Champions League Round-Up: United leave it late and Liverpool’s away struggles continue

Champions League

RED STAR BELGRADE 2-0 LIVERPOOL

Liverpool’s wretched European away form was in evidence yet again as they were humiliated by minnows Red Star in Serbia.

Milan Pavkov scored twice for the home side, who successfully avenged their 4-0 defeat at Anfield a fortnight earlier.

Jurgen Klopp’s men now face a battle to qualify for the knockout stages having lost three consecutive European away games for the first time since 1979.

Liverpool controversially left Xherdan Shaqiri at home for political reasons in a move that may ultimately have proved costly, as his replacement Daniel Sturridge wasted a gift-wrapped chance early on. A Sadio Mane cross found the Englishman just five yards out but he volleyed high over the crossbar.

Red Star took the lead after 22 minutes when Pavkov outjumped Joel Matip and Virgil Van Djik to power in a Marko Marin corner. A rethink and a resurgence was needed from Liverpool, but instead they wilted and were punished again with less than half an hour gone – Pavkov capitalising on sloppy Reds possession to drill the ball home from 25 yards.

Liverpool desperately tried to rally in the second half, but although Andy Robertson hit the crossbar and Mo Salah the post, they could not put a dent in Red Star’s two-goal cushion.

This was another night to forget for the away side in what was perhaps their worst European outing of Jurgen Klopp’s three-year reign. The recent inconsistency of Liverpool’s attacking prowess, an attribute so integral to their deep Champions League run last season, will be a major cause for concern for the club’s expectant supporters.

Klopp conceded post-match that his side were simply “not clicking” and had been “finding it difficult to get their mojo back”- comments which will be music to the ears of Liverpool’s Group C rivals Napoli and PSG, both eyeing wins against the English side in upcoming fixtures to ensure their own qualification for the knockout stages.

Though Anfield is doubtlessly a European fortress, the Reds will have to remember how to win away from the Kop again very soon if they are to still forge a path to the Round of 16.

Player Ratings

Red Star Belgrade: Borjan 7, Stojovic 6, Savic 6, Degenek 7, Rodic 5, Krsticic 6, Jovancic 7,

Ben 6, Marin 8, Srnic 7, Pavkov 8 (STAR MAN). Subs: Gobeljic (for Stojovic, 59’) 6, Causic (for Marin, 64’) 6, Jovicic (for Krsticic, 72’) 7

Liverpool: Alisson 6, Alexander-Arnold 5, Matip 5, Van Djik 6, Robertson 6, Milner 5,

Wijnaldum 5, Lallana 6, Mane 6, Sturridge 5, Salah 6. Subs: Firmino (for Sturridge, 46’) 6, Gomez (for Alexander-Arnold, 46’) 6, Origi (for Lallana, 79’) 6.

Words: Toby Foster (@TobyFost)

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2-1 PSV EINDHOVEN

After falling to a late disappointment on two previous occasions in their Champions League group, Tottenham left it late to turn despair into delight at Wembley as Kane scored twice to keep Spurs in the competition.

With captain Hugo Lloris suspended, Pochettino turned to Paulo Gazzaniga to make his debut in the competition. Kieran Trippier was side-lined after a woeful display against Wolves, with Aurier coming into the side at right back playing alongside Sanchez, Alderweireld and Davies at the back. Harry Winks partnered Christian Eriksen in the heart of a very attacking Spurs line-up, with a trio of Lucas Moura, Dele Alli and Heung-Min Son playing in behind Harry Kane who claimed the captain’s armband.

As for the visitors, Zoet kept his usual place in goal for the Dutch side. Viergever, Schwaab, Angelino and Dumfries also kept their places in an unchanged defence from the first time these two sides met. Hendrix played alongside Bergwijn in the centre of the pitch, with Lozano, Rosario and Pereiro forming a three-man attack. Former Newcastle striker Luuk De Jong led the line up top.

PSV’s first attack came in the first minute of the game, with Angelino’s cross being put out of play by former Ajax man Toby Alderweireld. Pereiro whipped his corner right onto the head of PSV’s captain Luuk De Jong, who hammered the ball past Gazzaniga to put the visitors ahead in just the second minute of the game.

