While all the top leagues have completed one month into the new season, fans were eagerly awaiting the start of the UEFA Champions League, the premier club football competition. And game week one of the tournament didn’t disappoint as we saw thrilling finishes, emotional returns after years for some clubs, and mesmerising clashes between top teams.
We witnesses goals, yellow cards, and red cards, which just show how competitive the league will be this season. From these 15 games alone, a host of teams have put up their hands and made their intentions clear about winning the trophy, and as the competition progresses, more teams could join the fray.
So, here’s what we learned from gameweek one of the 2023-24 UEFA Champions League.
Jude Bellingham saves Real Madrid again
The €103 million that Real Madrid spent in the summer on Jude Bellingham looks now like a steal. The 19-year-old who was brought to bolster the creativity department has taken over scoring the winning goals, too. He did it against Celte de Vigo; he did it against Getafe, and now he has proved his mettle once again in the Champions League.
Facing a Union Berlin side, the 14-time competition winners were heavy favourites. However, as the case has been so many times this season, Los Blancos appeared to have left their shooting boots at home.
Carlo Ancelotti’s men had 32 shots on target, but with some resolute defending and poor finishing, the visitors were looking to win their first point in the competition. However, in the game’s dying minutes, Valverde had the ball at his feet outside the box, and he went for glory. However, the ball ricocheted off player after player before luckily finding its way to Bellingham, who only had to put the ball in the goals from a foot away to confirm Madrid’s victory.
Cuando sea el Rey de Champions no diré nada, pero habrá señales… pic.twitter.com/e58CnDPHxp
— Real Madrid C.F. (@realmadrid) September 20, 2023
Atletico face the same old problems against Lazio
Ever since Diego Simeone took charge of Atletico Madrid in 2011, the club has become one of the toughest teams to face across Europe. More often than not, big teams have found it challenging to break down their defensive wall. However, one area where the team struggles is when they have to take onus and attack with the other team defending.
Simeone has tried hard to make his team more attack-minded, signing players such as Antoine Griezmann, Alvaro Morata and Joao Felix. Two of these players were in the attack for Ateltico’s game against Lazio.
According to stats, Atletico Madrid played more passes and had more of the ball than the Italian team but failed to use it adequately. Their goals came via a deflection that found its way past a wrong-footed Ivan Provedel. Their other chance came again via a deflection that hit the post.
In the end, their defence failed to pick up a week-timed run by Provedel, who scored in the dying minutes of the game to help Lazio win one point.
— S.S.Lazio (@OfficialSSLazio) September 19, 2023
PSG beat Dortmund, while Newcastle escaped with one point against AC Milan
Group F is rightly called the Group of Death with Paris Saint Germain (PSG), Borussia Dortmund, AC Milan and Newcastle United. However, the group’s first two games have failed to meet expectations. The game between PSG and Borussia Dortmund saw 31 shots, of which only four were on target. In fact, one of the two goals that PSG scored came via a penalty.
Both teams looked adept at creating chances but were sorely lacking the final touch that would have won it for either. However, there was another clash in the group where no goals were scored.
AC Milan were coming into the game against Newcastle United on the back of a 5-1 drubbing at the hands of their city rivals Inter Milan. Meanwhile, Newcastle United had won their previous game against Brentford, ending their three-game unbeaten streak.
However, AC Milan used their experience to get the upper hold in the game, having nine shots on target. The combined effort of some heroic goalkeeping and some poor finishing saw Newcastle United escape with a point on a day where their attack and midfield hardly produced anything of note in the opposition’s half.
Manchester City and RB Leipzig set the pace in Group G
Manchester City and RB Leipzig were always the favourites to qualify out of Group G and proved their dominance from the first game onwards. Manchester City faced Serbian side FK Crvena zvezda but failed to create any kind of impact in the first half despite having multiple chances. It was the Serbs who opened the scoring through Osman Bukhari.
City appeared reinvigorated in the second half as they overturned the deficit in just 15 minutes after Julain Alvarez scored a brace. The rise of Alvarez has been the main story at the club, with the world-winning attacker forming a formidable partnership with Erling Haaland. It also gives Pep Guardiola additional goal-scoring options in an event where the Norwegian is injured for a long spell.
Meanwhile, RB Leipzig also grabbed three points in their first game on the road against Young Boys. The Germans who sold their top players, such as Christopher Nkunku, Josko Gvardiol, and Dominik Szoboszlai, smartly reinvested their money to buy adequate replacements and also promote young players to fill the void left by the departing players.
And three of these players were on the scoresheet. Mohamed Simakan opened the scoring in the third minute before two goals from Xaver Schlager and Benjamin Sesko put the result beyond doubt.
Barcelona put a 5-star performance against Royal Antwerp
La Liga champions Barcelona started their campaign in style, beating Royal Antwerp 5-0. The Blaugrana produced a complete performance, with their opponents having little chance. The hosts’s domination can be seen in the stats: 22 shots compared to 3, 10 shots on target compared to 1 798 passes compared to 343.
For large parts of the game, Antwerp were only chasing shadows as the Spanish champions displayed their passing dominance on the pitch. While Barcelona will face far more formidable challenges than the Belgians, this start will instil a new boost of confidence in Xavi’s men.
In the group’s other game, Porto got three points after thrashing Ukrainian outfit Shakhtar Donetsk 3-1 on the road. The game saw perhaps the most chaotic stars of game week one, as three goals were scored in just 15 minutes.
Brazilian winger Galeno, who was signed last year by league rivals Braga, was the show’s star, scoring a brace to put his team in the lead. Mehdi Taremi added the third in the 29th minute.
Bayern Munich, Manchester United play an entertaining seven-goal thriller
It was a goal fest at the Allianz Arena as Bayern Munich won 4-3 against Manchester United. It was a game where Bayern Munich would go into a comfort zone before conceding a goal.
Erik Ten Hag’s men started the game brilliantly and could have scored with the two chances they got. Instead, the German champions went into the lead after some horrendous keeping by Andre Onana. From the edge of the box, Leroy Sane unleashed a tam shot that somehow was spilled by the shot-stopper into the goal.
— FC Bayern München (@FCBayern) September 20, 2023
Bayern scored another to go into a two-goal lead at half-time. However, United struck back with new signing Rasmus Hojlund. However, Bayern established a two-goal lead immediately after winning a penalty following a VAR intervention, which Harry Kane duly converted. United returned through Casemiro but conceded straight from the kick-off, with Mathys Tel scoring his third goal of the season. Bruno Fernandes scored the game’s final goal with the last kick, but it was too little too late for the visitors.