Lacking its typical fluency going forward, Manchester City relied on moments of individual brilliance to get its Champions League campaign off to a winning start on Wednesday.
City recovered from conceding an early goal to beat Porto 3-1 in their Group C opener, with a curling free kick from Ilkay Gundogan and an impressive individual strike by substitute Ferran Torres completing the second-half comeback at an empty Etihad Stadium.
“It is nice to win games suffering,” City manager Pep Guardiola said.
With long-time playmaker David Silva now departed, star midfielder Kevin De Bruyne out injured and players like Gundogan and Sergio Aguero — the scorer of the equalizer from the penalty spot — feeling their way back to full fitness, it hasn’t been the fluid City of old since the start of the season.
A gritty 1-0 win over Arsenal on Saturday got City’s Premier League campaign back on track and the team had to work just as hard against a Porto side, whose players’ perceived theatrics clearly frustrated Guardiola on the touchline.
Back in the Champions League after a one-year absence, Porto took the lead in the 14th minute when City defender Ruben Dias gave the ball away to Mateus Uribe, allowing Colombia winger Luis Diaz to drift into and across the area with the ball — beating Rodri then Joao Cancelo with a couple of feints — before shooting into the bottom corner.
In another Group C match, Ahmed Hassan came off the bench to score an injury-time goal for Olympiakos in a 1-0 win over Marseille in the Champions League.
The Egyptian delivered a powerful header to beat goalkeeper Steve Mandanda after Mathieu Valbuena’s cross.
The Greek champions held the initiative for most of the match at Giorgos Karaiskakis stadium and had a goal disallowed by video review after Giorgos Masouras had found the net in the 52nd minute.
Shakhtar team depleted by coronavirus stuns Real Madrid 3-2
The celebrations by Shakhtar Donetsk players echoed loudly around the empty Alfredo Di Stéfano Stadium.
Some yelled, others raised their arms and a few hugged each other after the final whistle was blown in Madrid.
It wasn’t just another victory for the Ukrainian side.
A Shakhtar team depleted by coronavirus cases handed Real Madrid a shocking 3-2 home loss in Group B of the Champions League. Playing with only a few regular starters, Shakhtar took advantage of counterattacks to open up a 3-0 first-half lead, and then held on after Madrid pulled closer with two goals shortly after the break.
“It’s a great result for us,” Shakhtar coach Luis Castro said. “We knew what difficulties we could expect and planned our strategy accordingly. The players have done everything absolutely fantastically. We were a united team from the first until the last minute.”
Madrid thought it had equalized in injury time through Federico Valverde, but the goal was disallowed for offside after video review.
“It was a bad match, a tough night,” Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said. “I’m bothered by what happened and I’m the responsible for it. The team didn’t perform like I wanted and that’s my fault.”
In another Group B match, Coronavirus-affected Inter held 2-2 by Gladbach. Romelu Lukaku scored a late equalizer with his second goal of the game to give a coronavirus-affected Inter Milan a 2-2 draw against Borussia Mönchengladbach in their Champions League opener.
Ramy Bensebaini converted a penalty for Gladbach and Jonas Hofmann also scored for the German side before Lukaku’s last-minute equalizer.
It was another negative note for Inter, which lost 2-1 against AC Milan in the city derby on Saturday.
Tagliafico’s own-goal gives Liverpool 1-0 win at Ajax
Liverpool’s makeshift defense held firm and a fortunate goal earned Jurgen Klopp’s team a 1-0 victory over Ajax in their Champions League opener at the empty Johan Cruyff Area.
Ajax defender Nicolas Tagliafico turned a mishit shot by Sadio Mane into his own net in the 35th minute for the only goal of the match.
At the other end, a combination of poor finishing, bad luck and an acrobatic goal-line clearance by stand-in central defender Fabinho denied Ajax a goal.
Liverpool was playing without captain and central defender Virgil van Dijk after the Dutchman suffered a serious knee injury in Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Everton. Also missing were goalkeeper Alisson Becker, Joel Matip and Thiago Alcantara.
Klopp paired midfielder Fabinho with Joe Gomez in central defense while 19-year-old Curtis Jones got his first Champions League start in the midfield.
The hosts should have taken the lead in the 33rd minute when David Neres passed to Quincy Promes, but the Netherlands winger shot too close to Adrian and the goalkeeper stuck out his right foot to save.
Just over a minute later, Liverpool was in front when Mane turned away from Perr Schuurs before scuffing his shot that led to Tagliafico’s own-goal.
Fabinho preserved his team’s lead at halftime when he hooked the ball off his goal line after Dusan Tadic had lobbed Adrian in the 44th minute.
Bayern routs Atlético 4-0 to start Champions League defense
Bayern Munich picked up where it left off in the Champions League, starting its title defense with a 4-0 rout of Atlético Madrid after overcoming the club’s first coronavirus case.
Kingsley Coman netted twice as Bayern took its winning streak to 12 straight games in Europe’s premier competition, with Leon Goretzka and Corentin Tolisso also scoring.
The buildup was overshadowed by Serge Gnabry testing positive for the coronavirus on Tuesday after he had taken part in the team’s final training session for the game.
“It was a shock even if it was clear it would happen,” Goretzka said.
Local health authorities gave the go-ahead for the match to proceed as planned after Gnabry’s teammates tested negative in further tests conducted early Wednesday.
No fans were allowed as per restrictions previously announced due to rising infections in the Bavarian capital.
Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge warned before the game against another suspension like the two-month break in play when the pandemic started in March.
“Another lockdown would be a drama for soccer,” said Rummenigge, who rued the lack of fans. “Soccer culture is suffering terribly without spectators.”
The 19-year-old Alphonso Davies had to be content with a place on the bench as Bayern coach Hansi Flick opted to start Lucas Hernández against his former side.
Atlético striker Luis Suárez had the first big chance but was unable to reach Renan Lodi’s low cross.
Salzburg drew with visiting Lokomotiv Moscow 2-2 in the other group A game.
Gómez, Zapata in control as Atalanta wins 4-0 at Midtjylland
Alejandro “Papu” Gómez scored a stunning goal as Atalanta routed FC Midtjylland 4-0 in their Champions League opener on Wednesday.
Duván Zapata set up that goal and the Colombia forward also scored — and had a hand in his side’s third goal — as Atalanta got its second season in the Champions League off to a great start.
Zapata also hit the post early on.
It was the perfect way for Atalanta to react after its surprising 4-1 defeat at Napoli in Serie A on Saturday.
“When you play matches every three days that can happen,” Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini said. “This team has always reacted well.
“Today we needed to win, it wasn’t as easy as the result might suggest. It won’t be easy either for the other teams to come here to play.”
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