Defending champions Liverpool suffered defeat at Napoli, while Paris Saint-Germain made a statement by easing past Real Madrid and Juventus were held by Atletico Madrid. Elsewhere, Barcelona stuttered to a draw in Dortmund and Chelsea were stunned at home by Valencia.
Here’s taking a look at the big talking points from the opening round of group-stage matches:
LIVERPOOL ARE BEATABLE
Holders Liverpool were undone once again at Napoli as a combination of poor finishing and sloppy defending resulted in a 2-0 defeat at the Stadio San Paolo.
The fab three of Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino were all guilty of wasteful finishing on Tuesday, while UEFA men’s player of the year Virgil van Dijk also made an uncharacteristic error to gift Napoli’s second to Fernando Llorente.
This was Liverpool’s first defeat since the 3-0 loss away at Barcelona last season, and is a worrying sign as it continues their bad run of form away from home in the Champions League from season where they lost 4 of their 6 away games, and should, therefore, serve as a timely wake-up call for the defending champions.
NO MSN, NO PROBLEM FOR PSG
Paris Saint-Germain faced their first real test of the season against Real Madrid at home, and without the suspended Neymar and the injured duo of Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani.
However, Thomas Tuchel’s men made a mockery of their injury crisis by brushing aside the record 13 time winners, thanks to Angel Di Maria’s double and Thomas Meunier’s late strike.
The French champions were not short on firepower, with new signings Mauro Icardi and Pablo Sarabia both providing a threat going forward.
With Neymar, Cavani and Mbappe all to return, hopes will be higher than ever in the French capital this season that PSG can finally win the Champions League this season.
But for Real this is a real blow, especially for Zidane who was supposed to bring the good times back to the Bernabeu. And he will know better than anyone that success in Europe is the be all and end all for a Real Madrid manager.
TOTTENHAM’S LACK OF GAME MANAGEMENT
Last season’s runners-up Tottenham squandered a two-goal lead for the second time this season in a 2-2 draw at Olympiakos.
Mauricio Pochettino was unhappy about his team’s desire in a lackluster performance which was only worth a point thanks to Harry Kane and Lucas Moura scoring in four first-half minutes.
“It’s not about tactics, it’s not about quality players, it’s about the quality of preparing yourself to be ready to fight,” said Pochettino, who also saw his team draw after leading 2-0 against rivals Arsenal earlier this month.
Spurs, despite reaching the final last season, have now won just three of their last 12 matches in all competitions, which is not the kind of form needed to challenge for trophies. And competing for the big trophies is key for Spurs if they want to keep their best players for the long term.
NOTHING TO CHOOSE BETWEEN ATLETI AND JUVE
The hotly anticipated clash of Atletico and Juventus finished all square after Atleti equalized late on, just as it looked as though Maurizio Sarri had the keys to unlocking Diego Simeone’s side at the Wanda Metropolitano.
Juan Cuadrado came up with a wonderful rasping left footed shot into the top corner to break the deadlock, and Blaise Matuidi made it 2-0 soon after as Juve seemed to be running away with it. However, Atleti showed the fighting spirit they are so well known for and Stefan Savic’s header gave them hope in the 70th minute. And then debutant Hector Herrera headed in a corner right at the death to bring a thrilling encounter to a worthy close as a draw.
MANCHESTER CITY IN CRUISE CONTROL
Man City had a very comfortable evening in Ukraine after their not so comfortable weekend in the league. Shakhtar never really posed much of a threat and goals from Riyad Mahrez, Ilkay Gundogan and Gabriel Jesus wrapped up an easy win for the tournament hopefuls.
There are undoubtedly tougher tests to come for the Citizens in the Champions League, but this was a much needed confidence booster to start the season in Europe.
CHELSEA’S YOUNG GUNS FAIL TO FIRE
Frank Lampard’s first game as a manager in the Champions League, a tournament he won as a player with Chelsea in 2012, turned into a night to forget as Valencia took full advantage of slack marking at a free-kick for Rodrigo to score the winner on 74 minutes.
Chelsea, had the chance to rescue a point however, when they were awarded a penalty for handball after consulting VAR when Daniel Wass blocked Fikayo Tomori’s header.
Barkley had only come on as a substitute eight minutes earlier but insisted on taking the spot-kick ahead of regular taker Jorginho and Willian, but ended up missing it and sealing defeat.
It was a tight and tense encounter with chances at a premium and a tricky Group H, which also includes Lille and last year’s semi-finalists Ajax, has got even tougher for Chelsea after starting their campaign with a damaging home loss.
TER STEGEN SAVES BARCA’S BLUSHES
Barcelona have Marc-Andre ter Stegen to thank as the goalkeeper starred with a penalty save to earn a goalless draw against Borussia Dortmund in their Champions League opener.
Just before the hour mark, the German produced a stunning stop at full stretch to deny Marco Reus and then got up to calmly collect the bouncing rebound. Replays, however, showed Ter Stegen had been off his line when the spot-kick was taken, but there was no VAR review.
Barcelona brought Lionel Messi on for the closing stages, to replace 16-year-old Ansu Fati, for a first appearance of the new season.
However, the Argentina play-maker was not able to help conjure a goal, seeing a stoppage-time effort blocked.
Dortmund had earlier hit the crossbar through substitute Julian Brandt and but for some wayward finishing, as well as the heroics of Ter Stegen, could count themselves unfortunate to have to share the points from the Group F fixture.
Author: Ahmad Rafique