As I settled down to watch the first ever Champions League group stage games “exclusively live on BT Sport”, I realised that I might never hear the voice of Andy Townsend ever again, and immediately warmed to the new regime.
BT have put together a good team of presenters, analysts and summarisers including Gary Lineker (Britain’s favourite crisp merchant), Steven Gerrard (winner of Pundit with the Longest Commute 2015), Ian Wright (star of hit TV show, Friends Like These), Chris Sutton (hired before Celtic got knocked out) and Ally McCoist (conveniently recently let go from a lucrative gardening role).
Tuesday’s big game saw Man City, with a 100% domestic record facing a transitional Juventus side who had scraped 1 point from 9 in Serie A, a league that we are consistently told is so much weaker than the Premier League. Surely this was the night City, with £50m sub Kevin De Bruyne, marked their arrival as a contender for the big one? Of course not, they collapsed as usual and lost 2-1, Alvaro Morata’s superb finish ensured that it was the same old story for the Manchester Billionaires. Sevilla defeated a Borussia Monchengladbach side that look a shadow of the team that secured qualification last year 3-0. A result which flattered the Germans, early days yet but the group looks to be a three horse race.
“Louis Van Gaal’s Army” and their similarly hugely expensive squad travelled to top seeds PSV, top seeded on the basis they are the Dutch Champions, a new system which drew criticism from certain quarters and who were seen as the easiest of the top seeds that the English sides could draw. And of course PSV won 2-1, though in fairness, Man United should have had a penalty in the Luke Shaw incident. Get well soon Luke. Wolfsburg defeated CSKA 1-0 in the other game, De Bruyne’s replacement Julian Draxler nabbed the only goal. Wide open so far in Group B.
There may not be any Scottish teams in this season’s tournament but Shahktar Donetsk did a great impression of one by going down 4-0 at the Bernebeu and making an already difficult task much harder by getting a man sent off, the keeper producing a howler and giving away two penalties (one very harsh in fairness). Ronaldo bagged a hat trick meaning he has 8 goals in the past 2 games! PSG comfortably defeated Malmo 2-0 with Angel Di Maria putting his Manchester nightmare behind him with a lovely finish. Only question in this group is whether it’s going to be Madrid or PSG who finish top.
Astana made Kazakhstan’s debut in the tournament and promptly lost 2-0 to Benfica, they managed to hit the post and you worry that’s as good as its going to get for them away from home. Atletico comfortably silenced the crowd at Galatasaray with Griezmann bagging a brace in a 2-0 victory. Gala almost scored via Jason Denayer though. Oh Jason… I miss you so much.
Arsenal faced a Dinamo Zagreb side that hadn’t won a game in the Champions League for years, and who have just lost their defensive rock and best player Jozo Simunovic (I have no idea if that’s a fair assessment of Jozo’s talents, but I pray that it is). Arsene Wenger clearly looked at the results from the night before and thought ‘anything you can do I can do worse’ and slumped to a coupon bursting 2-1 defeat 3with Olivier Giroud seeing red in the process. Bayern Munich cantered to a 3-0 win at Olympiakos, a team whose proud home record has collapsed like their country’s economy.
Chelsea then, could they get a win on the board for the “best, richest league in the world”? Yes they fecking well could, 1 win in 4 for the English sides as they strolled home 3-0 against Maccabi Tel Aviv proving once and for all the English Champions are better than the Israeli Champions. Who’d have thought it? Kiev and Porto drew 2-2 in a great game in the other tie, either could still join Chelsea in the knock outs.
Defending Champions Barca travelled to Rome where they drew 1-1, Suarez opening the scoring with a point blank header before Florenzi scored the goal of the week with a superb “Charlie Adam” lob from almost the half way line and away on the touch line. Ter Stegen conceded a similar goal in the Spanish super cup v Bilbao, a possible weakness of Barca is that he gets lonely when they have all the possession and comes out for a walk to pass the time. Leverkusen on the other hand went top with a 4-1 win over Bate Borisov, with Javier Hernandez bagging a goal for his new side.
In the last group Hulk scored what would have been goal of the night were it not for Florenzi in a superb 3-2 win over former Champions League stalwarts Valencia in what was probably the game of the night. And last but not least Lyon drew away with 9 man Gent, scoring through an incorrectly awarded corner given by Scotland’s own Willie Collum! Good to see he can perform in Europe just as badly as he does domestically. Misfiring Lacazette missed a last minute penalty and with last seasons other top performer Nabil Fekir out for at least 6 months, it looks like it could be a difficult few months for the French side.