Here’s what happened on Tuesday in the UEFA Champions League, in case you missed it…
READ ALL ABOUT IT
• Roundup: Ronaldo’s return to Manchester, Bayern back on track & more
• Jose takes a stroll: Mourinho walks to Old Trafford for Juve match
AEK Athens 0, Bayern Munich 2 || Ajax 1, Benfica 0 || Hoffenhein 3, Lyon 3 || Shakhtar Donetsk 0, Manchester City 3 || Real Madrid 2, Viktoria Plzen 1 || AS Roma 3, CSKA Moscow 0 || Young Boys 1, Valencia 1 || Manchester United 0, Juventus 1
THE MAIN STORY
Juve sets the pace early on
A lot of the pre-game narrative surrounding Tuesday’s fixtures centred on Cristiano Ronaldo’s return to Old Trafford as Juventus paid a visit to Manchester United. Ronaldo didn’t disappoint. The Portuguese star put in a solid shift in setting up Paulo Dybala’s winner, and if not for a fabulous save from David de Gea, he would have scored on the pitch he once called home and before the same fans who showered him with love.
But Tuesday night wasn’t about Ronaldo, nor was the game as close as the 1-0 score line in favour of the Italians suggested. This was a complete team performance from Juventus, who dominated the game from start to finish. They out-worked, out-fought and out-thought the Red Devils for 90 minutes. The hosts were forced to chase shadows for long stretches, such was Juve’s domination of possession. Jose Mourinho could only watch on helplessly from the touchline. The Manchester United manager didn’t even make a substitution – the Portuguese knew there was nothing he could do to swing the contest in his favour against Juve.
In total, the hosts managed one shot on target and just a pair of corner kicks. The Italians outmuscled the English club in midfield, constantly winning second balls and putting United on their heels. When Mourinho’s men did venture forward or have a spell of possession, they were quickly snuffed out by Juve’s twin towers of defence, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini.
After three games, Juventus is in firm control of Group H, with three wins from three games played (two of those matches were on the road), and they’ve outscored the opposition by a combined 6-0. We’re only halfway through the group stage, so it’d be silly to pick a favourite to win the competition, especially one that is as wide open as this year’s version.
But Juventus has been the class of this competition thus far, setting the pace with their flawless play and stellar in-game management.
Bayern doubled its advantage in the 63rd minute with a fabulous sequence of one-touch passing. Serge Gnabry played a clever no-look feed for Rafinha, who made a run down the left side of the box. His low cross found its way through AEK Athens’ defence, allowing Robert Lewandowski to score with a simple tap-in.
Managers Jose Mourinho and Massimiliano Allegri shared a laugh together on the touchline after stadium stewards struggled to tackle a pitch invader at Old Trafford in the fourth minute.
It didn’t have the marquee value or star power of Juventus vs. Manchester United at Old Trafford, but Hoffenheim and Lyon put on a show in Germany, combining for six goals in a game with plenty of drama, twists and turns.
HE SAID IT
“[Leonardo] Bonucci and [Giorgio] Chiellini could go to Harvard to give listens on central defending. Fantastic, absolutely fantastic.” – Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho.
SIX PACK OF STATS
• Gareth Bale made his 200th appearance in all competitions for Real Madrid on Tuesday.
• Bayern Munich has kept clean sheets in consecutive Champions League away games for the first time since 2013 when it blanked Juventus and FC Barcelona.
• Manchester City is the first English side to win away at Shakhtar Donetsk in European competition in eight games.
• Juventus’ Paulo Dybala has scored five goals in his last four Champions League games, as many as in his previous 24 appearances in the competition.
• Lyon has scored three goals or more in a Champions League away game for the first time since December 2011 when it hammered Dinamo Zagreb 7-1.
• Ajax on Tuesday scored a winning goal after 90 minutes in a Champions League match for the first time since November 2005.
Stats courtesy of Opta
1) Edin Dzeko, AS Roma: Scored twice in the opening half, and assisted on the Italians’ third goal against visitors CSKA Moscow.
2) Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chielinni, Juventus: The Italian duo put on another masterclass in defending as Jose Mourinho longingly looked on.
3) Andrej Kramaric, Hoffenheim: Bagged a brace for the Germans in a wild game against Lyon.