Agathe Vanmassenhove || Sports Reporter
This week, the greatest European soccer competition began another year after the crowning of Pep’s Manchester City as victors last June. The Champions League kicked off for the 2023-24 season on Tuesday, with the first matchday of the Group Stages. We witnessed some good games and better surprises throughout the 16 games played on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Let’s start with the show that FC Barcelona gave us during their game against the Belgian team Antwerp, played at their stadium in Montjuic. Barcelona’s manager Xavi set a new lineup in anticipation of this game, with the newly loaned recruits Joao Cancelo and Joao Felix playing large roles. These players seem to be giving a very good dynamic to the team, allowing FC Barcelona to play proper football again after years of struggle. Joao Felix scored two goals and assisted Robert Lewandowski on another, who seems to be back in shape after a complicated first season at Barça. By the 20th minute, Barcelona was already winning 3-0 and ended the game with a score of 5-0. Antwerp tried to put together some possessions, but couldn’t get past Barcelona’s defense, and started the group phase with 0 points.
At the same time, another Spanish team with a much different style of play was battling against S.S. Lazio in Roma. Atletico was able to take the lead with a beautiful shot outside of the box by Pablo Barrios, a promising young Spanish player, taken from the center of the Atletico formation. Even if Lazio had more scoring opportunities during the first half, Atletico’s defensive way of playing allowed them to stay out of trouble with a big performance from Jan Oblak. Unfortunately for Atletico, an insane head goal was scored by Ivan Provedel, Lazio’s goalkeeper, on a corner kick 4 minutes into extra time, allowing the Roman team to keep the tie.
The last great game out of the first matchday was the anticipated game between Bayern and Manchester United. A game that seemed to already be in the favor of Bayern by the end of the first half turned out to be an explosion of goals in the last 20 minutes. Manchester United, who did not start their season well, were lost in this game until Erik ten Hag decided to substitute Anthony Martial and Alejandro Garnacho, opening the game up, and allowing Casemiro, a center-back, to score two goals. Bayern almost allowed a comeback in the last minutes of the game but still managed to win 4-3 at the Allianz Arena. Harry Kane was able to contribute, scoring his first goal with Bayern in the Champions League.
Apart from these games, PSG managed to beat Dortmund 2-0, an unexpected outcome considering PSG’s struggle in Ligue 1 since the beginning of the season. Real Madrid struggled at home to beat Union of Berlin, with Jude Bellingham having to save his team once again, scoring a last-minute goal for Real Madrid. Lens managed a tie with Sevilla, a formidable foe after their catastrophic beginning of the season placed them last in Ligue 1. Arsenal was able to make a comeback in the Champions League after years, beating PSV 4-0, placing them first in their group.
Here’s the chart of where the teams are standing in their respective group after this first game of the group stage.
The second matchday of the group stage will be held on the 3rd and 4th of October. The race for the teams to end up first of their groups is now on.
Sophomore Agathe Vanmassenhove is a Sports Reporter. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.