What once looked like a day for the underdog saw a series of reality checks put Tuesday’s Champions League action back in check. By the time final whistles blew on the 2:45 p.m. Eastern kickoffs, the scoreboard looked like any other matchday’s. You would have never known major upsets were brewing in Copenhagen, Manchester and Barcelona.
Here are PST’s Snap Judgments on a nearly-remarkable UEFA Champions League Tuesday:
Shakhtar Donetsk 2-1 Chelsea – 3-1 would have probably been a better reflection of how the game was played, but it all looks the same in the points column. Shakhtar now have a viable route to winning this group, especially if they can take a point from Stamford Bridge next round.
Nordsjaelland 1-1 Juventus – The Old Lady needed a late goal from substitute Mirko Vucinic to avoid an upset that would have rivaled last round’s Bayern Munich loss at BATE Borisov.
This game might be a rare match where a team scored too soon. Nordsjaelland kept Juventus at arm’s length before their 50th minute goal, after which Juve started their pursuit. You can’t pick and choose where you score, but if you could, the Danes would have wanted Mikkel Beckmann’s goal to come a little later.
Impact: Shakhtar has control of the group, for now. With only three points through as many rounds, Juventus is in bad shape. They close the phase with Chelsea at home before visiting Donetsk.
Manchester United 3-2 Sporting Braga – This performance would be disturbing if it wasn’t so Manchester United. The Red Devils were down two within 20 minutes thanks to Alan Silva, but thanks to two goals from Javier Hernández (retrieved from the lost and found, you’d assume), United stayed perfect.
Galatasaray 1-1 CFR Cluj – For Cluj, it’s a good result, if a mixed one. Galatasaray carried a four-match home losing streak in UEFA competition into this game, and with an early 1-0 lead, Cluj had a chance to extend it.
Ultimately, Gala got a deserved result. A still-hobbled Burak Yilmaz had to come on late to claim an equalizer, but that was after an own goal and a missed spot kick from Felipe Melo.
Impact: Cluj now has four road points and should be able to complete an improbable knockout round run with home results against Gala and Braga.
Lille 0-1 Bayern Munich – For the second straight year, Lille looks destined to crash out of Europe after group stage. No knockout round. No Europa League. Just some television money and bruised egos. Today, they failed to get a shot on target, losing the match on a 20th minute spot kick from Thomas Müller.
BATE Borisov 0-3 Valencia – Los Che learned the lesson Bayern and Lille did not, with a Roberto Soldado hat trick giving BATE their first loss of the tournament. BATE’s early upsets may have had the unfortunate consequence of eliminating their element of surprise.
Impact: Three teams are tied with six points at the top of the group, though after today’s results, it looks like the fifth round meeting between Valencia and Bayern will determine the order of the top two.
Barcelona 2-1 Celtic – Barcelona again conceded the first goal at home, with Georgios Samaras staking Celtic to a 1-0 lead in the 18th minute. From there, it was all Barça, who finished the game with 82 percent of the possession. Still, they needed a stoppage time goal from Jodi Alba to avoid what would have been a shocking result.
Spartak Moscow 1-1 Benfica – Unai Emery called it a crucial match, and his team responded, holding onto a lead given to them by Jardel’s 43rd minute own goal. The path out of group is still tricky for Spartak, a team that likely needs results in Lisbon and Glasgow. Today’s win got them off life support.
Impact: Barcelona’s perfect and going to win the group. Celtic’s in a second with four points and has two of their final three matches at home. Give Neil Lennon credit: He’s got his team in position to make it to the final 16.