How did English clubs fare in the Champions League Matchweek 1?
Liverpool: After an embarrassing 7-2 drubbing at the hands of Villa Park and sharing points with Everton in the Merseyside Derby, Liverpool needed to get back to winning ways.
With Virgil van Dijk out for the remaining of the season and Joel Matip getting a knock against Everton, it was Fabinho who took up space in place of van Dijk. This worked to the tee, with Liverpool keeping a clean sheet against a strong Ajax side, despite missing both van Dijk and goalkeeper Alisson. This game proved that Fabinho is Liverpool’s best defender after VVD, although a defensive midfielder by nature.
Andy Robertson was very impressive from the left flank, supporting Sadio Mane well before the latter was substituted in the second half. Talking of substitutions, both Takumi Minamino and Diogo Jota have been hugely impressive since they’ve come to the club, and are proving themselves to be more than able replacements for the front 3 of Mane, Mo Salah, and Roberto Firmino.
Manchester City: Pep Guardiola had come to Manchester City in a big-money move to usher his team to Champions League greatness. Alas, they’re yet to win the trophy, losing steam towards the latter stages.
This season, they have entered the tournament as one of the favourites, yet again, and with a point to prove. The campaign has kicked off in the desired fashion, at least, with a comfortable 3-1 win over Portuguese side Porto, led by the former Real Madrid defender and Champions League winner Pepe.
City’s defensive frailties were exposed at the start after they conceded a goal within 15 minutes, their new signing Ruben Dias committing the error for the goal. But they bounced back in style, with goals from Sergio Aguero, Ilkay Gundogan and new signing Ferran Torres.
City currently leads Group C which also includes Olympiacos and Marseille, and with the kind of performance put up in this game, it wouldn’t be much to ask of them to qualify safely to the knock-stages, where the real test will begin in their quest for the elusive Champions League crown.
Chelsea: The London-based club hosted Europa League winners Sevilla at Stamford Bridge in what was expected to be a competitive, tight encounter.
The Chelsea team is undergoing a transition with some old players and a plethora of new players brought in this season to work under Frank Lampard. Although questions have been raised so far for the team’s performances despite several star signings, the fact is that it will take the new players time to settle in the new system and environment. In a club like Chelsea where you are always under the constant pressure of performance, time is considered to be a luxury item, though.
In this game, the performance was defensively solid, with Thiago Silva and Kurt Zouma keeping the Sevilla attackers at bay. But the main star of the show was Chelsea’s newest recruit goalkeeper Edouard Mendy. With 2 clean sheets now from his 3 appearances, Mendy is set to be the first-choice goalkeeper for Lampard this season, especially with poor and inconsistent performances from Kepa, and an aging Willy Caballero. In attack, Chelsea has shown promise this season but there’s still room for improvement and coordination, especially from the likes of Timo Werner and Kai Havertz, both brought in from the Bundesliga this season.
Manchester United: This club has never been the same since Sir Alex Ferguson bid farewell in 2013, but for this season, there was a lot of optimism with the squad finally looking settled in, especially the midfield, and three good signings in Edinson Cavani, Alex Telles and Donny van de Beek.
But the league season has started poorly for the Red Devils, currently down at an embarrassing 15th position, after winning and losing two games each, including the 6-1 thrashing by former manager Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham Hotspur. United did, however, salvage some bruised pride by putting in a strong performance against Newcastle United to win it 4-1, Juan Mata and Bruno Fernandes stealing the show.
As a result, they entered the den of French champions PSG with quiet confidence, knowing that they had already beaten Thomas Tuchel’s side two seasons back, albeit this time with a stronger squad, captained by the inspirational Bruno Fernandes. The Portuguese took the lead for the visitors, scoring a well-taken penalty before teammate Anthony Martial conceded an own goal in the second half to level the scores.
As they say, save the best for the last. This time, yet again, it was Marcus Rashford who scored the winning goal from outside the box towards the final stages of the game, just like how he had done two seasons back to knock out the Parisian giants. As things stand, United could enter the knock-out stages as the group winners, which will come up in handy when competing with similarly tough teams in the latter stages of this premier European competition.
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