Champions League wrap: PSG and Napoli the big winners on Matchday One
The Champions League returned this week with all 32 teams in action over the eight groups and the standout stars from Matchday 1 were PSG and Napoli who bested Real Madrid and defending champions Liverpool respectively.
This year’s edition of Europe’s premier competition kicked off on Tuesday with a shock as Inter Milan were held to a 1-1 draw by Slavia Prague. New manager Antonio Conte was not pleased with the result and was quite critical of himself for the tactics deployed in the match and urged his players to be stronger mentally.
The big result on Tuesday night also came from Italy as current holders Liverpool were defeated by Napoli. The Reds became the first team since AC Milan in 1994-95 to lose on Matchday One whilst resuming the defence of their title. Jürgen Klopp’s side have won five out of five in the Premier League, but they came undone in Naples due to uncharacteristic errors from their usually stellar backline.
Klopp was not pleased by the call to award the spot kick.
Andy Robertson came in contact with Jose Callejon and after consulting VAR the referee awarded a rather contentious penalty to Napoli which Dries Merten put away with ease. Klopp was not pleased by the call to award the spot kick and in the post-game press conference stated that he didn’t feel that it was the correct decision. Napoli scored a second in injury time after Ballon d’Or favourite Virgil Van Dyk was pinched off possession close to the box and Fernando Llorente was in the right place to open his account for the Azzurri.
Ancelotti is the only active manager outside Zinedine Zidane to have won three European titles and obtaining continental glory with the Italians would be a dream come true
Napoli and coach Carlo Ancelotti will be very pleased with the start of their European campaign, but they will be wary of thinking too far ahead after failing to get out of the group stage last year despite being in a good position early on. Ancelotti is the only active manager outside Zinedine Zidane to have won three European titles and obtaining continental glory with the Italians would be a dream come true for both him and the club.
Another club also obsessed with European success is PSG and they made a statement of intent by defeating Real Madrid 3-0 at the Parc des Princes on Wednesday night. The French side have had a fairly interesting summer with all the drama surrounding Neymar. The Brazilian eventually stayed with Les Parisiens and they also signed Mauro Icardi from Inter on deadline day adding even more firepower up top.
Gareth Bale’s effort was ruled out by VAR for a handball as he was bringing the ball under control.
However, it was a familiar face for Real Madrid that did all the damage as ex-Los Blanco Angel Di Maria scored early and then doubled his tally just after the half hour mark. Gareth Bale who has now apparently mended fences with Real thought he had pulled one back with an outrageous goal, but his effort was eventually ruled out by VAR for a handball as he was bringing the ball under control. Thomas Meunier then added a goal at the end of the match to make the scoreline a tad more flattering than the performance.
The two other big clashes on Matchday One ended all even as Borussia Dortmund were repeatedly denied by Marc-Andre Ter Stegen’s brilliance in goal for Barcelona, while Juventus seemed well on their way to victory before being pulled back by a last-minute goal from Hector Herrera as they drew 2-2 with Atletico Madrid. All in all Matchday One provided great entertainment and reminded everyone once again just why the Champions League is considered as the best competition in football.