As of last Tuesday and Wednesday, this season’s Champions League Finals are officially underway. Because of the unforeseen health crisis that impacted the whole world, the new season started about a month later than usual, and it has only been less than two months since Bayern Munich beat PSG in last season’s final to claim the 2020 European crown. But alas, we are finally back on the European scene again, and thankfully for us, matchday No. 1 definitely did not disappoint, even if no fans were allowed in the stadiums.
In the marquee match of this group, and possibly of the entire matchday, reigning champions Bayern Munich welcomed Atletico Madrid to Munich. Both sides have started the season well, but not perfect. Atletico Madrid have adopted a blend of attacking football and are still adjusting to the new tactics while Bayern have had to overcome some defensive mishaps. While many expected this game to be a tight, cagey affair, it was anything but. Atleti were not necessarily bad, but Bayern were just perfect in every way on the night, smashing last season’s quarterfinalists 4-0 without mercy. Not only that, but every single one of Bayern’s four goals were beautiful, further proving why they are reigning champions and the best team in Europe.
The other match in Group A between Red Bull Salzburg and Lokomotiv Moscow was not the high-profile match of Bayern vs Atletico, but it was arguably even more entertaining as they split the points in a hard-fought 2-2 draw.
Bayern Munich (Germany) 4–0 Atletico Madrid (Spain)
Red Bull Salzburg (Austria) 2–2 Lokomotiv Moscow (Russia)
In what could turn out to be the most exciting group of this competition, Group B was a good example of the wonderful football the Champions League had on display this week. In a game of two halves to a stereotypical degree, Real Madrid were absolutely torn to shreds by a Shakhtar Donetsk side missing many of their starters, going 3-0 down before halftime. In the second half, however, Real Madrid went on the offensive, scoring two wonderful goals in quick succession. A late equalizer in stoppage time was ruled out for being offside, awarding Shakhtar all three points in a historic win.
The next game of this group held up to the billing as an exciting Inter Milan faced off against an underrated but talented Borussia Monchengladbach side.
Inter took the lead after a goal from Romelu Lukaku, only for Monchengladbach to fight hard for a comeback and take the lead themselves, forcing Lukaku to steer home a late equalizing goal, saving Inter’s blushes.
Real Madrid (Spain) 2–3 Shakhtar Donetsk (Ukraine)
Inter Milan (Italy) 2–2 Borussia Monchengladbach (Germany)
In a group that looked to be a cakewalk for Manchester City, at least on paper, the results today prove otherwise as Manchester City had to come from behind and grind hard for a win against Porto after Luis Diaz opened the scoring with a great solo goal. Man City upped the ante in second half to secure a win, but it was by no means easy.
In Greece, Olympiacos welcomed Marseille to what turned out to be the French side’s first Champions League match in years. Though Marseille were unable to mark their return with a win, they certainly tried as only a stoppage-time winner from Ahmed Hassan made the difference for Olympiacos.
Manchester City (England) 3–1 Porto (Portugal)
Olympiacos (Greece) 1–0 Marseille (France)
Group D has some interesting matches lined up for this season, and this week we got to see a glimpse of that. Liverpool opened their campaign with a victory over a much-changed Ajax side, but they did so by the skin of their teeth, with Fabio “Fabinho” Henrique Tavares forced to make an elastic goal-line clearance to maintain a clean sheet for the Reds.
In a battle of underdogs, Atalanta traveled to Denmark to face off against Midtjylland. Credit to Midtjylland for qualifying for this tournament, but they are no doubt the weakest team in this group, as Atalanta expertly dismantled the Danish team.
Ajax (Netherlands) 0–1 Liverpool (England)
Midtjylland (Denmark) 0–4 Atalanta (Italy)
In what could turn out to be the least interesting of the groups here, Chelsea and Sevilla opened their campaign with possibly the least entertaining game this matchday, playing out a drab 0-0 draw. Both sides defended well but did not really trouble the opponent’s goal that easily.
