Champions League, Matchday 3, Full Time Report

After a dizzying display of goal-scoring prowess in Tuesday’s Champions League fixtures, Wednesday’s matches delivered only a fraction of the drama and intrigue.

Real Madrid appeared poised to equal the seven-goal feats of Bayern Munich and Shakhtar Donetsk (7-1 and 7-nil winners on Tuesday, respectively) after scoring three in the first half at Anfield (Cristiano Ronaldo with a scintillating finish and Karim Benzema with a brace). But without injured Gareth Bale, Los Galacticos took their foot off the gas in the second half and coasted to a 3-nil victory over an overmatched Liverpool.

 

 

Atletico Madrid was the most prolific on Wednesday erupting for five second-half goals against Swedish minnows Malmo at the Vicente Calderon. Five different players got on the scoresheet in the 5-nil win including Koke, Mario Mandzukic, Antoine Greizmann, Diego Godin and Alessio Cerci in the second minute of stoppage time.

 

Borussia Dortmund also did the business with a 4-0 win over Galatasaray in Istanbul. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang registered a brace within 18 minutes and Marco Reus scored in just his second appearance after returning from a five-week injury absence.

 

While Wednesday’s matches lacked the visual fireworks of Tuesday’s record-setting strike rates, there were two matches that provided heart-stopping denouements. Champions League debutantes Ludogorets scored in stoppage time over 10-men Basel to record the first-ever victory for a Bulgarian side in Champions League group play—defender Yordan Minev was the unlikely hero.

 

The win put Ludogorets even on points with Liverpool and Basel with three, six points behind Group B leaders Real Madrid.

 

Group D featured the match of the day with Arsenal turning around what would have been a disastrous 1-0 defeat away to Anderlecht, with two late goals. Anderlecht bossed their Premier League counterparts for most of the match and appeared to get a 71st-minute winner from Andy Najar.

 

But Arsenal, despite a rather toothless performance, got an 89th-minute goal from defender Kieran Gibbs and a fortuitous bounce allowed substitute Lukas Podolski to snatch the winner in the first minute of stoppage time. This after Anderlecht’s Matias Suarez botched an 84th-minute breakaway attempt.

 

In the other three matches, Leverkusen defeated Zenit St. Petersburg 2-0, AS Monaco managed a 0-0 draw with Benfica and Olympiakos got their second scalp of group play with a 1-0 win over reigning scudetto holders Juventus.

 

Only three teams have a 100 percent record after three matches: Real Madrid (Group B) Bayern Munich (Group D) and Borussia Dortmund (Group E). Juventus (3 Points, Group A) and Primeira Liga champs Benfica (1 point, Group C) have been surprisingly poor thus far in the competition.

 

Reigning EPL champs Manchester City (2 points, Group E) have also been lackluster despite being drawn into arguably the toughest group (with Bayern Munich and AS Roma). The Citizens’ troubles in European competitions are well-documented, having progressed out of the Champions League’s Group Stage just once.

 

The Champions League will resume in two weeks’ time.

 

-M.F. DiBella

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