Champions League Roundup: Messi, Barcelona Dominate Juventus, PSG Wins Big

2:40 | Soccer
Transfer window winners and losers: PSG up, Arsenal down

It was an entertaining albeit not surprising opening day for the Champions League as the stars of Europe delivered for their respective clubs. Lionel Messi put on a great show at Camp Nou as the Argentine scored twice against Juventus, while Neymar Jr, Kylian Mbappé and Edinson Cavani were all on the score sheet as PSG destroyed Celtic away from home. Elsewhere, Manchester United, Bayern Munich and Chelsea started their campaigns without breaking a sweat.

Read up on all the action below. 

Messi Stars as Barcelona Outclass Juventus

Tuesday September 12th, 2017

Barcelona dismantled Juventus at the Camp Nou as Lionel Messi bagged a brace in between an Ivan Rakitic goal to secure a stunning victory to avenge their semi-final exit last season at the hands of the Serie A side. 

The first half was filled with opportunities for both sides to take the lead, Juventus had the better of the chances in the first quarter of the match before Barcelona managed to wrestle control of the tie away from the Old Lady. Ousmane Dembele missed a guilt edged chance before the deadlock was finally broken in the 45 minute. 

Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez played a quick one-two on the edge of the box before the Argentina captain fired a low accurate shot into the bottom right-hand corner of the net for his 95th Champions League goal.

Less than 10 minutes into the second half and Lionel Messi nearly doubled his tally for the night and his team's lead. The Barcelona talisman unleashed a thunderous strike from 25 yards out that crashed off the post. 

However, within minutes Barcelona did beat Juventus' defence for the second time. Messi dribbled down the right wing and whipped an effort towards goal, it was cleared off the line by Sturaro, but the sub's clearance fell to Rakitic and the Croatian slotted the ball into an unguarded net.

Lionel Messi had never scored against Gianluigi Buffon during his illustrious career before Tuesday's fixture, but the five time Ballon d'Or winner smashed his second of the game past the legendary goalkeeper in the 69th minute to wrap the match up for the La Liga side. 

Man United Bag Comfortable Win to Kickstart Their Champions League Campaign

Tuesday September 12th, 2017

Despite getting off to winning ways in the Champions League - an injury to Paul Pogba put a dampener on what was a thoroughly impressive performance and result. With goals from Marouane Fellaini, Romelu Lukaku, and Marcus Rashford, Basel were dispatched comfortably on a rainy Tuesday night in Manchester. 

United looked lively from the very beginning - creating half chances and dominating possession in the early minutes. However, an injury to Paul Pogba in the 18th minute could prove to be a big blow going forward for Jose Mourinho's side. The extent of the injury remains to be seen, but the Frenchman appeared to tweak his hamstring having landed awkwardly. 

The home side continued to knock on the door, as Henrikh Mkhitaryan failed to convert from three yards out. Striking the woodwork following a Romelu Lukaku cutback - it was a golden opportunity for the Armenian, who was United's biggest threat in the first half. Although, it wouldn't take long for United to get their first goal of the night, with 33 minutes on the clock. 

A bit of trickery by Ashley Young was followed by a pinpoint cross from the right-hand side from the surprise inclusion. Rising above the defenders, substitute Marouane Fellaini headed in from close range to open the scoring. United made the most of the Belgian's aerial presence, as Mourinho has transitioned Fellaini away from his scapegoat status - utilising him in a more attacking fashion. 

Despite facing a solid five at the back setup and a team that only conceded 35 goals in 36 games last season, United had the firepower to break down the Swiss champion's defence. As the second half kicked off, the lead was doubled by Lukaku. United came out of the blocks flying, looking to capitalise on the weary legs of the opposition. 

The goal itself manifested this, as Lukaku pounced on a whipped corner to bag his sixth goal of the season in a United shirt. Having outmuscled two Basel men, Lukaku used brute force to bury the ball home with a powerful header - almost a carbon copy of Fellaini's finish in the first half. 

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Nemanja Matic continued to run the show as he has in the Premier League, while Young's introduction to the side provided both industry and creativity in the final third. Another substitute would seal the win for Mourinho's side, as Rashford's shot bounced over the keeper - the England international lashed at a Fellaini cross and put the game beyond Basel. 

As for United's opposition, they struggled to create going forward, having committed most of their men behind the ball. Basel made it no win in four games, as was the expected result going away to United - unlike their recent defeat to bottom of the table Lausanne-Sport. However, with a home game in the pipeline for the Swiss side, they should be much more confident in the reverse fixture.

