Champions League: Danny Welbeck breaks out, Real Madrid survives scare
The second games of the second week of Champions league action brought plucky performances form two minnows, a superb hat trick from Danny Welbeck, a stalemate in St. Petersburg and further evidence of the strength of the Bundesliga as both German teams in action won.
Here is what caught our eye from Wednesday's action:
Player of the Day: Danny Welbeck, Arsenal
Manchester United, it’s said, lost patience with Danny Welbeck last season when, played clean through in the quarterfinal against Bayern Munich he tried to lift the ball over Manuel Neuer despite having repeatedly being told that the goalkeeper was susceptible to low shots. His finishing remains the big question about him, but he began to suggest that he can be a proper goal-scoring forward, at least against teams who give him space to run into.
His first goal in Arsenal's 4-1 win over Galatasaray was simple enough, a neat run to latch on to the through ball from Alexis Sanchez and a jab through Fernando Muslera’s legs. His second was more impressive, charging on to a misplaced backward header and sweeping the ball decisively past the goalkeeper. And his third, perhaps, was the best of the lot, a subtle dink to lift Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s pass over Muslera. He won't find other teams so accommodating, but he has at least shown that when given the opportunity, he can take it.
Goal of the Day: Heung-Min Son, Bayer Leverkusen
There is always something glorious about a finish lashed first-time into the roof of the net, and that was just what Son produced to put Bayer Leverkusen 2-0 up in its 3-1 win over Benfica. This was a matchday that saw a lot of goals scored from clever through balls and neat finishes – Alexis Sanchez’s from Mesut Ozil’s pass for Arsenal against Galatasaray was a beauty – but Son’s stood out, crashed in from Karin Bellarabia’s cutback pass.
Turning Point of the Day: Cristiano Ronaldo's (converted) penalty
Few expected Real Madrid to need a turning point, but after a dismal opening to the game, there were sighs of relief all round as Cristiano Ronaldo tucked away a 25th-minute penalty against Ludogorets.
The Bulgarian champion, which pushed Liverpool so close two weeks ago, had taken an early lead through Marcelinho as Madrid struggled to defend a corner, the ball reaching the Brazilian via the head of Gareth Bale, and Ronaldo had one penalty brilliantly saved by Vladislav Stoyanov before he got the equalizer. Karim Benzema finally put Madrid ahead with 13 minutes remaining to avoid what would have been a shocking result and preserve a 2-1 win.
Surprise of the Day: Malmo makes some noise
Most expected Malmo to be doing little more than making up the numbers in Group A, but it was an impressive 2-0 winner over Olympiakos, who had beaten last season’s finalist Atletico Madrid in its first fixture. Markus Rosenberg was the hero, rolling the first into an empty net three minutes before halftime, and adding a second to make the game safe with eight minutes to go. All four teams in the group now have three points.
Late Twist of the Day: Arda Turan's winner
OK, it wasn’t that late, and it wasn’t really much of a twist, but on a day with little last-gasp drama, the biggest shift in a game came at Estadio Vicente Calderon as Turan touched in a 75th-minute volley to give Atletico Madrid a 1-0 victory over Juventus. After defeat away to Olympiakos in its first game, it was a victory Atletico desperately needed, and it’s one that will again awaken the doubts about whether Juventus can really compete with the very best.
Major Takeaway of the Day
Many seemed to expect Liverpool to beat Basel, even though the Swiss champions had won each of its previous three games against English sides. As it turned out, Liverpool’s 1-0 defeat was the result of its most characteristic failing: this season it has proved itself utterly incapable of defending set plays.
Martin Skrtel got himself into a dreadful mess trying to clear a corner and ended up heading the ball back towards his own goal. Simon Mignolet made a fine reaction save low to his left, but as a general horror froze Liverpool’s defense, Marco Streller thumped in the only goal of the game.
Liverpool simply has to improve defensively if it is to have any hope of making its mark in European competition. For all the impact of the sale of Luis Suarez, an failure to handle set pieces is down to nothing more complex than work on the training ground.
Atletico Madrid 1, Juventus 0
Malmo 2, Olympiakos 0
Basel 1, Liverpool 0
Ludogorets 1, Real Madrid 2
Zenit 0, Monaco 0
Bayer Leverkusen 3, Benfica 1
Arsenal 4, Galatasaray 1
Anderlecht 0, Borussia Dortmund 3