PSG Routs Real Madrid; Tottenham, Juventus Throw Away Leads in UCL
Paris Saint-Germain was a 3-0 winner in the biggest game of the second night of Champions League action this season, beating a sluggish Real Madrid with a level of ease on Wednesday. There were also comfortable wins for Manchester City and Bayern Munich, while both Tottenham and Juventus threw away 2-0 leads to settle for unsatisfying draws.
In Paris, Angel Di Maria struck twice against his former club, as PSG exposed all the creaking uncertainties in Madrid, while Club Brugge drew 0-0 with Galatasaray in the other game in Group A.
Second-half goals from Juan Cuadrado and Blaise Matuidi looked to have given Juventus the points in Madrid, but Stefan Savic pulled one back before Hector Herrera’s late leveler for Atletico Madrid in a Group D 2-2 thriller.
Lokomotiv leads the quartet after winning 2-1 away to Bayer Leverkusen, with goals from Grzegorz Krychowiak and Dmitri Baronov–the latter of which was gifted by Leverkusen goalkeeper Lucas Hradecky–coming on either side of a Benedikt Howedes own goal.
Manchester City, despite being forced to play Fernandinho at center back due to an injury crisis, recorded a 3-0 victory at Shakhtar Donetsk, with the goals coming from Riyad Mahrez, Ilkay Gundogan and Gabriel Jesus.
Also in Group C, Mislav Orsic scored a hat trick as Dinamo Zagreb won only its second group game since 2000, beating group-stage debutants Atalanta, 4-0, and going atop the group on goal difference.
In Group B, Olympiakos came from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 with last season’s finalist Tottenham, while Kingsley Coman’s first-half header sent Bayern on its way to a 3-0 win over Red Star Belgrade, with Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller adding late goals.
Here are three thoughts on the key happenings on the day in the Champions League:
Di Maria downs former club in battle of shorthanded powers
PSG may have been without its entire first-choice front three, with Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani hurt and Neymar suspended, but it hardly mattered, as it dismantled a lackluster Real Madrid. It was a former Madrid player, Di Maria, who set PSG on its way, not only scoring twice, but playing with a verve and intelligence that meant he was always just out if reach of a Madrid defense missing the suspended Sergio Ramos.
Madrid has a habit of starting the group stage slowly, and there’s always a danger of going overboard with reactions, but this was a shockingly loose performance. When Real Madrid lost to Ajax last season, the sense was of an aging side, and it has barely changed since. Poor Casemiro was almost entirely overrun in midfield and was afforded very little support by James Rodriguez and Toni Kroos.
Di Maria struck first after 14 minutes, poking in Juan Bernat’s cross at Thibaut Courtois’s near post. There will be those who blame the goalkeeper, but Bernat got in behind Dani Carvajal far too easily, and then, with Raphael Varane drawn towards the ball, Eder Militao offered minimal cover. The finish for Di Maria's second, a rocket from the edge of the box after 33 minutes, was impressive, but again there were questions about why nobody closed him down.
Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema both had goals ruled out–Bale's a spectacular one at that–but Madrid was desperately poor before Thomas Meunier rounded off a superb move to make it 3-0 in injury time. There's work to be done for Zinedine Zidane and his side, though what should be its toughest match in the group is out of the way.
Tottenham's wobble goes on
Last season, Tottenham reached the Champions League final despite being ahead for all of 173 minutes. That it led for 24 minutes in this game was almost as baffling as anything it achieved last season. Tottenham was desperately sloppy, as it is frustratingly often–with Christian Eriksen having his worst game in months–and yet somehow it found itself 2-0 up before squandering the advantage.
Olympiakos made all the early running and hit the post through Miguel Angel Guerrero. But then Harry Kane bundled past Yacine Meriah into the box and was tripped as he got away from the defender. Adapting his usual penalty technique, Kane clipped his shot down the middle as Jose Sa went to his right. Four minutes later, the lead was 2-0, with Ben Davies intercepting just inside the Olympiakos half, advancing and squaring for Lucas Moura, who thumped the ball into the corner from 20 yards. At that point Tottenham had had two shots and Olympiakos nine, but it was the away side that led 2-0.
The expectation then was that Tottenham would close the game down and make the best of its good fortune. But Daniel Podence, a constant threat down the right, pulled one back before halftime and Mathieu Valbeuna converted a penalty nine minutes into the second half after a clumsy challenge by Jan Vertonghen. And so another Premier League side–a third from three at that point before Man City's triumph–failed to win, and Mauricio Pochettino was left to reflect on yet another unconvincing performance at the beginning of this season.
Atletico Madrid's tentative evolution
This is not the same Atletico the world is used to. A summer overhaul has transformed the nature of the squad and perhaps of Atletico’s style. These are not the scrappers and spoilers of old. It may take time for the revolution to take effect. A run of three straight wins came to an ended with defeat at Real Sociedad over the weekend, and the stutter looked as though it was continuing in its first game against top-class opponents.
Juventus had eliminated Atletico Madrid in the last 16 of the competition last season, but only after a 2-0 defeat in Madrid. Atletico was never as composed Wednesday as it had been then and conceded twice after the halftime break. Juan Cuadrado opened the scoring three minutes into the second half, cutting in from the right and lashing a shot into the top cornerm and Blaise Matuidi headed a second in the 65th minute.
Stefan Savic’s header from a free kick cut the deficit before Hector Herrera leveled in injury time with a header from a corner. Atletico Madrid is working in plenty of new elements, including the dynamic 19-year-old Joao Felix, but its set-piece habit, perhaps, will die hard.