Champions League Round-Up: United and Spurs falter

Champions League

MANCHESTER UNITED 0-1 JUVENTUS

Cristiano Ronaldo’s return to Old Trafford proved a triumphant one as Juventus shrugged aside Man United to go five points clear at the top of Group H.

United goalkeeper David De Gea’s consistent heroics prevented proof of this rampant Juventus performance from fully showing on the scoresheet, but he was unable to stop Paulo Dybala’s 17th-minute tap-in from sealing the win for the Italians.

The home side had come into this contest on a relative high, having beaten Newcastle and creditably drawn with Chelsea in their most recent fixtures. But United soon found Juventus to be an altogether different kettle of fish to the sides which they have faced of late in the Premier League.

Massimiliano Allegri’s men, 12 games unbeaten this season, were simply too much, too soon for Manchester United. The team is still dogged by infighting and rumours of an imminent managerial departure.

Indeed, the hallmarks of a farce are never too far from Jose Mourinho at the moment, and this week’s instalment of the United comedy of errors was duly served up when the home side arrived late to Old Trafford for a second consecutive European tie.

Some may argue United would have done better not to turn up at all, so remorselessly were their shortcomings exposed in this Juventus masterclass.

Despite cautious opening exchanges, the fate of the contest was quickly decided in the first half hour with a classy Juventus move. Ronaldo’s blistering run down the right flank proved too quick even for Anthony Martial, and the 5-time Ballon D’Or winner deftly crossed to the near post. The ball was scraped back by Juan Cuadrado for Dybala to calmly sweep home his 10th Champions League goal.

It was a passage of play which embodied the qualities so often associated with Man United teams of years gone by, but is blatantly lacking in this current outfit. Juventus showed a team ethic and collective desire which United just simply could not match. Couple this with the fact that the Italians have two footballers in Ronaldo and Dybala who possess capabilities far beyond that of anyone in the Red Devils’ ranks, and it becomes easy to see why Juventus are being touted as Champions League favourites whilst United are 40/1 to win the competition.

Although the home side were a distant second-best all round, David De Gea kept them in theoretical contention with a string of impressive saves to further his own claims as Europe’s top goalkeeper. The Spaniard denied Ronaldo a homecoming goal twice in the match- first parrying his long-range free-kick, and then rising high to his left to push away a late effort from Juve’s record signing following an excellent attacking move.

De Gea also thwarted good attempts from Blaise Matuidi and Joao Cancello. His opposite number Wojciech Szczesny was asked for no such feats – Paul Pogba’s shot from 30 yards could only hit the post in United’s solitary goalscoring chance of note.

The result leaves Juventus as good as qualified, but United have work to do if they are to progress to the Round of 16 over Valencia. A return leg against ‘The Old Lady’ is perhaps the last thing Jose Mourinho would have wanted in his current predicament, but nonetheless it awaits him and his charges in a fortnight. Should the United manager keep his job until then, that is.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s previous revisit to ‘The Theatre of Dreams’ proved to be Sir Alex Ferguson’s last Champions League game in charge of Manchester United. It is quite possible that Ronaldo’s brilliance at Old Trafford this time around may have helped to bring down the curtain on the managerial tenure of another of his former bosses.

Teams and Player Ratings

Manchester United (4-3-3): De Gea 9/10 STAR MAN, Young 6, Lindelof 6, Smalling 5, Shaw 6, Matic 5, Pogba 6, Rashford 6, Mata 7, Martial 5, Lukaku 4

Juventus (4-3-3): Szczeny 6, Cancello 7, Bonucci 8, Chiellini 8, Sandro 6, Bentancur 7, Pjanic 7, Matuidi 7, Cuadrado 7, Dybala 8, Ronaldo 8  Subs: Bernadeschi (for Dybala, 78’) 6, Barzagli (for Cuadrado, 81’) 6, Douglas Costa (for Cancelo, 87’) 6

Words: Toby Foster (@TobyFost)

PSV EINDHOVEN 2-2 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR

Hugo Lloris saw red late on as Spurs stumbled to yet another late disappointment in the Champions League.