Super Roma Keeper Frustrates Atletico Madrid in Goalless Draw

Tuesday September 12th, 2017

Two European powerhouses met on Tuesday night as Roma hosted Atletico Madrid at the Stadio Olimpico in one of the opening games of the Champions League group stages.

The result of the early encounter may well prove crucial in group C, that also includes Premier League champions Chelsea.

The away side were the slight favourites going into the game and it didn't take the Spanish side long to make their first clear cut chance. In the 3rd minute Filipe Luis broke down the left wing, his delightful pullback finding Saul Niguez, but the Spaniard's drilled shot flew a whisker past the Roma keeper's right hand post.

Roma may feel hard done by not to have been awarded a penalty mid way through the first half, after an Aleksander Kolarov cross struck Vietto's hand inside the box, only for the referee to not award what looked like a certain penalty.

The game had promised to be an exciting one and it finally heated up on the half hour mark with a host of chances for either side. The first of those fell to the home side as a well worked free-kick routine saw Kolarov pull the ball back to Radja Nianggolan. The Belgian's pill driver of a shot seemed destined for Oblak's right hand corner, but the Slovenia international made a world class save to keep it out.

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Oblak managed to hold onto the ball and quickly released his Atletico side on the counter attack. Saul drove down the right wing and put in a teasing cross which rolled past everyone in the Roma box. Eventually it fell to Koke whose shot across the box looked like a certain goal, only for Manolas to make a hero like sliding clearance on the Roma goal-line.

Atletico came out in the second half clearly riled up by Diego Simeone at the break as they started to dominate proceedings. A Vietto chip was again saved by the fantastic Roma keeper, Allison, in the 56th minute after a fantastic passing move from the Madrid side.

Allison was again Roma's hero as he made multiple outstretched, fantastic saves to keep out Angel Correa and Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco in quick succession after the hour mark.

Roma will have felt somewhat hard done by on the night in terms of refereeing decisions, as the officials denied a further two penalty claims from the Giallorossi in the second half. Both Perotti and Kolarov were brought down inside the box, with both soft challenges being waved away by the referee.

Atletico's best chance of the night came in the dying embers of the game. A 92nd minute header was latched onto by Ferreira-Carrasco only for Allison to make another difficult save low down to his right. However Allison could only parry, but to Carrasco's despair he smashed the follow-up onto the keepers upright, when he really should've secured Atletico all three points.

In the end, Roma managed to hold on for a well deserved point, although much of the credit has to go to the fantastic performance of their Brazilian keeper Allison.

Bayern Munich Secure Comfortable Opening Win

Tuesday September 12th, 2017

Bayern Munich got off to the perfect start on the opening night of the Champions League, recording a comfortable 3-0 victory over a 10-man Anderlecht at the Allianz Arena.

An early penalty for a foul committed by Anderlecht’s Sven Kums resulted in a red card for the defender and a Robert Lewandowski goal. Second-half strikes from Thiago Alcantara and Joshua Kimmich rounded off a good night’s work for the Bundesliga champions.

The result means Bayern are in second place in Group B, with Paris Saint-Germain comfortably beating Celtic 5-0 in Glasgow in the group’s other fixture this evening.

Following team news that James Rodriguez, on-loan from Real Madrid, was starting for Bayern for the first time, the Germans started with a point to prove following their shock 2-0 loss to Hoffenheim in the Bundesliga at the weekend.

The key moment of the game came in the 10th minute. A delightful through ball by Corentin Tollisso put Robert Lewandowski through on goal, and Anderlecht defender Sven Kums hauled him down in the box. A penalty was awarded, and Kums was sent-off.

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Lewandowksi coolly converted the spot-kick to give the Bavarians a lead they took into half-time, following spurned opportunities by Rodriguez, Javi Martinez and Arjen Robben as well as resolute Anderlecht defending.

Manager Carlo Ancelotti would have been keen for an improved second-half performance, and he got his wish. Thiago Alcantara took advantage of a pinpoint Josh Kimmich cross to side-foot Bayern into a two-goal lead in the 65th minute, and Kimmich himself got on the score sheet in stoppage time, rounding the keeper and slotting home beautifully after a Jerome Boateng pass.

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The 3-0 score gave a nice gloss to the result for Bayern, whose dominance certainly warranted a three-goal margin of victory, despite sluggishness in possession. For Anderlecht, their spirited defensive performance, playing for 80 minutes with 10 men, gives them hope in a group which is likely to see the Belgian champions and Celtic battling it out for third-place behind Bayern and PSG.

