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Champions League

Liverpool embarrassed by Napoli; Barcelona win big

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Champions League group stage matchday one concluded on Wednesday night with big wins for Barcelona, Napoli and Ajax.

Meanwhile, Liverpool are left smarting and Tottenham were relieved on a challenging night.

Ajax 4-0 Rangers

Ajax made light work of Rangers in Group A’s early kick-off. It was a first Champions League group game in 12 years for the Scottish side, but they quickly found themselves a goal down when Chelsea summer target Edson Alvarez struck inside the first 20 minutes.

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Steven Berghuis and Mohammed Kudus took the game away from Rangers in the first half with goals one after the other shortly after the half hour mark.

Borna Barisic did have a goal for Rangers ruled out by VAR due to an offside spotted in the build up, while Steven Bergwijn got the fourth for Ajax in the closing stages.

Napoli 4-1 Liverpool

Liverpool were humiliated in Italy…there are no other ways to describe it. Napoli simply wanted it far more and blew away Jurgen Klopp’s side in the first half at Stadio Diego Armando Maradona.

Victor Osimhen hit the post within seconds of the opening kick-off and later also missed a first half penalty. But by that stage Napoli were already 1-0 up through a Piotr Zielinski penalty.

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Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa and Giovanni Simeone also scored before half-time, with Zielinski getting his second of the night soon after the interval. Luis Diaz did pull one back but it was much too little much too late.

Atletico Madrid 2-1 Porto

Bizarrely, all three goals in this contest at Wanda Metropolitano were scored in stoppage time, with Atletico eventually winning it in the 101st minute of the match.

Koke had already had a goal ruled out by VAR early in the second half, while Mehdi Taremi saw red in the closing stage for Porto when he picked up a second yellow card.

Mario Hermoso finally broke the deadlock for Atleti in the 91st minute, but then Mateus Uribe equalised from the penalty spot four minutes later. And yet, there was still time for Antoine Griezmann, who appeared off the bench again, to score the dramatically late winner.

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Club Brugge 1-0 Bayer Leverkusen

Group B’s other game was won by Club Brugge thanks to a solitary goal from Abakar Sylla in the closing stages of the first half. It was a nightmare moment for at fault Bayer Leverkusen goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky.

Leverkusen thought they had equalised in the second through Patrik Schick, only for VAR to intervene and disallow it for an offside.

This is a big result for Brugge, who will fancy their chances of building momentum and perhaps even qualifying for the knockout stages.

Barcelona 5-1 Viktoria Plzen

Barcelona were the biggest winners on Wednesday night, hitting five against Czech side Viktoria Plzen at Camp Nou. It was Robert Lewandowski’s Champions League debut for the Catalans and he marked it with an emphatic hat-trick.

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Franck Kessie scored the first for Barça, a header from a corner, before Lewandowski hit three either side of half-time.

Plzen did briefly get back into it to reduce the deficit to 2-1 at one stage through Jan Sykora, while Ferran Torres eventually rounded off the night with Barcelona’s fifth.

Inter 0-2 Bayern Munich

Bayern Munich claimed an important victory from the ‘group of death’, winning 2-0 against Inter at San Siro to get three points in the bag early on the road.

It was Leroy Sane who scored first for the German visitors, with the winger rounding Inter goalkeeper Andre Onana after latching onto an excellent pass from Joshua Kimmich.

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The result was sealed in the second half when Inter skipper Danilo D’Ambrosio inadvertently shanked the ball into his own net while attempting a clearance from a Sane effort.

Eintracht Frankfurt 0-3 Sporting CP

Sporting CP finish matchday one top of Group D courtesy of their impressive 3-0 away win over Europa League champions Eintracht Frankfurt.

Sporting had a penalty overturned by VAR in the first half and had to wait until more than an hour had been played to finally get in front – English striker Marcus Edwards converting from eight yards.

The second goal followed quickly afterward, Edwards turning provider this time for on-loan talent Trincao. Nuno Santos made extra sure of the victory in the closing stages.

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Tottenham 2-0 Marseille

Two goals from summer signing Richarlison saved an otherwise disappointing Tottenham as they hosted Marseille’s first Champions League group game since 2020.

Eric Bailly, on loan from Manchester United, impressed for the visitors, but it was Richarlison and not Harry Kane or Son Heung-min who rose to the occasion for Spurs.

Chancel Mbemba had been sent off early in the second half and it was two headers in quick succession late in the day from Spurs’ Brazilian number nine that decided things.



