The UEFA Champions League kicked off this week, as the best football clubs from around Europe compete to become the champion of the continent. Real Madrid beat Liverpool in last years final , to win the competition for the 14th time, double that of any other team in Europe’s most prestigious club football competition.
Rangers and Celtic of the Scottish Premiership will both take part in the competition this year for the first time since 2007. Rangers beat PSV in the last qualifying round in order to qualify, with Celtic automatically qualifying after winning the title in Scotland’s top division.
Tottenham Hotspur return to the competition after a year in the UEFA Europa Conference League, with Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea all joining them from England.
Five teams from Germany will take part in this years competition. Eintracht Frankfurt qualified after winning the Europa League last time out, beating Rangers on penalties in Seville to book their place in the group stage. 6 time champions Bayern Munich joined them, along with Borussia Dortmund, Bayer Leverkusen and RB Leipzig, after all qualifying through the Bundesliga.
Bayern will take on Barcelona in Group C, a group also containing Italian giants Inter Milan. Bayern beat Barcelona 8-2 in 2020 at the quarter-final stage of the Champions League , a campaign in which Bayern would go on to lift the trophy, in a season hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
With 16 matches across 2 days, here’s a roundup of each group from Matchday 1 of the UEFA Champions League…..
Group E – Zagreb shock Chelsea
Dinamo Zagreb grabbed the result of Matchday 1, as they outfought Chelsea to begin the group with a massive 3 points.
Prolific forward Mislav Orsic scored the winner in the first half, as he outpaced new Chelsea signing Wesley Fofana to tap home past Kepa as he came out, to score a goal which would go on to win the game for the Croatian side.
Despite being the dominant side, Chelsea couldn’t find a way past a resolute Zagreb side, who had goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic to thank, after making a fantastic double save towards the end to see out the game for Dinamo.
Deadline day signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang failed to make an impact for Chelsea, as he made his debut for the blues.
It could have been worse for Chelsea had it not been for goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, who tipped a long shot from Zagreb defender Stefan Ristovski onto the bar.
Chelsea failed to break through the Dinamo defence , leaving Croatia without a point in the opening game, coming a day before the sacking of Thomas Tuchel from the Premier League club.
In the other game, RB Salzburg had to settle for a draw against AC Milan, after going a goal ahead through Noah Okafor with 28 minutes on the clock.
Alexis Saelemaekers levelled for the Italian club just before half time, after being set up by Rafael Leao. The winger slot it past Salzburg goalkeeper Philipp Köhn, to give both sides a point after the first group game, with the Austrian side most likely being the happier of the two, despite what could’ve been.
Group F – Champions Real Madrid see off Celtic
Reigning Champions Real Madrid beat Scottish Champions Celtic, after the Glasgow side made a return to the Champions League.
With an electric atmosphere around Celtic Park, there was belief from supporters of the Scottish side, as they looked to grab an unlikely upset against one of the world’s best.
Madrid failed to score in the first half, and were nearly a goal behind. After good work from Celtic down the wing, Georgios Giakoumakis set up Callum McGregor outside the box, who fired it at goal, where it hit the post. Thibaut Courtois was beaten, as Celtic created their best chance of the game.
UEFA Champions League Player of the year and UEFA Men’s Player of the year Karim Benzema had to be substituted after just 30 minutes with an injury, with former Chelsea winger Eden Hazard taking his place, as he looks to find his form from previous years.
In the second half, Madrid stepped up and gave Celtic little chance. A brilliant cross by Federico Valverde found Vinícius Júnior at the back post, who place it bottom corner past Joe Hart, putting Madrid in front.
Real added a second not long after. A fine solo run by Eden Hazard through the middle created a chance for Luka Modric in the box, and after some good skill finished it past Hart, who despite getting a hand on it couldn’t keep it out.
The champions wrapped it up in the 77th minute. Toni Kroos played a clever ball to the back post, where Dani Carvajal was onside to set up Eden Hazard, who tapped in from a few yards out, to give Real Madrid their first 3 points of the Champions League group stage this campaign.
In the other game, Shakhtar Donetsk put in a fantastic display to shock RB Leipzig in Germany.
Hungarian goalkeeper Péter Gulácsi made a huge error in the first half. After trying to play out from the back, Gulácsi miss controlled the ball, to gift Shakhtar the first goal of the game after Maryan Shved tapped it home , to put the Ukrainian side 1-0 up.
It took until mid-way through the second half for Leipzig to equalise. Full-back Mohamed Simakan got forward, and was rewarded with a chance after a diagonal pass by Dominik Szoboszlai, which he slotted home into the top right corner, to pull the host level.
However, Donetsk took the game to Leipzig. A second goal from Shved, as well as Mykhaylo Mudryk and Lassina Traore getting on the score sheet, stunned the German side, who go into their game at Real Madrid without a point.
Group G – Haaland scores brace in Seville
Erling Haaland scored twice as Manchester City beat Sevilla in Spain by 4 goals, keeping a clean sheet against the La Liga side.
The Citizens were dominant in Spain, as Pep Guardiola’s side set their sights on a first UEFA Champions League title, after coming so close in the last couple of seasons.
It was 1-0 at halftime, as Haaland put City in front, after getting on the end of a Kevin De Bruyne pass, to tap in at the back post past Sevilla goalkeeper Yassine Bounou.
Phil Foden put City 2 to the good midway through the second period, with Haaland adding a second soon after to put City in complete control.
Ruben Dias sealed the win in the 90th minute with a fourth for the Citizens, who take a strong performance into Matchday 2.
Borussia Dortmund also registered a comfortable win in Group G, after putting 3 past Danish side FC Copenhagen.
