The opening day of Champions League did not disappoint, its 30 goals between eight games complementing a number of teams’ breakout performances. Talent-laden squads that had struggled to find their stride in league used Europe as a chance to let loose, while tight fixtures held close through half by outgunned underdogs were blown open in today’s second stanzas. Opening night may not have included any Davids toppling club world Goliaths, but what it lacked in upsets it make up for in goals.
The winners were predictable — Manchester United, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain — but the way they went about their business was not. The four titans combined for 17 goals, each sitting at the top of their groups after day one.
In the bigger picture, today was a rarity. There were no duds, no scoreless draws, no reason to avoid any of the day’s eight games. Each game’s worth your time, even if that time’s can only afford a quick view of the highlights or a scan on a PST roundup. And in that way, it was a spectacular start to the new Champions League season.
Group A: Manchester United (England) 4-2 Bayer Leverkusen (Germany) [RECAP]
It was United’s best performance of the season, one highlighted by a head gear-adorned Wayne Rooney’s two goals, one assist, and Man of the Match-caliber performance. Controlling play from the opening whistle (though giving Bayer some false hope in the match’s last half-hour), David Moyes’s team post their new manager’s first win in Champions League – the first time in 28 years United’s tasted victory in Europe without Alex Ferguson on the sidelines.
Group A: Real Sociedad (Spain) 0-2 Shakhtar Donetsk (Ukraine)
A disappointing turn of events for Real Sociedad in the second half saw Shakhtar, after being outshot 10-0 in the first half, stake a Alex Teixeira brace to a 2-0 win at San Sebastian. The Brazilian’s double ends a three-game winless run for Mircea Lucescu’s squad, claiming three valuable goal points in what could develop into the fight for second place.
Group B: Bayern Munich (Germany) 3-0 CSKA Moscow (Russia)
And early David Alaba goal off Igor Akinfeev’s hands gave the defending champions all they’d need, their possession-hogging ways limiting CSKA’s chances as Mario Manduzkic and Arjen Robben build FCB’s lead. It was a perfect start to Pep Guardiola’s Champions League career at Bayern, one that saw his team maintain 69 percent of the match’s possession while putting nine shots on frame to their guests’ two.
Group B: Viktoria Plzen (Czech Republic) 0-3 Manchester City (England)
This won’t get the monkey off City’s back (they need to qualify from this group to do that), but with three goals in the first 13 minutes of today’s second half, the Sky Blues proved more ruthless than they’ve been during their last two Champions League campaigns. Like Guardiola, Manuel Pellegrini’s off to a convincing start in his new surroundings, one made possible by scores from Edin Dzeko, Yaya Touré, and Sergio Agüero.
Group C: Galatasaray (Turkey) 1-6 Real Madrid (Spain) [RECAP]
Remember that time, only a few months ago, when Real Madrid went to Istanbul and lost? Suddenly I don’t either. Three goals from Cristiano Ronaldo, another highlight from Isco, and a Karim Benzema double mark Real Madrid’s best performance of the season. The race to the top of Group C while Galatasaray, already struggling in Super Lig play, are left licking their wounds after an embarrassing turnaround.
Group C: Copenhagen (Denmark) 1-1 Juventus (Italy)
Big picture, this is a fine result for the Old Lady, doing little to hurt their chances of advancing out of this group with Real Madrid. But if you’re trying to tell me Juventus is a serious contender for this competition’s title, you’re going to have to show me something other than today’s performance. Juventus were the better side and could argue they deserved more, but when you see the impressive road performances Real Madrid, Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain and Shakhtar gave, Juve’s moral victories don’t look so impressive.
Group D: Olympiakos (Greece) 1-4 Paris Saint Germain (France)
In a game of two halves, PSG were lucky to get into intermission tied 1-1. Olympiakos completely outplayed a team that has ambitions to better last year’s quarterfinal appearance. In the second half, PSG finally let loose, two goals from Thiago Motta and a insurance tally from Marquinhos building on Edinson Cavani’s opener to give the Parisians a convincing result.
Group D: Benfica (Portugal) 2-0 Anderlecht (Belgium)
Jorge Jesus may have seen his Benfica squad on even footing with Anderlecht coming into the match, but his team must have disagreed. Goals from Filip Djurici and Luisão in the first half hour gave the Eagles control early, allowing them to hold serve against one of the clubs that will challenge for second place in the Group.