Tottenham Enjoys Rare Good Champions League Fortune; Romps for Man City, Real Madrid
- Tottenham outlasted Dortmund in a wide-open thriller at Wembley, while Liverpool has itself to blame for a Champions League-opening draw. Elsewhere, Real Madrid and Man City faced no problems at all.
In a fine week for the Premier League sides in the Champions League, Liverpool was the only English side not to win, with Roberto Firmino's missed penalty looming large as Jurgen Klopp’s side was held to a 2-2 draw at home to Sevilla.
Tottenham enjoyed arguably its best European night in seven years, as it beat Borussia Dortmund 3-1 with two goals from Harry Kane, while also in that group two-time defending champion Real Madrid eased by APOEL 3-0.
Manchester City hammered Feyenoord 4-0 in Rotterdam, and while City hadn’t won any of its last six away ties in Europe, it was 3-0 up within 25 minutes and rolled from there, with the goals coming from John Stones (twice), Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus. It wasn’t just the scoreline that impressed, though: it was the pace and intelligence of City’s movement. Following Saturday’s 5-0 win over Liverpool, it may be that Man City has finally assimilated to Pep Guardiola’s demands.
In the other game in the group, Shakhtar Donetsk beat Napoli 2-1. Taison and Facundo Ferreyra put the Ukrainian side 2-0 up before Arkadiusz Milik pulled one back from the penalty spot.
It is Besiktas that tops Group G after an impressive 3-1 win in Porto. Cenk Tosun’s screamer restored the Turkish champion’s lead after a Dusko Tosic own-goal had cancelled out Anderson Talisca’s early header, before Ryan Babel’s late goal sealed the win. RB Leipzig’s first Champions League game ever ended in a draw against last season’s semifinalist Monaco. Emil Forsberg had put Leipzig ahead after 33 minutes, but Youri Tielemans poked in the equalizer two minutes later.
In Liverpool’s group, Maribor and Spartak drew 1-1, although the most significant event of the evening may turn out to be the flare apparently fired from among the Spartak fans at the German referee Deniz Aytekin.
Here are three thoughts from the end of Matchday 1 in the Champions League:
Real Madrid not its best, still coasts to start three-peat quest
After an opening night that brought five games won by margins of three goals or more, this was an evening of more even contests in the Champions League, with only two games won by three-goal margins. Not surprisingly, one of those was at the Bernabeu, as Real Madrid, looking for a third straight Champions League title, overwhelmed the Cypriot champion APOEL without ever being anywhere near its best.
Cristiano Ronaldo, who hasn’t featured in the league this season after being banned for pushing a referee in the Spanish Super Cup, soon made his mark peeling off at the back post to meet Gareth Bale’s low cross and direct a finish in at the far post. Ronaldo somehow then hit the bar from three yards out–protesting ridiculously that the ball had crossed the line–before converting a penalty extremely harshly awarded for handball.
Sergio Ramos hooked in a third on an overhead kick from Bale’s header soon after, and Real eased to the three points in the easiest game of the group.
Defensive woes, missed PK make Liverpool settle
Liverpool can be divided into two parts. The front half of the team is excellent; the back part, though, really isn’t. Loris Karius came in for Simon Mignolet, but fiddling around with the goalkeeper isn’t nearly enough to deal with the club’s defensive problems. Emre Can, Joe Gomez and Dejan Lovren all made mistakes in the build-up to Sevilla’s opener, leaving Wissam Ben Yedder unattended in the center to tap in.
But going forward, Liverpool is a different story. At its best, it tears forward in rapid waves. Hoffenheim and Arsenal already have been ripped apart by its counterattacking play this season, and Sevilla soon fell prey to similar thrusts. Alberto Moreno and Jordan Henderson played a lightning one-two before the fullback, playing against his former club, crossed low for Roberto Firmino to convert. A deflected Mohamed Salah shot made it 2-1, but Firmino hit the post with a penalty before halftime in a play that left the door open for Sevilla.
Defensive woes undermined Liverpool again, and Joaquin Correa finished neatly from Luis Muriel’s flick to equalize before Gomez was sent off late on. It was a point for Liverpool on a night that could have yielded three.
Rare good European fortune, result for Tottenham
This perhaps was the result that will make Wembley Stadium feel like home. Tottenham had won only two of its last 12 games at the national stadium, but, aided by Roman Burki’s vulnerability at the near post and two Dortmund goals being controversially ruled out, it won a thrillingly open game against the side currently top of the Bundesliga.
The signing of Davinson Sanchez has allowed Mauricio Pochettino to select a 3-4-2-1 in each of the last two games, and Spurs have cleared benefited from that. After the 3-0 win at Everton on Saturday came Tottenham’s best European display since beating Inter 3-1 in 2010.
After so many recent games in which it has played against a defense sitting deep, Tottenham seemed to relish taking on a team that played high up the pitch, particularly given Dortmund’s comparative lack of pace at the back. Son Heung-min tore forward on counter down left and lashed in at the near post after four minutes, and although Andriy Yarmolenko soon curled an equalizer, two excellent finishes from Harry Kane–irrepressible now August is over–gave Spurs the win despite a late red card for Jan Vertonghen.
Dortmund, though, may wonder why Christian Pulisic’s strike just before halftime was ruled out after a supposedly offside Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang tried and failed to tap it in, and why Aubameyang then had a goal of his own ruled out when, again, others were offside but the goalscorer was not.