Here’s what happened in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday, in case you missed it…
READ ALL ABOUT IT
• Roundup of all eight games
Bayer Leverkusen 4, BATE Borisov 1 || AS Roma 1, Barcelona 1 || Dinamo Zagreb 2, Arsenal 1 || Olympiacos 0, Bayern Munich 3 || Chelsea 4, Maccabi Tel-Aviv 0 || Dynamo Kiev 2, Porto 2 || Gent 1, Lyon 1 || Valencia 2, Zenit Saint Petersburg 3
WHAT STOOD OUT
Golazo! Golazo! Golazo!: A goal of the year candidate in a game involving Barcelona that wasn’t scored by Lionel Messi? Yep, it actually happened on Wednesday night at Stadio Olimpico, courtesy of AS Roma’s Alessandro Florenzi. With his team down 1-0 in the first half, the young Italian dribbled down the right flank as he crossed over the halfway line and saw goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen off his line. Without even thinking twice about it, Florenzi unleashed a chipped shot from 50 yards out that sailed over the head of Ter Stegen as he rushed back to his goal-line, and clipped off the far post before settling inside the back of the net. Golazo! It really was a stupendous effort by Florenzi, especially when you consider he hit the shot without breaking his stride as he made the transition from defence to attack. Seriously, go look for this goal on YouTube right now! You won’t be sorry. Oh yeah, Roma earned a 1-1 draw against Barcelona in a very entertaining game. And remember the name Alessandro Florenzi—you’ll likely be hearing more from this young Italian star as this year’s Champions League progresses.
Arsenal botches it in Croatia: The Gunners continue to do things the hard way and shoot themselves in the foot, the latest example of their self-destructive streak coming in a shocking 2-1 loss to Dinamo Zagreb in Croatia. Curiously, Arsene Wenger fielded a second-string team (even with Ozil, Cazorla and Sanchez in the starting 11), inexplicably giving starts to Mikel Arteta and Davis Ospina—yes, Wenger gave Petr Cech the night off. Arsenal has a big game against Chelsea on the weekend so some squad rotation was inevitable, but Wenger’s arrogance got the better of him if he thought his “B side” could handle the Croatians. Arteta is not a starter at European level regardless of the opponent, and Wenger’s continued faith in Olivier Giroud—who was sent off just before halftime after picking up his second yellow card—has to be questioned. So the Gunners stumble out of the gate, which does them no favours. Arsenal has not advanced past the Round of 16 for the past five years. Wenger almost always points out his team has been unlucky with the draw, but what he conveniently forgets is that had Arsenal won its group it would have a more favourable opponent in the first knockout round. Now this season they’re already in a bit of a hole—and they’re in a group with Bayern Munich. Same old story from the Gunners.
MORE ON THE UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: Sportsnet soccer panel: Picks and predictions || Man City has improved by becoming ‘more City’ || Analytics: The strange case of Borussia Monchengladbach || FC Astana adds rich narrative to Champions League || 10 players to watch in the first round || 8 matches to watch in the first round || Spanish clubs look to reign supreme in Europe || Champions League: 5 stories to watch this week
With Roma down 1-0 in the first half, Alessandro Florenzi dribbled down the right flank and then a hit an audacious shot from 50 yards out that lobbed Barcelona Marc-André ter Stegen, hit the post and went in. A must-see goal.
Moments after Florenzi’s goal, Lionel Messi wriggled his way past Lucas Digne inside the penalty area but Roma goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny did very well to palm his effort away.
It has to be Florenzi’s wonder-strike, a goal so good that it brought Francesco Totti’s young son to his feet:
Zenit Saint Petersburg’s win over Valencia produced five goals, highlighted by Hulk’s fabulous brace, and was played out with plenty of drama and tension at the cauldron that was the Mestalla.
SIX PACK OF STATS
• Lionel Messi is youngest player in Champions League history to reach 100 appearances (28 years and 2 months).
• Porto goalkeeper Iker Casillas has now played in 151 Champions League games, tying fellow Spaniard Xavi as the tournament’s leader in all-time appearances.
• Eden Hazard has failed to score with three of his six Champions League penalties.
• Arsenal has kept just one clean sheet in their last 11 away group stage games.
• Diego Costa on Wednesday scored his first Champions League goal since scoring for Atletico Madrid in April 2014.
• Lionel Messi failed to score or assist on a goal for his third consecutive Champions League game, his longest drought since September, 2008.
Stats courtesy of Opta
1) Hulk: The Brazilian bagged a fabulous brace for Zenit away to Valencia, including a left-footed thunderbolt from 25 yards out.
2) Thomas Muller: Scored two goals against Olympiacos as Bayern Munich cruised to victory.
3) Alessandro Florenzi: The goal alone earns him a spot as one of the top players of the day.
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