Vinicius Junior and Real Madrid rocked the stage


Vinicius Junior delivered a brilliant performance with a brace and an assist to power Real Madrid past Shakhtar Donetsk 0-5 in Group D of the 2021-22 Champions League on Tuesday night at the NSC Olimpiyskiy in Kyiv, Ukraine.

After a stale opening half-hour, things opened up for the Spanish visitors; thanks to a Shakhtar own goal. Vinicius then took over by scoring two fantastic goals and then setting up Rodrygo Goes for the fourth goal, followed by a late Karim Benzema strike, helping Real Madrid snap their three-match winless streak in all competitions.

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Carlo Ancelotti opted for Lucas Vazquez at right-back and Ferland Mendy, making his first appearance this season, at left-back. Meanwhile, Rodrygo, always stellar in Champions League outings, got the nod up top with Brazilian countryman Vinicius and Benzema.

While the opening half had a very good tempo to it, the two sides lacked precision in the final third, making goalscoring chances few and far between. It took an own goal for the seal to be broken, as a cross swung in from Lucas Vazquez for Benzema was instead mistakenly toed into the Shakhtar net by defender Sergey Krivstov to gift Real Madrid a 0-1 lead.

Shakhtar’s defensive woes continued into the second half and allowed Los Blancos to jump ahead 0-2. Benzema pounced on a ball in front of Krivstov and fed a ball across to Modric, who exquisitely one-timed a pass into Vinicius and the Brazilian polished off the slickly played triangle with a goal.

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With the two-goal advantage, Real Madrid could play to their liking and Vinicius scored arguably his best goal of the season by collecting a pass and dancing past four defenders before firing in for a 0-3 lead.

Vinicius then got to play the role of playmaker, this time receiving a pass from Benzema and cutting back to Rodrygo, whose sweeping finish rolled into the net to extend the advantage to 0-4.

At the other end, goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois didn’t have too much to do but did come through when called upon, including a double save from Marlos midway through the second half.

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The four-goal cushion allowed Ancelotti to make some changes and give Marcelo some minutes, with Mendy giving way, followed later by Eduardo Camavinga, Marco Asensio and Fede Valverde for Luka Modric, Rodrygo and Toni Kroos.

Benzema then put a bow on the night in stoppage time with an excellent finish off an Asensio pass flighted into round out the 0-5 scoreline.


 A thriller at Wanda Metropolitano

Liverpool made it three wins from three in Champions League Group B after coming out on top of a thrilling encounter with Atletico Madrid.

At the Estadio Wanda Metropolitano it was clear early on that both sides were up for the occasion, and after the home side looked to attack from the off, it was Liverpool who were soon in the driving seat. Two early goals obliged the Spanish champions to get forward with urgency and the result was a pulsating, end-to-end spectacle.

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By halftime, the hosts were level and the game looked set to continue in the same frenetic spirit in the second before a controversial sending off for Antoine Griezmann changed the shape of the match. Liverpool were boosted by this, mentally as well as numerically, and began to take control, although Atleti to their credit continued to put up a good fight.

The second period was also marked by two penalties, one given and one not given by VAR. Liverpool made their man advantage count and edged the second half, taking the three points home with them thanks to Mohamed Salah’s penalty.

Salah also got the opener, making personal and club history by scoring in his ninth consecutive game. Picking up the ball in an advanced position on the right, it didn’t seem like there was much on, but he danced by several defenders, working his way inside before getting a shot away which was deflected beyond Jan Oblak.

Before a quarter-of-an-hour had been played, Liverpool had a second thanks to a stunningly executed volley from Naby Keita. Atleti needed to respond and they did, seven minutes later.

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Griezmann got his first by instinctively steering home Koke’s shot, but there was a VAR check before the goal was given. There was a possible offside on Thomas Lemar but he was deemed not to have interfered with play, despite his proximity to Joel Matip.

In the 34th minute, the game was all square again and this time there were no arguments to be had. Joao Felix did terrifically well, evading a clutch of Liverpool players before releasing the ball to Griezmann, whose perfectly weighted first touch allowed him to shoot past Alisson with his second. An excellent goal and no less than Atleti deserved.

The second half saw more controversy as Griezmann was denied the chance to go in search of his hat-trick when he saw red for a dangerously high boot. The incident seemed entirely accidental and seemed to cause general surprise, but the French forward’s boot did make contact with Roberto Firmino’s head.

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After then, the game lost some of its intensity but remained fast-paced give the circumstances. Liverpool gradually took control and had the better of the second period.

