Football Features

Salah is inevitable and Sebastien joins the Haller of Fame: The Champions League action you might have missed

By Harry Edwards

Published: 22:37, 7 December 2021


The opening night of the final 2021/22 Champions League group stage matchweek did not disappoint with drama across the eight games on Tuesday.

Liverpool, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Ajax and Paris Saint-Germain were all in action on a night that included 29 goals and five red cards.

It’d be hard even for a Hydra to keep up with all the action on display, let alone us one-headed humans, so we’ve done our best to round up all the best action and stories you might have missed.

1. Kylian Mbappe makes history

One of the day’s early kick offs saw PSG host Club Brugge at the Parc des Princes with nothing on the line for the hosts.

Mauricio Pochettino’s men were guaranteed to finish second in Group A behind Manchester City but they still decided to put on a show. A Kylian Mbappe show, to be exact.

The Frenchman scored twice in the opening seven minutes, taking him to 31 Champions League goals, one clear of Kaka, Samuel Eto’o and Wayne Rooney. Those are genuine legends of the game that he has already passed. But his 30th goal was perhaps more significant, as Mbappe became the youngest player to reach the milestone in Champions League history, doing so at the age of 22 years and 352 days.

Mbappe has also scored 47 goals for club and country in 2021, a return bettered only by Robert Lewandowski’s 66 among players from a top-five European league.

However, the Frenchman was joined on 47 for the year by Erling Haaland who scored twice as Borussia Dortmund thrashed Besiktas. And Haaland’s record is pretty ridiculous, reaching his numbers in just 48 matches.

2. Lionel Messi levels Cristiano Ronaldo (again)

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are the undisputed kings of the Champions League and this season they’ve been quite selfless in sharing a certain record.

On the first matchweek, Cristiano Ronaldo netted for Manchester United against Young Boys, equalling Messi’s record for the most teams scored against in the Champions League. The next matchweek, against Villarreal, he broke it.

Messi then equalled the record in matchweek three against RB Leipzig, only for Ronaldo the re-break it the day after vs Atalanta.

And now, Messi has equalled the record again, scoring twice in the win over Club Brugge – the 38th team he has found the net against in the Champions League. Fortunately, Ronaldo won’t be able to break it the day after this time, and we’ll have to wait until the last 16 for the potential of number 39 for either player.

3. Poor Simon Mignolet

Club Brugge started the 2021/22 Champions League group stage with an impressive 1-1 draw with Paris Saint-Germain and 2-1 win over RB Leipzig, joining the former at the top of Group A. But their happiness would end there.

The following four games saw Club Brugge lose four times, conceding 18 goals and scoring three in reply, to finish bottom of Group A. But that’s not all, in being thrashed 4-1, 5-1, 5-0 and 4-1, Club Brugge became the first ever side to concede at least four goals in four consecutive Champions League games.

Not a record they’ll want people to remember.

4. Living in the Haller of Fame

We all know the story of Sebastien Haller struggling to find his footing at West Ham and then thriving since moving to Ajax just under a year ago. But that doesn’t make it any less special. And it certainly hasn’t stopped Haller from adding even more to the story.

The Ivorian striker went into the gameweek having scored in each of his five Champions League group matches games this season and was looking to join a very exclusive club. So exclusive in fact, that it had just one member. And it only took Haller just eight minutes to join Cristiano Ronaldo as just the second player to score in all six Champions League group stage matches, giving Ajax the lead against Sporting CP from the penalty spot.

But Haller did do something Ronaldo couldn’t do and will never be able to. Haller became the first player in Champions League history to score in each of his first six appearances in the competition, making his debut on matchday one.

Haller also broke a record of Haaland’s, becoming the quickest player to score 10 goals in the Champions League, with the Norwegian achieving that milestone in seven matches.

Fancy another Haller achievement? The Ajax striker is also just the fourth player to score 10+ goals in a single Champions League group stage campaign after Ronaldo, Messi and Robert Lewandowski. Keeping company with some of the best players in the world.

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5. Mohamed Salah is inevitable

Mohamed Salah scored for Liverpool. But you already knew that because it’s becoming inevitable. Death, taxes and Salah scoring for Liverpool. Salah must be growing bored of scoring in practically every game he plays, like a seasoned FIFA pro playing on Beginner difficulty.

But there was something special about this goal, already his 20th for the season and we’re only on the seventh day of December. The Egyptian has naturally scored more goals than any other Premier League player across all competitions, but the gap is quite scary, as Cristiano Ronaldo is his closest rival. On 12 goals.

Salah has also now scored at least 20 goals across all competitions in each of his five seasons since joining Liverpool, the first player to reach 20 in five consecutive campaigns for the club since Ian Rush from 1981/82 to 1986/87 (six in a row).

AND he has now scored more goals for Liverpool in a single Champions League group stage campaign than any other player. If he keeps going on like this, Salah will run out of records to break.

6. Ajax and Liverpool join Club 100%

Tuesday was also a night of history for two clubs as Ajax and Liverpool joined a pretty exclusive list. The two sides went into the final matchweek still perfect in the Champions League, winning each of their opening five group stage matches.

In Champions League history, only six teams had previously gone perfect in the group stage (first or second). They were AC Milan, PSG, Spartak Moscow, Barcelona, Real Madrid (twice) and Bayern Munich. But now they’ve been joined by Ajax and Liverpool.

Ajax confirmed their perfect record with a 4-2 victory over Sporting, while Liverpool beat AC Milan 2-1 at the San Siro – both becoming the first teams from their respective nations to achieve the feat. It’s also first time two teams have gone perfect in a Champions League group stage in the same season. And they could still be joined by Bayern Munich on Wednesday.

7. La Cobham goes global

Salah’s goal, mentioned earlier, was not the opener in Liverpool’s game against AC Milan. It was the equaliser.

Just moments before the Egyptian did his thing, Fikayo Tomori had given Milan the lead they needed in their quest to reach the last 16 of the Champions League.

The centre-back became the first English player to score for Milan in a Champions League game and just the third Englishman to score for a non-English club against an English side in the competition. The other two players to achieve that feat are Patrick Roberts for Celtic against Manchester City in 2016, and Jude Bellingham for Borussia Dortmund also against Man City earlier this season.

8. Chaos at the Estadio do Dragao

There was a lot on the line at the Estadio do Dragao as Porto hosted Atletico Madrid, with both sides still in the running to join Liverpool in the last 16. Given what was on the line, you could forgive both clubs for upping the intensity a bit in search for the win. But Porto and Atletico Madrid took it to another level.

After Antoine Griezmann had given Atletico a lead in the second half, the away side were reduced to 10 men when Yannick Carrasco was sent off for pushing Otavio to the floor having tried to slow down a throw-in, kicking off a brawl. Angel Correa and Otavio were also booked, but it didn’t spot there. Just moments later, Otavio went down again off the ball, starting another minor collision which saw Pepe booked.

Then came the mass brawl, with Wendell shown a red card for elbowing Cunha in the neck, sending both benches into fury that would take a few minutes to calm down (and a red card for a member of the Porto bench). But Wendell didn’t immediately leave the pitch, confused about his sending off and initially trying to play on. It wasn’t completely over there either, with Porto substitute Agustin Marchesin sent off for something he said from the bench shortly after.

Before the game was up, Atletico would score another two goals to go through to the last 16, with Sergio Oliveira grabbing a late consolation. But it was all about those crazy 10 minutes.

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