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Champions League

Lionel Messi breaks two Champions League records against Maccabi Haifa

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Lionel Messi’s goal against Maccabi Haifa saw him set two new Champions League records.

It wasn’t an easy night in Israel for Messi and PSG by any means, with the home side taking a shock lead 24 minutes in courtesy of Tjaronn Chery.

However, they couldn’t stay in front for long with Messi getting his team an equaliser just 13 minutes later.

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He spread the ball out wide to Kylian Mbappe who got to the byline and played it back, giving the Argentinian an easy finish from well inside the box. The goal proved to be the start of PSG’s comeback, with the French side going on to win 3-1, and that wasn’t the only reason it was significant.

With his goal, Messi scored against his 39th different club in the Champions League, setting a new record in the process.

Before that, he and long-term Cristiano Ronaldo were level on 38, and with Ronaldo not playing in the Champions League this season, the record is now set to be Messi’s for quite some time.

That wasn’t the only record the 35-year-old secured on Wednesday as Messi has now scored in 18 consecutive Champions League campaigns – every year since 2005/06 – accomplishing a feat never seen before.

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Perhaps the biggest record – most Champions League goals – still eludes him, with Ronaldo scoring 14 more, and it seems unlikely he’ll be able to make up such a margin before he retires, but it would take a brave man to put it past him.



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Champions League

Borussia Dortmund couldn’t stop me

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Erling Haaland has praised Borussia Dortmund for how they defended against Manchester City, but was keen to point out that they still couldn’t find a way to stop him.

Man City struggled to break the Bundesliga side down in what was an eventual 2-1 Champions League win on Wednesday, not having a single shot on target until John Stones’ 80th minute effort.

That shot on target was also their first goal, and their second one was the winner, with Haaland volleying his team to victory.

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The Norwegian praised the way his former team played and defended but issued a reminder that it wasn’t enough to stop him.

When told by an interview on BT Sport that BVB ‘clearly know how to stop you’, Haaland replied: “They didn’t stop me, I scored!

“But yeah, they played well and they were good, and I was quite sure I was going to be followed all game because they know me very well.

“Dortmund were really good today, and in the end, the three points is what matters.”

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Haaland’s goal was one of the best he’s scored, with the striker lifting his leg extremely high to turn in a stunning cross from Joao Cancelo.

The team’s first one wasn’t bad either, with Stones firing in from outside the box, but Haaland joked that his was the better of the two.

“Yeah, two wonderful goals today. I think mine was a bit better, honestly,” he added.

The 22-year-old now has just one goal less than Luis Suarez in the Champions League and only four fewer than Wayne Rooney.

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Champions League

Pep Guardiola lauds ‘exceptional’ Jude Bellingham after stellar Champions League outing

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Pep Guardiola was full of praise for the “exceptional” Jude Bellingham after he impressed in Borussia Dortmund’s 2-1 defeat to Manchester City in the Champions League.

The 19-year-old had put Dortmund on course for a surprise win at the Etihad Stadium when he headed home Marco Reus’ centre just before the hour mark, but the Bundesliga giants were unable to hold on as late goals from John Stones and Erling Haaland turned the tide in City’s favour.

Nevertheless, Dortmund were impressive in their defensive shape throughout the 90 minutes, as well as causing problems on the counter, and Bellingham was one of the more impressive performers on the night.

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Mixing finesse on the ball with wonderful vision and instinctive reading of the game, Bellingham out-duelled the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan for large periods, and showed why he’s one of the most highly-rated teenagers in world football.

Liverpool are long-term admirers of Bellingham, but judging by Guardiola’s comments after the game, there’s every chance City may look to sign the England international when the time comes for him to leave Dortmund.

“I was impressed two seasons ago when he was 17. Now he’s 19… he was good at 17, imagine now at 19,” Guardiola said of Bellingham. “He’s able to follow [Ilkay] Gundogan, Kevin [De Bruyne], win the duels, transitions are fast, to have the sense in the box for the goal he scored.

“So yes, an exceptional player. I think everybody knows it, not because the manager of Manchester City says it, everybody knows it.”

Bellingham’s manager at Dortmund, Edin Terzic, was equally full of praise for his display on the night, telling the assembled media: “Jude, like all the other players, gave a great performance in offensive and defensive terms. 

“He blocked so any passes and crosses and also got forward… once again, he was very good against Manchester City.”

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