Bayern next face PSG away from home in what may well be a crucial game for deciding who finishes in top-spot, whilst Anderlecht host Celtic in Matchday two.

Chelsea Ease Their Way Past Qarabag in a Simple Affair

Tuesday September 12th, 2017

Chelsea's life back in the Champions League got off to a flying start on Tuesday evening with a dominant 6-0 victory over competition new boys Qarabag, seeing them surge to the top of Group C.

The victory at Stamford Bridge was always expected to be a formality for the Blues as they embarked on their first Champions League campaign since the 2015/16 season, although few expected the match against Qarabag to be as comfortable as it was for the English champions.

The Azerbaijani champions, who are currently enjoying a 100% record in the Azerbaijan Premyer Liqa, looked a far cry from the team that took the fight to FC Copenhagen in the final qualifier just weeks earlier.

Instead, the Horsemen sat off from Chelsea, giving them time and space on the ball and they were made to suffer for it.

The precedent for how to tie would go was set early on as an unmarked Pedro was teed up from a well-worked corner routine, with the Spaniard finding the net from 20-yards with a sweetly struck effort.

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With five minutes gone, and finding themselves already 1-0 down, Qarabag showed no urgency in their build-up play, stroking the ball across their back four and failing to make any real inroads towards the final third of the pitch.

There were times when Chelsea's complacency could have been taken advantage of, but being wasteful in possession, Qarabag failed to trouble the hosts at an point throughout the majority of the game.

The goal of the game, and potentially a contender for goal of the season, came when Chelsea doubled their lead via new signing Davide Zappacosta on the 20th minute. 

The Italian defender, who was being utilised on the right as a wing-back, collected the ball from Thibaut Courtois to go on a blistering run down the wing, only to stop and unleash a sensational shot from 30 yards. The ball flew past Qarabag's keeper Ibrahim Sehic and into the net, leaving the majority of Stamford Bridge with their jaws on the floor.

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Although, as amazing as it was, it seemed as though Zappacosta's effort left Chelsea in shell-shock for the remainder of the half. Throughout the remaining 25 minutes, Chelsea seemed to struggle to add to their tally, with good chances being wasted by Marcos Alonso and Michy Batshuayi.

Although Chelsea's inability to build on their early lead could have potentially lead to troubles in another, more challenging tie, Qarabag proved lethargic when in possession and passive when Chelsea has the ball, leading to a slower tempo than usually expected in Champions League fixtures.

Going into the break Chelsea led 2-0 thanks to efforts from Pedro and Zappacosta, with the only blemish in their performance being a poor challenge from captain Gary Cahill on Qarabag's Pedro Henrique, leading to the England and Chelsea man being shown a yellow card.

Going into the second half and it seemed as though Gurban Gurbanov's men had a new lease on life with the Azerbaijani outfit having an early long-range effort stopped by Courtois, a sweetly struck effort that was well held by the Belgian.

However, the status quo was soon resumed with Chelsea picking up from where they left off at the end of the first half.

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Once again, Qarabag's apathy was capitalised on, leading to a well-worked goal for Cesar Azpilicueta following a quickly taken Chelsea free-kick.

Time and again, when in possession, Qarabag failed to make use of their time on the ball. Each time they found themselves in an advanced position on the pitch they would opt to play in back to their defence, leaving them with 11 Chelsea players to beat going forward.

Going into the final 20 minutes Chelsea further exercised their commanding dominance over the game, adding a fourth to their tally for the evening through substitute Tiemoue Bakayoko, who was introduced in place of N'Golo Kante.

After what had initially been a frustrating evening for the £33m man, Batshuayi finally managed to get his name on the score sheet after 76 minutes. The Blues regained possession as the visitors attempted to play the ball out from the back, with the Belgian striker latching onto the ball and converting from the edge of the box.

After waiting nearly all game for his first goal, Batshuayi was afforded the opportunity to notch his second for the evening; an opportunity he gratefully accepted, adding Chelsea's sixth goal of the evening with less than 10 minutes remaining.

Following such a well-played performance Antonio Conte may well be left with some difficult decisions regarding who to leave out on Sunday as Zappacosta enjoyed an excellent game in Victor Moses' absence.

With Chelsea off to such a sensational start in Europe, they will be hoping they can take some of the good energy and goal-scoring form into their weekend fixture against London rivals, Arsenal.

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