This was not a good start for Pochettino’s men in their must-win game as they looked to dominate the play in search of an equaliser. Christian Eriksen’s corner in the sixth minute was nodded down by Sanchez, with Alli stylishly flicking the ball over Zoet but to no avail since Angelino was on the line to head the ball away.

Just before the half-hour mark Spurs were really starting to turn their dominant possession into chances. Dele Alli chased down Schwaab before beating him to the ball. The Englishman then poked through Eriksen on what looked to be a certain goal – however the Dane’s effort was saved by Zoet. The rebounded shot fell into the path of Dele Alli, but he fired his shot straight at Zoet, whose double save kept the visitors in this one.

Tottenham went into half time being a goal down in a game that they could not afford to lose. A big 45 minutes were ahead of Pochettino and his staff. The Argentine chose to make no changes at the break, though he opted to introduce Erik Lamela 20 minutes into the second half. This decision was met with boos from the fans.

However, the first chance of the second half fell to PSV from yet another corner after Pereiro was allowed a free-header in the area. The ball was destined for the far corner, but the bounce sprung up to a comfortable height so that Gazzaniga could punch the ball away from danger to keep Spurs in the game.

With just over twenty minutes left to play, a good exchange between Winks and Davies set up Son who was charging along the box – however the Korean’s effort was deflected just wide of the post. Spurs showed no signs of stopping the constant attacking.

The home side did finally make a breakthrough immediately after the introduction of out-of-favour target man Fernando Llorente. The Spaniard went up top with Kane, and it was his cushioned touch that set the Englishman up to strike the ball across the goal and into the bottom corner past Zoet to draw Spurs level with just over ten minutes left to play. Llorente’s height brought a presence that was just too much for the PSV defence to handle.

A chance fell directly to the former Juventus striker in the 83rd minute of the game. Winks’ whipped cross met Llorente’s head in the box, however his effort was directed straight into the safe hands of Zoet. Chances were falling for Spurs but time was ticking.

They did, however find a breakthrough late on in the game. Against Inter and PSV, Spurs have let a lead slip at the death. However, they were able to find a lead at the death this time round. Ben Davies curled a ball into the area from the far left side of the pitch, Harry Kane was there at the back post to head the ball towards goal. His effort hit two of the PSV defenders, deceiving Zoet and guiding the ball into the bottom corner.

Jubilation for Spurs who have their first win in this year’s Champions League group stage. They sit on five points with Inter and Barcelona still to play, both games are must-win matches if they want to reach the knockout rounds and rub shoulders with Europe’s elite. After winning this match it does look like the likely outcome will be that PSV finish bottom and Spurs will take the third-place Europa League spot, with a victory at the Nou Camp looking against the odds – but never impossible. 

Player Ratings:

Tottenham Hotspur: Gazzaniga 7, Aurier 5 (for Trippier 76’), Sanchez 6, Alderweireld 6, Davies 6, Winks 6, Eriksen 7, Moura 7 (for Lamela 63’ 6), Alli 6, Son 5 (for Llorente 76’ 7), Kane 8 (STAR MAN)

PSV: Zoet 8, Dumfries 6, Schwaab 6, Viergever 6, Angelino 7, Rosario 6, Pereiro 7 (for Malen 73’), Hendrix 6, Lozano 6, Bergwijn 6 (for Gutierrez 86’), De Jong 7 (for Sainsbury 81’)

Words: Adam McGroarty (@AdamMcGroarty1)

JUVENTUS 1-2 MANCHESTER UNITED

A late comeback in Turin inspired Manchester United to a victory over Juventus after Ronaldo got the home side ahead just after an hour.

Juventus certainly were taking no risks with this game, with the team sheet filled with star-studded names from top to bottom. Former Arsenal man Szczesny started in goal, with a back four of De Sciglio, Bonucci, Chiellini and Alex Sandro. Sami Khedira partnered Pjanic and Bentancur in a midfield trio, with the deadly attack of Cuadrado, Dybala and Ronaldo leading the line.

David De Gea claimed his usual spot in goal for the visitors, with Young, Smalling, Lindelof and Shaw making up United’s defence. Matic and Herrera played in midfield alongside former Juve starlet Paul Pogba, with Lingard, Sanchez and Martial forming the attack. Lukaku did not travel with the side – however playing a bit attacking up top would have played into Juventus’ hands. A smaller, quicker player up top like Sanchez provided a new test for the Italian giants.

