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  • Real Madrid won for the first time at Borussia Dortmund, while new-look Besiktas continued to impress and attack-heavy Liverpool did not in an action-packed day in the Champions League.
By Jonathan Wilson
September 26, 2017

Real Madrid might be struggling La Liga, but it has endured no such woes in the UEFA Champions League.

The two-time defending European champion put domestic problems behind it to win away at Borussia Dortmund for the first time in seven tries. Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo (two) scored the goals in a 3-1 win that leaves the Bundesliga leader in serious danger of failing to make the last 16.

Tottenham joined Madrid on six points at the top of Group H, with Harry Kane scoring a hat trick to take his tally in September to 11 and set his side on its way to a 3-0 win at APOEL.

Besiktas took control of Group G with its second win out of two, beating RB Leipzig 2-0, despite a floodlight failure in Istanbul that caused a 10-minute delay. The Turkish champion leads the group by three points over Porto, which won 3-0 away to Monaco thanks to two goals from Vincent Aboubakar and a third from Mexico international Miguel Layun.

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Liverpool was held to a second draw in two Champions League games, struggling for fluency in a 1-1 draw away to Spartak Moscow. Sevilla, after a draw in Liverpool two weeks ago, was a comfortable 3-0 winner over Maribor, with Wissam Ben Yedder scoring all three goals.

A brilliant Kevin De Bruyne strike just after halftime broke the deadlock at the Etihad, as Manchester City beat Shakhtar Donetsk 2-0 despite a missed penalty from Sergio Aguero. Raheem Sterling added a late second as City took a three-point lead over the Ukrainans and Napoli, which won 3-1 at home to Feyenoord.

Here are three thoughts on the day's action:

DORTMUND IN PERIL TWO GAMES IN

Borussia Dortmund may be at the top of the Bundesliga, but already its qualification to the knockout phase of the Champions League hangs by a thread after the home defeat to Real Madrid. Zinedine Zidane’s side has endured a difficult start to the domestic league season, dropping seven points in its first three home fixtures, but Gareth Bale’s brilliant 18th-minute volley sent it on the way to a second win out of two in the Champions League. With Tottenham, which beat Dortmund at Wembley Stadium two weeks ago, also winning again, Peter Bosz’s side is six points adrift of the top two.

The absence of the injured Karim Benzema has compromised Madrid’s fluidity, but with Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo playing in front of Isco, Madrid twice got in behind Dortmund’s high defensive line early on, with Dani Carvajal drawing a fine save out of Roman Burki before Lukasz Piszczek’s lunging challenge prevented Ronaldo’s pass from reaching Bale.

The goal came from a similar source, a diagonal Carvajal ball over the top falling kindly for Bale, who side-footed a precise volley into the top corner from just inside the box. That same space behind the back four led to Madrid’s second as well, with Bale crossing for Ronaldo to slam in from the center of the box. As Dortmund chased the game, Marco Asensio teed up Ronaldo for his 411th goal for Madrid in his 400th appearance for the club–another goal conceded in this season’s Champions League by Burki at his near post.

Dortmund did unsettle Madrid at times, and Sergio Ramos was very fortunate to get away with a handball on the line to keep out Maximilian Philipp’s goal-bound shot just before Bale’s strike. It should have been a penalty to Dortmund and a red card for the Madrid captain, but Dutch referee Bjorn Kuipers gave nothing. Dortmund did pull one back through Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang four minutes after Ronaldo’s first strike, but in truth Dortmund was well beaten and faces a climb just to get out of the group.

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BESIKTAS EXCEEDS EXPECTATIONS

A miserable season for German clubs in European competition continued as RB Leipzig was thoroughly beaten by Besiktas, which stands top of its group with six points. Even before Tuesday, Germany had already surrendered the second spot in the UEFA coefficient table to England, with less than half as many points as the Premier League this season, and tonight’s two defeats have only made a bad situation worse.

Besiktas, meanwhile, is exceeding all expectations. This win was perhaps less unexpected than the 3-1 victory away to Porto two weeks ago, but it was still striking in its comprehensiveness. Ryan Babel put the Turkish champions ahead with a first-time finish from the edge of the box after 11 minutes and Anderson Talisca headed a second from Ricardo Quaresma’s cross shortly before halftime.

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SAME WOES PLAGUE LIVERPOOL

The growing sense that Liverpool is drifting this season gained in strength as it produced a listless second half in drawing away to Spartak Moscow.

“We cannot just bring all the artists but if it fits together we will do it,” said Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, after selecting Roberto Firmino, Philippe Coutinho, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane in the same starting XI for the first time.

The same defensive problems keep haunting Liverpool, which has now kept just two clean sheets in its last 11 games. Loris Karius probably should have done better against the vicious free kick from Fernando that put Spartak ahead midway through the first half. Coutinho equalized eight minutes later after a smart one-two with Mane, but there is a pattern that is being repeated too often: there may be isolated moments of brilliance, but Liverpool struggles at game management and loses focus too often to be a serious challenger.

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