With the first chords of the UEFA Champions League anthem firing off across Europe on Tuesday, it finally felt like the season was here in earnest. Big games, big moments and big teams colliding all across the continent (and Asia) means some amazing soccer to come.
Tuesday night in Europe meant the start of the UEFA Champions League group stages, and we were treated to an incredible slate of eight games. Okay, maybe just two or three “great” games, but at least high-level soccer is back to help us all fill in the week.
Soon we’ll only have to find a way to fill in our Tuesday’s on a nearly weekly basis…and it is glorious.
Having said that, what did Matchday 1, part 1 give to us? Let’s take a look at the best, worst and craziest of the Champions League’s first group stage day.
Biggest Win: PSV 2-1 over Manchester United
Here we go again for the anglofiles out there…Louis Van Gaal’s Manchester United were big time favorites in the matchup with PSV, even with the matchup in Eindhoven. With Marital looking good in his first few matches for the Red Devils and the legend of Memphis Depay starting to grow it appeared everything was going to go Man United’s way. That was especially so after an early goal by the one and only Depay.
Instead, PSV’s defense buckled down and the Dutch side took advantage of some out of position players for Manchester United and earned a set piece late in the first half.
Biggest Loss: Manchester City
Sensing a theme? The English sides have struggled in the past few years during Champions League Play and that was once again the case for Manchester City. The blue half of Manchester is sharing in the misery of their hated rivals thanks to a 2-1 loss to Juventus, and a loss that shouldn’t have been.
Playing at home, Man City and Juve a crazy first half saw both sides have sure goals called back or nearly missed. It took until the 57th minute for the game to finally get a real goal, on the back (literally) of Juve defender Giorgio Chiellini. Despite obvious evidence that Vincent Kompany climbed all over the Juve defender on the corner kick, the goal stood.
Juventus got poetic justice, tying the game up with a goal just 20 minutes later by Mario Mandzukic. It was then that Juve began taking this game over and not long after it became 2-1 to the visitors from Turin thanks to a strike from Alvaro Morata, who redeemed himself for a goal deemed offsides in the first half.
Not exactly how anyone at Manchester City wanted this one to go, given the preciousness of any and every point in the supposed “group of death.”
Most Shocking Result: Real Madrid 4-0 over Shakthar Donetsk
Few would’ve expected the Ukrainian giants to make a real run of it against los Galacticos. However, this side has some great talent on it and none of it showed up in the match for Shakthar. Still, I was utterly shocked to see this scoreline happen.
Real Madrid is very good, no questions asked but I also expected Dontesk to give them way more of a game. Instead, it was ugly from start to finish and Dontesk never really sniffed the goal. Donetsk was credited with one shot on goal and five total shots, while Real put up a whopping 26 total shots and nine shots on goal.
Apparently there is no stopping the Cristiano Ronaldo train either, as Donetsk allowed a hat-trick to the great one.
Who Didn’t See That Coming?: Spanish Dominance
While the majority of soccer fans are EPL-cray here in the good ol’ US-of-A, the top of La Liga is arguably some of the best soccer played in the world these days. That was born out on Tuesday, as Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid and Sevilla combined to shut out their three opponents.
Combined, these three squads finished the day with a score of 9-0 against their opponents. With Real Madrid and Barcelona taking the last two Champions League titles and Atletico putting itself in position to challenge the big two, this league is dominating European soccer and you should’ve seen it coming.
Best Tweet: Ronaldo = Perfection?
The last eight shots on goal from Cristiano Ronaldo have ended in goal [@OptaJose].
— SocialRMadrid (@SocialRMadrid) September 15, 2015
Best Goal: PSV Eindhoven
Technically this goal went to Luciano Narsingh in the 57th minute, but what made his headed in goal so great was the set up to it all. If ever the “team” should be credited with a goal it was this one, as it started with a great stop by the PSV defense and ended with a great cross to a greatly timed run by Narsingh.
Watch highlights here, courtesy of BT Sports
Team In Most Trouble After Matchday 1: Manchester City
Sevilla dispatched a struggling Borussia Monchengladbach in pretty easy fashion, while Cithay found themselves dropping points at home. Is the blue half of Manchester in danger of getting left out of the round of 16 after this match? Probably not, but there’s no excuse for dropping points at home in this group either.
Manchester City now have a lot of ground to make up and likely need an away win to Juventus or Sevilla. Neither of which promise to be an easy task, and made all that much more difficult by the position they have put themselves in.
It was tempting to also pick Manchester United, but its group appears to be much easier to navigate once at home. One could also say Shaktar Donetsk is in some major trouble, conceding four goals to Real Madrid and digging a massive goal differential hole in Group A.
Highlight games for Matchday 2 (Groups A to D):
Manchester United vs. Wolfsburg
Atletico Madrid vs. Benfica
Juventus vs. Sevilla