Champions League matchday 2 round-up: Liverpool fail to punish negative Spartak

Champions League Review Liverpool

A draw in away Champions League games is regularly perceived as a good result, but for Liverpool the sense was definitely two points dropped as they had to settle for a 1-1 stalemate against a depressingly negative Spartak Moscow side. From the moment the Russians lined out with five defenders, the die was cast and inevitably the Reds had pretty much all of the play. As in the game against Sevilla, though, Liverpool fell behind and it came from a superb free kick by Fernando, although the awarding of the foul which led to it was mistaken in the extreme. The visitors soon replied through Philippe Coutinho, who again had an excellent game, and looked well set to push on for three points that would have been fully deserved. However, they were left frustrated by Spartak’s incessant time-wasting, although they could only blame themselves for wasting a succession of second-half chances. The most glaring of those fell to substitute Daniel Sturridge in the dying stages, but could only blaze over the bar, and then Mohamed Salah’s header was brilliantly stopped by substitute goalkeeper Aleksandar Selikhov. Elsewhere in Group E, Sevilla took command of the group with a resounding 3-0 win over Maribor. Wissam Ben Yedder, scorer of their first goal at Anfield, helped himself to a hat-trick as the Slovenians were swept aside.

While Liverpool were left frustrated by a failure to take their chances in Moscow, Manchester United had a much more fruitful trip to the Russian capital as they eased past a dreadful CSKA outfit. Romelu Lukaku needed just four minutes to break the deadlock and it was 2-0 by 20 minutes after Anthony Martial converted a penalty which was awarded by the much-derided goal-line officials. Some truly abysmal defending left Lukaku with a simple third goal for United and Henrikh Mkhitaryan got in on the act after half-time. CSKA managed a late consolation strike to spoil David de Gea’s clean sheet and while the visitors were far superior, the Spanish goalkeeper did have some impressive saves to make when the game was still somewhat in the balance. Jose Mourinho was hugely content with his own team’s display and would also have been boosted by the other Group A result from Switzerland, where Basel thumped 10-man Benfica 5-0. The Portuguese champions have now lost both group games so far and up next is a daunting double-header against Manchester United.

Chelsea travelled to Atletico Madrid’s new Wanda Metropolitano stadium seeking some revenge for their 2014 semi-final loss to Diego Simeone’s men and they duly got it, coming from behind to record a memorable victory. Eden Hazard, in his first start of the season, looked likely but a needless shirt tug by David Luiz shortly before half-time gave Antoine Griezmann the chance to score from the penalty spot and he duly took it. Chelsea drew level around the hour mark through Alvaro Morata and were the better side thereafter. A Cesc Fabregas miss in front of goal looked like it would be costly but, in the third minute of stoppage time, substitute Michy Batshuayi pounced to put the Blues in firm charge of Group C. They have a two-point lead on Roma, who were pushed all the way in their 2-1 win away to Qarabag. Early goals from Kostas Manolas and Edin Dzeko suggested that it could be a cakewalk for the visitors, but the Azeris pulled one back before the half-hour and almost snatched a last-gasp equaliser.

Tottenham’s perfect away record this season continued as they eased to a 3-0 win against APOEL Nicosia. There was a very hairy moment for Spurs when Hugo Lloris’ attempted clearance hit off Davinson Sanchez and rolled narrowly wide, but after that scare it was one-way traffic as Harry Kane added three more goals to his burgeoning goal tally. The breakthrough goal shortly before half-time was the key moment, as Tottenham never looked back from there in securing their second Group H victory. They are joined on six points by Real Madrid, who inflicted a 3-1 defeat on Borussia Dortmund at Signal Iduna Park. A cracking volley by Gareth Bale opened the scoring and Cristiano Ronaldo doubled the holders’ lead early in the second half. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang pulled one back for Dortmund before Ronaldo produced a moment of magic to seal victory for Zinedine Zidane’s men, whose iffy domestic form is in contrast with the fine start they have made to their defence of the Champions League crown.

Manchester City were comparatively goal-shy against Shakhtar Donetsk on Tuesday night, the Ukrainians limiting them to just the two goals at the Etihad Stadium. Indeed, it was goalless at half-time before Kevin de Bruyne struck a superb effort from 20 yards within minutes of the restart. Sergio Aguero spurned an ideal opportunity to become City’s joint all-time leading scorer when his penalty was saved by Alexander Pyatov, but it mattered little in the context of this game as Raheem Sterling wrapped up the points in stoppage time to leave Pep Guardiola’s men in firm control of Group F. The other match also ran along expected lines, with Napoli strolling past Feyenoord 3-1. Goals from Lorenzo Insigne, Dries Mertens and Jose Callejon put the feeble Dutch visitors to the sword, with Sofyan Amrabat’s stoppage-time consolation a mere footnote.

Celtic recorded their biggest ever Champions League away win on Wednesday, a 3-0 triumph over Anderlecht a fair reflection of the gulf in quality between the teams. The first 35 minutes in Brussels were rather forgettable but once Leigh Griffiths opened the scoring for the visitors, they never looked back. They doubled their lead early in the second half when Patrick Roberts’ strike took a substantial deflection. With Anderlecht hopeless at the back and offering little going forward, Scott Sinclair administered further punishment to cap a very good night for Celtic. They now draw level on points with Bayern Munich in Group B after the Germans were thrashed 3-0 by a superb Paris Saint-Germain, who struck early through Dani Alves. Edinson Cavani doubled their advantage later in the first half and Neymar put the result beyond any doubt, with PSG looking fearsome and Bayern humbled.

Monaco were hugely impressive in their run to the semi-finals last season, but they find themselves up against it just to get out of the group this term after a shock 0-3 home defeat by Porto, a repeat of the scoreline from the 2004 final. Vincent Aboubakar scored twice for the visitors either side of half-time and the French champions’ misery was complete in the closing minutes when tragi-comic defending left Miguel Layun with the chance to dispatch Porto’s third goal and get them back on track after losing on matchday one. The surprise leaders of Group G after two games are Besiktas, who maintained their 100% record with a 2-0 home win over RB Leipzig. First-half goals from ex-Liverpool enigma Ryan Babel and Talisca secured the points for the Turkish side, who surely now will never have a better chance of reaching the knockout rounds for the first time.

Barcelona were excellent in their opening matchday hammering of Juventus but laboured to a 1-0 win away to Sporting Lisbon on Wednesday. It was a pretty tame affair in the Portuguese capital and it was decided by an own goal early in the second half, former Liverpool defender Sebastian Coates the unlucky man who got the last touch as the ball tumbled over the line. Also in Group D, Juventus got their campaign back on track with a satisfactory 2-0 win at home to Olympiakos. The Greek side held out for more than an hour before Gonzalo Higuain finally edged the Serie A champions in front. Mario Mandzukic made sure of the points late on for Juve.

Four Premier League teams have 100% records so far in the Champions League group stage but Liverpool are still waiting for their first win, despite dominating both of their matches thus far on their return to this level. The group is still tight enough for the Reds to steal a march on the other teams involved and a double-header with Maribor looks favourable, but anything less than six points against the Slovenians could leave Jurgen Klopp’s men in huge danger of another group stage exit, which would be disastrous considering how favourable we all said the draw was when it was made five weeks ago.