Lucas Moura and Harry Kane got the goals to get Spurs ahead in Eindhoven, but it was Luuk De Jong’s late goal which meant that both sides shared the points on match-day three.

Pochettino’s side lined up with captain Hugo Lloris in goal. The defence remained unchanged from the Premier League victory against West Ham at the weekend, with former Ajax duo Davinson Sanchez and Toby Alderweireld in the middle. Eric Dier partnered Mousa Dembele at the heart of Tottenham’s midfield, with Son and Lucas forming an attack with Christian Eriksen being reintroduced into the side after his lengthy injury. Harry Kane led the line searching for more goals after his first in this year’s competition against Barcelona a fortnight ago.

As for PSV, Zoet started in goal with a back-line consisting of Viergever, Schwaab, Angelino and Dumfries. The midfield consisted of Pereiro, Hendrix, Rosario, Malen (a former Arsenal youth player) and Mexico’s World Cup golden-boy, Hirving Lozano. Former Newcastle striker Luuk De Jong led the line for the side currently top of the Eredivisie.

It was the visitors who started the game in an abrupt manner, with Lucas Moura running at the defence and driving his shot well over the bar in just the third minute. Kieran Trippier was eager to make him aware of his presence on the right side, but the Brazilian went for goal instead.

Hirving Lozano’s quality started to become evident just five minutes into the game. The Mexican was causing Davies many problems down Spurs’ left side. The Welsh left-back’s only hope was to pull Lozano down for a free-kick. This was the same for Dembele five minutes later, the Belgian pulled down the winger and PSV won yet another dangerous set-piece.

Harry Kane was having an unfortunate evening in front of goal after seeing his header hit the woodwork. Sanchez also had a header cannon off the bar, and PSV were barely holding onto the 0-0 score line.

It was Pereiro who made use of the set-pieces won by PSV in the 22nd minute of the game. His free-kick just whistled past Lloris’ post and wide of goal – a near opener to this cagey, tight affair. Spurs created chances of their own from open play, with Son forcing a well-struck shot straight into the hands of Zoet, the Korean trying to catch the Dutchman off-guard.

After controlling the possession for the first half an hour of the game, Spurs were moving the ball around efficiently and accurately. However, the defence pushed up to the halfway line in an attempt to force the pressure on PSV, and Alderweireld was caught out. Lozano went through on goal, and the ball spun in off the Belgian’s legs, over the head of Lloris and into the back of the net. PSV had the lead at the Philips Stadion.

Tottenham looked for an immediate reply, and should have been awarded with a goal after the ball had hit the back of the net. Toby Alderweireld’s flicked header found Davinson Sanchez in the box, who smashed the ball past Zoet and into the back of the net. The referee allowed the goal, however the linesman flagged after claiming that Harry Kane was in an offside position. Replays showed that though the Englishman was in an offside position, he did not interfere with play, thus the goal should have stood.

The English side did find a way through eventually, just five minutes after Sanchez’s goal was wrongly ruled offside. Eriksen was in a central area and played Kieran Trippier through with a beautiful ball on the edge of the box. The right-back pulled his pass back to the edge of the area to find Lucas Moura, who was there to smash the ball into the back of the net after a deflection deceived Zoet in the PSV goal.

Spurs were back in the encounter at a perfect time. However, their hard efforts were nearly to no avail after Pereiro danced his way into the area on the stroke of half-time. His shot cannoned off the cross bar, a lifeline for Tottenham who went into the break level.

Spurs’ philosophy for the second half at the Philips Stadion was rather simple – to go out and assert authority on the game and get the job done. This was reflected right from the start of the half when Pochettino’s men began to control possession and dictate the play. This created a swarm of chances for the Lilywhites, and Eriksen should have fired them ahead in the 48th minute. He did well to let Trippier’s pass run across him before firing at goal, but Zoet was there to make a strong save.

