Champions League Reactions: Matchday 2

October 7, 2018

As the groups begin to take shape, about half of my Matchday 1 reactions seem very foolish now. I’ll still try again for Matchday 2, which at first glance seems much more interesting to me, but we’ll see if I still feel that way at the end of this piece.


Group A

Borussia Dortmund: They were much better in this match than they were against Club Brugge on the first matchday, and the forwards on this team seem to be picking up chemistry. I’m not sure why Paco Alcácer took the penalty instead of Marco Reus, but there’s little to complain about in a 3-0 win.

Club Atlético de Madrid: They wasted a lot of good chances, and even the ones they did score on seemed to take ages. It might be good enough to get to the knockout stages, but if they continue to play like they did in this match, they’re no real threat for the title.

Club Brugge: Arnaut Groeneveld scored a beautiful goal, but otherwise Brugge’s marking was too loose to contain Atlético, which isn’t a great look against a team better known for its defense and work rate.

AS Monaco FC: Why anyone ever plays Diego Benaglio in goal is beyond me. He’s injury-prone enough that playing him always risks changing your goalkeeper at halftime, and you could tell that by the end of the match Monaco was out of legs, and definitely could’ve used the third substitution.


Group B

FC Barcelona: Nelson Semedo needs to improve his one-on-one defending, as his needless slide gave Harry Kane an opening to pull one back for Spurs. They’ll also be much better with Samuel Umtiti coming back into the side, as Clément Lenglet didn’t look all that comfortable himself. Also, Ivan Rakitic, take a bow.

FC Internazionale Milano: Samir Handanovič should have been sent off for his handball outside of the box, and in general he continues to look like a shaky, overrated goalkeeper. They were a bit too loose defensively, but the attack looks great, especially Mauro Icardi. It won’t get noticed, but his first touch for the goal took the goalkeeper and chasing center back out of the play.

Tottenham Hotspur FC: Just a really awful showing at home. They may have scored twice, but Kane’s goal should’ve been a mere consolation. For Philippe Coutinho’s goal they were all over the place at the back, and Lionel Messi hit the same spot of the post twice. Really, Tottenham are lucky that they don’t have a bigger hole to climb out of.

PSV Eindhoven: They can feel a little hard done by Handanovič staying on the field, but they were ultimately beaten by a long ball over the top. That’s not a formula for winning in the Champions League.


Group C

SSC Napoli: Lorenzo Insigne’s 90th-minute winner was huge for them, but it came minutes after Dries Mertens hit the bar from inside the six-yard box. This was nearly the second straight match from Napoli where they completely shut down their opponent and dropped two points, and those two dropped points in Serbia from Matchday 1 could prove costly.

Paris Saint-Germain: This was a professional performance from the Parisians, highlighted by a stunning Neymar hat-trick. They’ll be disappointed not to keep a clean sheet, though.

Liverpool FC: They’re not the same beast away from Anfield, as Napoli was able to do as they pleased. Maybe it was just an off day, but I feel vindicated in my opinion that Liverpool’s Champions League run from last year was, and still is, overhyped. They’re a quality side, but I think they’re the most overrated team in Europe.

Red Star Belgrade: We all saw this 6-1 loss in Paris coming. Good on them for getting a goal though.


Group D

FC Porto: Iker Casillas had to come up with a couple of big saves to make up for wasteful finishing. Ultimately, they scored from a corner, but they haven’t exactly covered themselves in glory from their two matches.

FC Schalke 04: Weston McKennie scored the winner, another example of young American talent shining in Germany, but again Schalke showed that they aren’t the most creative team in the competition and will try to survive on set pieces and Ralf Fährmann.

Galatasaray AŞ: Professional teams should be able to mark on corners, or at least not leave a striker open in the middle of the six-yard box. Galatasaray deserved to lose for that alone, and they did. Fernando Muslera had a good game, though.

FC Lokomotiv Moscow: Again they weren’t great, and again they lost, this time at home. I just haven’t seen enough from them to believe they can do anything.


Group E

AFC Ajax: First off, the black and gold kits are beautiful. Second, they just went toe-to-toe with the mighty Bayern Munich in Germany and nearly came out on top. It’s been a while since we’ve seen an Ajax team successfully play with one of the top teams in Europe the way they did in this game.

