Europe’s greatest club competition got underway this week with the commencement of the UEFA Champions League group stages, and if Match Day One is anything to go by, we’re in for a real treat this season.
Riley Beveridge reports.
The cashed-up Paris Saint-German returned to the Champions League by thrashing Dynamo Kiev 4-1. PSG were inspired by their €20 million summer signing Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The Swedish striker opened the scoring from the penalty spot, before fellow new recruits Thiago Silva and Alex added two more within the space of three minutes. Argentine Javier Pastore then added a fourth late in the match.
In the other Group A match, Porto eased their way to a 2-0 victory over Dinamo Zagreb.
PSG 3 (+3)
Porto 3 (+2)
Dinamo Zagreb 0 (-2)
Dynamo Kiev 0 (-3)
German side Schalke took on Greek giants Olympiacos in their own backyard and came away with a crucial 2-1 victory. Klaas Jan Huntelaar scored the winner for Schalke just moments after Djamel Abdoun had cancelled out Benedikt Howedes’ opener.
Arsenal travelled to France and secured a 2-1 victory over Ligue 1 champions Montpellier. Younes Belhander had given the French side an early lead from the spot, before two goals in as many minutes from Lukas Podolski and Gervinho stole the points for the Gunners.
Arsenal 3 (+1)
Schalke 3 (+1)
Montpellier 0 (-1)
Olympiacos 0 (-1)
AC Milan’s rocky start to the season continued with a scoreless draw at home to Anderlecht. Neither side could find a goal as the two teams were forced to share the points.
That meant oil-driven Spanish side Malaga could top Group C with a comfortable 3-0 win over fellow big spenders Zenit St Petersburg. Isco scored a sensational double for Malaga in the win.
Malaga 3 (+3)
Anderlecht 1 (0)
AC Milan 1 (0)
Zenit 0 (-3)
Spanish champions Real Madrid defeated English champions Manchester City 3-2 in a pulsating clash at the Bernabeu. Incredibly all five goals were scored in the final 22 minutes of the clash, with Edin Dzeko first scoring for City against the run of play. Marcelo equalised with a deflected shot minutes later, before Aleksandar Kolarov quickly restored City’s lead with just five minutes remaining. However a late goal from Karim Benzema again leveled the scores, before Cristiano Ronaldo’s last-minute goal sealed all three points for Real Madrid.
There was also late drama in Germany, where Robert Lewandowski’s 87th minute goal proved enough for Borussia Dortmund to get over the line against Ajax.
Real Madrid 3 (+1)
Borussia Dortmund 3 (+1)
Manchester City 0 (-1)
Ajax 0 (-1)
Juventus fought from two-goals down to draw with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. A sublime double from 21-year-old Brazilian Oscar had given the Blues the lead, however Arturo Vidal quickly pulled out back for Juventus. With 10 minutes remaining, Fabio Quagliarella came off the bench for the Italian’s to grab a deserved equaliser.
Ukrainian giants Shakhtar Donetsk sealed a 2-0 win over Danish debutants Nordsjaelland. Henrik Mkhitaryan was the hero for Shakhtar, scoring both goals in the win.
Shakhtar 3 (+2)
Chelsea 1 (0)
Juventus 1 (0)
Nordsjaelland 0 (-2)
Last season’s finalists Bayern Munich survived a late fightback from Spanish side Valencia to record a 2-1 victory. Bastien Schweinsteiger and Toni Kroos’ goals proved enough for the German’s.
Belarussian side BATE Borisov recorded their first ever Champions League victory, defeating their fancied French opponents Lille 3-1 away from home. In a huge upset, a scorching goal from distance by Aleksandr Volodko got BATE off to the perfect start, before goals from Vitali Rodionov and Edgar Olekhnovich set up an unassailable lead.
BATE 3 (+2)
Bayern Munich 3 (+1)
Valencia 0 (-1)
Lille 0 (-2)
Scottish side Celtic returned to the Champions League and played out a gritty 0-0 draw with the highly rated Portuguese side Benfica.
A late eight-minute double from Lionel Messi then got Barcelona out of jail after initially going 1-2 behind to Russian side Spartak Moscow.
Barcelona 3 (+1)
Benfica 1 (0)
Celtic 1 (0)
Spartak Moscow 0 (-1)
A double from Rafael Bastos gave Romanian side CFR Cluj a memorable 2-0 win away to their much more fancied Portuguese opponents Braga.
Michael Carrick’s early goal was then enough for Manchester United to record a tough 1-0 win at home to Turkish side Galatasaray.
Cluj 3 (+2)
Manchester United 3 (+1)
Galatasaray 0 (-1)
Braga 0 (-2)
Riley Beveridge is a first-year Bachelor of Sports Journalism student at La Trobe. You can follow his fanatical football thoughts at his Twitter: @RileyBev.