UEFA Champions League Roundup: Upsets give way to goals on tournament’s opening day (Video)

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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.

[MORE: Manchester United 4-2 Bayer Leverkusen: Rooney brace gives Moyes first Champions League win]

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.

[MORE: Bayern Munich dominant, make strides to open title defense]

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.

[MORE: Manchester City explodes for three quick second half goals at Viktoria Plzen]

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.

[MORE: Galatasaray 1-6 Real Madrid: Ronaldo hat-trick as Spanish giants rout on the road]

[MORE: Injuries pile up in Istanbul as Drogba comes off in serious pain]

[MORE: Rib injury forces Iker Casillas off early in Champions League tie]

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.

After slow start, Belgium takes care of business against feisty Panama

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All it took was one goal to bring Belgium to life.

Following a frustrating first 45 minutes, in which Belgium put a pair of shots into the side netting and forced saves from Panama goalkeeper Jaime Penedo, Dries Mertens 47th minute goal opened the floodgates, as Belgium went on to defeat Panama, 3-0, Monday afternoon in Sochi.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

But Panama never made it easy for the Belgians. From the opening whistle the CONCACAF nation showed its incredible spirit, chasing down Belgium all across the field and making life incredibly difficult for Belgium attackers Romelu Lukaku, Mertens and Eden Hazard. Hazard was hacked down all over the field, and while he did earn fouls and a few yellow cards were issued to Panamanian players, it was enough to get in Hazard’s head.

Two minutes into the second half, everything changed. A wonderstrike from Mertens opened the game, and forced Panama to attack and try and tie the match, which gave Hazard, de Bruyne and Lukaku more space to operate.

In the heat and humidity of the Sochi summer, Panama’s veteran defense began to tire, allowing de Bruyne the space to deliver a terrific assist to Lukaku in the box, putting Belgium up 2-0 in the 69th minute.

 

Six minutes later, Lukaku was put through on the break, chipping over Penedo to confirm the victory.

With the win, Belgium moves to the top of Group G. Up next for Belgium is Tunisia on Saturday, while Panama takes on England on Sunday.

VIDEO: de Bruyne delivers gorgeous assist on Lukaku goal

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It took a little bit of patience, but Romelu Lukaku finally got on the scoresheet at the 2018 World Cup, thanks to a delicious assist from crosstown club rival Kevin De Bruyne.

The Manchester City playmaker delivered a spectacular outside-of-the-boot cross into the box, where Lukaku’s head met it and guided it towards the far post for Belgium’s second goal of the day.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Arsenal close in on Leno; Man City near Jorginho signing, and more

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Arsenal looks like it will have a new man between the pipes for next season.

According to a report from German publication SportBild, Bayer Leverkusen goalkeeper Bernd Leno will be introduced as an Arsenal player on Tuesday, after a reported $23-29 million transfer fee. The 26-year-old was on Germany’s 35-man pre-World Cup squad, but was one of the last cuts as Joachim Low went with Manuel Neuer, Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Kevin Trapp in Russia.

Leno became the full-time starter for Leverkusen as a 20-year-old, and has held the position of the No. 1 for the last six seasons, earning plenty of Bundesliga and UEFA Champions League experience along the way.

It’s unclear what will happen to current Arsenal No. 1 Petr Cech. The 36-year-old Premier League legend experienced one of his worst seasons in net for Arsenal and he could begin the season as a backup, unless he moves to a new club. He reportedly has a contract through 2019.

Here’s some more transfer rumors from around the Premier League and Europe.

(more…)

VIDEO: Mertens scores wonderstrike for Belgium

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After a frustrating 45 minutes, it took only two minutes for Belgium to finally get on the board, even if it was a goal sprinkled with magic dust.

Off a partially cleared ball on the right side of the box, Belgium attacker Dries Mertens whalloped a shot that arced over Panama (and former LA Galaxy) goalkeeper Jaime Penedo, giving Belgium a 1-0 lead.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]