for stepping on the ankle of a red shirt. Joao Mario calmly converted from the spot, sending the teams down the tunnel at 1-1. David Neres found the winner for Benfica after a strong attack from the Portuguese club saw the ball fall to the Brazilian after a strong save.
PSG travelled to Maccabi Haifa in search of three points that would cement pole position in Group H. Kylian Mbappe squandered two one-on-ones within the first ten minutes, and was made to pay for not being clinical. Dolev Haziza whipped in a brilliant cross from the right wing that was met by Tjaronn Chery, who volleyed home to put the hosts into a surprise lead. The Israeli side had the ball in the back of the net again, but it was ruled out for offside, letting PSG off the hook. Lionel Messi found an equaliser for PSG as he finished from close range from a Mbappe cross that was deflected into his path. The Argentinian then repaid the favour and played in Mbappe to put the Parisians ahead. The Frenchman slotted the ball into the far corner to complete the turnaround in the 68th minute. Neymar added a third in the 88th minute as he latched on to a long-ball to finish past Josh Cohen. The result leaves Maccabi at the bottom of Group H, but they scored their first goal in the competition after 20 years of trying.
Club Brugge continued their dominance over Group B as the Belgians thrashed Porto 4-0 away from home. Europa League champions, Eintracht Frankfurt edged Marseille at Stade Velodrome, marking a poor start from the French side, who are still yet to register any points in the competition. Leverkusen frustrated Atletico Madrid in Germany to claim their first points so far. The German side left it late, scoring in the 84th and 87thminute to set BayArena alight. Celtic were held to a point against Shakhtar Donetsk despite dominating the game. The hoops went ahead through an own goal following intense pressure from the visitors. Their lead did not last long though, as Ukrainian starboy, Mykhaylo Mudryk curled round Joe Hart to equalise. Copenhagen and Sevilla played out a 0-0 draw in Denmark as the hosts fought off the Spanish onslaught to grab a point.