Alex Mott·21 September 2023
Alex Mott·21 September 2023
The Champions League is back!
Matchweek one of this season’s group stage offered up goals galore, narrative aplenty and some brilliant late drama.
João Félix had to endure a pretty wretched 2022/23.
The Atlético de Madrid striker was booed by his own fans at the start of the campaign, having failed to deliver on early promise and a record-breaking price-tag.
The Portugal international then joined Chelsea on loan for the second half of the season, but got sent off on his debut and ended up scoring only four goals as the Blues tanked.
A move away from the Spanish capital seemed wise this summer but it wasn’t until the last hour of the transfer window that the 23-year-old bagged a season-long switch to Barcelona.
But João Félix has wasted no time in ingratiating himself to the Catalan faithful and was brilliant on his Champions League debut for the club this week.
Barcelona beat Royal Antwerp 5-0 with Félix scoring two and assisting another in a commanding performance that will have Xavi purring.
Pope (Newcastle); Hakimi (PSG), Leite (Union Berlin), Saliba (Arsenal), Raum (RB Leipzig); Rodri (Man City), Stengs (Feyenoord), Galeno (Porto); Alvarez (Man City), Joao Felix (Barcelona), Dembélé (PSG)
How could it be anything other than Ivan Provedel’s last minute header for Lazio?
The 29-year-old became the first goalkeeper for 15 years to score from open play in the Champions League as he helped the Rome club claim a point against Atlético de Madrid.
All seemed lost as Diego Simeone’s side battened down the hatches to seemingly hold on for a 1-0 win at Stadio Olimpico.
But Provedel, with all the instincts of Erling Haaland, made a brilliant run into the penalty area from a corner and headed in from close range.
What a moment.
After a six-year absence, Arsenal returned to European football’s grandest stage this week and it could not have gone any better for the Gunners
PSV Eindhoven were the opponents and after their impressive play-off win over Rangers to get to the group stage, Mikel Arteta knew that the Dutch side were not to be taken lightly.
You could have reasonably expected some nerves from the Arsenal squad with only a few of their starters having played in the Champions League before.
But that wasn’t the case as Bukayo Saka netted after eight minutes and opened the floodgates as Arsenal netted four.
It really was the perfect start to the campaign and with Sevilla and Lens drawing, Arsenal already have a small lead at the top of Group B.
Perhaps we shouldn’t have been surprised after five years of almost continual growth and progression.
But for 93 minutes Union Berlin – playing their first ever game in the Champions League – held their own against Real Madrid.
Los Blancos are the doyens of this competition and go into every season aiming to win the whole thing.
They struggled against the Bundesliga outfit though, with Union employing a low block and frustrating Carlo Ancelotti’s side no end.
A point at the Bernabèu would have gone down as one of the greatest results in Union’s storied history.
But with just a minute left on the block, Jude Bellingham did what Jude Bellingham does now, and scored a last minute winner to send Real Madrid fans into ecstasy.
RB Salzburg are clearly taking Alan Hansen’s adage that you “don’t win anything with kids” as a personal afront.
The Austrian side went all-in on their youth policy on Wednesday night as they named the youngest ever starting XI in Champions League history.
Aged 21 years and 183 days, Salzburg went to former European Cup winners Benfica and came away with a 2-0 win.
If you’re good enough, you’re old enough.
Manchester United goalkeeper Andre Onana was in a self-reflective mood on Wednesday as his side lost 4-3 to Bayern Munich.
The Cameroon international has endured a difficult start to life at Old Trafford and was at fault for Bayern’s first goal at the Allianz Arena.
Onana didn’t look to blame anyone else for the loss though, insisting he was the man that cost United the game.
“It’s difficult. We started very good. After my mistake we lost control of the game. It’s a difficult situation for us, for me,” the goalkeeper told TNT Sports.
“The team were one down because of that mistake. I have to learn from it and be strong. I’m happy with the comeback of the team.
“I have a lot to prove. My start in Manchester hasn’t been so good, not how I want. This was one of my worst games. We have big ambition.”