The European Champions League Returns
The European Champions League proper returned on Tuesday evening. Arsenal faced stiff opposition in their first match, away at Borussia Dortmund.
Arsenal’s off season trading has been well documented, but Dortmund have been busy too. They lost prolific striker Robert Lewandowski to Bayern Munich, but have picked up Ciro Immobile from Torino, who gave Arsenal problems all night on Tuesday. Shinji Kagawa has returned to the club after a fruitless two years at Manchester United and scored in his first domestic fixture, but was not fit enough to face Arsenal.
Arsenal brought in 19-year-old Hector Bellerin at right back and were very short on defensive cover, with Nacho Monreal and Mathieu Debuchy injured and Calum Chambers sick with tonsillitis, although Chambers did warm the bench in case of an emergency.
Dortmund started the game at a frantic pace, creating numerous chances, only to be foiled by Wojciech Szczęsny. While Arsenal continuously misplaced passes and gave the ball away.
Despite being under siege, it looked like Arsenal would finish the half on an even par. But in the final minute, Arsenal conceded possession on the edge of the Dortmund area. A long clearance found the former Torino forward, Immobile. He found the net with a low angled finish after gliding past Koscielny. Several Arsenal defenders and Szczęsny were at fault.
If anything Arsenal were worse in the second half, not to take anything away from the Dortmundperformance. Not one of the gunners could be considered on form. Dortmund scored again, just three minutes into the second stanza. Aubameyang skipped round Szczesny and bundled the ball over the line after the keeper and Per Mertesacker got in each other’s way.
Dortmund created several more chances and Arsenal were lucky to come away with only a 2-0 score line. A few chances fell to Danny Welbeck but he was unable to convert.
Arsenal will need to take a long hard look at themselves before facing Aston Villa on Saturday.
The other game in Group D between Galatasaray and Anderlecht finished 1-1 which could be a bonus for Arsenal in the long run, if they can improve their own performance in their remaining fixtures.
Liverpool hosted Bulgarian pub side Ludogorets Razgrad. The football club was only founded in 2001, choosing their name by selecting random letters from a bag of Scrabble tiles.
The game was a low key affair with no goals until the 82nd minute, when Mario Balotelli held off two defenders and poked home his first goal for Liverpool.
Winger and part time sheep worrier, Dani Abalo came on as a substitute and seemed to have clinched a point for the visitors in the final minute, when he rounded Simon Mignolet and scored. But in the second minute of injury time Ludogorets’ goalkeeper, Milan Borjan, fouled Javier Manquillo and Steven Gerrard scored from the resulting penalty.
It could be a tough outing when Liverpool face Ludogorets in the reverse fixture, on their pitch fashioned from a reclaimed turnip farm (some of the ‘facts’ in this match report may need further investigation).
Elsewhere on Tuesday evening Juventus, Olympiakos, Zenit St Petersburg and Monaco all had wins, while Real Madrid destroyed FC Basel 5-1 with goals from Gareth Bale, Ronaldo, Rodríguez and Benzema, plus an own goal to kick off the scoring.
On Wednesday evening Manchester City were almost as ‘under the cosh’ at Bayern Munich as Arsenal were the previous night in the same country.
Joe Hart had managed to keep a clean sheet right up until the final minute, with a string of saves from Thomas Muller, Gotze and Boateng. But just when it appeared City would come away with a point, Jerome Boateng scored via a slight deflection off Mario Gotze as his shot flew across Joe Hart, after City had failed to clear a corner.
Chelsea were held to a 1-1 draw at home despite Cesc Fabregas opening the scoring for them in the 11th minute. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar equalised for Schalke in the second half and they managed to hold on for the draw, although Chelsea pushed hard for a winner in the closing stages.
Draws were the norm in the Wednesday evening games, but Barcelona managed a narrow victory over Cyprus’ Apoel Nicosia. While Porta and Roma both had convincing wins, Roma beating CSKA Moscow 5-1 and Porta winning 6-0 against BATE Borisov of Belarus.