Tottenham did eventually reap the rewards for a strong start to the half when a tight, but skilful exchange between Son and Eriksen occurred on the far side. Eriken received the ball from the Korean and whipped in a perfect delivery onto the head of Spurs’ talisman, Harry Kane. The Englishman headed the ball into the ground, and it bounced past Zoet and into the net. Spurs gained the lead, Kane with his second goal in the Champions League this season.

Lamela was added to the action with 20 minutes left to play, and his fresh energy created more chances for Spurs. Harry Kane’s finely weighted pass found the Argentine out wide, who used trickery and good footwork to burst into the box before firing his shot off the crossbar.

The game could so easily have been killed off if Spurs had taken their chances – but it was Hugo Lloris who caused problems for the side with ten minutes left to play. The Frenchman rushed off of his line when Lozano was bursting through on goal, but he wiped out the Mexican with a rash, poorly timed challenge outside the area. Spurs’ captain was sent off, leaving his side in a tough position to try and hold onto the lead away from home.

Lloris’ replacement, Michel Vorm, was called into action immediately in the 82nd minute. Pereiro bent his free-kick round the Spurs wall, with the Dutchman diving to his left to tip the ball around the post for a corner. The pressure of Lloris’ red card was beginning to mount on the visitors.

Heartbreak eventually came and PSV got the goal that they had been pushing for since Lloris’ red card. Lozano’s free-kick fell to Rosario who attempted a shot but he did not catch the ball cleanly. Instead, his weak effort fell into the path of De Jong, who flicked the ball into the top of the net leaving Vorm hopeless.

After a frantic five added minutes where chances fell to the feet of Harry Kane, he was unable to find the target and both sides earned their first point in the group. Another late heartbreak for Spurs in a game with so much importance – this means their qualification hopes could likely fall on the final game of the group. Up next, Spurs host PSV at Wembley, a must win match in order to close the gap on Inter, who will host a rampant, yet Messi-less Barcelona.

Teams and Player Ratings

PSV Eindhoven (4-3-3): Zoet 6, Dumfries 6, Schwaab 6, Viergever 6, Angelino 6, Rasario 7, Hendrix 6, Lozano 8 STAR MAN, Pereiro 7, Malen 6, De Jong 7  Sub: Gakpo (for Pereiro, 83’) 6

Tottenham Hotspur (4-2-3-1): Lloris 5, Trippier 7, Alderweireld 5, Sanchez 6, Davies 6, Dier 7, Dembele 6, Moura 6, Eriksen 7, Son 6, Kane 7  Subs: Lamela (for Moura, 64’) 6, Winks (for Dembele, 74’) 6, Vorm (for Son, 80’) 6

Words: Adam McGroarty (@AdamMcGroarty1)

SHAKHTAR DONETSK 0-3 MANCHESTER CITY

David Silva struck again in the Champions League as classy Manchester City proved much too good for Shakhtar Donetsk in Kharkiv.

Despite having defeated City in the Champions League last season, Shakhtar were comprehensively outclassed by the English side this time around, with Silva, Aymeric Laporte, and Bernardo Silva all finding the net.

City manager Pep Guardiola had done his best beforehand to play down his side’s chances of going all the way in this year’s tournament, but the performance will only have boosted increasing hopes amongst supporters that this will finally be ‘their year’.

Shakhtar found themselves firmly against the tide early on, with City’s relentless attacking style placing immediate pressure on their weakened midfield, without the injured Brazilian duo of Marlos and Taison.

David Silva was in an imperious mood and soon clattered the crossbar with an ambitious overhead kick, before sending Gabriel Jesus clean through on goal. Only the speed of Shakhtar goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov to clear the danger prevented the Ukrainians from going a goal down in the very early stages.

City continued to play champagne football and were rewarded with a series of chances as Shakhtar floundered badly.

