Cristiano Ronaldo scores, Ole finds a way
Manchester United came from two goals down to beat Atalanta 3-2 at Old Trafford in the Champions League on Wednesday night.
Atalanta went into the half-time break with a 2-0 lead after goals from Mario Pasalic and Merih Demiral, but an inspired second-half performance by United saw them score three goals through Marcus Rashford, Harry Maguire and Cristiano Ronaldo.
While Atalanta were missing some important players, particularly in defence, they were the team causing the biggest threat in the opening period of the match. United were having a lot of the ball but were not making their possession count, whereas La Dea were looking to hit the hosts on the counter-attack at every opportunity.
The first-half display by United was pretty shambolic, as evidenced by the scoreline, but they showed enough fight in the second half to turn things around. The withdrawal of Demiral due to injury at halftime hurt Atalanta, who found themselves in the eye of the storm in the first 10-15 minutes of the second half.
United were able to grab the first of their three goals through Rashford in the 53rd minute, and that was followed up by Scott McTominay hitting the post five minutes later. Then, it only felt like a matter of time before they grabbed the equalizer.
Twenty-two minutes after Rashford netted, Maguire scored United’s second goal. Atalanta failed to clear a corner and that allowed Bruno Fernandes to send in another cross, which ended up falling at the feet of Maguire, who fired past the impressive Juan Musso.
The home crowd were in full voice and they were trying to inspire the team to score a third, which Cristiano Ronaldo achieved in the 81st minute. Luke Shaw’s pinpoint cross was met by Ronaldo, who managed to hang in the air before heading the ball powerfully into the bottom corner. Once again, Cristiano Ronaldo became the hero on another magical night for Manchester United at Old Trafford.
Chelsea waltz past Malmo
Chelsea got their Champions League group-stage campaign back on track with a 4-0 victory against Malmo at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night.
Andreas Christensen got the scoring started in the ninth minute before Jorginho converted a penalty 12 minutes later to give Thomas Tuchel’s side a 2-0 lead going into the break. Kai Havertz netted just three minutes into the second half, and Jorginho grabbed Chelsea’s fourth and final goal from the spot in the 57th minute.
Jorginho not only scored twice from the penalty spot but he was the player that kept things ticking for Chelsea, as Malmo struggled to ever get into the game. And when Malmo did push forward, the Blues’ centre-back trio of Christensen, Thiago Silva and Antonio Rudiger cleaned up.
It was a positive night in many regards for Chelsea, but two first-half injuries to Romelu Lukaku and Timo Werner will be a concern for Tuchel. He will be hoping that tests confirm that they have not suffered long-term injuries.
Chelsea’s 1-0 loss away at Juventus on Matchday 2 meant that picking up all three points against Malmo was vital, and they will now be hoping to do the same when they travel to Sweden on November 2.
Juventus beat Zenit
Dejan Kulusevski scored a late goal to earn Juventus a 1-0 victory away to Zenit St Petersburg on Wednesday and maintain their perfect record in Champions League Group H.
The Swede was left unmarked in the box to guide a header in off the post on the 86th minute and decide a game of few opportunities at the Gazprom Arena.
Juve midfielder Weston McKennie’s shot was well saved and Claudinho curled an effort narrowly wide for the hosts early in the second half, but the goalkeepers were largely untroubled as the two teams mustered a combined three shots on target before Kulusevski struck.
Massimiliano Allegri’s side top the group with nine points, six clear of Zenit in third and three ahead of second-placed Chelsea, who beat pointless Malmo 4-0 in London.
“The result is excellent especially considering that we are at full points and are yet to concede after three games in this group,” said Juve Allegri.
“To be honest, the performance was not great, Zenit were closing down spaces and we did not move the ball quickly enough.”
Juve travelled to Russia full of confidence following back-to-back wins over Malmo and European champions Chelsea, but they struggled to find a way through a resolute home defence.
Claudinho’s powerful shot from range forced Wojciech Szczesny into a save and Federico Chiesa flashed a shot wide of the far post during a dull first half.
There was a flurry of activity after the break when McKennie latched on to a clever Alvaro Morata through ball and had a shot blocked by Stanislav Kritsyuk, before Claudinho fired wide.
Allegri switched things up just before the hour mark with a triple change, introducing Kulusevski, Arthur and Juan Cuadrado.
“Certainly we still have to improve. We have to play better in the final third, between the lines and make better decisions,” Allegri added.
