UCL’s Matchday 2 Review: Ronaldo Creates History, Tottenham Humilated
There was no shortage of excitement in the first half of Champions League matchday two as Tottenham Hotspur created a piece of unwanted history.
Last season’s European Cup finalist were humbled 7-2 at home to five-time champions Bayern Munich, while Juventus and Atletico Madrid registered comfortable wins.
Manchester City left it late to claim all three points against Dinamo Zagreb, thus avoiding embarrassment, something Real Madrid couldn’t say as they fell further behind PSG, who followed up their 3-0 win over Los Blancos with three more points at Galatasaray’s expense.
With the dust now settling, and all eyes moving towards Wednesday’s games, here are ten things you might have missed.
1. Gnabry joins an exclusive club
In the build-up to facing Spurs, Serge Gnabry suggested any booing coming his way, due to his past connection with Arsenal, wasn’t going to faze him. Gunners supporters would have enjoyed his performance this evening as Bayern swept away their group rivals 7-2, putting further pressure on Mauricio Pochettino.
Of those seven, he’d score four (aka a poker) making him only the 12th player in Champions League history to manage such an amount in a single game. Gnabry subsequently joins Marco van Basten, Simone Inzaghi, Dado Pršo, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Andriy Shevchenko, Bafétimbi Gomis, Mario Gómez, Robert Lewandowski, Zlatan Ibrahimović, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
2. Hope that history repeats itself
Atalanta defied the odds by reaching this season’s Champions League group phase. Gian Piero Gasperini’s men were a joy to watch across their 2018/19 campaign and many had them down as potentially this year’s Ajax – an unfancied side going against the current – but that seems to be a pipe dream now they’ve lost their opening two games.
A humbling 4-0 loss at Dinamo Zagreb was followed by a narrow 2-1 defeat at the San Siro, where they are playing their home games, meaning they become the first Italian side to suffer such a fate since Inter Milan in 2006/07. The Nerazzurri, though, progressed. However, next up for La Dea are back-to-back matches against Manchester City.
3. Equalling Ruud
Before the game, Bayern Munich boss Niko Kovac was asked to comment about Spurs’ lethal marksman Harry Kane. He duly placed him aside the game’s best number nines, one of whom he has the pleasure of working with on a daily basis. What more is left to be said about Robert Lewandowski whose many feats are legendary?
His goal on the stroke of half-time to give Bayern the lead in north London, having come from a goal down, moved him to just one behind the great Ruud van Nistelrooy (56) in the all-time Champions League scorers chart. It would prove to be a temporary situation as moments from the end, he’d equal the great Dutchman. He now trails Karim Benzema, who sits third, with Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo occupying the top two places, by four goals.
4. On the list
Cristiano Ronaldo is Mr. Champions League; no player has dominated the competition since its inception like him. Tonight saw him score goal number 127, which is 15 more than second-placed Lionel Messi, but more impressive was that Bayer Leverkusen was the 33rd different team he’s scored against. That is a tournament record which he now shares with legendary Real Madrid forward – and former teammate – Raul.
5. The long wait goes on
After the group stage draw was made, Olympiacos and Red Star Belgrade knew the battle for third, and Europa League football after the winter break, was going to be fought between themselves given Bayern and Spurs were their fellow Group B participants.
Olympiacos visited the Serbian capital as not the greatest of Champions League travellers, and they were unable to return home with all three points, something they’ve not done in this phase since October 20, 2015 when Marco Silva’s men left Dinamo Zagreb with a slender 1-0 victory.
6. Felix arrives
The departure of Antoine Griezmann, particularly the way it was handled, was a sad affair but Atlético Madrid always keep on moving. Filling the Frenchman’s shoes is the impressive Portuguse teenager João Félix, whose mammoth £113m fee, paid to boyhood club Benfica, hasn’t exactly weighed heavily on him.
With so much being expected of him, Felix’s first Champions League goal (ever) was bound to arrive soon into his young Atleti career and, lo and behold, in his second competition appearance under Diego Simeone, Lokomotiv Moscow became the first of many victims.
7. Icardi puts PSG in control
Unloved and unwanted at Inter Milan, there were a few rumblings Mauro Icardi was struggling to fit into his new surroundings, with certain members of Paris Saint-Germain’s playing staff not receptive to him.
If there’s one way to win folks over, it’s doing the talking on the pitch and in Istanbul, against a fiery Galatasaray, he did just that. Icardi’s only goal, coupled with Real Madrid dropping two points earlier in the evening, means Thomas Tuchel’s side control Group A.
8. A first for Son
Son Heung-min’s importance to Tottenham Hotspur’s cause is well-documented. The 27-year-old South Korean forward has in many ways taken a lot of the goalscoring burden off Kane’s shoulders. Tonight’s meeting against Bayern Munich was something of a reacquaintance.
Across eight previous meetings – during his time in Germany with Hamburg and then Bayer Leverkusen – he’d not only taste just one victory, but never managed to register a strike past the Bavarian giants. That changed in the 12th minute when his shot went across Manuel Neuer to give Spurs a precious lead. However, things would only get worse for Mauricio Pochettino’s team.
9. Déjà vu
It’s like we’ve been here before with Spurs, who were handed their biggest-ever European Cup defeat by Bayern Munich, this meeting was only the second Champions League game in which they’ve shipped at least four goals. The last time, a group stage home meeting with Barcelona last season, ultimately saw them reach the final. As incredible as that journey was, it’s hard to see them repeating it. Even more damaging, never before had Spurs conceded seven goals in a home game.
10. Sterling shines
Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Raheem Sterling, as we’ve discussed on these pages before, is a footballer on the up. Whether or not he’s ‘world-class’ is irrelevant but what cannot be disputed is his goals involvement record, particularly at home in the Champions League.
Having come on in the 56th minute, with City’s game against Dinamo Zagreb deadlocked, Sterling ended the stalemate 10 minutes later. In the 89th minute, he would tee up Phil Foden, meaning he’s now been directly involved in 18 goals across his last 16 home Champions League outings (scoring 11 and creating a further seven).