Matchday One of the UEFA Champions League is over, and it was an exciting one!
The biggest competition in club football is back with a bang. Late drama, red cards, penalties and goals galore, the Champions League had it all on matchday one. Players excelled, but players also disappointed. We’ve come up with two combined XI’s, covering the best and worst performers from matchday one (with a maximum of two players per-team).
Who makes it? Read on and find out!
There were a few standout goalkeeping performances on matchday one, but Fahrmann stands out above the rest as he was forced to deal with a barrage of Porto shots (which he saved) and not one but two penalties; one of which he managed to save!
For a converted midfielder who often looks like a poor defender, Alexander-Arnold is making a habit of pocketing elite left-wing talent in the Champions League. The youngster totally nullified Neymar as an attacking threat at Anfield.
Key Stat: Alexander-Arnold won more tackles (5) than any other defender vs. PSG
Frenkie de Jong
21-year-old willowy midfielders should not look this good at centre-back. De Jong was astoundingly accomplished in an absurdly high-pressure role at the heart of Ajax’s defence. His excellence enabled the entirety of his side’s strategy.
Key Stat: Frenkie de Jong misplaced fewer passes (1) than any u-23 player who attempted 60 or more
Centre-back, Atlético Madrid
With Diego Godín still to find rhythm, it was up to Giménez to be the rock at the heart of Atleti’s defence. Not only did he do that but he also popped up in attack to thump home his side’s winning goal from a corner, sealing their impressive comeback.
Key Stat: No u-23 defender made more clearances than José Giménez (7) on matchday one
It’s rare for left-backs to score and rarer still for them to score twice, but Nicolas Tagliafico found himself constantly at the heart of Ajax’s attack (in truth he should have had a hat-trick). Tagliafico’s goals turned Ajax’s domination into three points.
Key Stat: Tagliafico is the first Ajax defender to score twice in a Champions League game since 1995
James Milner was rampant at Anfield. He was flying into tackles, shielding the ball well, playing it forward quickly and even powering home a penalty with perfect precision. Liverpool’s no. 7 outshone all his team-mates on Tuesday night.
Key Stat: Milner won 5 tackles, no one else on the pitch at Anfield created more
Midfielder, Manchester United
The World Cup winner put in a display worthy of that title as he carried United past Young Boys. His bolt from the blue opener gave his side a lead and his impressive penalty (and loopy run-up) doubled it. Late on he led the break and created United’s third for Martial.
Key Stat: Pogba is the first Manchester United midfielder to score a brace in the Champions League since Anderson in 2011
Playing as a free-roaming no. 10, Fekir exploited the fact that City couldn’t really deal with the space between midfield and defence. The Frenchman was everywhere for Lyon, creating their first goal with a sumptuous cross and absolutely lasering the second low into the side of the net. An incredible showing from the man everyone wanted this summer.
Key Stat: No Lyon player made more key passes (3) than Fekir did vs. Manchester City
Winger, Real Madrid
Living life out of Cristiano Ronaldo’s shadow seems to be doing wonders for Gareth Bale. The Welshman was a bright spark in the Real Madrid attack, providing the kind of thrust and goal threat the Portuguese used to. His run and finish for Madrid’s second was sublime.
Key Stat: Bale now has as many Champions League goals (18) as Ronaldinho
From zero to hero, Ousmane Dembélé is proving just about everyone wrong this season. The winger was incredibly influential against PSV, with his driving run winning the free-kick that Barça took the lead from and then he scored arguably the goal of the matchday by delightfully turning away from two PSV defenders before bending a beauty into the corner of the net from 25 yards.
Key Stat: Ousmane Dembélé has now scored more goals (5) than any other Frenchman across Europe’s top five leagues
Messi took PSV to pieces with his play, weaving around challenges and threading passes through defenders. And he capped his playmaking by scoring yet another hat-trick with three incredibly different and yet equally outrageously good finishes.
Key Stat: Leo Messi has more hat-tricks (8) than anyone else in Champions League history
Goalkeeper, Lokomotiv Moskva
Guilherme didn’t have the best day in Turkey. He was caught out at his near-post for Galatasaray’s opener, he failed to deal with Buruk Yilmaz’s free-kick, and then he gave away (and conceded) the penalty for Gala’s third. Whoops.
Right-back, Viktoria Plzen
Reznik must have enjoyed the first half as Plzen went 2-0 up against CSKA Moscow. But the Russian side roared back by targeting Reznik as a defender. Constant pressure came down his flank and as he couldn’t stop it, eventually the pressure told and CSKA equalised.
When Cristiano Ronaldo pulled Murillo’s hair out maybe he took some brain cells too because the Colombian was responsible for Juve’s second goal with some awful defending, gifting them a penalty after a needlessly rough foul when defending a set-piece.
Conceding a penalty is bad enough, especially for a foul as needless a Naldo’s hand-ball. But after Fahrmann bailed him out by saving it, Naldo doubled down and a second penalty was conceded later. No, seriously. One man conceded two penalies in a game.
Left-back, Manchester City
With Benjamin Mendy injured again, eyes turned to Fabian Delph to deliver again as he did last season. Unfortunately the Englishman instead committed the error of the week by airkicking a simple clearance, allowing Lyon to take the lead.
Midfielder, Manchester City
Manchester City didn’t sign a defensive midfielder in the summer and this is the first sign that they are going to regret that inaction. Fernandinho was slow and cumbersome with the ball at his feet, looking every bit of his 33 years as Lyon twice pressed him into giving up the ball before scoring on those very same attacks.
What does Eric Dier do? Seriously. He’s obviously a decent footballer with technique and principles but he just doesn’t do anything really that well, allowing better sides to run the show against Spurs.
Valencia’s captain had an evening to forget. His overall play was as polished as ever, but with Juventus down to 10-men he stupidly gave away a penalty with an high boot – allowing them to take the lead. Then at the end when given a chance to score from his own penalty and give Valencia a bit of consolation, Parejo missed. Seriously, the man both conceded and missed a spot-kick in the same game. Pitiful.
That is not how it was supposed to go! Cristiano Ronaldo’s third debut in the Champions League should have been a triumphant affair; instead he was rubbish and then not 20 minutes in, lost his head and got sent off for pulling Jeison Murrilo’s hair. The tears afterwards were perplexing because there can be no arguments about the decision – keep your hands to yourself!
Key Stat: Cristiano Ronaldo received his first-ever Champions League red card in his 154th appearance
Another disappointing effort in shadow-escaping from Neymar, who played at Anfield looking more like a lost tourist who had someone wandered out onto the field. Neymar got shut down by basically everyone who he tried to attack.
Key Stat: Neymar lost 13 duels against Liverpool, more than any other player on matchday one
There is definitely something wrong with Harry Kane. It was another pitiful display from the England captain, this time in the San Siro. His movement was poor and he showed none of the customary ruthlessness. When he did get put 1v1 he hesitated so much and fluffed the chance. This man needs a rest!
Key Stat: No Spurs starter had fewer touches than Harry Kane (26) in the San Siro