Top Performers from Champions League Matchday One
The biggest club competition in world football was back on our screens this past week, and the drama didn’t come too far behind either. Liverpool’s painful five-year Champions League exile came to an end on Tuesday night, limping over the line against Bulgarian side Ludogorets. Real Madrid and Barcelona endured comfortable wins, with last season’s finalists Atletico Madrid experiencing a shock defeat at the hands of Olympiakos. Somewhat surprisingly, Liverpool were the only English side to take three points in the opening game of the Champions League. Manchester City and Arsenal will look to bounce back in Matchday two after opening defeats to Bundesliga big heads Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.
Arsenal reject Gervinho had a fantastic first year with Roma last season, and has already started this campaign in the same vein. In a game marred by crowd trouble, Gervinho scored a fantastic brace in a 5-1 Roma victory – their first Champions League appearance since the 2010-11 season. Since leaving London, Gervinho has looked like a different player. The Ivorian adapted well to his first season with Roma, scoring 12 Goals and providing 12 assists last season – and already added 3 goals in 3 assists to his tally this season. Ashley Cole will have to wait for his Roma Champions League debut though. The Left Back looked in good spirits despite being an unused in the convincing win. On more of a sour note, this case of fan trouble is yet another example of a growing list of trouble in Roma’s recent history. Memories are cast back to the European ties with Middlesbrough (2006) and Liverpool (2001), where a handful of travelling English fans were stabbed as they gathered outside the stadium before the game. It is a pity that we are left taking about these unfortunate events in the aftermath of the game, rather than the brilliant performance of the team, and of Gervinho.
Another five-year duck was broken in Turin, with Carlos Tevez scoring his first Champions League goal since April 2009 against Malmo. In an unusually tight game, Tevez’s brace separated the sides on the night – finishing a lovely team move after an hour, and scoring a cultured Free Kick in the closing minutes. Massimiliano Allegri’s side controlled possession throughout, but a lack of a finishing touch meant the game went into the break goalless. Much was made of Manchester United’s pursuit of Arturo Vidal throughout the summer, but the Chilean, along with Andrea Pirlo, missed the game through injury. Pogba, Lichsteiner and Llorente missed clear-cut chances for Juventus before a flowing move and perfectly executed backheel by Kwadwo Asamoah gave Tevez a simple finish. The game slowly fizzled out after that, largely due to Malmo top scorer Markus Rosenberg leaving the field with an injury. Then, in the final minute of normal time, Juventus won a Free Kick at the edge of the Malmo box which Tevez curled inside the far post – completing a comfortable victory, and an impressive performance from the Argentinean.
Real Madrid put in a first half blitz on Tuesday night in a 5-1 win over FC Basel at the Santiago Bernabeu. Their best performance of the season was capped off by a Man of the Match performance from Gareth Bale, adding a goal and an assist to his impressive start to the season. Cristiano Ronaldo and James Rodriguez got on the score sheet too, but goal of the night in Madrid was scored by Karim Benzema. The quick tempo one touch build up play between Benzema and Ronaldo was like a watching Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona at their best, with Benzema finishing clinically with his left foot from the edge of the area. Next up for Real is an away trip to Ludogorets, who proved to be no pushover against Liverpool in their own opening game. It looks set to be a scrap between Liverpool and Real Madrid for top spot in Group B, with mouth-watering home and away ties between the two coming back to back in October-November.
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