Riyad Mahrez blasted wide after City had counter-attacked from inside their own penalty area. The Algerian winger had another effort cleared off the line by Yaroslav Rakitskiy. Silva then hit the post and Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus both had shots narrowly off-target in what was a simultaneously mesmerising and frustrating opening half-hour for the English champions.

The Sky Blues’ breakthrough came after 31 minutes, courtesy of Jesus’ twisting move inside the penalty area, from which Silva received the ball and rifled home with aplomb.

Aymeric Laporte headed in from Kevin De Bruyne’s corner five minutes later to double City’s advantage and effectively end the contest, but in truth Shakhtar had been unable to make any impression on the game from the outset and were fortunate to be just two goals down at the break.

City showed no mercy in the second half and continued to create chances at a rate of knots, with Silva, Jesus and Mahrez tormenting the Shaktar backline. Miraculously, the ragged Ukrainians kept their opponents at bay until Guardiola threw on Bernardo Silva and Kyle Walker to keep his team’s impetus feverishly high.

The third goal which City had been threatening duly arrived when Bernardo thrust towards an exhausted Shakhtar defence and slotted a low finish into the left corner to put the cherry on a prodigiously brilliant showing from the Sky Blues.

Though Shakhtar were one of just four teams to claim Manchester City’s scalp last season, it could hardly have been a more different story this time around. Pep Guardiola knows his side will face much tougher European tests during this campaign, but there is no doubt that this performance in Kharkiv was a huge statement of intent from a team hungry to prove their continental superiority.

Teams and Player Ratings

Shakhtar Donetsk (4-3-3): Pyatov 6, Kryvstov 5, Matvilenko 5, Stephanenko 5, Nem 6, Kovalenko 5, Fernando 8, Maycon 6, Rakitskiy 6  Subs: Lourenco (for Kovalenko, 62’) 5, Bolbat (for Nem, 69’) 5

Manchester City (4-3-3): Ederson 7, Stones 7, Otamendi 7, Laporte 7, Mendy 8, De Bruyne 6, Fernandinho 8, Silva 9 STAR MAN, Mahrez 6, Jesus 6, Sterling 6  Subs: Bernardo Silva (for De Bruyne, 69’) 7, Walker (for Stones, 80’) 6, Foden (for Jesus, 87’) 6

Words: Toby Foster (@TobyFost)

LIVERPOOL 4-0 RED STAR BELGRADE

Salah, Firmino and Mane all scored as Liverpool regained form to climb into top spot in the competitive Champions League Group C.

Jurgen Klopp showed no mercy and fielded arguably his strongest Liverpool side, with summer signing Alisson keeping his usual place on the team sheet. The back-line consisted of Alexander-Arnold, Joe Gomez, Virgil Van Dijk (captain) and Andy Robertson. Fabinho partnered Wijnaldum and Shaqiri in midfield, with Liverpool’s prolific trio of Salah, Mane and Firmino leading the line.

As for the visitors it was Borjan who started in goal. Stojkovic, Degenek, Babic and Gobeljic formed a four-man defence, with Krsticic partnering Jovicic in central midfield. Red Star went for an attacking three consisting of Ben Nabouhane, Ebecilio and Srnic to play just behind Boakye, who led the line for the Serbian side.

The first chance for the home side came just 10 minutes in, when Shaqiri played a chipped ball over the Red Star back-line. His pass found Salah who closed in on goal after a brilliant touch, but his attempt to take the ball past the keeper was denied after a swift recovery from Borjan.

Liverpool’s intense pressure on the visitors both on and off the ball resulted in the first goal of the game after 20 minutes. Shaqiri played Robertson down the left side with an accurate through ball, the Scotsman pulled his pass back to the edge of the area to find Firmino. The Brazilian feinted a shot, before turning inside and smashing the ball into the top of the net – a tidy finish.

After finding their nerve-settler, Liverpool continued to pose a constant threat to Red Star. A swift and skilful move just over the half-hour mark could have written the game off for the visitors, but the offside flag was raised after a silky exchange between Mane and Salah in the box.