FC Bayern Munich: They scored a very good goal to open the match, but from then on, they rode Manuel Neuer to a point. For everyone saying that David De Gea had surpassed Neuer, I give you this game to say, don’t dethrone Neuer yet.

SL Benfica: Alfa Semedo scored a great goal to give Benfica a well-deserved win on the road. I thought the red card for Rúben Dias was harsh, but not so egregious that it shouldn’t have been given. Also, goalkeeper Odisseas Vlachodimos made a big save just before Semedo’s winner.

AEK Athens: I don’t care if he’s on a hat-trick, Viktor Klonaridis has to square the ball to a wide open man. He could’ve made it a thrilling 3-2 comeback win. Instead, Semedo scored seconds later. Soccer is a cruel game.


Group F

Olympique Lyonnais: Moussa Dembélé scored but was also incredibly wasteful, failing to finish with Andriy Pyatov out of his box. That being said, Lyon showed character in fighting back from two goals down to earn a point. They’ll have to be better to stay on top of this group, though.

Manchester City FC: The orange shorts are a bit too orange, but City got the three points they deserved, despite being robbed of a clear penalty when Hoffenheim goalkeeper Oliver Baumann took Leroy Sané down in the box. A good bounce back from City after the disappointing opening round loss at home.

FC Shakhtar Donetsk: Again, Shakhtar showed their weaknesses in the back, but also that they’re always dangerous going forward because there’s a potent combination of Brazilian attacking players that score. This time, it was Júnior Moraes who scored twice.

TSG 1899 Hoffenheim: They did well to take advantage of poor City defending to score in the first minute, but the two goals they conceded came from the center backs taking a poor touch from a cross and a City player nicking it away to score. A golden opportunity for a point against the group favorites, lost.


Group G

PFC CSKA Moscow: They rode their luck to the three points and deserve to celebrate, but goalkeeper and captain Igor Akinfeev managed to get himself two yellow cards in the fifth minute of stoppage time for a red card. Which, isn’t ideal when your next opponent just scored five goals.

AS Roma: Edin Džeko is very good at soccer. A great hat-trick for him on a day where everything went right for the Romans. The only complaint would be Alessandro Florenzi deciding to shoot himself at the end of the first half instead of squaring the ball to Džeko, who would have then had his hat-trick in the first half instead of the second.

Real Madrid CF: They hit the post three times, so they can consider themselves unlucky, and Mariano Diaz looks like he’s going to be a star. They’ll be fine in the end, but what is Toni Kroos doing? This loss has to fall squarely on him.

FC Viktoria Plzeň: This is a completely different side away from home, especially after seeing them really push CSKA to the limit on Matchday 1. It didn’t quite work out for them in Italy, which will probably be a pattern for all of their away matches.


Group H

Juventus: Paulo Dybala is still a star, and Juventus really needs to find a way to get him playing next to Cristiano Ronaldo because he scored a natural finishers hat trick. He’s the player that takes Juventus from good to great when he’s on the field.

Manchester United FC: They got a point and “outplayed” Valencia, but it’s telling that basically all of United’s best opportunities came from crosses into the box and set pieces, despite the quality they have in the middle of the field. Paul Pogba isn’t getting enough touches in dangerous positions, and until he does, United is going to look like a mid-table Premier League side instead of title challengers, both in Europe and at home.

Valencia CF: I don’t really know what it is, but they really haven’t been great. They’re sitting in 14th in La Liga, which shows that last year may have been a fluke because they really didn’t trouble Manchester United team that has its own problems at the moment. There isn’t a cutting edge to their play, so maybe it makes sense that they have five draws in seven La Liga matches.

BSC Young Boys: Group punching bags, but since Valencia can’t actually beat anyone, they might sneak a win in that match and make their way into the Europa League knockout stages.


Matchday 3 is coming in a couple weeks, and at that point, we’ll have seen everyone play each other.


Image Credit: Flickr

Jorge DeNeve
Los Angeles native. Still wondering where the Galaxy went wrong and decided buying Jermaine Jones was a good idea.

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