The Champions League rolled on to its second day, and it’s safe to say that it didn’t disappoint. There were enough shocking moments to power up a small town. Some lesser known teams were able to shine in the spotlight. Honestly, it was just a great day for the sport and its fans.
The Old Lady was able to stave off their competition with 10 men, a captain put his team on his back in Switzerland, an English giant faded at home against a fired-up French side, a new number seven emerged in the Bernebau, and fans in Lisbon got on their feet to cheer on an opposing player.
Without further ado, let’s do this thing.
Juventus win even after Ronaldo receives a red card.
Sometimes the best teams have to make it harder for themselves in order to make things more interesting. That’s probably what several Juventus fans said after their team easily defeated Valencia 2-0 even though their best player, Cristiano Ronaldo, was thrown out of the game following one of the most controversial red cards in recent memory.
The Old Lady was able to steal those three points in Spain thanks to two made Miralem Pjanic penalties in the midgame. The black and white were able to take advantage of some shotty defense in the penalty area and take control of a match that Valencia really should have taken for themselves.
With all that being said, the Italian club will need to adjust to continental competition without Ronaldo, barring a second opinion from either UEFA or FIFA. He will be gone for two matches, including a huge matchup at Old Trafford, and they don’t want to look dependant on CR7. So we’ll see what happens.
Paul Pogba torches Young Boys with two goals and an assist.
This may hurt to say, as I am a diehard Liverpool supporter, but Manchester United played really well today. Unlike their crosstown rivals, the boys in red were able to put away their competition, winning 3-0. Now it is true that they were only playing defending Swiss League champion Young Boys, but a win is a win and three points are three points.
However, I wanted to take this opportunity to praise one man in particular, Paul Pogba. The Red Devils’ captain played exquisite soccer today, scoring two goals and assisting on a third. He looked as dominant in stretches as he did in Russia during the World Cup. If he can continue this form, there is simply no ceiling Manchester United can’t smash, which really irks me because if there is one thing I dislike it’s overly excited United fans.
José Mourinho’s side also gained a major boost today after Cristiano Ronaldo received the red card in Spain. If the call stands and he isn’t allowed to play against them, they could steal another three points and inch one step closer to actually winning their group.
How’s that for respect, José?
Lyon goes to England and defeats Manchester City.
The players from Lyon hit the pitch wearing their hearts on their sleeves today, and it paid off in a big way. The French club defeated Manchester City 2-1 inside the Etihad. Not only was this the biggest upset of the competition so far, but it served as a major wake up call for all those who initially said Group F was going to be a cakewalk for the defending Premier League champions.
Perhaps the most disheartening thing for City fans is not only that their team dominated possession 70/30, but they also attempted twice the amount of shots (22 to 11). However, they only had eight hit on-target, and Lyon goalkeeper Anthony Lopes was having the game of his life. The fact that Bernardo Silva scored a goal in the 67th minute to make things interesting heading into the final act was more surprising than anything.
The major takeaway for me is that they seriously miss midfield master Kevin De Bruyne. They completely failed to secure the middle of the field, electing instead to attempt several crosses. This strategy usually works for the Manchester Blues, but not when they don’t have a dominant presence in the middle until the 76th minute when Riyad Mahrez was subbed in.
With this loss, Manchester City is the first English side to lose four consecutive Champions League matches. Just another reason why Manchester United fans are probably really happy today.
Real Madrid’s new number seven scores in Blancos’ victory over Roma.
Next, we take a trip to the Bernebau where Real Madrid absolutely trounced Roma thanks to three goals from three different players, Isco, Gareth Bale, and Mariano. This was easily the most impressive team performance of the entire competition so far and it caused several fans to forget that Roma was a UCL semifinalist just last year.
That is a credit to Real Madrid, a team that played with the fire and intensity that we are all used to them having. But without manager Zinedine Zidane or Ronaldo, it felt more impressive.
I would also be foolish not to single out Mariano, who scored the final goal for Madrid today. He is the team’s new number seven, which holds a lot of baggage and history. We have no idea how far Mariano will go in his career, but if his goal in this match was any indication, Los Blancos are going to continue to be good for a long time.
Renato Sanches scores against former team Benfica
It’s always a special occasion when a player returns to their old stomping grounds after leaving to go to a new team. How will the fans respond? How will the player respond? These are the questions that are always asked in op-eds all over the world.
Renato Sanches returned to the Stadium of Light in Lisbon for the first time since leaving Benfica in August 2016 to go to Bayern Munich. He was a Benfica Youth Academy graduate and a former first-team player. He helped the Águilas win both the Primeira Liga and Taça da Liga in 2015-16 and was known as a fan favorite.
