The UEFA Champions League may have commenced on a bright note as the 32 qualified team produced the quality they’ve got on the pitch.
Though big sides like Arsenal and AC Milan are absent from the Europe’s number 1 competition, other sides have provided viewers with much to cheer as football continues down the year.
Barcelona, Chelsea were in action as well as modest side like Club Brugge, Olympiacos and Ajax Amsterdam as seen during the midweek.
With the match of yesterday played, Pointloaded takes a look at four (4) key players who’ve made their marks in the Match Day.
Ikay Gundogan (Manchester City 3-1 FC Porto):
The German midfielder was prominent as his side dominated proceeding in the all important Match Day 1 clash.
The Portuguese side couldn’t deal with creativity and team dynamics as he steered his side to a 3-1 win at home.
He scored and made an assist for his side while he capped a magnificent night on the pitch with a goal of his own.
He scored an amazing free-kick against FC Porto to set the tone for the win.
And his manager, Pep Guardiola was delighted with his performance as he was pictured celebrating his free-kick goal in the stands.
Kingsley Coman (Bayern Munich 4-0 Athletico Madrid):
The talented French player produced a magnificent performance on the pitch as they prevailed 4-0 over Spanish side, Athletico Madrid.
His individual display nullified the tactical input Coach Diego Simeone’s side was making in the contest.
He scored two goals in separate halves while setting up Germany forward, Leon Goretzka in the box with a well tailored pass.
He started and rounded off the scoring with the second goal being an individual classy finish which underlined the form he brought in to the game for his Bayern side.
He was unplayable as he ensured that Leroy Sane’s absence was largely not felt against such a strong team side like Athletico Madrid
Romelu Lukaku (Inter Milan 2-2 Borussia Monchengladbach).
The Inter Milan star produced a sterling display that got his side a point in the Champions League tie against their German (Bundesliga) opponent.
He scored to give his side the lead and his sides’ first UEFA Champions League goal of the season.
And he was on hand to grab the equalizer as his side fell 1-2 later in the game to Monchengladbach.
His goal ensured that Antonio Conte and his side didn’t lose the UEFA Champions League opener as Lukaku’s second goal brought them back into the game.
It finished 2-2, thanks to the former Manchester United forward who was in top form for his Italian side, Inter Milan.
Marcus Rashford (PSG 1-2 Manchester United)
The English star produced the required display away from home for his side as they earned the vital win against the PSG side at the Parces des Princes Arena.
His goal ensured that Anthony Martial’s own goal like that of Romelu Lukaku’s costly strike against Inter Milan vs. Sevilla in last season Europa League did not matter.
He found the back of the net in the 87th minute to complement the good works star man, Bruno Fernandes had started earlier in the tie with a penalty goal.
Such was his brilliance as he steered his side to a famous win just like he did two years ago against PSG.
La Liga: Dembele’s Late Winner Pushes Barca Closer To Atletico
Ousmane Dembele volleyed in a 90th-minute winner against Real Valladolid on Monday to fire Barcelona to within a point of Atletico Madrid ahead of next weekend’s Clasico in La Liga.
Barca looked set for a damaging stalemate at Camp Nou after Atletico’s defeat by Sevilla on Saturday but Valladolid had Oscar Plano harshly sent off with 12 minutes left and Dembele snatched a 1-0 victory.
His strike could prove a crucial moment in the Spanish title race, with Barca now breathing down Atletico’s necks ahead of Saturday’s meeting with Real Madrid, who are three points off the top.
If Ronald Koeman’s men win at Valdebebas, they will claim first place for 24 hours at least, before a depleted and deflated Atletico play away at Real Betis on Sunday.
They will have to play better after being frustrated by a determined Valladolid side, with Lionel Messi delivering some firm words to his team-mates in the tunnel at half-time.
“We have to step it up a gear, we have to play with more rhythm,” Messi said. “If not it’s going to get complicated for us.”
It might have been more complicated had Plano not been shown a red card in the 78th minute, his hack on Dembele from behind giving Barca a crucial advantage for the final stages.
Victory makes it six in a row for them in La Liga, another win – particularly after an unconvincing performance – enhancing the sense that momentum now lies with Atletico’s rivals.
Defeat also compounded what Valladolid coach Sergio admitted on Sunday had already been a “sh**ty week” after five of his players tested positive for Covid-19, leaving him without 12 players, with six others injured and one more suspended.
