It was a disappointing Champions League return for three of the four Premier League teams, with Liverpool the only English side to come out on top, and even they struggled during their narrow 2-0 victory over Ludogorets Razgra. Elsewhere, there were mixed fortunes for the La Liga sides, while the Serie A duo of Roma and Juventus both enjoyed comprehensive victories.
#1 Germany 3 England 0
Germany swept aside England in the mini three-match series between the countries in the opening round of group stage games. On Tuesday Arsenal’s frailties were ruthlessly exposed by Borussia Dortmund who recorded a 2-0 win on home soil. The Bundesliga outfit dominated the match and were fully deserved of their victory, which propelled them to the top of the group, while the Gunners are subsequently rock-bottom.
England were looking to bounce back the following day, however they endured more disappointment as Man City suffered a last-gasp defeat at Bayern Munich, while Chelsea were held to a 1-1 draw by Schalke at the Bridge. It was a desperately disappointing couple of days for the three English clubs, who will each be gunning to recover come the second wave of games in just under two weeks times.
#2 European Nights Resume Normal Service at Anfield
It wasn’t all doom and gloom for the English quartet as Liverpool recorded the one and only win for the Premier League. However, they were expected to do so, having been handed the easiest start to their long-awaited return to Europe’s elite competition: a home fixture against Bulgarian minnows Ludogorets Razgrad. That said, the Reds were made to make hardwork of the Champions League debutants who have only been in existence for 13 years, with skipper Steven Gerrard rescuing the Merseysiders courtesy of a last-gasp penalty. Anfield is famed for its ‘European nights’ and the accompanying drama and there was no shortage as Brendan Rodgers side made its return to the competition for the first time in five years.
#3 Ruthless Roma enjoy rip-roaring return
Roma marked their return to Europe’s elite club competition with a 5-1 thrashing of CSKA Moscow in front of a jubilant home crowd in the Italian capital. Returning from a three-year absence, they showed that they mean business by ruthlessly tearing apart CSKA, and in the processes flew to the top of Group E. Meanwhile, club legend Francesco Totti showed he still has what it takes at this level in his 23rd season at the Stadio Olimpico. Sterner tests against Bayern and City are on the horizon, however their stunning start means confidence is high.
#5 Mixed fortunes for Spanish sides
As expected Spanish giants Real Madrid (4-1 against Basel) and Barcelona (1-0 against Apoel) recorded home victories, as they each registered, contrasting, winning starts to their respective campaigns. However, last season’s runners-up, Atletico Madrid, suffered a shock defeat in Greece to Olympiakos. Diego Simeone’s men were edged out 3-2 in an enthralling match at the Karaiskakis Stadium, which has really spiced up Group A. Meanwhile Athletic Balbao’s 16-year wait for a return to the Champions League ended in a drab goalless draw at home to Shakhtar Donetsk.
Elsewhere, Porto stuffed BATE 6-0, Juventus and Zenit recorded comfortable 2-0 victories over Malmo FF and Benfica respectively, while Moncao edged out Bayern Leverkusen. Additionally Ajax and PSG played out a 1-1 draw, as did NK Maribor and Sporting Lisbon, and Galatasaray and Anderlecht.
It’s too early in the competition to ascertain too much about what the next eight months has in store but the ‘heavy-weights’ of European football, who have become synonymous with dominating the Champions League in recent years, namely Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid all began as they mean to go on and it would be a surprise if they didn’t occupy the three of the four semi-final places come next April providing the draw keeps them apart in the Quarter Final.