The Reds eventually did find their second right on the stroke of half-time. Shaqiri’s light touch on the edge of the area poked Salah through on goal. The Egyptian took a touch and hammered the ball past Borjan, who went the other way. Liverpool went into the break having just doubled their lead after a dominant half.

Liverpool continued their spell of dominance heading into the second half, creating opportunities as early as five minutes in. Firmino found Mane in the box, who used quick footwork to dance past Stojkovic – however the Serbian used a high arm to obstruct the pacey attacker. Liverpool were awarded a penalty, which Salah stepped up to take and blasted into the centre of the net. The Egyptian had his second and last season’s Champions League finalists had their third of the night.

After Alexander-Arnold failed to lift a decisive pass from Fabinho into the back of the net, Liverpool continued to be the dominant side in the game. However, with 15 minutes left to play it was the Englishman who curled a free-kick into the box, but the ball struck the hand of the first man. The Reds were awarded their second penalty of the night.

This time it was Mane who stepped up to take the spot kick, his effort was hit into the corner at a nice height for Borjan to pull off a great save, tipping the ball onto the bar. The Senegalese forward ran up to poke in a rebound, but his effort was weak and well wide of goal.

Mane did eventually get his goal with ten minutes to go after a slick team move. Wijnaldum played in Sturridge who was on the edge of the box, he quickly turned and played through the unmarked Sadio Mane. The forward took a touch and poked the ball under Borjan and into the back of the net.

Liverpool had their four goals, but most importantly the three points in what was a must-win affair after their disappointing loss in Naples last time out. The Reds will next face Red Star away from home, who will use their notoriously passionate fans as a twelfth man. Elsewhere in the group, PSG will travel to Naples to face Napoli after the pair shared the points in matchday three.

Teams and Player Ratings

Liverpool (4-3-3): Alisson 7, Alexander-Arnold 7, Van Dijk 7, Gomez 7, Robertson 8 (for Moreno 82’ 6), Wijnaldum 8, Fabinho 8, STAR MAN Shaqiri 9 (for Lallana 68’ 6), Mane 7, Salah 8 (for Sturridge 73’ 7), Firmino 7

Red Star Belgrade: Borjan 5, Stojkovic 5, Degenek 6, Babic 6, Krsticic 6, Jovicic 5 (for Causic 75’ 6), Ben Nabouhane 5 (for Simic 81’ 6), Ebecilio 5 (for Jovancic 65’ 6), Srnic 5, Boakye 5

Words: Adam McGroarty (@AdamMcGroarty1)

BIG GAMES ROUNDUP: DORTMUND THRASH ATLETICO, REAL AND BARCA WIN, PSG SHARE SPOILS WITH NAPOLI

By Adam McGroarty (@AdamMcGroarty1)

BORUSSIA DORTMUND 4-0 ATLETICO MADRID

Axel Witsel scored the only goal of the first half as his shot deflected past Oblak and into the back of the net. Dortmund doubled their lead with just under 20 minutes to go when Hakimi, on loan from Real Madrid, put a low cross into the box which found Guerreiro, who blasted it in. It was Hakimi who found himself in a good position ten minutes later, this time he set youngster Jadon Sancho through on goal. The Englishman struck the ball into the empty net, his first Champions League goal. Dortmund got their forth in the last minute of the game, Guerreiro latched onto a poor piece of play in the Atletico defence, the Spaniard took a touch and buried his shot into the bottom corner.

REAL MADRID 2-1 VIKTORIA PLZEN

The first goal in this game came in just the 11th minute of play after a good cross from the right side of the pitch found Karim Benzema. The Frenchman headed the ball into the ground before it bounced into the back of the net to give ‘Los Blancos’ the early advantage. Marcelo doubled Real Madrid’s lead in the second half after a slick move on the edge of the area. Gareth Bale flicked the ball into the path of the Brazilian, who chipped the ball into the back of the net. Plzen, however did score in the game with 10 minutes to go. Hrosovsky ran into empty space and struck a low effort past Navas and into the bottom corner.

