Another week. Another set of Champions League matches. With Week 3 play wrapping up, we are now a third of the way through the group stages. Here’s a look back at some this week’s big matches.
PSG 3, Barcelona 2
Barcelona traveled to Paris to play out a wonderfully exciting five-goal shootout. PSG were missing three regulars: Thiago Silva, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Ibrahimovic, who was Ligue 1’s top scorer last season and has often carried PSG to victory, was the biggest absence. While they had not lost any of their first nine games, six of them were draws, and missing the Zlatan himself looked like to be a huge hurdle for the Parisians. Barcelona, on the other hand, came off a sensational 6-0 win against Granada over weekend. New manager Luis Enrique was likely hoping to continue his side’s momentum with a big win in Paris.
Both teams came out attacking early, but PSG drew first blood. A dangerous free kick from Lucas found saw David Luiz with the ball at his feet, and put the ball in the corner. Barcelona didn’t take long to respond. Just one minute later, Messi bagged a fine goal after some vintage one-touch play from the Catalonians. Barcelona nearly scored again soon after, but Neymar couldn’t find the back of the net, and PSG used another set-piece to break down Barcelona around the half hour mark. This time, Thiago Motta’s deep corner found Marco Veratti at the far post, who headed past a scrambling Marc Andre ter Stegen. Just after the half, Blaise Matuidi added another goal from a fine cross from the right, and PSG took a commanding 3-1 lead.
But Barcelona weren’t finished yet; Neymar brought down a Dani Alves cross and curled one into the corner. Luis Enrique threw on Xavi and exciting youth prospect Munir el-Haddadi, but his side couldn’t find another score, and the game finished with PSG grabbing a hard-fought, but deserved three points. PSG are now at the top of the table with four points, while Barcelona sit behind them with three in what could be a tough battle to get to the next round of the Champions League.
Manchester City 1, Roma 1
Roma battled hard at the Etihad to steal a draw in Manchester. City, who currently sit third in the EPL, had scored 11 goals in their previous two fixtures. Manuel Pellegrini hoped to banish City’s European woes by riding that powerful attack and listed a strong starting lineup, with Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero partnering up front. Facing a depleted Roma at home, City should have expected big things. But Roma, who have yet to drop points in Serie A, and have conceded just once in the league, battled hard against City.
City controlled the game early, and took the lead early when Aguero converted from the penalty spot after Maicon dragged him down in the box. But, despite City’s third-minute goal, they failed to bring the game to Roma, who forced City out of possession in midfield and brought swift attacks to Joe Hart. Roma had several chances to score, with one shot clattering off the woodwork and couple others stopped by Hart.
And twenty minutes after Aguero’s penalty, City, who were stupid enough to tempt fate, found themselves even with Roma after Francesco Totti scored a sublime goal. El Capitano, as the Roma faithful call him, became the oldest player to ever score in the Champions League, passing former record-holder Ryan Giggs. Roma continued to bring their pacy attack to City but neither side could break the deadlock. The draw leaves Roma in second with four points in the group and City in third with just one point. With City’s difficulties in their previous European campaigns, the outlook does not look great for them, with trips to Moscow and Rome ahead, as well as a visit from Bayern Munich.
Basel 1, Liverpool 0
I don’t think there were many expecting big things from this match (I certainly wasn’t), but the result turned out to be a shocker. Or was it? Basel have been something of a mainstay in the Champions League over the past few years; they have won five straight Swiss Super Leagues and have tussled with some of the best in Europe, proving that they aren’t quite “minnows” after all, as they have discovered something of a knack for upsetting English teams in Europe. They defeated Manchester United 2-1 at home in 2011 to prevent the Red Devils from advancing to the knockout stages of the Champions League for the first time in seventeen years. In 2013, they managed to eliminate Tottenham from the Europa League after defeating them in the quarterfinals. Then, last year, they managed to do the double on Chelsea, beating them in Switzerland and on the road at Stamford Bridge.
So perhaps it wasn’t so surprising that Basel took advantage of Liverpool’s shaky defending and lack of scoring up front, with Marco Streller capitalizing on a frozen Liverpool defense off a corner to power the ball past Simon Mignolet. The result could prove costly for Liverpool, who now sit tied with Basel at three points. After just squeaking by Bulgarian minnows Ludogrets a few weeks ago, the Reds have a tough task ahead of them, with two matches against Real Madrid still looming large.