Halftime Sports

Champions League Reactions: Matchday 4

November 8, 2018

Here we go. Some teams have locked up slots in the knockout stages and others are on the ropes. The minnows also packed some punches on an intriguing Matchday, so let’s dive right in.

Group A

Borussia Dortmund: Roman Bürki came to play for Dortmund, but the same can’t be said for the rest of their players. None of their attacking stars could get involved in the game, and they had no answer for Filipe Luís attacking from outside back.

Club Atlético de Madrid: That’s the Atlético we’re used to seeing, as well as the player that Saúl Ñíguez needs to be more often. Thomas Partey was outstanding, and this was an especially encouraging result for Atlético given that Diego Godín, Diego Costa, Thomas Lemar, and Koke were all out.

Club Brugge: What a night for Brugge. They still probably won’t make the knockout rounds, but they’re in the driver’s seat for Europa League qualification now. A 4-0 win away from home is always something to be proud of.

AS Monaco FC: Monaco just capitulated after conceding a goal, which is really a shame because they began the match brightly. But it says something if you concede from a goal kick that gets flicked with no pressure, and the striker is in. That kind of defending doesn’t belong in the Champions League, and Monaco are justly eliminated.

Group B

FC Barcelona: Good goal from Malcom, bad finishing from the rest of the team, and poor marking when crosses came in. That being said, they’re through to the knockout stages once again, and they did it without Lionel Messi. Not a bad day of work.

FC Internazionale Milano: This could be a big point, and goalkeeper Samir Handanović deserves some credit with a few solid saves, though none particularly spectacular, to keep his side in the game. Great composure in the box from Mauro Icardi too.

Tottenham Hotspur FC: They deserved the win, though they didn’t make it easy on themselves. They’ll get Hugo Lloris back in goal for the next match, but Kieran Trippier was lucky he stayed on the field after a high boot on Hirving Lozano. My guess is the referee didn’t actually see the play clearly, otherwise it should’ve been red.

PSV Eindhoven: A very sneaky pick from Nick Viergever freed Luuk de Jong on the corner, but PSV gave Tottenham too many chances to score, to make a case that they deserved something from the match. They’re not mathematically out quite yet, but with a Barcelona match still looming ahead, they effectively are.

Group C

SSC Napoli: Better in the second half, but this is the third time they’ve outplayed a team in this group stage and only drawn. If they don’t advance to the knockout rounds, that’ll be why. Great penalty from Lorenzo Insigne though.

Liverpool FC: They couldn’t defend a corner, then let the second come when the striker had no support around him. Before that, Daniel Sturridge had a chance from six yards out on his strong foot and skied it. Otherwise, Liverpool’s best chances came from fortuitous bounces in the box, and of their 23 shots, only four were on target. It’s not the end of the world, but their path to the knockout stages just got a lot more difficult.

Paris Saint-Germain: I have to question Thomas Tuchel’s decision to play just Neymar and Kylian Mbappé up front. Neither is really an out and out striker, and as a result, PSG was left without an outlet early in the second half when Napoli was putting them under pressure. Gianluigi Buffon was very good in goal, but Tuchel also needs to just pick one goalkeeper. He’s tinkering a bit too much to let his team settle into a rhythm.

Red Star Belgrade: Milan Pavkov scored an impressive brace, and Red Star just made this group a whole lot more interesting. Clearly, it isn’t as easy to go into Serbia as was anticipated, as both Napoli and Liverpool have dropped points there.

Group D

FC Porto: It was a very comfortable 4-1 win in the end, with both Mexicans, Hector Herrera and Jesus Corona, scoring (again!). That doesn’t excuse the fact that Porto didn’t properly mark on a corner. The finishing wasn’t the best either and seemed to take advantage of the wet conditions.

FC Schalke 04: They’ve been better going forward than in the opening matches, but there’s still an occasional lack of sharpness in the final third. Heads up play from Guido Burgstaller for the first and a tidy finish from Mark Uth for the second, but otherwise, there were no real chances of note for the German side.

Galatasaray AŞ: It was a poor performance across the board for Galatasaray, starting with Fernando Muslera not having enough control over his body at the edge of his box to give Burgstaller an open net. The rest of the time, they couldn’t create any clear-cut chances against a team that doesn’t attack all that much. The Champions League looks a step too far for them right now.