Marco Reus and Raphaël Guerreiro put the German side 2-0 up at the break, as the Danes couldn’t cope with Dortmund’s gegenpress style.
English midfielder Jude Bellingham put Borussia Dortmund 3-0 up in the last 10 minutes, as BVB make the perfect start to Group G.
Group H – Mbappé stars in PSG win over Juventus
Kylian Mbappé scored a brace as PSG kicked off their Champions League campaign with a 2-1 win over Italian giants Juventus.
Mbappé got on the end of an impressive pass by Neymar to slot past Mattia Perin inside 5 minutes, adding a second 15 minutes later to put the French side in control.
Weston McKennie scored early in the second half to give Juve some hope, but couldn’t find a second as PSG start the group stages with a win to their name.
Benfica beat Israeli outfit Maccabi Haifa in the other game after two quick-fire goals at the start of the second half.
Rafa Silva and Spanish full-back Alex Grimaldo got on the score sheet, with the latter also grabbing the assist for the first goal, to give Benfica a winning start in the Champions League.
Group A – Liverpool stunned in Naples
Liverpool fell apart in Italy on Wednesday night, as Napoli recorded a famous victory over last year’s finalists.
Liverpool had a horrendous first half, giving away two penalties in the first 20 minutes. The first of which was caused by a James Milner handball, which was put away by Polish midfielder Piotr Zielinski, to put Napoli 1-0 up.
The second penalty was given away by Virgil Van Dijk after challenging Victor Osimhen, which the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) eventually gave. However, Osimhen stood up to take it, and this time it was saved by Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson, a let off for the reds.
It got much worse for Liverpool, despite Alisson giving the reds a lifeline. Former Fulham midfielder Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa got on the scoresheet, and Giovanni Simeone added his name to that list just before halftime, to give the English side a mountain to climb, one which could’ve been much steeper without their goalkeeper.
Just 2 minutes into the second half, and the game looked done and dusted as Zielinski got his second of the game, putting Napoli 4-0, leaving Liverpool with much to ponder.
Luis Diaz got one back for the Reds, leaving Napoli without a clean sheet, however they saw out the victory, to claim a huge 3 points in the Champions League, leaving Liverpool with huge concerns.
Rangers also had a first match day to forget, as they were outplayed by Ajax in the Netherlands.
Former Rangers centre-back Calvin Bassey started for Ajax, who contributed to a clean sheet for the Dutch side.
Goals from Edson Alvarez, Steven Berghuis and a superb finish by Mohammed Kudus put the hosts 3-0 up at half time, as Rangers collapsed after the first goal.
VAR ruled out a Borna Barisic goal, which summed up Rangers’ evening, as Steven Bergwijn consequently added a 4th for Ajax, to seal a winning start for the Dutch side.
Despite a heavy loss, Rangers will only learn from the defeat, after returning to the Champions League group stages for the first time in 12 years.
Group B: Late goals decide dramatic game in Madrid
A crazy game at the Estadio Wanda Metropolitano led to 3 goals in second half added time, as Atletico Madrid claimed a vital win against Porto in the Champions League group stages.
Madrid midfielder Koke had a goal disallowed by VAR, as the game looked to be heading for a goalless draw.
Mehdi Teremi was sent off for Porto after a second yellow, just 10 minutes before the 90th minute.
Mario Hermoso thought he won it in the first minute of added time, as the defender fired home to put Madrid in the lead.
Just 5 minutes later however, Hermoso was at the centre of it again, but this time for the wrong reasons, as he handled in the box to give Porto a chance to get something from the game.
Mateus Uribe scored from the resulting penalty, giving what Porto thought was a vital point in Spain.
However, in another dramatic twist, Antoine Griezmann scored in the 11th minute of added time, to snatch all 3 points in the final minute of the game, as Atletico secure an important win at home in the Champions League.
Bayer Leverkusen continued their poor start to the season in the other game of the group, as they came away empty handed from Belgium, as Club Brugge started their Champions League campaign with a win.
Abakar Sylla scored the winning goal just before half time to claim an important win in what will sure to be a tight group.
Patrik Schick had a goal ruled out by VAR in the second half, to pile even more misery on Leverkusen after their poor start in the Bundesliga.
Group C – Bayern secure dominant win in Milan
Bayern Munich kicked off their Champions League campaign with a 0-2 win away to Inter Milan, in what is the ‘group of death’ in this years Champions League group stages.
Leroy Sane put the German side in front inside 25 minutes, in a game where Munich had 21 shots to Inter’s 9.
An own goal by Inter full-back Danilo D’Ambrosio sealed the win for the German champions , who will look to challenge again for the Champions League trophy this year after winning it two years ago.
Robert Lewandowski scored a hat-trick for new side Barcelona, as they thrashed Czech Republic side Viktoria Plzen 5-1 at Camp Nou.
Franck Kessie and Ferran Torres also scored for the Spanish side, who take a dominant display into their next group game against Bayern Munich.
Plzen forward Jan Sykora scored a consolation for his side, who will need to lift themselves quickly before their next group game against Inter Milan.
Group D – Richarlison late double secures Spurs win
Richarlison scored a brace as Tottenham Hotspur claimed their first 3 points of the Champions League campaign against 10-man Marseille.
Former Newcastle United centre-back Chancel Mbemba was shown a straight red card early in the second half, after a last man challenge on Heung-Min Son.
Spurs took until the 76th minute to take advantage, when Richarlison scored his first, then eventually scoring just 5 minutes, to seal the win for the English side.
Sporting Lisbon scored 3 goals in the second half to beat Europa League holders Eintracht Frankfurt in Germany.
Goals from former Tottenham Hotspur youngster Marcus Edwards, on-loan Barcelona winger Francisco Trincão and winger Nuno Santos secured a important victory for the Portuguese side.
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