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Sunday, September 19, 2021

Bayern down Barca 3-0 while holders Chelsea scrape out narrow win against Zenit

Juventus start on a winning note, Atalanta & Villareal share points

By: Reuters |
September 15, 2021 9:52:14 am
Bayern BarcelonaBayern's Robert Lewandowski celebrates scoring his side's 3rd goal during a Champions League group E match between Barcelona and Bayern at Camp Nou (Photo: AP)

Two goals from Robert Lewandowski and one from Thomas Mueller propelled Bayern Munich to a 3-0 win at Barcelona in their opening Champions League game on Tuesday in another brutal demonstration of the gulf in class between the two sides.

Mueller gave Bayern the lead in the 34th minute with a strike from outside the area which deflected off Barca defender Eric Garcia to confound goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen. Lewandowski struck the German champions’ second in the 54th, tapping into the net from close range on the rebound after Jamal Musiala had hit the post as Bayern made a rampant start following the interval, hemming their hosts into their own half.
The Polish striker twisted the knife further into Barcelona by scoring again in the 85th, collecting the ball in the area after another shot had come back off the post and tormenting the defence before calmly beating Ter Stegen in the Group E clash.

The scoreline was not quite as damning for Barca as the 8-2 drubbing Bayern gave them in the quarter-finals two seasons ago but the performance was just as hopeless as they were routinely dispossessed and struggled to cope with the visitors’ intensity.
Barca made a promising start in their first Champions League game in front of supporters at the Camp Nou since December 2019, although while the crowd was limited to 40,000 due to coronavirus restrictions there were fewer fans in attendance owing to a lack of appetite for the post-Lionel Messi era.

But Bayern soon showed their superiority and it took a strong hand from Ter Stegen to prevent Leroy Sane giving the Germans the lead, while Gerard Pique had to slide across the ground to block a goal-bound strike from Musiala.

Barcelona’s only real attempt on goal in the first half came from a free kick, defender Ronald Araujo meeting Memphis Depay’s cross and heading just over the bar. Bayern finally took the lead their play merited through Mueller, who scored twice in the 8-2 hammering of Barca in Lisbon and has now netted seven times against the Catalans in Europe’s top competition. Loud boos could be heard at halftime but things got more desperate for the hosts after the break and by the end of the game Barca fans were sarcastically applauding the team whenever they managed to recover the ball, resigned to their fate.

Chelsea unconvincing as Lukaku opens his UCL account

In a Group H match, Romelu Lukaku opened his Champions League account for Chelsea as his powerful header earned the holders an unconvincing 1-0 victory over Zenit St Petersburg at Stamford Bridge in their Group H opener on Tuesday. It had been an uncomfortable night for the defending champions against a well-organised Russian side but in the 69th minute the big-money striker Lukaku broke the deadlock with a header straight from the centre forward’s handbook.

Chelsea were hardly convincing, however, and Thomas Tuchel’s side did not even manage a shot on target in a pedestrian first half. They did improve in a far more entertaining second period in which Zenit looked capable of springing a surprise.

But all that mattered in the end for a raucous Stamford Bridge crowd was that another European campaign began with three points, maintaining the club’s impressive start to the season.

When Chelsea won the trophy for the first time in 2012, they suffered an ignominious fall from grace a few months later as they became the first holders to bow out in the group stage. Handed a comfortable looking group this time it would be astonishing if they suffered the same fate, especially in view of the powerhouse squad they have assembled and the way they have started the new season.

Juventus cruise against Malmo

In the other Group H match, Forwards Paolo Dybala and Alvaro Morata scored just before halftime as Juventus made the most of Malmo’s collapse to win 3-0 in their Champions League Group H clash on Tuesday to put their rocky start to the season behind them.
Twice European champions Juventus have failed to win any of their three Serie A games so far this season, but a blistering opening 45 minutes was enough to see off the Swedish champions, who were back in the group stages for the first time since the 2015/16 season.

Malmo started brightly and had a chance to open the scoring when Soren Rieks fired just over the bar in the 17th minute but instead Juventus fullback Alex Sandro broke the deadlock five minutes later, stooping to head home from close range. A couple of minutes of chaos just before the break cost Malmo the game as Danish defender Lasse Nielsen pulled at Morata’s arm and the Spanish striker went down in the box. The Malmo defenders thought that Morata had been ruled offside and were incredulous when referee Artur Soares Dias pointed to the spot, but a VAR review upheld his decision and though Dybala slipped as he fired his spot kick, it still hit the back of the net.

The game was effectively over a minute later when a defensive mix-up allowed Morata to loft the ball over the on-rushing Ismael Diawara to make it 3-0.

French champions held

Lille kicked off their Champions League campaign in disappointing fashion as they were held to a 0-0 home draw by 10-man VfL Wolfsburg in Group G on Tuesday.

The French champions had opportunities, but lacked sharpness against the German side who had defender John Brooks sent off shortly after the hour. All four teams in the group have one point after Sevilla and RB Salzburg drew 1-1 in Spain earlier on Tuesday. Wolfsburg enjoyed plenty of possession but failed to manage a single attempt in the first half as Lille threatened on the break. Jonathan David found the back of the net three minutes into the second half after Jonathan Ikone had headed the ball down into his path, but the goal was chalked off after a VAR review ruled that it had previously gone out of play. Lille continued to push and Angel Gomes had a golden opportunity before the hour, only for the English striker to sky his attempt over the bar. In the 63rd minute, Brooks picked up a second yellow card for handball but Lille, who have taken only five points in their first five Ligue 1 games, failed to take advantage.

Atalanta, Villareal ends in draw

A late Robin Gosens equaliser earned Atalanta a 2-2 draw at Villarreal on Tuesday as the Spanish side made their first Champions League group stage appearance in 10 years.
Remo Freuler fired the Italians in front early on, but the hosts launched a comeback thanks to goals from Manuel Trigueros and substitute Arnaut Danjuma either side of the break.

But Gosens fired in an 83rd-minute leveller from close range to earn Atalanta what may well prove to be a precious point in Group F, where Young Boys stunned 10-man Manchester United with a 2-1 win in the other game. Villarreal, who ended their long wait for Champions League football by winning last season’s Europa League, started sluggishly and were punished after six minutes when Freuler rattled a shot in off the post.

But Unai Emery’s side grew into the game and Trigueros finished from close range late in the first half before Danjuma was sent clean through to fire home a finish on the 73rd minute. Gosens steered in a late leveller for Atalanta and the visitors ended the game on top after Francis Coquelin earned a second yellow card, but Juan Musso stopped Villarreal from snatching a late win with a vital save in the dying moments.

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