Ahead of tonight’s clashes, we look back on Tuesday evening and the events that unfolded in the UEFA Champions League…
Chelsea in eight goal thriller
The game started in frantic fashion. Just two minutes in, Quincy Promes’ ball into the box from a set piece took a slight deflection of Tammy Abraham into the Chelsea net. But the London side responded almost immediately when Christian Pulisic went down in the box and Jorginho stepped up (or should I say skipped up!) to slot away the penalty. 1-1 just 4 minutes in, we knew we were in for a entertaining game.
After Abraham’s goal was disallowed for offside by VAR, Hakim Ziyech bent a stunning ball into the box for Promes to head in just minutes later. Speaking of Ziyech, the Moroccan magician used his wand of a left foot to curl a stunning free kick onto the far post which then went in off Kepa’s face to make it 3-1 to the visitors. £26 million he would’ve cost in the summer. Mistakes have been made.
Donny Van de Beek then made it 4-1 just ten minutes after the restart with a cool finish into the bottom corner. But Chelsea still didn’t look finished. A brilliant ball by Pulisic was met by Abraham before Cesar Azpilicueta turned in the ball in the 62 minute to start the comeback.
Then all hell broke loose. Daley Blind was sent off for fouls in the lead up to Callum Hudson-Odoi’s shot hitting the arm of Veltman. But the latter was also shown a red card for his ‘harsh’ handball I’d say. Regardless, the Dutch side were down to 9 men and Jorginho once again converted from the penalty spot. 4-3 now, it seemed inevitable the Blues would level it up.
Stamford Bridge erupted once again when a header bounced off the crossbar into the path of Reece James who hammered it in from 10 yards. 19 years of age, off the bench, what a moment for him. Then a goal mouth scramble led to Azpilicueta once again putting the ball into the back of the net. However despite the euphoria, VAR disallowed it and score remained at 4-4.
Chances subsequently fell to both sides, but the game finished four a piece. What a game, it seems like the magical Champions League comebacks from last season have been followed up in the perfect style in 2019/20. More please!
Liverpool ‘sneak’ past Genk
The word sneak is probably unfair. The reigning European Champions had 71% possession and 27 shots, but a Mbwana Samatta equaliser gave Jürgen Klopp’s men a minor heart attack and what I can only imagine was a stern half-time team talk.
With Sadio Mané and Roberto Firmino on the bench at Anfield, it was down to a trio of Mohamed Salah, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and big game player Divock Origi to outdo the Belgians. It took until the 13th minute before they found the lead; a James Milner cross pinballed in the area before finding Georginio Wijnaldum, who’s clever flick slotted past Gaëtan Coucke.
In fact, Liverpool could have been three or four up. However, in the 40th minute, Samatta’s powerful near post header flew past Alisson. Liverpool were now in a spot of bother. Genk looked structurally sound and would be hard to get through. It came mainly thanks to Liverpool’s indecisiveness infront of goal. They must improve.
They did. It only took eight minutes after the halfway mark for the Champions League winners to finally break through the Belgian wall. When Oxlade-Chamberlain received the ball with his back to goal, few would’ve thought he could muster the winner. A sharp turn and powerful left-foot strike drove into the corner. A huge sigh of relief.
Barcelona unable to get past Slavia Prague
The general consensus amongst many in the European game is that Barcelona are no longer a super team; more a group of individuals flung together. The names Antoine Griezmann, Frenkie de Jong and Ousmané Dembélé, alongside the forever magisterial Lionel Messi, is enough to frighten many grown men. But this potent frontline, backed by de Jong, is rather the opposite.
Slavia Prague had to get through many miles to keep up with the possession-hungry Barcelona, but with the only chance being one of Lionel Messi’s magical runs that ultimately ended up with the crossbar rattled, Slavia
The game ended 0-0 and boos rang out at the Nou Camp when Michael Oliver blew the final whistle. Ernesto Valverde looks to have run out of ideas and many of the Blaugrana faithful were calling for his head. This is probably correct, as Valverde is not capable of gelling this superstar line up together. We will have to see what happens behind the scenes over the next couple of days. They will get through the group stages of the Champions League, but win it? No chance.
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