The Champions League is back, and even after just one round of fixtures there have been some hugely entertaining matches and major talking points. With plenty of goals and drama over the course of the 16 matches, the group stage is off to an entertaining start. Let’s take a look at some of the key takeaways from week one of the Champions League.
Young Boys upset the apple cart
Manchester United were the overwhelming favourites in the bet exchange heading into their match against Young Boys in Bern, and when Cristiano Ronaldo put them in the lead, it looked as if everything was going to plan.
However, a red card for Aaron Wan-Bissaka changed everything, and suddenly it was backs to the walls for United. Young Boys gained confidence, and forced a deserved equaliser through Moumi Ngamaleu. The match seemed destined to end in a draw, but in the fifth minute of stoppage time, Jesse Lingard’s tame back-pass allowed Thieson Siebatcheu to swoop and bag a winner, leaving Ole Gunnar Solskjær and his side red-faced.
Barcelona way off the pace
One of the most appealing match-ups in the first round of fixtures was Bayern Munich’s trip to the Nou Camp to take on Barcelona. Much has been made of the Spanish side’s turbulent summer, with Lionel Messi departing and financial sacrifices having to be made to comply with La Liga salary restrictions.
Barcelona still have a strong team on paper, but they were made to look like amateurs by a dominant Bayern, who showcased why they were champions in 2020. The German outfit got off the mark through Thomas Müller’s deflected strike in the first half, before Robert Lewandowski struck twice to make it 3-0 and deliver a humbling blow to Ronald Koeman’s men. There is much to ponder for Barcelona, and Koeman will need to find a way to get his team ticking in Europe.
Defending champions scrape a winning start
It’ll be interesting to see how Chelsea fare in the Champions League this season after lifting the trophy in Porto back in May. A home fixture against Zenit St Petersburg seemed to offer a straight-forward start to the new campaign, but the Russian side put up a stern fight at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea huffed and puffed but struggled to create clear-cut chances, but with Romelu Lukaku in the team, there is always the possibility of a goal out of nowhere. It duly arrived with 20 minutes remaining, as Cesar Azpilicueta’s looping cross found the head of the Belgian, who powered a header into the corner. The Blues were far from convincing, but they got the all-important win in the end.
Six-goal blockbuster in Manchester
RB Leipzig always bring plenty of entertainment to the Champions League, and if there was one thing that their trip to the Etihad Stadium to take on Manchester City promised, it was goals. They duly arrived in bucketloads, with City ultimately running out 6-3 winners.
Leipzig lost both of their centre-backs over the summer — Dayot Upamecano and Ibrahima Konaté to Bayern Munich and Liverpool respectively — and it’s clear that they are suspect defensively. City made them pay, hitting them for six, and it could easily have been more.
Liverpool and AC Milan renew rivalry
The only previous times Liverpool and AC Milan had met in the Champions League was the memorable final in Istanbul in 2005, and then again two years later in 2007 where Milan exacted revenge. The rivalry was renewed at Anfield, and the match lived up the hype, with Liverpool winning 3-2.
The Reds started brilliantly, taking the lead through Fikayo Tomori’s own goal, bit Milan hit back before half-time with a one-two combo — goals from Ante Rebić and Brahim Díaz giving them a 2-1 lead at the break.
A fervent Anfield crowd roared Liverpool on in the second half, and they turned the game around again through goals from Mohamed Salah and Jordan Henderson. It was a cracker to kick off the group stage, and a valuable three points for Liverpool in what it is a very difficult group.