Smashed it! 10 players who shone during Champions League gameweek one

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The Football Faithful

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Football’s leading club competition made its hugely anticipated return this week with the start of the Champions League group stages, the opening round of fixtures producing some eye-catching results.

Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United all made winning starts to their group stage campaigns, whilst reigning champions Bayern Munich delivered an ominous statement of intent by thrashing Atletico Madrid at the Allianz Arena.

Elsewhere, an undermanned Shakhtar Donetsk produced the shock of the round by winning at 13-time winners Real Madrid, whilst Barcelona and Juventus also made winning starts to their campaigns.

We’ve decided to look at some of the prominent players from the Champions League group stage openers, here are 10 players who shone during gameweek one:

Fabinho

Much of the talk surrounding Liverpool’s opening fixture at Ajax centred around the aftermath of last weekend’s Merseyside Derby, a bruising encounter having left Virgil van Dijk with a season-ending knee injury.

The absence of Joel Matip further depleted Jurgen Klopp’s centre-back options with midfielder Fabinho once again trusted in an unfamiliar defensive role, the Brazilian producing a superb display to help the Reds to a clean sheet and three points in the Dutch capital.

Fabinho has now played five games at the heart of the defence in his Liverpool career with the club having kept four clean sheets in that time, and they had the 26-year-old to thank for their latest shut-out following an exquisite and decisive piece of defending to deny Dusan Tadic.

The auxiliary defender raced back to acrobatically clear off the goal-line with goalkeeper Adrian beaten, the highlight reel moment from a confident and authoritative performance, one that offers much promise for Klopp as he bids to cope with Van Dijk’s extended absence.

Ciro Immobile

Lazio made their return to the Champions League group stages after a 12-year absence in fine style this week, securing an impressive 3-1 victory over Borussia Dortmund at the Stadio Olimpico.

Simeone Inzaghi’s side bounced back from their disappointing domestic form with a huge three points, with talisman Ciro Immobile predictably at the heart of their success against his former side.

The 30-year-old enjoyed an underwhelming single season spell at Dortmund but has played the best football of his career since moving to Lazio four years ago, racking up over a century of league goals and winning the European Golden Shoe last season.

That latter achievement was the first time in more than a decade a player not named Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi had won the award outright, and he showcased his fine finishing once more having returned to Europe’s biggest stage.

Immobile played like a player with a point to prove and opened the scoring with a clever finish after just six minutes, before providing the assist for teenager Jean-Daniel Akpa Akpro to score Lazio’s third and ensure the Rome-outfit got off to the perfect start in Group F.

Alvaro Morata

Questions were asked following Juventus’ decision to resign Alvaro Morata this summer, the club’s search for additional firepower resulting in the signing of the Spain international from Atletico Madrid.

Morata previously spent two seasons with the Bianconeri and enjoyed a steady if unspectacular spell, a regular theme throughout his career with the forward amongst the most expensive players of all-time in cumulative transfer fees, despite his career-best season delivering just 15 league goals.

The 27-year-old has failed to set the world alight during spells at Real Madrid, Chelsea and Atletico Madrid, but has got his second spell at Juventus up and running with three goals in just three appearances.

Morata scored both goals as Juventus got their Champions League campaign off to the best possible start with a 2-0 victory at Dynamo Kyiv, reacting first to turn in a rebound from close range before getting across his man to head home an excellent second.

The forward’s brace was a welcome boost for Andrea Pirlo and his side in the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo, the presence of Morata inside the penalty area providing Juventus with a different dimension in attack this season.

Axel Tuanzebe

Expectations were minimal as an injury-hit Manchester United travelled to face last season’s runners-up Paris Saint-Germain in the French capital, only for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side to snatch a late victory following a much-improved performance from their early season struggles.

In the absence of Harry Maguire and Eric Bailly in defence, Axel Tuanzebe was included in the starting side for the first time this calendar year following injury problems, with the youngster showing no signs of rustiness in an imperious display.

Playing on the right-hand side of a back three formation, the 22-year-old was superb in nullifying the threat posed by the likes of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, his strength and recovery pace evident during his tussles with the latter in particular.

Marcus Rashford’s late winner and similarly dogged displays from the likes of Fred and Aaron Wan-Bissaka deserve huge credit, but it was Tuanzebe who stood tallest as the Red Devils claimed a precious three points in Paris.

In a period in which United have struggled to find reliable options in their backline, the academy graduate has stated his case for regular inclusion in emphatic fashion, a mature and solid display against one of Europe’s most fearsome forward lines.

Angelino

It may not quite have worked out for Angelino at Manchester City but the wing-back has enjoyed a new lease of life since signing for RB Leipzig, helping the Bundesliga side to the semi-finals of the Champions League last season before rejoining on a season-long loan deal last summer.

