Champions League Wednesday round-up
The remaining Champions League matchday one fixtures took place last night, with most of the games tightly contested, although there were emphatic wins for Roma and FC Porto.
Just as Arsenal made their third visit in 36 months to Dortmund earlier in the week, Manchester City did likewise to Munich to face 2013 champions Bayern. Manuel Pellegrini’s side won at the Allianz Arena last season but this time they left pointless after a 90th-minute winner from a former player. Jerome Boateng’s thunderous strike took a heavy deflection off Mario Gotze before looping over Joe Hart, with the Germany defender not hesitating to claim it as his goal. While Man City had a late shout for a penalty that, in truth, could easily have been given on another night, Pep Guardiola’s Bayern had the better of the game throughout and will feel they deserved the victory.
In Group E’s other game, Roma served a real warning of what they could have to offer as they annihilated CSKA Moscow 5-1 at the Stadio Olimpico. The Italians wasted little time in marking their first Champions League game since spring 2011 with a thumping win, racing into a four-goal lead inside half an hour. Juan Iturbe set the ball rolling and ex-Arsenal flop Gervinho, a rejuvenated player in Serie A, struck twice. An own goal early in the second half added to CSKA’s woes, although they gave a spirited performance after the interval and mustered a late consolation through Ahmed Musa.
CSKA next have the unenviable task of welcoming Bayern to Moscow and Man City already face a possible make or break home clash against rampant Roma.
It was three points for Barcelona, but not as we know it. A home game against APOEL Nicosia looked a safe option for accumulators and while the Catalans duly delivered, it certainly wasn’t the cakewalk that many expected. A rather unfamiliar, youthful Barca line-up prevailed thanks to Gerard Pique’s 28th-minute header and admittedly the margin would have been greater were it not for a superb display from APOEL goalkeeper Urko Pardo. It wasn’t all one-way traffic, either, as the visitors threatened Barcelona’s goal on a couple of occasions, but in the end there was a clean sheet for Marc-Andre Ter Stegen.
It was a doubly good night for Luis Enrique’s men as the other Group F match finished in a draw. PSG hit the front early on through Edinson Cavani and it looked for all the world as if the French champions would see off Ajax. However, the Amsterdammers found the net on 74 minutes with a sumptuous Lasse Schone free kick, which remarkably was their first shot on target. The Dutch side managed to maintain parity for the closing minutes and claim an unexpected point.
PSG host Barcelona on matchday two while Ajax face a potentially tricky encounter away to APOEL Nicosia in Cyprus.
When rampaging Premier League leaders Chelsea went in front against Bundesliga strugglers Schalke 04 at Stamford Bridge, it seemed that the only unknown would be the margin of victory. While Cesc Fabregas was on target, returning hero Didier Drogba fluffed two great chances to extend Chelsea’s lead, with the in-form Diego Costa starting on the bench. It was a gamble that backfired on Jose Mourinho as, just after the hour, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar equalised for Schalke. Costa was deployed with 15 minutes to go but for once he was kept scoreless and the German visitors celebrated the point as if they had secured a place in the final itself.
At least Chelsea didn’t lose any ground on their Group G rivals as the encounter between Maribor and Sporting Lisbon also ended 1-1. An uninspiring first half saw both teams hit the woodwork and Sporting looked the more likely to make the breakthrough after the interval. They did just that, although it took until the 79th minute and it came courtesy of a wonder strike from a resurgent Nani. It looked as if the Portuguese side would leave Slovenia with the points, but brave Maribor rescued a draw in stoppage time through 18-year-old Luka Zahovic, the son of ex-Slovenia playmaker Zlatko Zahovic.
All four teams have identical records after matchday one. Chelsea travel to Lisbon in two weeks’ time while Schalke welcome Maribor to Gelsenkirchen.
There were six goals in Group H on matchday one and all of them were scored by FC Porto, who butchered BATE Borisov at the Estadio Dragao. Yacine Brahimi, one of several Algeria players to enhance his reputation at the World Cup, registered a hat-trick and there were also goals for Jackson Martinez, Adrian Lopez and Vincent Aboubakar. BATE didn’t help themselves with the cheap manner in which they coughed up some of the goals, in particular the first one as goalkeeper Sergei Chernik threw the ball straight to the grateful Brahimi.
In their first Champions League game in 16 years, Athletic Bilbao were unable to make the breakthrough against Shakhtar Donetsk, who despite off-field problems have made a flying start to their domestic season. Shakhtar were narrowly the more threatening over the 90 minutes, although it was the home side who looked the sharpest later in the game. Both will feel they could have won it, but neither will be overly disappointed to get a draw out of their opening game.
Porto are sure to have a much tougher night in Ukraine against Shakhtar next time out while bruised BATE will hope for some home comforts against Athletic Bilbao.