Matchday three of the UEFA champions league was of essence across Europe with some clubs yet to trade tackles, the likes of which includes 2020 Champions – Bayern Munich, 2021 Champions – Chelsea, former champions – Manchester United, Barcelona, to mention but a few.
Stamford Bridge was the stomping ground for Thomas Tuchel and his charges as they tested Malmo FF for size in a very crucial UEFA champions league matchday 3 encounter. The Blues lost to Juventus at the Allianz Stadium, thanks to Federico Chiesa’s second-half strike, and needed to turn a corner to proliferate their chances of qualifying for the knockout stages. Despite talks about Belgian all-time top scorer being overplayed at the National level, Tuchel still opted for a front two of him (Lukaku), and Timo Werner, and coincidentally, both couldn’t complete the game as a result of injury. However, those concerns would not be felt as Thiago Silva lofted a pass for Andreas Christensen to break the deadlock, there were further goals, two from the spot from Jorginho and one from German sensation Kai Harvetz to make it an outstanding game. This was no more than they deserved, Chelsea failed to let their visitors breathe, with absolute control, quick passage and ball progression, as well as clinical finishing on the night.
At the Gazprom Arena, Zenith St. Petersburg was toe-to-toe with Group H leaders, Juventus. And with little over 4 minutes left to play, the game looked set for a stalemate until Mattia De Sciglio lifted an inviting ball for Dejan Kulusevski to head home. The Bianconeri has hence amassed 9 points from 3 games and is very much in cruise-control of the group.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer did acknowledge he was under pressure as he did press conference duties ahead of the Atalanta visit. But one cannot imagine how much pressure he felt like his team beaten by Leicester City over the weekend, shipped in two goals before the break, courtesy of simple tap-in by Mario Pasalic following a delicious delivery from Davide Zappacosta, and United’s frailties in dealing with set-pieces were again in full display with Merih Demiral heading home a perfectly swung in a corner kick by Teun Koopmeiner. The story still had other scenes yet to unravel, with Bruno Fernandes slicing a perfect defence-splitting pass for England International Marcus Rashford to halve the deficit, and England defender Harry Maguire finished a predatory attack to ensure Ole could worry less. However, just about the same way he did three weeks ago against the Yellow Submarines, Cristiano Ronaldo rose high to meet Luke Shaw’s pass to remind his critics he still has the knack for goals. Nigerian International Samuel Chukwueze scored the very last goal for the buoyant Villarreal against Young Boys in the other fixture of Group H. Pino opened the scoring only 6 minutes into the game, with Gerard Moreno doubling the advantage for the Yellow Submarines.
The home team outplayed on the night waited until the 77th minute to make a statement with Meschack Elia whittling through the scoreline. Alberto Moreno reacted swiftly to stab home from a loose ball, with Chukwueze adding gloss to the scoreline. The Red Bull Arena was the venue for the crunch clash of both FC Salzburg and Wolfsburg in Group G. Players of Nigerian descent were on a rampage, Karim Adeyemi who was boisterous and lively drew the first blood opening the scoring for the Austrian outfit, with Manchester City’s on-loan Lukas Nmecha restoring parity just from nowhere for the German side, Noah Okafor scored the second and third on the night, deservedly so, following their more incisive fluid movement of the ball throughout the game. Whereas, French champions Lille settled for a share of the spoils with Sevilla, in their drab 0-0 draw.
A synonym to resilience and doggedness could have been Benfica, given how much they repealed the attacking wave of the Germans until the 70th-minute mark when Leroy Sane drilled home a ferocious freekick to hand Julian Nagelsmann the lead. The host’s rearguard was breached yet again, as Everton scored their own goal. The former Manchester City attacker, Sane turned provider for Robert Lewandowski, before rounding off the scoring in the 84th minute. This win sees the Bavarians firmly in pole position to qualify as Group leaders ahead of Benfica themselves who now trail Bayern by 5 points, and a longer chasm does exist between the Germans, Barcelona including Dynamo Kyiv.
After a sequence of 3-0 losses to both Bayern Munich at the Camp Nou, and Benfica away, the Catalans responded with a win against their Ukrainian visitors, Dynamo Kyiv – a win which by face value could be described as meagre, following Gerard Pique’s exquisite volley from a Jordi Alba cross. Luke de Jong before the goal had miscued with some headers of his, and Barcelona teenage sensation Ansu Fati went for spectacular rather than efficiency when he could have sealed the game in the second half, however, that mattered less with the former champions beginning to adjust to life without their record top scorer Lionel Messi who now does his enterprise for a different club side other than Barca. The win has very much kept their chances of making it to knock out stages alive ahead of Benfica, albeit they seat third just a point behind.
Following these results, there were 24 goals scored on the night, four home wins, 3 away wins and a stalemate. In terms of concessions, Benfica and Malmo FF were victims of four-goal trouncings in the hands of Bayern and Chelsea respectively.