The second half of Champions League Matchday 2 was characterized by big sides surviving scares. Barcelona came from behind to beat Inter Milan, Liverpool squandered a 3-0 lead but still beat RB Salzburg, 4-3, and Chelsea scrapped its way to a 2-1 win away to Lille.
Barcelona, outplayed in the first half, won 2-1 thanks to two superb second-half goals from Luis Suarez. Achraf Hakimi got both goals as Borussia Dortmund won 2-0 away to Slavia Prague in the other game in Group F, and BVB leads Barcelona on goal difference after the first pair of games.
Liverpool survived an almighty scare to get its Champions League campaign back on track with a 4-3 win over RB Salzburg. The defending champion produced some brilliant football as it raced into a 3-0 lead but was then pegged back to 3-3 after excellent goals from Hwang Hee-Chan and Takumi Minamino before goal machine Erling Braut Haaland supplied a tap-in for the equalizer off the bench. Mohamed Salah’s second of the game restored Liverpool’s lead, though, and ensured a bounce-back win after an opening loss at Napoli.
The Serie A side dominated away to Genk in the other game in Group E but missed a host of opportunities to settle for a 0-0 draw.
In Group H, Tammy Abraham and Willian scored the goals, as Chelsea beat Lille. Ajax, meanwhile, rode its luck to win 3-0 away to Valencia, which missed a penalty and struck the woodwork twice. Ajax hit the woodwork itself but also found goals from Hakim Ziyech, Quincy Promes and Donny van de Beek.
Lyon and Zenit, having drawn against each other on Matchday 1, both earned victories to take control of Group G. Memphis Depay and Martin Terrier scored as Lyon won 2-0 at RB Leipzig, while Artem Dzyuba, an own-goal and Sardar Azmoun helped Zenit to a 3-1 victory over Benfica.
Here are three thoughts on the day in the Champions League:
Suarez's double papers over Barcelona's cracks
Barcelona needed this. Ernest Valverde’s side has struggled to get going this season, sits fifth in la Liga and was second-best in drawing at Borussia Dortmund last time out in the Champions League. For a long time this wasn’t a particularly impressive display, but a double from Suarez in a much-improved second-half performance secured an extremely important win.
Only two teams have ever won away in the Champions League against a Barcelona side containing Lionel Messi, but for a long time it looked as though Inter would be the third. Antonio Conte’s side dominated the first half, tactically outwitting Barça and taking the lead on the break two minutes in through Lautaro Martinez, who breezed by a weirdly diffident Clement Lenglet.
But Barcelona came back into the game in the second half and leveled through a brilliant volley from Suarez.
The Uruguayan then added his second after a superb run from Messi, with his first touch putting him in position to score from the center of the box.
There’s a sense, though, that while Barcelona took the points, Inter will feel the more encouraged by the performance even if one point from two games leaves it in a difficult position in terms of reaching the last 16.
Chelsea wins, but defensive concerns add to its trend
Chelsea’s games these days follow a familiar pattern. On the ball, Frank Lampard’s side looks good, but defensively it is all a bit shambolic, so that no matter how well it plays there is also the chance of self-destruction. This time, though, the good overcame the bad, and the Blues beat Lile 2-1.
Tammy Abraham celebrated his 22nd birthday with his first Champions League goal, turning on Fikayo Tomori’s pass and finishing coolly. Chelsea, though, has kept only one clean sheet this season (and Lampard only 15 through 68 games in his managerial career) and it succumbed after 33 minutes, with the prolific Victor Osimhen losing Kurt Zouma and scoring with a free header–the fourth goal Chelsea has conceded this season to a header from a set play.
But 13 minutes from time, Callum Hudson-Odoi, back after his lengthy absence with an Achilles injury, crossed from the left, and Willian, in his 300th appearance for Chelsea, volleyed in.
It’s an important in putting Chelsea–which omitted Christian Pulisic altogether on Wednesday–back in contention for the knockout stage after its home defeat to Valencia on Matchday 1, but the defensive issues aren't going away.
Hakimi's double elevates shaky Dortmund
Borussia Dortmund tops the toughest of groups after its win at Slavia Prague, and while it will take great heart from a battling performance, it was worryingly open at the back. The scoreline might have suggested a measure of comfort, but the game was far from straightforward. Slavia showed at Inter on Matchday 1 that it is rather better than many had anticipated, and, with Dortmund’s fine start to the season stuttering with back to back 2-2 draw in the Bundesliga, there was a clear anxiety about the visitors.
Slavia had 16 chances to Dortmund’s nine, but the difference was the 20-year-old wide man on loan from Real Madrid, Hakimi. His first goal came after 35 minutes after a brilliant run and finish; his second sealed the win with a rapid forward surge on the break in the 89th minute.
The three points were welcome for Lucien Favre but he must know that if Dortmund is to go through, it cannot give up so many chances.