We’ve given our thoughts on the results, but now let’s look beyond the final scores to take inventory of the day’s big winners and losers – what stood out from Champions League Tuesday:
1. Road teams rock – Visiting sides crushed it on Tuesday: Five wins, one draw in eight games. Having Barcelona, Chelsea, and Manchester United on the road helped that total, but as we saw in Minsk, big names aren’t guaranteed results. We may have to call UEFA to figure out how often this happens, because no single day in last season’s tournament produced more than four road wins.
2. Minnows with bite – It’s hard to overstate the magnitude of BATE’s upset over Bayern Munich, winning 3-2 in Minsk. Bayern had been the hottest team in the world, but not anymore. Come minute 91, they were just the latest part of BATE’s perfect Champions League start. In a group with Bayern, Valencia, and Lille, it’s the Belarusians who have an improbable lead.
In Russia, a minnow got a rare road win, though it’s unusual to think of Celtic as minnows. Still, given how they’ve recently performed in Europe, a win at Spartak Moscow looked highly unlikely. But thanks to an early goal, a sending off, and a Spartak overgoal, Celtic was able to take a 3-2 win out of the Luzhniki Stadium. Through two rounds, Celtic sits on four points, more than many would have picked them to claim all competition.
3. The future of Rooney-van Persie – It’s been a big topic of discussion since Robin van Persie traded London for Manchester: How good can this duo be? Fitness issues, poor form, and the bottom of Hugo Rodallega’s boot held Rooney back, but if the last 135 minutes of play are any indication, this duo could dominate. Rooney’s inclusion against Tottenham almost turned Saturday’s match, while a beautiful 35-yard pass in today’s second half helped setup van Persie’s winning goal.
4. Cesc Fábregas – One week ago, Fábregas was worried about his place in the Barcelona team, with Tito Vilanova showing him less playing team than he’d seen under Pep Guariola. There were (thin, comical) rumors of him moving back to Arsenal. Since, Fábregas has three goals in two games, including one on Tuesday against Benfica. Cesc looks just as much a part of Barcelona as he did last season.
1. Carles Puyol – Puyol has been a miss for a Barcelona team that’s often had to go with two midfielders (Alexander Song and Javier Mascherano) in central defense. He returned today only to be stretchered off the field, suffering a dislocated elbow. The timetable for his return wasn’t immediately available.
2. Matchday one momentum – Cluj pulled an upset, Juventus got a surprise draw in London, while Spartak Moscow and Galatasaray had close calls at giants on matchday one. Did any of that matter on matchday two? Mostly no, though Cluj played with the confidence of a team that’s thinking second round (even if they still lost to Manchester United).
For the other three teams looking to build on day one results, there were no silver linings. Juventus were played to a draw in Turin while Spartak and Gala were upset at home.
3. Istanbul’s reputation – That upset of Galatasaray deserves an extra bullet point. Coming into the tournament we heard the likes of Ryan Giggs talking about the nightmare that was playing in Istanbul. But how much of a nightmare can it be if Sporting Braga got a 2-0 result at the Turk Telecom Arena?
When you ask a question like that, it’s always easy to overlook the winner’s performance. Still, it’s hard to consider Istanbul such a difficult trip when a team like Braga can go from being embarrassed at home by CFR Cluj to winning at Galatasaray, Turkey’s champions. The Super Lïg’s best can no longer hold their own.
4. Bayern mystique – In the past, the name “Bayern München” would have won these matches before they started. Obviously, BATE does not live in the past. Bayern allowed more goals on Tuesday (three) than they’ve given up all season in Germany. No matter your opinion of BATE (who now sit on six points), Tuesday’s result was an bust for FC Hollywood.