The first real moment of what was looking like a game of few chances fell to Manchester United after twenty-eight minutes of play. Matic put in a chipped ball from the edge of the box, which found Sanchez who was running onto the flight of the pass. The Chilean got his leg out however failed to connect and hook the ball past Szczesny from close range, keeping the score-line level.

Juventus had a quick reply to United almost snatching the lead. Paulo Dybala began to run at United’s defence, and set through Sami Khedira who was found in a lot of space. The German had no other Juve men with him, so he decided to unleash an effort at De Gea but the Spaniard remained untroubled.

Just after the half-hour mark, Juventus were really starting to turn their pressure into chances in search of a goal. Cuadrado received the ball on the right side of the pitch, he used good footwork to chop and turn Luke Shaw before dragging a pass along the box. The Colombian’s drive was deflected off the legs of Matic and suddenly heading goalwards, which required a swift and low save from De Gea to prevent Juventus from taking the lead.

The best chance of the half fell to Juventus again, just a minute after their previous chance. Ronaldo pulled a low cross from the right side of the box into the outskirts of the area, where Sami Khedira was waiting alone. The German’s effort was destined for the bottom corner with De Gea rooted to the spot, however his effort cannoned off the post to keep United in the game.

The first chance of the second half fell to the visitors straight after the break. Shaw left a bouncing ball for Martial to collect, the Frenchman ran to the edge of the box before attempting to curl an effort into the far side of the goal. The ball beat Szczesny in goal, but was just wide of the post.

But it was Juventus who made the breakthrough in the 65th minute. Bonucci’s long-range pass found Ronaldo in the area, whose first-time touch sent the ball past De Gea and into the back of the net to put the home side ahead. Juve found the goal they had been searching for knowing that a win would guarantee qualification in the group with two games to spare.

A golden chance to double Juve’s lead fell to Cuadrado with little over fifteen minutes to play. Ronaldo passed to the Colombian inside the area, however he leant back as he unleashed his shot, sending it high over the bar and giving United a ray of hope.

Mourinho’s men found a way with five minutes left on the clock, as Juan Mata stepped over a free-kick on the edge of the area. The Spaniard confidently stepped up and curled the ball over the wall and past Szczesny to draw United level. All of a sudden there was a belief from Manchester United that they could get more than a point from the dying moments in Turin.

And that belief turned into a reality right at the death with just one minute left to play. Anthony Martial whipped in a free-kick from the far left side, just gliding over Fellaini’s head. The ball found its way through before bouncing off Bonucci into the back of the net to give United a shock lead in Turin.

Marcus Rashford was sent through just a minute later with an opportunity to seal the game for the visitors, however his effort was saved brilliantly by Szczesny and went behind for a corner.

Nevertheless, Manchester United claimed victory in unexpected circumstances bearing in mind they weren’t in the best form having only just managed to scrape past Bournemouth the previous Saturday. It was, nonetheless, arguably one of their biggest European results in recent years, a spark to possibly ignite a strong run before Christmas.

Player Ratings:

Juventus: Szczesny 6, De Sciglio 7 (for Barzagli 83’), Bonucci 7, Chiellini 7, Alex Sandro 6 (for Matuidi 61’ 6), Khedira 5, Pjanic 7, Bentancur 7, Cuadrado 7 (for Mandzukic 92’), Dybala 8, Ronaldo 7

Manchester United: De Gea 7, Young 6, Smalling 7, Lindelof 7, Shaw 6, Herrera 7 (for Mata 79’ 7), Matic 6, Pogba 5, Lingard 6 (for Rashford 70’ 6), Sanchez 6 (for Fellaini 79’ 6), Martial 8 (STAR MAN)

Words: Adam McGroarty (@AdamMcGroarty1)

MANCHESTER CITY 6-0 SHAKHTAR DONETSK

Manchester City waltzed to another scintillating Champions League win amidst a refereeing farce at the Etihad.

Gabriel Jesus scored a hat-trick whilst David Silva, Rihad Mahrez and Raheem Sterling all got goals in what became the Sky Blues’ biggest ever win in Europe. But City’s brilliance was punctuated by the awarding of a laughable first-half penalty after Sterling tripped over his own feet.

