While we are only one matchday into the return of the Champions League, it is safe to say those that were worried about the entertainment factor missing at times last season will not be disappointed. It was a mixed bag of results for the English sides, with some dominant performances and others more lacklustre. Defending champions Chelsea kickstarted with a routine home win but it was the other three sides that made the headlines.
With home fans finally back in stadiums after the business end of the last two seasons were played behind closed doors, the proverbial twelfth man was on hand to provide vociferous cheers, especially in the North West as Liverpool hosted AC Milan. It was the first time the two sides had faced off in a competitive match that wasn’t in a European final — with the Reds famously winning in Istanbul in 2005 before Milan extracted revenge two years later. Despite a seven-year absence from the competition, and a shaky start from a youthful, exuberant Italian side, they fought back from a goal down to lead at the break, before Jordan Henderson secured a 3-2 win for the hosts.
In terms of a sheer spectacle, Anfield’s carnival like atmosphere clearly affected the Milan players and although they pulled ahead with two goals in two minutes from Ante Rebić and Brahim Díaz, the Rossoneri never looked in complete control of proceedings. As was the case of RB Leipzig, who travelled to Manchester to face Pep Guardiola’s swashbuckling City. The German outfit were completely turned over last time they were in town, losing 5-0 to Manchester United. While they did score three goals courtesy of a sublime hattrick by Christopher Nkunku, they shipped six as the hosts strolled to their first three points of the competition.
Goals were in quick supply at the Etihad, as a rotated City side struggled to get a grip of the game, only really putting it to bed when João Cancelo and Gabriel Jesus found the net late on. A 6-3 win was certainly a crowd pleaser but not the perfection expected by Guardiola as he looks to go one better than the final defeat to Chelsea in Porto last season. Speaking of teams in Manchester who lost European finals, Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s side began their Champions League return in horrendous fashion with defeat to Swiss side Young Boys.
Coming into the game as clear favourites in the betting exchange, United got off to a dream start when the retuning Cristiano Ronaldo scored after just 13 minutes. The feel-good factor that resonated in Old Trafford a few days prior had transcended into the Bern sunset, until a petulant challenge from Aaron Wan-Bissaka resulted in a red card. Down to ten men, naturally the Red Devils dropped back and invited pressure from David Wagner’s side, who duly replied with an equaliser from Nicholas Ngamale, turning the tides in his side’s direction. With an acceptable away point looking to be secured for Solskjær a late mistake from a back pass from Jesse Lingard in the 95th minute allowed Theoson Siebatcheu to grab a late winner.