The Champions League group stages kicked off across Europe this week and while it was a resumption of regular duties for some teams, harsh reality befell some others.
16 matchday one games saw 50 goals, with Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund accounting for 22 of those 50 goals. The aforementioned quartet’s crushing wins, notably Bayern’s 5-0 win over Russian upstarts Rostov and Dortmund’s 6-0 away dumping of Legia Warsaw, strengthened the case for the impending reforms in Europe’s top tournament.
A tale of strikers
While some strikers had field days, a few others had nights to forget. Paris Saint Germain’s Edinson Cavani scored within a minute of kick off against Arsenal, but his performance on the night will be remembered more for a series of misses than the goal. Cavani’s profligacy offered Arsenal a route back into the game and the Gunners duly punished the Parisians.
Sergio Aguero has been scoring goals for fun under Pep Guardiola; the Argentine made light weather of his domestic suspension by putting Borussia Monchengladbach to the sword with a hat-trick. While Aguero’s fellow South Americans at Barca, the Messi-Suarez-Neymar trident, made sure Celtic got over their Old Firm derby win at the weekend with a sound 7-0 rollicking.
Sergio Aguero: Has scored his second hat-trick in five appearances for Manchester City this season #UCL
— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) September 14, 2016
While frustration was the story for Juventus’ Gonzalo Higuain, his replacement at Napoli, Arkadiusz Milik set the Partenopei’s European wheels in motion with a brace of headers in distant Kiev.
Meanwhile, both Bayern and Dortmund had their goalscoring responsibilities more spread out in their respective wins. Bundesliga’s two top scorers last season—Robert Lewandowski and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang—only scored a combined two goals among the 11 goals between the two teams.
Arsenal, Spurs drop points
“Playing home Champions League matches at Wembley is not necessarily all it is cracked up to be,” ex-Arsenal star Ray Parlour warned Spurs that playing at Wembley brings its own downsides and the Lilywhites had a first-hand experience of a home game away from home with a 2-1 loss to Ligue 1 leaders Monaco.
Leonardo Jardim’s men defended well after a well-taken lead, as Spurs sparred without a knockout blow throughout the majority of the second half. Spurs had 8 corners and put in 15 crosses in the second half, but Monaco were equal to the task, with a 75 percent clearance success rate.
On Tuesday night, Arsene Wenger’s Gunners were handed a reprieve by Cavani’s woeful night, as they came away with a point from Paris. “Playing well is better than talking” was Wenger’s battle cry ahead of the game but without a centre forward, Arsenal looked toothless in attack for most parts.
It took Olivier Giroud’s arrival to add spark to Arsenal’s attack, and Alexis Sanchez’s fine finish late on could prove vital in the Gunners’ quest for a group-topping finish.
Juve flatter to deceive in a game of stoppages
The Old Lady were broken time and again by a Sevilla side that crammed people into central areas. Jorge Sampaoli’s los Nervionses played an exotic 3-4-3 shape which prevented Juve’s wing-backs from bombing forward with ease.
It was a total destruction job from Sevilla as their three forwards prevented Juve’s centre-backs from pinging those long, line-bypassing diagonals to the wing-backs. And the game witnessed a matchday-highest 38 fouls (Sevilla with 22 of those), affecting the tempo and a major reason why the game finished goalless.
Leicester, Man City, Barca, Bayern display high quality shooting
Premier League champions Leicester City produced a fine display in Bruges with a 3-0 thumping win over Club Brugge. Of the Foxes’ 13 shots, 8 were from a high expected goals zone of maximum centrality and nearness which produced two of their goals.
Manchester City, too, were highly effective shooters with all four of their goals coming from high quality locations. Barca and Bayern opened their campaigns in style and 9 of their combined 12 goals were from high quality locations. It is no wonder they are considered tournament favourites in early running.
Thomas Tuchel’s Borussia Dortmund racked up 30 shots against Legia, and exactly half of them came from high quality locations resulting in 5 of their 6 goals. Legia, though, won’t care much as they were seemingly happy to be back in the European top flight after 20 years with their fans producing a majestic display of pyrotechnic.
— Bleacher Report UK (@br_uk) September 15, 2016
Oher talking points
- Cristiano Ronaldo ensured another night of epic for Real Madrid as the holders rallied late to beat Sporting Lisbon 2-1. Ronaldo’s free-kick goal was his 12th in the Champions League, surpassing Juventus legend Alessandro del Piero’s 11 free-kick goals.
12 – Cristiano Ronaldo has scored more direct free-kick goals than any other player in #UCL (since 2003/04). Missile.
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) September 14, 2016
- Celtic returned to the group stages after two years of failing to do so under Ronny Deila. But the Hoops experienced the harsh reality of the tournament proper after a 7-0 hiding in Barcelona.
- Carlo Ancelotti’s Bayern set a record for consecutive home wins following their thrashing of Rostov. Die Roten are now on a winning streak of 13 straight home games, eclipsing Manchester United in the process. They celebrated with their traditional Lederhosen photo-shoot yesterday.
— FC Bayern München (@FCBayern) September 14, 2016
- There was finally a goal in an Atletico Madrid v PSV Eindhoven game as Saul Niguez’s scissor kick finish handed last season’s beaten finalists a 1-0 win. Atletico and PSV drew their two-legged knockout tie 0-0 last season after more than 200 minutes of sleep-inducing football.
- Joshua Kimmich’s brace made him the second youngest German to net a Champions League brace while Christian Pulisic became the youngest ever Dortmund player to play in the Champions League.