The two penalty incidents both involved Diogo Jota. First, in attack, he was needlessly brought down by Mario Hermoso in the 76th minute with the ball in the air, and Salah converted from the spot.

Five minutes later, the referee initially pointed to the spot after Jota appeared to have knocked down Jose Maria Gimenez, but after checking VAR the decision was overturned. Jota was perhaps a little clumsy, but it would have been soft.

An electric game and a massive win for Liverpool, who top the group with a perfect record. In two weeks’ time, they’ll welcome Atleti to Anfield as Diego Simeone’s team look for revenge.


Manchester City crush Club Brugge

Manchester City eased to a comfortable 5-1 win at Club Brugge in the Champions League on Tuesday.

Riyad Mahrez scored a brace while Joao Cancelo, Kyle Walker and Cole Palmer also got on the scoresheet.

Hans Vanaken grabbed a late consolation for the hosts but it was a much-needed win for Pep Guardiola’s side after losing against Paris Saint-Germain in their previous group game.

The result sees City leapfrog PSG and top Group A before the French side host RB Leipzig later on Tuesday.

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“It was one of the best performances in Europe we’ve done so far,” Guardiola said postmatch.

“We are all delighted. We were so good. If we can take three more points, to have nine points with two games left, we’ll be close to qualifying for the next round.”

City dominated possession from the start and Aymeric Laporte thought he put them in front after 13 minutes but his strike was ruled out for offside.

The visitors grabbed a deserved opener after 30 minutes when Cancelo received Phil Foden’s lofted pass and nutmegged former Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet to score.

Just before the break, City were awarded a penalty after Stanley N’Soki brought down Mahrez inside the area and the winger stepped up to convert the spot kick.

The Premier League side grabbed a third after 53 minutes when Walker finished off another swift passing move.

City made it 4-0 after 67 minutes when substitute Palmer produced a clinical finish in the bottom corner to score his first Champions League goal.

City were unable to keep a clean sheet when Vanaken slotted the ball past Ederson to score.

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Moments later, Mahrez grabbed his second goal of the night to seal an impressive win for the Premier League champions.

When asked about Cole’s second-half cameo, Guardiola added, “Cole has a special quality in front of the box, a talent that is difficult to find.”

“When he has the ball there, most of the time it ends up in the net. It’s difficult to find that.”

“I know how it works with young players. We have to be calm and patient. His place is the second team but at the same time he trains with us and works with our principles.”

“I’m happy with the goal. He could have done a few actions a little bit better, but that is normal. It is experience.”


AC Milan defeated by FC Porto

Porto’s Luis Diaz scored the winner as they kept their Champions League knockout hopes alive but dealt AC Milan a huge blow with a deserved 1-0 Group B win at the Estadio do Dragao on Tuesday.

Diaz, who had earlier hit the post, netted midway through the second half as Porto were rewarded for their dominance in a game in which they missed a number of chances and barely gave Milan a sniff at the other end.

Milan, who will host the Portuguese side on Nov. 3, were possibly justified in believing there was a foul in the build-up to the goal, but neither German referee Felix Brych nor the video assistant agreed.

Porto stay in third place at the midway point of the pool with four points from three games, behind Atletico Madrid (four points) on goal difference, and leaders Liverpool (nine). Milan have yet to break their duck having lost all three matches.

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There were few chances in the first half, but the best fell to the home side and in particular Iran international Mehdi Taremi, who was wasteful on the night.

Diaz came the closest to scoring as his fine run and a low drive from the edge of the area cannoned back off the post.

Taremi should have hit the target when he steered a shot wide from 12 yards, and then had a header flash the wrong side of the post.

At the other end Milan forward Olivier Giroud opted to head across goal in search of a teammate when he should have been more selfish at the back post in what was the visitors’ best chance of the game.

Taremi had an effort fly inches wide early in the second period as Porto continued to look the most likely to make the breakthrough, finally getting their reward on 65 minutes, though in controversial circumstances.

Taremi appeared to barge into Milan midfielder Ismael Bennacer as both went for a high ball, which eventually fell to Diaz on the edge of the box and this time he shot low into the net.

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Ajax crush Borussia Dortmund

Ajax surged past Borussia Dortmund 4-0 on Tuesday to take a big step toward advancing to the Champions League knockout stage for the first time since the Dutch club reached the semifinals three seasons ago.

A third win from three games gives Ajax a three-point lead in Group C ahead of Dortmund, whose often-unreliable defence couldn’t cope with Ajax’s smart movement off the ball.

After a kickoff delayed slightly by smoke from fans’ pyrotechnics, Ajax needed just 11 minutes to take the lead. The buildup of pressure led to a free-kick out wide which Dusan Tadic curled toward the goal. It took a deflection off Marco Reus’ head along the way and went down as an own goal.

