Here’s what happened in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday, in case you missed it…
READ ALL ABOUT IT
• Roundup: Man United ousted, Ronaldo scores 4, Man City wins group
Paris Saint-Germain 2, Shakhtar Donetsk 0 || Real Madrid 8, Malmo 0 || PSV Eindhoven 2, CSKA Moscow 1 || Wolfsburg 3, Manchester United 2 || Benfica 1, Atletico Madrid 2 || Galatasaray 1, FC Astana 1 || Manchester City 4, Borussia Monchengladbach 2 || Sevilla 1, Juventus 0
WHAT STOOD OUT
A tale of two Manchester clubs
Remember when Manchester United was a world power? Those days are long gone, and they’ve now become one of those mediocre sides they used to brush aside without much trouble. A 3-2 loss away to Wolfsburg capped off a dreadful group stage for the Red Devils, who didn’t deserve to move on to the knockout round and can even consider themselves very lucky to get kicked over to the Europa League.
United used to score goals for fun, and no matter how late they trailed in a game there was always a fear that they could come back. Opponents don’t fear them anymore, and why should they? Louis Van Gaal’s side struggled to score goals (only five through their first five group games) and looked positively limp in attack. Defensively, they’re pretty sound, and have benefited from the emergence of Chris Smalling this season. But United have lost their swashbuckling flair up front, and don’t have any legitimate game breakers in the final third of the pitch.
On the same evening United crashed out of the tournament, Manchester City claimed first place in their group with a deserved 4-2 comeback win over Borussia Monchengladbach. Down a goal and with Sevilla drawing Juventus, City looked destined for second place. But then three goals in the final 10 minutes—two by Raheem Sterling—and Sevilla taking the lead at home turned this game and the group on its head.
In the end, City held on and Sevilla upset Juventus, doing the English club a major favour. By winning the group, City will avoid top clubs and fellow group winners Barcelona and Bayern Munich in the Round of 16. That’s a huge advantage for the English side—they’ve never made it to the quarterfinals of this competition, so their path to the final eight is a lot easier this time around. City can strike fear in the hearts of opponents and have the kind of offensive explosiveness (as we saw on Tuesday night) that can help them rescue games. The new Manchester City has become the old Manchester United.
Ronaldo skewers Malmo
This was one of those nights when Cristiano Ronaldo was on his game. Sure, it came against Malmo, who was thrashed 8-0 in Spain to finish bottom of the group with just three points. Still, this was an epic performance by the Portuguese star, as he scored four goals (all in a row over a 20 minute span on either side of the halftime break) and set up teammate Karim Benzema twice.
In scoring four times, Ronaldo set a new Champions League record with 11 goals during the group stage. He also became only the fourth player in the fabled history of Real Madrid to score four goals in a Champions League/European Cup match. The others? Alfredo Di Stefano, Hugo Sanchez and Ferenc Puskas. That’s pretty impressive company.
This win and performance against a side the calibre of Malmo won’t make up for the shellacking los blancos took in the recent Clasico before their fans. But it will put a spring back in Real’s step as it tries to catch La Liga leaders Barcelona in the standings, and it’ll serve as subtle reminder that Real is still a force in this competition, and should not be taken lightly.
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Naldo’s volley off a free kick for Wolfsburg to draw level with Manchester United at 1-1 was a gorgeous piece of skill:
So many to choose from, but it has to be Sergio Rico’s stop on Paul Pogba early in the second half. The Juventus midfielder unleash a powerful shot from distance that was curling into the corner, but the Sevilla goalkeeper did brilliantly to dive and claw the ball away at the very last second.
Again, lots of choices. Sevilla and Juventus provided plenty of entertainment, as did Wolfsburg and Manchester United. And even though it wasn’t much of a contest, Real Madrid put on a show in their destruction of Malmo. But we’ll give the award to Manchester City’s amazing comeback win over Borrusia Monchengladbach.
Great scenes at the Estadio Ramon Sanchez-Pizjun at the final whistle as Sevilla players and fans celebrated their win over Juventus. A nothing game? Hardly. Qualifying for the UEFA Europa League meant a lot to Sevilla. Nice to see teams, players and fans take the much-maligned competition so seriously.
“I don’t look for records, the records look for me.” – Cristiano Ronaldo
SIX PACK OF STATS
• Manchester United has failed to qualify from the group stage on four occasions: 1994/95, 2005/06, 2011/12 and this season.
• Raheem Sterling is the first Englishman to score a brace in a Champions League game for Manchester City.
• Real Madrid is the third team to score eight goals in a Champions League match after Monaco in 2003 and Liverpool in 2007.
• Fernando Llorente’s previous Champions League goal dated back to November 2014 (against Malmo), 377 days ago.
• Zlatan Ibrahimovic has had a hand in Paris Saint-Germain’s last five goals (three goals, two assists).
• CSKA Moscow conceded their 100th goal in the 60th Champions League game.
Stats courtesy of Opta
1) Cristiano Ronaldo: Four goals for the Portuguese star as Real Madrid shredded Malmo 8-0 at the Bernabeu. A one-man wrecking crew. Awesome.
2) Karim Benzema: If the sex scandal is proving a distraction, the Frenchman is not showing it on the pitch. Three goals on the night for Real Madrid.
3) Sergio Rico: The young goalkeeper was absolutely fabulous for Sevilla, making a number of great saves to keep Juventus off the score-sheet .
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