The intimidating strength-in-depth of this City team was in full evidence as they cruised to victory over Shakhtar without the need of the rested Sergio Aguero and Leroy Sane.

Silva scored for his third consecutive Champions League game to open City’s account after 13 minutes, tapping in Mahrez’s neat pass. Shortly afterwards, Jesus had doubled the lead – but in comical circumstances.

Fernandinho’s superb through-ball was latched onto by an onrushing Sterling, who caught his foot in the Etihad turf and hit the deck. But, referee Viktor Kassai adjudged that the winger was fouled and awarded a penalty.

The risible officiating will only serve to strengthen the argument that UEFA’s introduction of VAR to Champions League matches next season will prove vital in cutting out mistakes such as this.

Nonetheless, Jesus converted the spot-kick with finesse and repeated his action in the second half when David Silva was fouled by Taras Stepanenko. The Brazilian completed the hat-trick with a splendid chip shot in what was a much-needed confidence boost for City’s backup hitman.

Meanwhile, Sterling and Mahrez appeared interested in the second half only in trying to outdo each other in the goalscoring department. Both players netted audacious strikes which will likely make the cut of an increasingly lengthy Man City season highlights DVD. Sterling shrugged off the attentions of three Shahktar defenders before curling in a peach of a shot, before Mahrez topped off the evening with a neatly arrowed finish off his weaker foot.

Shakhtar were dead and buried before half-time and never looked like mounting a serious challenge to City’s imperious dominance – their impassioned 2-1 victory over the Sky Blues in last season’s Champions League now seems a very long time ago.

If City’s 3-0 beating of Shahktar a fortnight earlier was a warning shot to their bigger European rivals, this performance was a ballistic missile’s worth of caution. With this squad, on this form, City are as good as unstoppable.

Player Ratings

Manchester City: Ederson 7, Walker 7, Stones 8, Laporte 8, Zinchenko 6, Bernardo Silva 7, Fernandinho 9, David Silva 8, Mahrez 8, Jesus 9 (STAR MAN), Sterling 8. Subs: Danilo (for Walker, 61’) 6, Gundogan (for David Silva, 73’) 7, Delph (for Fernandinho, 76’) 7

Shakhtar Donetsk: Pyatov 5, Mtviyenko 5, Kryvstov 5, Rakitskiy 4, Ismaily 4, Stepanenko 4,

Maycon 6, Taison 6, Kovalenko 6, Bolbat 5, Moraes 6. Sub: Kayode (for Moraes, 63’) 6

Words: Toby Foster (@TobyFost)

ATLETICO MADRID 2-0 BORUSSIA DORTMUND

Atleti, who received a 4-0 battering in Dortmund were able to turn fortunes around when they hosted the current German table-toppers. Saul Niguez got the first goal of the game just after half an hour, the Spaniard received the ball in the box and turned it into the net with the first touch from close range. Griezmann got the goal that doubled Atletico’s lead after he was set free on goal. The Frenchman took a few touches before guiding the ball past Burki and into the corner of the net from close range to give Atleti a 2-0 victory.

NAPOLI 1-1 PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN

Just like in Paris a fortnight ago, there was nothing to separate the two sides on this occasion. Bernat put the visitors ahead right on the stroke of half time, Neymar’s trickery opened space to find Bernat in the area, who slid the ball into the back of the net. Carlo Ancelotti’s side did eventually find an equaliser just after an hour had passed. Insigne struck a penalty right into the bottom corner of the net, impossible for Buffon to save.

LYON 2-2 HOFFENHEIM

Fekir put the home side ahead after 19 minutes of play with a scrappy goal. Fekir and Ndombele both had efforts prevented by the Hoffenheim defence, but when the ball fell to Fekir for a second time of asking he was there to strike. Ndombele doubled Lyon’s lead just before half an hour had passed. His deflected effort was a well-hit strike from the edge of the area, but the deflection played a vital part. It went from bad to worse for the visitors when Nuhu was sent off in the second half, but Kramaric shortly pulled one back with a low-driven effort from outside the box. Hoffenheim dramatically found an equaliser in added time after a free-kick found its way through to Kaderabek, who struck the ball well first time into the net.

