The Champions League is up and running again and in this morning’s games fans were treated to some real excitement and heart break.
Some of the big names of the tournament were on display on Wednesday (AEST) and there’s plenty to discuss, so let’s get stuck in…
Was that really Barcelona?
The Spanish giants are a shadow of their former selves and it’s almost awkward how bad they were against Bayern Munich.
The German powerhouse are a very good side of course but they never looked under any pressure as they walked to a 3-0 in Barcelona. When does that ever happen in the Nou Camp? The locals probably saw it coming, with the stands not full.
There’s been plenty written about the financial issues at Barcelona that cost them their talisman Lionel Messi. That was partly down to over spending and mismanagement and then have been exacerbated by the COVID crisis but the fans hoped that on the field, things would be different. They weren’t.
In terms of possession the game was equal but it was what the two sides did with the ball when they had it that made the difference. Barca only created five chances and not a single one of them was on target. Meanwhile, the Germans had 17 shots with seven of them on target and three of them ended in the back of the net as Robert Lewandowski continued his incredible form with two.
It was so sad to see that even when the game was against them, no Barca player grabbed hold of the situation to change things.
Bayern were in good form tonight but at no point were they tested in any way by Barcelona. For the Spanish side they will be looking at tonight’s performance and asking themselves how confident do they really feel about qualifying from this group? Meanwhile, Benfica and Dynamo Kiev will be looking at Barcelona and thinking – we can have them!
Penalties, penalties everywhere
From the scoresheet of 1-1 it might look like Sevilla and FC Salzburg played out a pretty bland match but you couldn’t be more wrong.
Salzburg will be wondering how on earth they have only walked away with a point after being awarded three penalties in the first half and playing against ten men for the final 40 minutes when Sevilla striker Youssef En-Nesyri was sent off for two yellow cards.
But that’s not all! Sevilla were awarded their own penalty in the first half setting a record for the most penalties in a half of Champions League football.
Salzburg threw everything at the Spanish side in the second half and really should have won it with some straightforward chances going begging.
In the end Sevilla will be relieved to be able to take a point from the game and Salzburg will know that they’ve blown a great opportunity to take an early lead in a Group G that really any of the four sides (apart from Wolfsburg perhaps) could go on to win.
Ronaldo is not the answer to everything
Manchester United will be distraught about losing to Young Boys for many reasons. Having had the lead thanks to another Cristiano Ronaldo Champions League goal, it looked like Man United were on their way only forn a straight red to Aaron Wan-Bissaka to leave them a player short in Switzerland.
Once they went a man down the whole team struggled to cope, playing defensively and failing to create enough threat.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team went top of the Premier League on the weekend but this was a sobering come down for the manager, as Jesse Lingard’s 95th minute mistake helped Young Boys seal their famous win.
The loss has just added volume to the concerns that he’s got a talented team of individuals but he’s still not experienced enough as a manager to turn these players into a title winning side.
VAR continues to break hearts – but is it ruining the game?
The suitability of the VAR system came into discussion again today as it led to a few goals being disallowed and in one case it really got it wrong.
Benfica had been all over Dynamo Kiev for 93 minutes but somehow hadn’t been able to convert 68 per cent possession and 12 shots into a goal. The game was heading for a draw until Dynamo looked like they had scored a wonderful goal to steal the points before it was overturned for the most marginal offside.
There are two problems – if the Kiev was player was offside then it was perhaps only by the width of a hair on his arm. But more importantly – the player that was pinged for offside played absolutely no part in the goal itself. None.
How can that be a fair system? As technology continues to be a crucial part of sport we will have to accept systems like VAR but it’s clear that football still has not got its application correct.
The game didn’t exactly leave the officials in a good light. English referee Anthony Taylor gave Dynamo Kiev’s Denys Garmash a red card for a second yellow – the only was problem was he hadn’t been previously booked. VAR at least gave Garmash a reprieve.
The moment brought back memories from the Socceroos 2006 World Cup match against Croatia, where English ref Graham Poll handed out three yellow cards to Joseph Simunic before sending him off.
Reigning Champs are up and ….walking
Chelsea have started their campaign to retain their title with three points thanks to another Romelu Lukaku goal at Stamford Bridge, days after netting their for the first time in the league.
However there will still be some questions raised about whether they have what it takes to go all the way and lift the trophy again.
Zenit defended valiantly and had a chance to equalise near the end, but the Blues have an iompressive defensive record under Thomas Tuchel.
French Champions will regret wasteful shooting
Group G is arguably the most competitive group in the whole competition with at least three of the sides having genuine chances to win the group and qualify through to the knockout rounds.
Lille will be bitterly disappointed that they didn’t take an important step towards taking that top spot against a Wolfsburg side who were brave in defence but weak in attack.
Lille created so many chances and even had a man’s advantage for the final 25 minutes of the game but they couldn’t find the back of the net. When they had a goal disallowed by VAR in the second half they didn’t take the knock as a motivating factor but instead became more and more frustrated at themselves and everything around them.
The French Champion’s domestic success last year was a surprise and they have a real chance with their draw to show that they can mix it at Champions League level. But they must turn pressure into goals.