FC Lokomotiv Moscow: They turned up a little bit more this match but simply lack the quality to mount a serious challenge for the Champions League. They’re officially eliminated, deservedly so, and their chances of Europa League qualification are dangerously low as well.

Group E

FC Bayern Munich: It was a comfortable, if not entirely convincing 2-0 win from Bayern, though they showed flashes of their quality at times. At the end of the day, Bayern is still beating teams they’re supposed to beat.

AFC Ajax: André Onana flapped at a long throw to let Benfica open the scoring, but was great when shots came at him. He’ll need to improve his command of the box, but even with the mistake, Ajax could have won with better finishing.

SL Benfica: This was a positive performance from Benfica with their Champions League hopes on the line, but will be disappointed with their finishing as well as getting beaten by a ball over the top. They’ll need something special from their trip to Munich if they’re to have a chance on the final matchday.

AEK Athens FC: A free header in the fourth minute could’ve changed the game for AEK, but once that was missed, their fate was sealed. They’re eliminated from the knockout stages and have a very slim chance of Europa League qualification, which really is all anyone expected from this team.

Group F

Manchester City FC: No complaints for City here. Gabriel Jesus had the hat trick, Riyad Mahrez had his way with everyone, Raheem Sterling scored a beauty, and a great save off a free kick from Ederson to round it all off. Were it not for Matchday 1, they’d have won the group already, and they probably will when they visit Lyon in three weeks.

Olympique Lyonnais: There’s something about this group and blown leads, but this one takes the cake. Losing a two-goal lead at home against 10 men is indefensible, especially when goalkeeper Anthony Lopes has to make some of the saves he did.

TSG 1899 Hoffenheim: They showed a lot of fight, but the hole they dug for themselves in the first place came from bad defending and poor awareness. Once again, they show flashes of potential, but the whole performance underlines that they still aren’t mature enough to really compete in the Champions League.

FC Shakhtar Donetsk: As much as complaining about Sterling’s phantom penalty is just, Shakhtar still lost 6-0. It may help VAR into the Champions League, but maybe they should focus on tackling Sterling instead of letting him run for 30 yards and cut in on his strong foot.

Group G

Real Madrid CF: It shows how bad it got under Julen Lopetegui that Real struggled to deal with Plzeň at home. Sometimes, a breath of fresh air is all a team needs to perform, but while 5-0 looks great, they were on the back foot until Karim Benzema’s opener, and they only put six shots on target. We’ll see if the old Real is back when they visit Rome.

AS Roma: It wasn’t particularly dominant, but it was at least somewhat comfortable. Better finishing puts Roma a bit further ahead, but aside from a spell under pressure on either side of the break, they were the better team.

PFC CSKA Moscow: Very unconvincing goalkeeping by Igor Akinfeev, coming nowhere near the corner for the opener. The loss means that any dropped points ends CSKA’s Champions League run, and they need help anyway.

FC Viktoria Plzeň: All of Real’s goals were too easy. Three because they can’t defend crosses, one because they let Benzema look like Eden Hazard, and the last because of a sloppy give away. Awful performance, and they’re rightly eliminated.

Group H

Juventus: This is a huge miss from Juve. They had 23 shots with only three on target, and the way they closed out the game wasn’t Juve like at all. That being said, they did hit the woodwork twice. And then Cristiano Ronaldo did a thing too. That was cool.

Manchester United FC: José Mourinho couldn’t stay out of the spotlight as he drew the wrath of the whole Juventus team after the final whistle, but I still can’t believe they won. Juan Mata deservedly got them level, but Wojciech Szczęsny gifted them the win, because Ashley Young’s free kick was poor. They’ll have a good time against City this weekend.

Valencia CF: It was good going forward for Valencia, who got the win they deserved. They left a Young Boys player open on the back post multiple times though, and against better teams, that gets punished.

BSC Young Boys: They had their chances at even strength but failed to hit the target with any of them. Then came the ridiculously clumsy challenge from Sékou Sanogo for the red card, which killed the game off. They’re officially out of the competition, and if we’re honest, they never had a chance anyway.

Teams Qualified: FC Barcelona, FC Porto

Teams Eliminated: AS Monaco FC, FC Lokomotiv Moscow, AEK Athens FC, FC Viktoria Plzeň, BSC Young Boys

I’m expecting seven more clubs to reach the knockout stages and four more eliminated in three weeks. We’ll see if I’m right.

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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