A review of the first raft of Match Day 2 fixtures in the UEFA Champions League including a defeat for the champions, a victory for the favourites, and a new record set by the dark horses.
Typically, when Real Madrid turn up to compete in the Champions League, the opposition look like the Punisher’s shooting range target, full of bullet holes.
Not last night.
Last night, minus the influential pair of Gareth Bale and Sergio Ramos, the Champions of the Champions League faltered, flailed, and left Moscow with a sore head.
The nightmare began as early as the second minute. The customarily dependable Toni Kroos thundered a long-range backpass into the turf, Nikola Vlasic was onto it quicker than a crayon in the hand of two-year-old finds the skull-white sofa, and CSKA were one-up.
Madrid responded well.
Casemiro made space for himself on the halfway line, strode towards the CSKA penalty area like an NBA star marching up the court, before unleashing a low shot that struck the base of the post.
The CSKA woodwork took quite a pummeling.
Karim Benzema hit the crossbar with a header before Mariano nearly snapped the post like a twig after connecting with a flying header that would have made Iron Man proud.
In truth, Madrid should have come away with a point, especially when Raphaël Varane found himself at the far stick with minutes to go. However, the Frenchman’s header went wide, and the points when the way of the Moscovians, despite having their keeper Igor Akinfeev sent off at the death for failing to keep his trap shut.
Roma hammered Viktoria Plzen in the other group game, with Edin Dzeko scoring a hat-trick, a first in the Champions League for the Italian side.
1. CSKA Moscow – 4
2. Real Madrid – 3
3. Roma – 3
4. Plzeñ – 1
Group Winners (Group Winning Odds)
Real Madrid – 4/11
CSKA Moscow – 10/1
Hoffenheim 1 v 2 Man City
Man City is the favourite to replace Madrid as European Champions, and they ended a four-game losing streak in the Champions League with victory in Germany.
Celebrating their Champions League debut, Hoffenheim, began like a crocodile snapping after a wounded baby wildebeest taking a swim, scoring within 43-seconds after Ishak Belfodil slotted the ball through the legs of Ederson when put through on goal, meaning City has only kept two clean sheets in 17 away fixtures in the Champions League.
The German side didn’t get the opportunity to bathe in the glory of Belfodil’s strike before City drew level. David Silva threaded the ball through the German defence, Leroy Sane raced onto it like a cheetah, before cutting it back for the ultimate poacher, Sergio Aguero to equalise from close range.
All the chances went City’s way after that, including Raheem Sterling coming close, and a couple of fantastic opportunities for Aguero to add to his tally before David Silva stole the three points.
With three minutes of regular time remaining, the ball broke to Stefan Posche, standing on his penalty spot. With every German in the stadium baying for him to blast it to the moon, Posche decided it would be the opportune moment to work on a ship in the bottle project, and while waiting for the blowtorch to warm up, in nipped Silva to steal the football, and pass the ball into the back of the net.
In the other group game, Shakhtar Donetsk drew 2-2 with Lyon coming from two goals down to grab a point after Ribeiro Moraes Junior had scored twice to give the Ukrainian side a two-goal advantage.
1. Lyon – 4
2. Man City – 3
3. Shakhtar Donetsk – 2
4. Hoffenheim – 1
Group F (Group Winning Odds)
1. Man City 1/4
2. Lyon 5/1
3. Shakhtar Donetsk 14/1
4. Hoffenheim 16/1
Juventus 3 v 0 Young Boys
The bookies believe Real Madrid is only a 10/1 shot to win a fourth Champions League title on the bounce, but Cristiano Ronaldo is on course to achieve that feat at his new club, Juventus.
Ronaldo missed this one through suspension.
Out went the man.
Up stepped the man.
Paolo Dybala thrived in the absence of the Portuguese star scoring the fourth hat trick of his career, and his first in front of the Juventus faithful. It’s the Old Ladies’ best start to a season ever with nine wins in a row in all comps.
Juventus hasn’t won the Champions League since 1996, but they made the final in 2015 & 2017.
They are DNA winners, having won the Serie A title in the past seven seasons.
If I were a gambling man, I would bet a few bob.
Juventus lead the group after Valencia held Man Utd to a goalless draw at Old Trafford in the group’s other game.
1. Juventus – 6
2. Man Utd – 4
3. Valencia – 1
4. Young Boys – 0
Group H (Group Winning Odds)
1. Juventus 2/5
2. Man Utd 2/1
3. Valencia 22/1
4. Young Boys 250/1
UEFA Champions League Winning Odds
1. Man City 5/1
2. Barcelona 6/1
3. Juventus 6/1
4. Liverpool 8/1
5. Bayern Munich 8/1
6. PSG 9/1
7. Real Madrid 10/1