Champions League Review and Fun Facts

We have now reached the midway point of the Champions League group phase after an exciting round of action this midweek. Here are all the major talking points from matchday three.

Fun facts

  • Bruno Fernandes created eight chances against Atalanta, the most by a Manchester United player in a single Champions League game since such the collection of such statistics started in 2003/04.
  • Gerard Pique became Barcelona’s oldest ever Champions League goalscorer at the age of 34 years and 260 days.
  • Atletico Madrid forward Antoine Griezmann became the first player in Champions League history to score two goals and be sent off in the same game.

Manchester United rally to produce brilliant comeback against Atalanta

As he walked down the tunnel at half-time, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer applauded the Manchester United fans. Yet a section of the Old Trafford faithful had booed when the whistle sounded after 45 minutes. United were 2-0 down to Atalanta and looked set to drop to last place in Group F. The pressure on Solskjaer was about to intensify.

Yet United produced a terrific comeback in the second half to win 3-2. The home team had created chances before the break, but they were too open without the ball. In the second period United threw caution to the wind, and Marcus Rashford’s deficit-halving goal in the 53rd minute set them on their way.

Atalanta could easily have scored a third goal in the second half, and United had to rely on some crucial interventions from David de Gea. But their relentless attacking paid off in the end, as Harry Maguire and Cristiano Ronaldo found the net to turn the game on its head. It was a fair result on the balance of play, and one which sent United to the top of the group. It might also keep Solskjaer in the job for a little while longer.

Barcelona live to fight another day as Bayern Munich take control

After losing their first two Champions League group games, Barcelona could not afford another slip-up against Dynamo Kyiv on Wednesday. Thankfully for Ronald Koeman, it was a comfortable evening for the Blaugrana. Barcelona might only have won by a goal to nil, but they were never unduly troubled by their Ukrainian opponents. The Catalans created numerous opportunities and a 3-0 or 4-0 win would not have flattered them.

Barcelona still have work to do in their bid to reach the round of 16, but the task looks a great deal more straightforward now. Victory over Dynamo next month would move them into the top two, provided Bayern Munich beat Benfica. Then, on matchday five, the Portuguese side will travel to the Camp Nou for what could effectively be a winner-takes-all encounter.

Bayern have one foot in the knockout stage already after their 4-0 thrashing of Benfica. Julian Nagelsmann’s side are playing incredibly good football at the moment; they look like the strongest team in the Champions League right now. Plenty can change between now and May, though, so Bayern will not be getting carried away just yet.

Liverpool edge five-goal thriller against Atletico Madrid

On their previous visit to the Estadio Wanda Metropolitano in February 2020, Liverpool conceded an early goal and lost 1-0 to Atletico Madrid. They made a much better start to Tuesday’s tussle at the same stadium, as goals from James Milner (after some fine work from Mohamed Salah) and Naby Keita gave them a 2-0 lead after just 13 minutes.

Atletico could have folded at that point, but it should not be a surprise that a team coached by Diego Simeone has grit and character in abundance. An Antoine Griezmann brace ensured the home team were back on level terms before the break, and the momentum was with them early in the second half.

Yet Griezmann went from hero to zero in the 53rd minute. His red card for a high boot was both deserved and unfortunate; the France international had no intention to hurt an opponent, but planting his studs into Roberto Firmino’s face represented dangerous play.

Atletico did not give up, though. They adapted well to their numerical disadvantage, setting up in a well-drilled defensive shape before springing forward on the counter-attack. They had chances to score the decisive fifth goal of the game, but it was Salah who put the ball in the net for the final time from the penalty spot. Liverpool now have nine points from nine, but there were plenty of positives for Atletico to take.

Messi comes to the party as PSG beat RB Leipzig

Paris Saint-Germain’s performances have not always been convincing at the start of this season, but seven points from nine at the midway point of the Champions League group stage represents a decent return. Mauricio Pochettino’s men picked up their second European win on Tuesday, coming from 2-1 down to beat RB Leipzig 3-2.

Lionel Messi scored the equaliser and the winner. One was a tap-in and the other was a penalty, so neither will be included in the Argentine’s show reel. Yet Messi has had a quiet start to life at the Parc des Princes, and the club’s fans will hope that his Champions League double kick-starts another of his super-human runs of form.

Standings Champions League