BARCELONA 2-0 INTER MILAN

Barcelona’s notable absence from the team sheet was Lionel Messi, after the Argentine had fractured his arm in a league match at the weekend. That, however did not stop the Catalonians from producing a match-winning performance. Rafinha got the first goal just after the half-hour mark. Luis Suarez played him through with a delightful ball into the area which the Brazilian struck first-time into the back of the net. Barcelona got their second with just 10 minutes left to play when Jordi Alba was played into the box. The Spaniard took a touch and curled his effort into the far-side of the goal to give the home side their third straight win in the competition. 

PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN 2-2 NAPOLI

Lorenzo Insigne gave the visitors the advantage after half an hour. An accurate through-ball set him on his way to lob Areola from his first touch, with the ball dropping into the goal. The home side equalised just after 60 minutes, Meunier drilled a pass across the face of goal, but his effort deflected off the legs of Rui who saw the ball fly into his own net. Napoli found the lead yet again with just over 10 minutes left to play. An effort fell to Dries Mertens in the area, the Belgian steadied himself and poked the ball into the back of the net. PSG did eventually find a reply with a last-gasp equaliser. Angel Di Maria curled an effort into the top corner from the edge of the area to ensure that the points were shared.

Elsewhere in Europe…

Edin Dzeko hit a quickfire double as Roma trounced CSKA Moscow 3-0. Cengiz Ünder was also on target for the Romans, who now sit joint-top of Group G alongside reigning champions Real Madrid.

Bayern Munich cruised to a 2-0 win away at AEK Athens; Javi Martinez and Robert Lewandowski were the scorers.

Michy Batshuayi’s smart finish was cancelled out by Guillaume Hoarau’s second half penalty as Valencia and Young Boys played out a 1-1 draw in Switzerland.

Hoffenheim and Lyon traded goals in an entertaining 3-3 draw. Andrej Kramaric hit two for the home side which were countered by strikes from Lyon’s Bertrand Traore and Tanguy Ndombele. Memphis Depay seemingly scored the winner after 69 minutes but Hoffenheim snatched a point when Joelinton equalised in added time.

Galatasaray and Schalke drew 0-0 in Istanbul. Schalke had the better of the exchanges with Yevhen Konoplyanka closest to scoring, but the sides shared the points in one of the less exciting encounters of Matchday 3.

Lokomotiv Moscow were soundly beaten 1-3 by Porto. Moussa Maraga opened the scoring from the penalty spot before Hector Herrera doubled the away side’s advantage. Anton Miranchuk halved the arrears before the interval but Lokomotiv were soon two goals behind once more, with Jesus Manuel Corona scoring Porto’s third. Lokomotiv then had Solomon Kvirkvelia sent off late on, compounding their woe as they slumped to three consecutive defeats in Group D.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: David Silva. The Manchester City midfielder was class incarnate and pulled the strings masterfully during his side’s 3-0 win over Shakhtar Donetsk, also getting on the scoresheet for good measure.

TWIT OF THE WEEK: Hugo Lloris. The Tottenham goalkeeper was wrong-footed when Hirving Lozano opened the scoring for PSV Eindhoven before getting himself dismissed with a woefully mistimed challenge. Spurs were forced to sacrifice an outfield player to bring on Michel Vorm in Lloris’ place, handing PSV a decisive advantage in the closing stages which they utilised to snatch their late equaliser.

GOAL OF THE WEEK- Angel De Maria’s beautiful curling strike from the edge of the box to level the score in his side’s 2-2 draw with Napoli.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “If you have to kill the game and don’t, you need to blame yourself. And if you don’t win after what happened here, you don’t deserve to be in the Champions League”- A dejected Mauricio Pochettino castigates his Tottenham players after conceding a late equaliser to PSV Eindhoven.