The other match in Group E also ended in a draw, but this time with some goals scored as Rennes drew 1-1 with Krasnodar. Rennes have a team filled with bright young stars, but given that this is the club’s first-ever appearance in the Champions League, their inexperience may be their Achille’s heel.
Chelsea (England) 0–0 Sevilla (Spain)
Rennes (France) 1–1 Krasnodar (Russia)
Both matchups in Group F featured teams playing teams that were around a similar skill level, resulting in two very exciting matches. Borussia Dortmund traveled to Rome to play Lazio, but Lazio clearly showed they are the more clinical and professional side as Ciro Immobile was able to score against his former side. Erling Haaland pulled one back for the Germans, but it was a momentum that Dortmund were unable to handle as Lazio scored another, raising serious questions around manager, Lucien Favre’s, job security.
Zenit Saint Petersburg then matched Club Brugge in a game that exploded into life in the last half hour. Despite coming back from a goal down, Club Brugge stole all three points with yet another stoppage-time winner this week.
Zenit Saint Petersburg (Russia) 1–2 Club Brugge (Belgium)
Lazio (Italy) 3–1 Borussia Dortmund (Germany)
In a group that is headlined by Barcelona and Juventus, we were, unfortunately, unable to see Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo face off this week but were still treated to some good football. Juventus traveled to Ukraine to play Dynamo Kyiv in what was Andrea Pirlo’s first-ever Champions League match as a manager. After a slow first half, Alvaro Moratascored a poacher’s brace to win the match for Juve.
In the other match, Barcelona aimed to undo the humiliation of past seasons and prove they are among the elite again, playing some beautiful football to see off Ferencvaros, who are playing their first Champions League match in over a decade.
Dynamo Kyiv (Ukraine) 0–2 Juventus (Italy)
Barcelona (Spain) 5–1 Ferencvaros (Hungary)
Last but definitely not least, we have Group H, which is also a contender for most exciting group in this competition. In what is slowly turning into a rivalry, PSG hosted Manchester United to their home stadium in Paris, and just like last time, Man U nabbed all three points following a late winner from Marcus Rashford, much to the distress of the Parisians. In a tightly contested match, both goalkeepers, David de Gea and Keylor Navas rolled back the years and gave world-class performances.
In the last match we will look at this week, RB Leipzig met Istanbul Basaksehir in a match between possibly the two most hated teams in Europe. Leipzig was one of the surprise teams last season, and they showed they lost no luster as two masterfully taken goals from the left-back (yes, left-back), Angelino, saw off the Turkish side.
Paris Saint-Germain (France) 1–2 Manchester United (England)
RB Leipzig (Germany) 2–0 Istanbul Basaksehir (Turkey)
Across the matchday, there were a plethora of absolutely world-class strikes that ended up in the back of the net. These include, but are not limited to, Dominik Szoboszlai’s side-footed dipping shot against Lokomotiv Moscow, Kingsley Coman’s mazy run against Atletico Madrid, Luka Modric’s slightly curled longshot against Shakhtar Donetsk, Gundogan’s swerving free-kick against Porto, Papu Gomez’s rocket of a shot against Midtjylland, Coutinho’s trademark curler after a stunning buildup play against Ferencvaros and Angelino’s quick turn and shot against Istanbul Basaksehir.
However, in my personal opinion, my two favorite goals this matchday were Corentin Tolisso’s redirected longshot which flew into the upper 90, almost tearing the net and leaving Jan Oblak no chance, as well as Luis Diaz’s amazing solo goal which saw him glide past three defenders before rounding Manchester City’s entire defensive block and placing his low shot in the far corner.
However, I must also give a shout out to Dejan Lovren, as even though he is a center-back who is not known for his goal-scoring prowess, he was approximately an inch away from scoring no doubt the best goal this week after he unleashed an absolute tomahawk missile of a shot that clipped the post and deflected off the goalkeeper before bouncing in. Unfortunately for Lovren, this goal had to be marked down as an own goal for Club Brugge’s goalkeeper, Ethan Horvath.