In what was perhaps the most heartwarming moment of this competition so far, Sanches scored a goal in his return match. Bayern fans obviously jumped to their feet, hooting, hollering, and cheering the goal. However, in what will definitely be a career highlight for the 21-year-old, scores of Benfica supporters also stood up to congratulate their former player.
Sanches told Sky Sports Germany after the match that, “I’m so happy to have had a night like this in Lisbon, and I want to thank the Benfica fans. It was a very special moment for me and I enjoyed it a lot.”
Bayern Munich won the match and the three points, but the Benfica fans easily won the goosebumps-inducing moment of the day.
Elsewhere, Ajax completely dismantled AEK Athens 3-0, CSKA Moscow came back from two goals down to draw with Viktoria Plzen 2-2 on the road, and Shakhtar Donetsk and Hoffenheim had a goal-scoring duel that also ended 2-2.
The Champions League will return to our television screens in two weeks, and it couldn’t get here any sooner. If these past two days are any indication for what we should expect from this year’s competition going forward, then we are in for a treat.
Please tell me on Twitter (@IFoundAndrew) how you feel your favorite team did these past couple days, I would love to know. How has their first performance impacted your expectations moving forward?
As always, for more soccer news every single day, keep it locked on to the Game Changer Sports Network.
- Atletico Madrid (1-0-0, 1 goal difference)
- Borussia Dortmund (1-0-0, 1 goal difference)
- AS Monaco (0-0-1, -1 goal difference)
- Club Brugge (0-0-1, -1 goal difference)
- FC Barcelona (1-0-0, 4 goal difference)
- Internazionale (1-0-0, 1 goal difference)
- Tottenham (0-0-1, -1 goal difference)
- PSV (0-0-1, -4 goal difference)
- Liverpool (1-0-0, 1 goal difference)
- Red Star Belgrade (0-1-0, 0 goal difference)
- Napoli (0-1-0, 0 goal difference)
- Paris Saint-Germain (0-0-1, -1 goal difference)
- Galatasaray (1-0-0, 3 goal difference)
- FC Porto (0-1-0, 0 goal difference)
- Schalke (0-1-0, 0 goal difference)
- Lokomotiv Moscow (0-0-1, -3 goal difference)
- Ajax (1-0-0, +3 goal differential)
- Bayern Munich (1-0-0, +2 goal differential)
- Benfica (0-0-1, -2 goal differential)
- AEK Athens (0-0-1, -3 goal differential)
- Lyon (1-0-0, +1 goal differential)
- Hoffenheim (0-1-0, 0 goal differential)
- Shakhtar Donetsk (0-1-0, 0 goal differential)
- Manchester City (0-0-1, -1 goal differential)
- Real Madrid (1-0-0, +3 goal differential)
- CSKA Moscow (0-1-0, 0 goal differential)
- Viktoria Plzen (0-1-0, 0 goal differential)
- AS Roma (0-0-1, -3 goal differential)
- Manchester United (1-0-0, +3 goal differential)
- Juventus (1-0-0, +2 goal differential)
- Valencia (0-0-1, -2 goal differential)
- Young Boys (0-0-1, -3 goal differential)
Upcoming matches (10/2 – 10/3)
- Juventus vs. Young Boys (10/2, 12:55 PM)
- Hoffenheim vs. Manchester City (10/2, 12:55 PM)
- Roma vs. Viktoria Plzen (10/2, 3:00 PM)
- AEK Athens vs. Benfica (10/2, 3:00 PM)
- Bayern Munich vs. Ajax (10/2, 3:00 PM)
- CSKA Moscow vs. Real Madrid (10/2, 3:00 PM)
- Lyon vs. Shakhtar Donetsk (10/2, 3:00 PM)
- Manchester United vs. Valencia (10/2, 3:00 PM)
- Lokomotiv Moscow vs. Schalke (10/3, 12:55 PM)
- Paris Saint-Germain vs. Red Star Belgrade (10/3, 12:55 PM)
- Napoli vs. Liverpool (10/3, 3:00 PM)
- Atletico Madrid vs. Club Brugge (10/3, 3:00 PM)
- Borussia Dortmund vs. AS Monaco (10/3, 3:00 PM)
- FC Porto vs. Galatasaray (10/3, 3:00 PM)
- PSV vs. Internazionale (10/3, 3:00 PM)
- Tottenham vs. Barcelona (10/3, 3:00 PM)
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Photo Credits: Twitter.com