Daley Blind made it 2-0 with his first goal in any competition for almost a year, shooting in off the foot of the post after the ball fell to him on the edge of the penalty area following Dortmund players’ bungled attempts to clear.

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With Dortmund still struggling to track Ajax players’ movement in attack, the hosts scored a third in the 57th when Brazilian winger Antony cut in from the right flank past the slow-to-react Emre Can and curled the ball inside the far post.

The fourth goal came soon after when Sebastien Haller used his height and strength to hold off Can and Mats Hummels and head in a floated cross.

Dortmund is used to relying on striker Erling Haaland’s talent to make up for its shortcomings at the back in typically high-scoring games in the Bundesliga, but the Norwegian was cut off from the rest of his team for most of the game against Ajax.

Ajax pressed well in midfield to cut the service to Haaland, back in European action after missing the last game against Sporting Lisbon with a muscle injury. One of the few exceptions came on the counter just after halftime when Haaland picked up a long ball from Hummels and hit a shot that goalkeeper Remko Pasveer pushed onto the crossbar.

Sporting Lisbon beat Besiktas 4-1 in the other Group C game.


 Inter get past Sheriff

Inter Milan ended Sheriff Tiraspol’s perfect start to their debut Champions League campaign with a comfortable 3-1 win at San Siro on Tuesday, the Italians’ first victory in Group D.

The Moldovans earned shock wins against Shakhtar Donetsk and Real Madrid to become unlikely group leaders and they remain top with six points, two ahead of Inter in third but level with Real, who won 5-0 in Ukraine.

An Edin Dzeko volley put Inter ahead at halftime but Sebastien Thill, the scorer of Sheriff’s spectacular late winner in Madrid, produced a curling free-kick from long range to draw the visitors level in the 52nd minute.

However, Arturo Vidal’s strike edged Inter back in front six minutes later, before Stefan de Vrij ended any hopes of another upset with a neat finish in the 67th minute.

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The Moldovans’ surprise success has been one of the stories of the Champions League so far but Inter, who failed to score in their opening two group games, managed to avoid another upset with a controlled performance.

Dzeko had a shot charged down by Dumitru Celeadnic early on, but there was nothing the goalkeeper could do to stop the striker’s wonderfully controlled volley into the top corner in the 34th minute after a corner was flicked into his path.

It gave the hosts a deserved lead, and they went in at the break as the only team to have produced 14 shots in a first half twice this season, having done so in their 1-0 defeat to Real Madrid last month.

But Sheriff came out strongly in the second half, with Bruno testing Samir Handanovic from range before Thill’s exceptional effort from 25 yards out sparked wild celebrations.

Ivan Perisic’s shot rattled the outside of the post two minutes before Vidal fired home the goal that settled Inter nerves and quickly restored their lead.

Simone Inzaghi’s side earned a cushion when a corner was headed into the path of De Vrij, who turned in a volley from close range.

The margin of victory could have been even greater by full-time, as Perisic blasted a shot off the bar and Lautaro Martinez had a late effort tipped over.

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Lionel Messi to the PSG rescue

aris Saint-Germain have Lionel Messi to thank for their 3-2 win against RB Leipzig in the third game of this year’s Champions League group stage, as he struck twice in a seven-minute period to hand his team all three points.

Kylian Mbappe had initially given PSG the lead after just nine minutes, but Leipzig fought back and were able to grab an equaliser through Andre Silva in the 28th minute before Nordi Mukiele struck 12 minutes into the second half to turn the atmosphere at the Parc des Princes on its head. However, Messi scored 10 minutes later before converting a 74th-minute penalty, which proved to be the final goal of the game.

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Overall, it was a disappointing display by PSG for much of the game, but their individual brilliance means that they were able to come away from the match with a victory. Leipzig played some excellent football at times and it was only the returning Keylor Navas that prevented them from scoring more goals on the night. Yet, as has often been the case on countless Champions League nights, Messi’s team emerged victorious thanks to his brilliance.

Mbappe will feel relieved that Messi had already given PSG the lead when he was given the chance to score a penalty of his own in the fourth and final minute of second-half stoppage time, as the Frenchman fired his effort miles over the crossbar.

This result means that PSG remain top of Group A on seven points from their opening three games, with Manchester City in second on six points after their win against Club Brugge earlier in the day. PSG have two tricky fixtures in Ligue 1 – Le Classique against Marseille at the Velodrome before the visit of last year’s champions, Lille – before they next face Leipzig on November 3 in Germany.



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