Tottenham was embarrassed by Bayern Munich, Joao Felix finally got off the mark for Atletico Madrid while its capital rival escaped with a point against Club Brugge. Here are three thoughts from another wild day of action in the Champions League.
Former Arsenal forward Serge Gnabry scored four goals, as Bayern Munich won 7-2 away at Tottenham, the freakish nature of the victory doing little to silence the very serious questions being asked about the future of Mauricio Pochettino’s side.
Bayern leads the group by two points after Red Star came form behind to beat Olympiacos 3-1. Ruben Semedo was the beneficiary of a goalkeeping error in the first half to give the Greek side the lead but, five minutes after Yassine Benzia was sent off, Milos Vulic leveled. Late headers from Nemanja Milunovic and Richmond Boakye completed the turnaround.
Mauro Icardi got his first Champions League goal for Paris Saint-Germain as Thomas Tuchel’s side won 1-0 away to Galatasaray to maintain its perfect record in the group. An 85th-minute goal from Casemiro salvaged a point for Madrid as it came from 2-0 down to draw with Club Brugge. Two Emmanuel Dennis goals in the first half had given Brugge the advantage before Sergio Ramos began the comeback.
Atletico Madrid and Juventus share the lead in Group D after a pair of relatively straightforward wins. Gonzalo Higuain, Federico Bernardeschi and Cristiano Ronaldo got the goals as Juve beat Bayer Leverkusen 3-0, while Joao Felix and Thomas Partey scored as Atletico won 2-0 away to Lokomotiv Moscow.
Dinamo Zagreb doggedly resisted Manchester City for 65 minutes but finally succumbed, with substitute Raheem Sterling slamming from Riyad Mahrez’s low cross. Phil Foden made it 2-0 late on. Manor Solomon scored a last-minute winner as Shakhtar came from behind to beat Atalanta 2-1 in the other game in the group.
Here are three thoughts on the day in the Champions League:
FRAGILE SPURS COLLAPSE AGAIN
The 7-2 scoreline tells very little of the whole story. Tottenham, for the first half at least, was much the better side on Tuesday but after finding itself slightly bafflingly behind at halftime, it fell apart in the second half, raising further questions about where the club is going. After inconsistent league form and last week’s Carabao Cup exit to Colchester, the sense of a team undergoing an awkward transition was only heightened by a calamitously sloppy defeat to Bayern.
A feature of Tottenham in Europe over the past couple of seasons has been how its pressing has unsettled teams not used to that level of aggression and Bayern proved susceptible – a familiar story for teams grown complacent on dominating its domestic league. Corentin Tolisso under intense pressure gave the ball away, allowing Moussa Sissoko to lay in Son Heung-min for a smart finish.
But a feature of Tottenham this season has been an inability to hold on to leads, and this one lasted just three minutes. Danny Rose was perhaps guilty of not tracking Kingsley Coman, but the bigger issue came after an initial cross had been cleared, Tanguy Ndombele was lax in closing down Joshua Kimmich, who swept shot into the bottom corner.
By halftime, the situation had gotten even worse for Spurs. They had dominated almost utterly, and Bayern would be deeply concerned by its ongoing inability to deal with the pressing of English sides, but it was the German champion that went in ahead, as Robert Lewandowski capitalized on more shambolic defending with a superb finish. The Poland international has rediscovered his very best form of late, scoring in 10 consecutive Bayern games.
Most worrying for Mauricio Pochettino, though, will be the way his side then lost its way, Serge Gnabry scoring two in quick succession, both with exceptional finishes. A Harry Kane penalty pulled Spurs back into it but Gnabry completed his hat trick on another counterattack with seven minutes remaining. By then Bayern was scoring for fun, and Lewandowski added a brilliant sixth from Philippe Coutinho’s clever pass, before Gnabry bagged his fourth. Ruthless as Bayern was, though, Tottenham had fallen apart.
DENNIS DOUBLE RATTLES MADRID
Real Madrid escaped with a point in the end, which at least ameliorated concerns to an extent, but just as significant as the result was the first-half performance. Having lost dismally away to Paris Saint-Germain two weeks ago, there had been a widespread expectation that Madrid, top of the table in la Liga, would get its Champions League campaign back on track against Club Brugge, which had only drawn 0-0 against Galatasaray on Matchday 1. But by halftime was 2-0 down having been, yet again, exposed by quick opponents who sliced through a sluggish midfield.
Although Madrid dominated the ball, Brugge again and again found space in behind the fullbacks. It took the lead on the break through Emmanuel Dennis after nine minutes, the Nigerian enjoying some good fortune as he stubbed the ball from one foot onto the other, wrong footing Thibaut Courtois as he did so. Dennis did it again half an hour later after Luka Modric had given the ball away cheaply, and again there was fortune about the finish as he stumbled but then recovered to scoop the ball over Courtois.
Courtois was taken off at halftime, while Marcelo came on for Nacho and, not for the first time, Zinedine Zidane’s substitutions changed the game. Headers from Sergio Ramos and Casemiro got Madrid back into the game as the Brugge captain Ruud Vormer was sent off, but even a 2-2 draw exposed all Madrid’s flaws.
IT'S COMING TOGETHER FOR ATLETI
Slowly the pieces are falling into place for Atletico. After a summer of frantic transfer activity, it has been inconsistent so far, but there are signs that Diego Simeone’s side is beginning to come together. This was a slick, intelligent performance against awkward opponents and it brought a first Champions League goal for the 19-year-old Joao Felix after his $138 million summer move from Benfica. It wasn’t a classic, but it did demonstrate great determination and technical ability as he cut in from the right and saw his initial shot saved but ran on to knock in the rebound with a tumbling finish.
Thomas Partey added a second to complete a comfortable win.