To mark Messi breaking Xavi Hernandez’s appearance record for the club, he was presented with a framed shirt before kick-off, which he accepted with his family on the pitch. Messi passed Xavi’s previous record of 767 appearances last month, with this his 769th.
Valladolid were not just able to compete in the first half, they were probably the better side and could have led when Kenan Kodro’s early header struck the bar.
Dembele broke through and dragged back for Messi, whose shot was blocked, while Pedri’s long-range effort fizzed through and came back off the post.
But Barcelona were flat, their passing predictable and there was concern in Messi’s voice when he told his teammates to find a different gear in the second half.
Valladolid were almost undone by a Messi through ball for Dembele, who held his run but could not finish before the leaping Antoine Griezmann headed the rebound wide.
Barcelona looked more dangerous on the break than in possession and they were lucky to escape a penalty when Oscar Plano poked the ball onto the outstretched hand of Jordi Alba.
Koeman made three changes shortly after, Martin Braithwaite, Francisco Trincao and Ronald Araujo replacing Griezmann, Sergio Busquets and Oscar Mingueza.
But Barca’s biggest boost came 12 minutes from the end, when Plano was sent off for chasing Dembele back and tripping the Frenchman from behind. A yellow card seemed the more obvious decision.
Trincao went close and the winner came in the last minute as Frenkie de Jong’s cross was flicked to the back post by Ronald Aruajo. Dembele was free and lashed into the corner.
Osimhen Returns To Naples After Nasty Head Knock
Victor Osimhen is expected back in Naples on Monday evening despite the Napoli forward having to be hospitalised after banging his head on the ground during his side’s Serie A defeat at Atalanta.
Nigeria striker Osimhen was stretchered off the pitch unconscious towards the end of Sunday’s 4-2 loss in Bergamo after hitting his head following a clash with Cristian Romero.
The 22-year-old came round as he was transported to a hospital in the northern Italian city where tests revealed head trauma, and Napoli said in a statement that he would be returning south.
“Victor Osimhen is due to return to Naples on Monday evening after staying in Bergamo overnight as a precaution… The player will undergo further assessment on Tuesday.”
Osimhen joined Napoli for a club-record fee from Lille last summer, and returned to action last month after being sidelined for over two months with a shoulder injury and coronavirus.
Despite a promising start to the season he has scored just two goals for the club.
Napoli fell to their third defeat in five league games as Atalanta warmed-up for their Champions League clash with Real Madrid to move fourth in Serie A.
Gennaro Gattuso’s Napoli are seventh, three points off the Champions League places, with pressure on the coach after his team lost the first leg of their Europa League tie with Granada 2-0 last week.
Arsenal Boss Arteta Hails Man City As ‘Best In Europe’
Mikel Arteta believes his Arsenal team will be facing the best side in Europe when they take on Premier League leaders Manchester City at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.
City have won a club-record 17 successive games across all competitions and are 10 points ahead of local rivals Manchester United at the summit of the English top-flight heading into this weekend’s round of fixtures.
Arteta knows City well after working under manager Pep Guardiola in Manchester for three years before returning to manage Arsenal, having previously played for the Gunners.
“I think they are the best team in Europe at the moment,” Arteta said of City. “The way they are performing, the football they are playing and the consistency of the results, take all that it and it makes them the best team.
“So we have a big but, as well, a very exciting challenge ahead of us on Sunday.”
City made an uncertain start to the season but are now hot favourites to win a third Premier League title in four years
Arteta said he was impressed by how they had regained their form.
“What they have done is react to a difficult moment,” the Spanish boss explained. “They reacted in a really convincing way, all united and doing what they do best — being very consistent and winning games very comfortably.”
The former Everton and Arsenal midfielder added: “They have weaknesses like every team but at the moment teams have struggled a lot to find any of that because I think first of all defensively they have been really, really strong.”
Arsenal head into the match after a 1-1 draw against Benfica in the first leg of their Europa League round of 32 clash in Rome on Thursday.
Next week’s second leg, being played in Athens because of coronavirus restrictions, is followed by a daunting run of fixtures that includes matches against Leicester, Tottenham, West Ham and Liverpool, all above Arsenal in the Premier League.
“We know the margin for error is minimal with the season that we have had in previous months, so we need to kick on,” he said.