“We missed [injured] Paulo Dybala, who is certainly a player who can help us with his creativity, but all players must improve in this sense.”
He was almost immediately rewarded when the Brazilian midfielder’s clever pass behind the defence to Cuadrado was squared towards Morata at the back post, but the striker was denied a tap-in by a Dmitrii Chistiakov intervention.
Zenit were dealt a warning of what was to come on the 74th minute when Mattia De Sciglio’s cross from the left-wing found McKennie, who glanced a header wide of the far post.
With four minutes remaining, De Sciglio again found space to cross and his delivery was headed in by substitute Kulusevski.
Bayern Munich stun Benfica
Ruthless Bayern Munich scored four goals in the final 20 minutes to leave Benfica on the end of a Champions League thrashing after they had given as good as they got for most of the game.
Both goalkeepers performed well to keep the scoreline at 0-0 until deep into the second half but the visitors were in the ascendency at the Estadio da Luz.
After having goals correctly ruled off by VAR either side of half-time – one for an unpunished handball by Robert Lewandowski, one for an offside – the German team eventually made the breakthrough in style thanks to Leroy Sane.
In the 70th minute, Benfica conceded a cheap free-kick within shooting distance and Sane did just that, powering the ball beyond Odysseas Vlachodimos.
The goal was a huge blow to the home side who were starting to lag and the second, which came 10 minutes later via an Everton Soares own goal, was the nail in the coffin.
Bayern were still hungry however and in the 82nd minute, Lewandowski tapped in his 16th goal of the season (in just 12 games) after Sane unselfishly squared it to him.
Sane was to get another himself just two minutes later, applying the finishing touch to a swift and lethal counter.
For a game that was a close and well-contested event for so long, Bayern’s thumping victory almost came as a shock in the manner that it happened, but it was also, ultimately, no less than they deserved. Kingsley Coman was one of the standout performers, making things happen with his quick feet.
The result means that Bayern top Group E with three wins from three, although Benfica are still in second place, one point ahead of Barcelona.
Bayern host Benfica in two weeks’ time in a game that could see them clinch qualification, while the Lisbon club will be keen to avoid potentially being overtaken by Barcelona.
Pique saves Barcelona
After successive defeats to Bayern Munich and Benfica to start their Champions League campaign, Barcelona kept their hopes of avoiding an early elimination alive with a 1-0 victory over Dynamo Kyiv at the Camp Nou.
The defeat wasn’t an option for Ronald Koeman’s charges, especially with it known that one of Bayern Munich or Benfica will drop points as they face each other later on Wednesday night.
Luuk de Jong was given a start-up front alongside Memphis Depay, and the on-loan Sevilla striker had the first chance of the match with a glancing header that went past the right-hand post. Ultimately, he should have done better.
Barcelona weren’t helped by the smaller crowd at the Camp Nou, with it hardly having the feel of a must-win Champions League encounter.
Georgiy Bushchan made a smart save tipping a long-distance strike from Luuk de Jong over the crossbar, but Barcelona’s attacking play could best be described as safe, much to the chagrin of the crowd that had assembled.
The goal eventually came before half-time with Gerard Pique finding himself unmarked at the back post, following a whipped Jordi Alba cross into the penalty area.
The veteran defender slid to make a connection with the ball and his half-volley flew past Bushchan and into the back of the net.
Unfortunately for the home crowd, this was as good as it got for the hosts as they became more concerned with not surrendering their lead than putting a far inferior Dynamo Kyiv side to the sword.
Barcelona retained possession confidently in the second half with the introduction of Philippe Coutinho aiding that endeavour, but there wasn’t particularly any real thrust about the hosts.
Whether this was by design to save fitness ahead of Sunday’s Clasico, can’t be proven, but certainly, there was a reticence to look for the second goal.
Dynamo Kyiv offered even less, relying on set-pieces to have a chance at Marc-Andre ter Stegen’s goal, and in the 86th minute they were given a free-kick on the edge of the Blaugrana penalty box courtesy of a poor Pique challenge, but the Ukrainian side couldn’t muster a headed chance with Sergio Busquets clearing the ball.
The victory puts Barcelona on three points, just one behind Benfica, albeit having played a match more than the Portuguese club, and with a second clash with Dynamo Kyiv to come, the scheduling might well hand Barcelona an advantage moving forward, but the reality is that the fight for second place will come down to the meeting in the Camp Nou against the Lisbon giants.