Leipzig’s run to the last four surprised many but Julian Nagelsmann’s emerging outfit proved they are here to compete once again with an opening win against group stage debutants Istanbul Basaksehir, with Angelino thriving from his position on the left-hand side of a 3-4-3 formation.

The Spaniard has already scored twice in four Bundesliga appearances this season and maintained his fine goalscoring form by netting both goals against the Turkish side, his first a sensational turn and finish that any leading forward would have been proud of.

It was the third successive fixture the 23-year-old had found the net and he doubled his tally just four minutes later, a composed first-time finish after being found in space by Christopher Nkunku.

Leipzig face Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United in arguably the most difficult-looking group, though Nagelsmann’s youthful side will be confident they can upset the odds once more.

Duvan Zapata

Free-scoring Atalanta are back after last season’s run to the quarter-finals and began their second Champions League campaign with a comprehensive victory over minnows FC Midtjylland.

The Italian side ran riot on a rain-soaked evening in Denmark to secure a 4-0 victory and take an early lead the summit of Group D, their multi-functional forward line led admirably by Duvan Zapata.

The Colombian international has scored 47 goals over the past two full seasons and got Atalanta’s European campaign up and running with a well-taken opener, before providing an assist for Papu Gomez and playing a part in Luis Muriel’s third.

It was incredibly the 27th time Gian Piero Gasperini’s side have scored four or more goals during his four-year reign, the Serie A side in a strong position to take control in the group ahead of home fixtures against Ajax and Liverpool.

Dominik Szoboszlai

Earlier this week we profiled six teenagers we hoped would make a huge impact on this season’s Champions League, and following the opening round of fixtures we can only apologise to Red Bull Salzburg’s Dominik Szoboszlai for his omission.

The 19-year-old provided a reminder of why he is so sought after by Europe’s major clubs with a truly stunning strike in Salzburg’s draw with Lokomotiv Moscow, firing home a superb dipping effort from distance to draw the scores level.

It was the latest blockbuster effort from a player who has compiled quite the collection of Golazo efforts for the Austrian side, Arsenal believed to be amongst the admirers of a player who reportedly possesses a release clause of just £22.5m in his Salzburg contract.

That fee looks like a sensible investment for the Hungarian who looks like the next leading talent to come off the club’s production line, the likes of Sadio Mane and Erling Haaland amongst the names to have starred for Europe’s elite after leaving Salzburg in recent years.

Romelu Lukaku

Romelu Lukaku’s sensational goalscoring record in European football continued this week with a vital double for Inter Milan, including a late equaliser as the Italians snatched a draw with Borussia Monchengladbach at the San Siro.

Lukaku opened the scoring early in the second-half with a clinical finish from close range before the visiting side turned the game around to threaten an upset, equalising from the penalty spot before Jonas Hofmann raced clear to put them ahead with just six minutes remaining.

Inter were once again reliant on their talismanic forward who salvaged a point in dramatic fashion, finding himself in the right place at the right time once more to tap home.

The Belgium international has thrived since making the move to Inter from Manchester United, scoring 40 goals in just 56 appearances to silence those who doubted him during his time at Old Trafford.

His brace in midweek means he has now scored in each of his last nine games in European competition, Lukaku an elite goalscorer and a player Inter’s hopes will be pinned on as they bid to make an impact in this season’s Champions League.

Tetê

Shakhtar Donetsk travelled to face Real Madrid without a staggering 10 first-team players due to coronavirus, many fearing the worst for the depleted Ukrainians at the home of the 13-time record winners.

What resulted was a remarkable performance from the visitors who utterly dominated their illustrious opposition in the first-half, racing into a three-goal lead after cutting through the Real Madrid defence at will.

Amongst their star performers was Brazilian youngster Teté who was a lively presence on the right-hand side of the Shakhtar attack, opening the scoring with a low finish before playing his part in his side’s second and third goals, including a wonderful back-heeled assist into the path of Manor Solomon.

It was a brilliantly confident display from the youngster and his side despite the absence of key personnel, holding off a second-half fightback to take all three points in fine style with a 3-2 upset victory.

Kingsley Coman

Last season’s Champions League final match-winner helped the holder’s defence get off to an impressive start against Atletico Madrid in midweek, Bayern thrashing the Spaniards in an ominous warning to the rest of the competition.

Coman opened the scoring with an impressive touch and finish after being found at the back post by Joshua Kimmich, a repeat of the combination that broke Paris Saint-Germain’s hearts in last season’s showpiece.

The France international then found Leon Goretzka in space to double Bayern’s advantage, before showcasing his speed and skill to net his second and the champion’s fourth late on, racing clear on the counter-attack before twisting and turning sharply past Atletico defender Felipe and finishing with aplomb.

It may just be one fixture into the new Champions League season, but Bayern already look like clear favourites to make it back-to-back European crowns.