Champions League round-up: Part 1

Blog by: Anirudh
FBL-C1-EUR-GALATASARAY-REAL MADRID

Tuesday saw the start of the group stage of this year’s Champions League, with holders Bayern Munich among those in action.

Pep Guardiola led his new side out at the Allianz Arena against Russian league leaders CSKA Moscow, while elsewhere David Moyes got his first taste of group stage fare as Manchester United played host to Bayer Leverkusen.

Heavy hitters like Juventus, Real Madrid and Manchester City were also all in action—while Olympiakos were hoping to use a buoyant home crowd to their advantage against Paris Saint-Germain.

Galatasaray 1-6 Real Madrid

Cristiano Ronaldo scored a late hat-trick as Real Madrid made a real statement of intent with a comprehensive 6-1 victory over Galatasaray in Istanbul.

Ronaldo, denied multiple times earlier in the contest, buried three second-half strikes (the last, below, a sublime individual effort) to run up the score—after Isco had opened the festivities with a fine individual effort and Karim Benzema had notched two of his own.

Galatasaray threatened, in the first half especially, but only scored when 5-0 down—with Umut Bulut getting the consolation six minutes from time.

The match was also notable for a couple of injuries—goalkeeper Iker Casillas was forced off after just a handful of minutes after a mild collision with Sergio Ramos seemed to leave him with a rib injury.

Didier Drogba was also forced off before half-time for Galatasaray, but even the great Ivorian—who shared an emotional pre-match hug with former Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti—would have struggled to affect the final score.

Manchester United 4-2 Bayer Leverkusen

David Moyes made his Champions League group stage bow with a 4-2 victory over Bayer Leverkusen, although it was not quite the easy ride the scoreline might suggest.

Wayne Rooney opened the scoring for United, but a glaring miss came just minutes before Simon Rolfes curled home an equaliser.

United were wobbling but, not for the first time this season, Robin van Persie steered the ship back on course—sending an acrobatic finish into the net with his right-foot.

That seemed to open the floodgates, with Wayne Rooney getting his 200th goal for United before Antonio Valencia added a fourth—celebrating with an emotional tribute to former international teammate Christian “Chucho” Benitez, who passed away recently.

Omer Toprak got a second for Leverkusen, but by then it was too late for Sami Hyypia’s visitors.

“We did a lot of good things and it was a good job tonight,” Moyes said. “I thought the players knew what they had to do and they went about it well.”

Bayern Munich 3-0 CSKA Moscow

Bayern Munich—and new coach Pep Guardiola—avoided a potentially embarrassing slip-up as they started the defence of their title, easing to a 3-0 win against the potentially dangerous Russian side CSKA Moscow.

David Alaba got Bayern off to the perfect start with the first goal of this group stage, the Austrian needing just four minutes to bury a long-range free-kick past Igor Akinfeev.

Further strikes from Mario Mandzukic and Arjen Robben confirmed a 3-0 final scoreline, but players and manager seem aware more is to come.

“We need to stay calm and not get ahead of ourselves,” Robben said. “We are taking the competition step by step and today was a good start, nothing more.

“We know that getting through the group stage is the first objective. It is still early days.”

Nevertheless, a 3-0 win (having created 20 shots to CSKA’s eight) is certainly a start Guardiola would have taken ahead of proceedings.

Viktoria Plzen 0-3 Manchester City

After a deadlocked opening 45 minutes, a rousing second half display from Manchester City gave them the opening win manager Manuel Pellegrini was looking for against Viktoria Plzen.

City failed to break through against their comparatively minor opponents before half-time, but Edin Dzeko ended the drought shortly after half-time with a smart finish, before Yaya Toure effectively sealed the points with a rasping effort.

A late goal from Sergio Aguero—turning away from his man before firing inside the far post—completed the triumph, as City matched group rivals Bayern Munich on day one.

After failing to escape the group stages in the last two seasons, an opening victory came as a relief to the Premier League side.

FC Copenhagen 1-1 Juventus

A magnificent rear-guard effort from Copenhagen held Juventus at bay and secured a 1-1 draw, as the Italian champions were about the only ‘big-name’ side to drop points on Tuesday.

Nicolai Jorgensen gave the Danish hosts an unlikely lead in the first-half, before Fabio Quagliarella eventually got his side back on terms. But, despite pressing hard, fantastic saves from Copenhagen’s Johan Wiland ensured his side escaped with a point.

Juventus had 27 shots over the course of the contest (Copenhagen had just nine) and took 16 corners, but were foiled time and again, ensuring a slow start in Group B.

Olympiakos 1-4 Paris Saint-Germain

Two near-identical finishes from Thiago Motta helped Paris Saint-Germain to an opening 4-1 away win against Olympiakos, although Vladimir Weiss will gain many plaudits after his wonderful individual strike for the hosts.

Weiss cancelled out Edinson Cavani’s comparatively straightforward opener with a wonderful first-half effort; getting around two defenders with some great close control before slipping a shot beyond the goalkeeper.

That was about as good as it got for the Greek side, however, as Motta met two corners from the left (a matter of minutes apart) to give his side an unassailable advantage.

Marquinhos, one of the defenders who had been made to look foolish by Weiss, then added another to round out the final 4-1 scoreline.

PSG dominated possession (62%) but were limited to the same number of chances as their opponents (12), suggesting Laurent Blanc still has a few things to work on with his side.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic also managed to miss a penalty. However, that did not affect the final outcome.

Real Sociedad 0-2 Shakhtar Donetsk

Two goals from Alex Teixeira ensured Shakhtar Donetsk joined Manchester United as winners on the first day in Group A.

Real Sociedad were unable to make the most of home advantage, with Teixeira showing his class in the second half to bring the three points to the Ukrainians.

Sociedad dominated the chances—14 to six—but paid the price for their first-half profligacy, perhaps a result of some inexperience at this level.

Benfica 2-0 Anderlecht

Finally, first-half strikes from Filip Djuricic and Luisao helped Benfica ease to an opening victory over Anderlecht in Portugal.

It took just four minutes for youngster Djuricic to open the scoring from close range, before Luisao belied his reputation as a physically imposing defender with a wonderful chest-and-volley on the half-hour mark.

Anderlecht, delighted to reach the group stage this season, never really found a reponse—albeit in a game of limited chances at either end of the pitch.

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