There was a mixed set of results for the Premier League teams this week in the Champions League as Europe’s top club competition returned to the calendar, with Arsenal faring the best. As has been the case over recent years the top English league has four teams entered into the first round group stage.
Mixed Start For English Teams
Current champions, and also winners of the top prize in Europe last season, Manchester City, are joined by league runners-up Arsenal, who return to the competition for the first time in six years, and are London’s only representative in the tournament this year. Third-place Manchester United fought hard to gain their place at the top table, and Newcastle United are back after an absence of 20 years, holding off a late charge by Liverpool at the end of last season.
City were huge favourites to open the defence of their title with a win as they hosted Red Star Belgrade. So, it was a shock when they fell behind just before halftime in a game they were dominating. Their eventual class, and countless shots at goal, led to three second-half goals. Julian Alvarez is in good form presently and he grabbed goals on either side of a Rodri effort. On the same evening Newcastle, who have not had the best of starts to the season, travelled to Italy and played out a goalless draw against AC Milan. This will be seen as a very good point to start their group campaign in what on paper does seem the toughest of all with Paris Saint-Germain and Borussia Dortmund still to play.
Manchester United are having a very rough time at the moment, both on and off the field. They are constantly putting out fires and against Bayern Munich, they were up against it. Especially when halfway through the first half they conceded twice in four minutes, the first was a calamitous error by goalkeeper Andre Onana as he allowed the ball to slip out and over his grasp from a tame Leroy Sane shot. When Serge Gnabry scored moments later, the game looked beyond United. They did though start the second half well and struck back when Rasmus Hojlund scored soon after the restart. This kicked Bayern back into life and they were awarded a penalty after a long VAR delay, which Harry Kane duly slotted away. There was a late flurry of goals with Casemiro scoring twice but Mathys Tel got a fourth for Munich in between those efforts to pour more misery on the United fans.
Arsenal Good Opening
It was Arsenal who will be most pleased with their start to the tournament. A home match with PSV Eindhoven was a test, but nerves went away after just eight minutes when Bukayo Sako scored form a tight angle, and on 20 minutes Leandro Troussard scored to put the Gunners in control. In the second period two more goals added by Gabriel Jesus and Martin Odegaard, gave the result a lopsided look, but one that Arsenal deserved.
Matchday 2 of the Champions League is in two weeks’ time. Arsenal travel to France to take on Lens, and Manchester United have a home tie against Turkish giants Galatasaray. Newcastle United will have a massive night at St. James’ Park when PSG come to town, and Manchester City go to RB Leipzig.