Match Day 2 of the UEFA Champions League is in the books, and it was a tough night for Premier League sides as Liverpool lose in Napoli, and Barcelona beat Spurs in a bashed up Wembley Stadium.
What’s the point?
The Premier League could choose their best 11 players from the Big Six, and they would still be on the end of a hammering against a Lionel Messi inspired Barcelona.
In the past 11 times, English sides have faced the Catalan giants, they have lost nine of them. So when the news filtered through that Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen, Mousa Dembele and Jan Vertonghen would miss the match through injury, you knew there was more chance of the UK Government bringing back hanging than Spurs getting anything from their home tie against the Spanish champions.
The Wembley pitch looked appalling thanks to the World Title fight between Anthony Joshua and Alexander Povetkin, but it didn’t stop the Spanish wizards from turning on a masterclass.
Barcelona opened the scoring as early as the second minute.
Messi, who was brilliant all night, played a sublime through ball to Andres Iniesta, Hugo Lloris raced out of his goal to prevent the Spanish midfielder from collecting, was too slow, and Iniesta squared to Philippe Coutinho to give Barca the lead.
Then we had a moment of magic.
Messi chipped the ball into the box from the left flank, Luiz Suarez chested the ball to Coutinho who saw his close-range effort saved by Lloris, but the ball rebounded to Ivan Rakitic on the edge of the box who sent a screamer of a volley into the back of the net off the stanchion.
Barcelona began the second half as brightly as they started the first with Messi stroking the ball against the foot of the Spurs post after another magical run, but it was Spurs who would find the net next, breathing new life into the contest. Harry Kane picked the ball up on the left-hand side of the Barcelona box, jinked onto his right foot, and curled his shot past the Barcelona keeper to bring them within a goal of the men in purple and blue.
And then Messi turned it on.
The superstar fired the ball to Jordi Alba on the left wing, raced into the box, and finished neatly after an intelligent dummy from Suarez, to restore Barcelona’s two-goal lead.
Spurs managed to make a show of things when Eric Lamela scored his first Champions League goal for the club with a deflected effort in the 66th minute, but Messi sealed a 4-2 win in the dying embers of the match finishing things off after another outrageous dummy from Suarez gave him the simplest of finishes.
In the other group game, Inter Milan ensured maximum points from their two opening games after coming from behind to beat PSV Eindhoven 2-1 thanks to a winner from their captain Mauro Icardi.
Spurs and PSV need a minor miracle to qualify after losing their two opening games.
Group B Table
1 Barcelona – 6
2. Inter Milan – 6
3. Spurs – 0
4. PSV – 0
Group B Winners (Group Winning Odds)
1. Barcelona – 1/6
2. Inter Milan – 9/2
3. Spurs – 40/1
4. PSV – 250/1
Napoli 1 v 0 Liverpool
After Liverpool’s outstanding start to the season, they have now gone three games without a win after losing to a last-minute Lorenzo Insignia goal in the ancient looking Stadio San Paolo.
Facing Chelsea twice, Napoli and Man City in the space of a fortnight was also going to show us where Liverpool were at in terms of competing with the best in the business, and they haven’t lived up to expectations, with Man City licking their lips at the thought of taking on the wounded beast at the weekend.
It was a dismal night for Liverpool, who failed to register a single shot on target, with only a weak effort from the edge of the box that went well wide from Mohamed Salah, Liverpool’s only attempt. Losing Naby Keita to a 19th minute back injury didn’t help matters, although press reports indicate the Guinean star should be fit to face City on the weekend.
The man of the match was Insignia, who scored his fourth goal in his previous six Champions League starts after sliding in beyond Joe Gomez to finish a deliciously drilled low cross from Jose Callejon in the final seconds of the game. Callejon down the right and Mario Rui on the left put in some superb crosses, with Dries Mertens getting on the end of one from Rui that smacked across the crossbar late in the second half for Napoli’s best chance before the goal.
Napoli has only won three of their previous ten Champions League games, but they are formidable at home, winning nine of 13 games in front of their fans.
Napoli sit second in Serie A six points behind Juventus.
In the group’s other game PSG stuffed Red Star Belgrade 6-1 with Neymar Jr helping himself to a hat-trick.
It promises to be one of the tightest groups of the campaign.
1. Napoli – 4
2. Liverpool – 3
3. PSG – 3
4. Red Star Belgrade – 1
Group C Winners (Group Winning Odds)
1. Liverpool – 6/5
2. PSG 5/4
3. Napoli – 4/1
4. Red Star Belgrade – 200/1
UEFA Champions League Winning Odds
1. Man City 9/2
2. Barcelona 5/1
3. Juventus 6/1
4. Liverpool 8/1
5. Bayern Munich 9/1
6. PSG 9/1
7. Real Madrid 10/1