PLZEN 0-5 REAL MADRID

Karim Benzema excellently put Los Blancos ahead with a well-crafted piece of play. The Frenchman faked a shot, turning defenders before opening his body up to place the ball underneath the goalkeeper’s arms. Casemiro doubled the visitor’s lead with a good header just after 20 minutes had been played. Benzema got his second of the game in the 37th minute, also heading in from close range to cap off a dominant half for Real Madrid. But they were not finished yet, Gareth Bale got in on the act in the 40th minute, patiently waiting at the back post before guiding the ball into the opposite bottom corner. Kroos got the fifth for Los Blancos with a stylish finish with just over 20 minutes left to play as he chipped the goalkeeper to top-off a dominant display.

ELSEWHERE IN EUROPE:

Club Brugge inflicted a surprise 0-4 away defeat on Thierry Henry’s Monaco. Hans Vanaken scored twice in the first half before Wesley Moraes gave Brugge a 3-goal advantage at half time. Ruud Vormer’s late goal completed the trouncing, which knocked Monaco out of this year’s competition.

Barcelona failed to win for the first time in this Champions League campaign after being held to a 1-1 draw by Inter Milan at the San Siro. The Catalan giants, without talisman Lionel Messi, scored what they thought was the winner through midfielder Malcom in the 83 rd minute, but Inter levelled quickly after, courtesy of Mauro Icardi’s strike from close range. Despite dropping points, Barcelona qualified for the knockout stages with two games to spare.

Porto cruised to a 4-1 win over whipping-boys Lokomotiv Moscow to make it four losses in succession for the Russian outfit. Hector Herrera put Porto in front after just two minutes, with goals from Moussa Marega, Jesus Corona and Otavio completing the rout. Jefferson Farfan’s goal for Lokomotiv proved only a consolation as his side crashed out of the Champions League.

Schalke ran out 2-0 winners against Turkish rivals Galatasaray. Guido Burgstaller gave the home side an early lead with a fourth-minute strike before Mark Uth doubled their advantage in the second half. Schalke consolidated second place in Group D, going four points clear of Galatasaray with two rounds of matches left to play.

Ajax missed the opportunity to qualify for the Round of 16 with games to spare after a 1-1 stalemate at Benfica. Goncalves Oliveria opened the scoring in the 29 th minute but former Southampton winger Dusan Tadic equalised late on.

Robert Lewandowski scored both goals as Bayern Munich cruised to a 2-0 win over AEK Athens. The Germans now top their group and only need a point from their next two games to be certain of progressing to the knockout stages.

Roma edged out ten-man CSKA Moscow, winning 2-1 in Russia. Kostas Manolas put the Romans ahead after just four minutes before a frenetic period just after the interval saw Arnor Sigurdsson equalise, Horour Magnusson get sent off and Lorenzo Pellegrini net the winner.

Valencia condemned Young Boys to a fourth straight Champions League defeat with a straightforward 3-1 win at the Mestalla Stadium. Santi Mina opened the scoring after 13 minutes, and though Roger Assale equalised midway through the first half, Mina had restored his side’s lead before the interval. Carlos Soler scored Valencia’s third whilst Young Boys had Sekou Sanogo dismissed late on to compound their woe.

TEAM OF THE WEEK 

RONALDO, KANE, JESUS

JUVENTUS, TOTTENHAM, MAN CITY

MALCOM, FERNANDINHO, MARIN

BARCELONA, MAN CITY, RED STAR

YOUNG, LAPORTE, GODIN, MEUNIER

MAN UNITED, MAN CITY, ATLETICO, PSG

DE GEA

MAN UNITED

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Harry Kane. Tottenham’s talisman dragged his side to a hugely significant win over PSV Eindhoven with two late goals.

TWIT OF THE WEEK: Thierry Henry. The new Monaco manager saw his side dumped out of the Champions League with two group games to spare in a 4-0 thrashing at home to Club Brugge. Henry has now failed to register a win in his first five matches in charge of Monaco.

GOAL OF THE WEEK: Cristiano Ronaldo’s thunderbolt to give Juventus the lead against Manchester United is a contender for goal of the tournament.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “Do you understand Italian? No? Oh. Ask the FA- they will translate for you.” – Jose Mourinho makes light of his ongoing battle with the FA in an interview after his Manchester United side defeated Juventus 2-1 in Turin.