Champions League Rewind: Bayern tops Man City late; Porto, Roma roll
Every side in the group stage of the 2014-15 Champions League has now played as Wednesday had the second set of games in the first week of action of the season. It was another disappointing night for English sides against German opposition, while minnow Maribor picked up a valuable point and a Champions League debutant scored a hat trick.
Here is what caught our eye as the opening set of games wrapped up:
Player of the Day
Yacine Brahimi only cost Porto £5 million when it signed him from Granada in the summer, but he looked worth far more than that as he marked his Champions League debut with a brilliant hat trick as the Portuguese runner-up beat BATE Borisov of Belarus 6-0.
His first goal was splendidly opportunistic, as he got the ball in the left side of the box, hurtled by his marker and lashed it in high at the near post. His second was even better as he gathered the ball wide on the left under pressure from Anri Khaguch. He zoomed by the fullback and held off his attempts to pull him back, cut inside, raced past two more defenders and then shaped a low drive in off the far post.
The Algeria international then completed his trifecta with a superb right-footed free kick, whipped in at the near post.
Goal of the Day
Any of Brahimi’s could have qualified, but for context, goal of the day goes to Ajax's Lasse Schone.
Paris St.-Germain had done more than enough to beat Ajax, but, with 16 minutes remaining, it conceded a free kick some 24 yards out. Schone must have known that was probably Ajax’s best chance, and the Danish midfielder took it, managing to get the ball up and over the wall and down again with sufficient pace that Salvatore Sirigu couldn’t keep it out.
A moment of technical brilliance to earn Ajax what could be an extremely valuable point in a deep group.
Turning Point of the Day
Chelsea had looked utterly in control against Schalke in London. It had taken the lead through Cesc Fabregas after 11 minutes, and, although the Germans had a brief spell of pressure just before halftime, control seemed to have been reasserted early in the second half. But just after the hour, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar dispossessed Fabregas, the ball breaking to Julian Draxler.
Draxler had been a doubt for the game after picking up an injury on international duty, but he was central to everything Schalke did as an attacking threat. He surged forward before laying the ball left to Huntelaar, who took a touch inside and cuffed a low shot into Thibaut Courtois’s right-hand post.
Chelsea had numerous clear chances after that, but the mood of the game had changed, and what had looked almost from kickoff like being a win as simple as last season’s two 3-0 victories over Schalke turned into a frustrating draw. Schalke, meanwhile, celebrated at the final whistle as though it had won the game.
Surprise of the Day
Most perhaps expected Roma to beat CSKA Moscow, but few could have expected the Italian side to do so with quite such ease. It might be unfair to suggest that CSKA won the Russian title almost by default last season as Zenit imploded, but it certainly wasn’t the most dominant of champions.
Still, its capitulation as Juan Iturbe and Gervinho ripped through its defense, aided by another disappointing night for Russian national team and CSKA goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev, was shocking. Gervinho ended up with two goals and an assist and Iturbe with a goal and two assists as Roma roared to a 5-1 victory.
Late Twist of the Day
Luka Zahovic – the son of Zlatko, probably the greatest Slovenian footballer of all time – was born in Portugal, so perhaps it was appropriate he should make his mark against a Portuguese club. Nani’s goal had given Sporting the lead away to Maribor, but, in the final minute, two wild attempted clearances presented the 18-year-old Zahovic with an unexpected chance.
His header was well-placed, and his goal gave Maribor a point on the club’s return to the group stage after 15 years, ensuring every team in Group G is level on points, goals scored and goal difference.
Major Takeaway of the Day
For Manchester City, the problems against the very best sides go on – and this wasn’t even Bayern Munich anywhere near its best. City did beat Bayern in Germany last season, but only in the final group game when it didn’t really matter; other than that its record in the Champions league against Europe’s elite remains poor.
In the end, it could probably argue it was a little unfortunate, going down to a last-minute Jerome Boateng goal – although his shot from the edge of the box seemed to glance on off the back of Mario Gotze:
But had it not been for a number of fine saves from Joe Hart, the game could have been lost long before that. Bayern, meanwhile, will feel that it is still to find its rhythm this season. It hasn’t really fired as yet in the Bundesliga, and there was none of the fluency about its play that there was when it was at its best last season and the season before.
It may still be that the top clubs are suffering a World Cup hangover; history suggests that there are more surprise league winners in the season after World Cups and a number of the top sides – Barcelona could only beat APOEL 1-0 at home, for example – are yet to get going again after a hectic summer.
Bayern Munich 1, Manchester City 0
Roma 5, CSKA Moscow 1
Barcelona 1, APOEL 0
Ajax 1, PSG 1
Maribor 1, Sporting Lisbon 1
Chelsea 1, Schalke 1
Porto 6, BATE 0
Athletic Bilbao 0, Shakhtar Donetsk 0