UCL Recap, Highlights: Ludogorets give Liverpool scare, some heavy victories, more


Staff Writer 

The Champions League new boys nearly pulled off a dream start at Anfield. However, they were eventually undone by a late Steven Gerrard penalty.

Goalkeeper Milan Borjan failed to clear his lines, and although it looked a harsh call for the foul, it set up Liverpool with a PK after Javi Manquillo went down. Gerrard stepped up to the spot and finished in the third minute of second half stoppage time.

Gerrard’s winner came minutes after Dani Abalo gave the visitors a surprising goal. After being played through by Younes Hamza, Abalo touched the ball around an on-rushing Simon Mignolet and finished into an empty net.

Liverpool went ahead initially through Mario Balotelli. After a ball was played in and ensuing scramble, Balotelli was able to get a shot off and found the back of the net in the 82nd minute.

While Ludogorets ultimately lost, they showed they can at least play with a European big boys — even if it was only for one night. Liverpool, although nervy, get a win in their return to the Champions League.

Basel is up next for Liverpool as Ludogorets gets an even tougher test in Real Madrid.

Other Champions League Results

Huge Victories– Real Madrid, Roma and Porto all started their Champions League group stage campaigns with massive victories. Combined they outscored  their opponents 16-2.

The current title-holders thumped FC Basel to the tune of 5-1. After getting an own goal to kick things off, Madrid ran rampant. Gareth Bale had a lovely goal, chipping the goalkeeper and then finishing into an open net. It was followed up by a Cristiano Ronaldo goal in the following minute.

James Romriguez scored his first Champions League goal for Real Madrid and Karim Benzema capped things off.

Basel will play Liverpool next as Real Madrid faces Ludogorets.

Roma posted five goals on CSKA Moscow in their opening clash in Group E. Juan Manuel Iturbe got things started in the seventh minute. Gervinho then added his first in the 10th and his second in the 31st, sandwiched by a 20th minute Maicon tally. The lead was 5-0 when Sergei Ignashevich scored an own goal.

There was a small glimpse of positive with Ahmed Musa finding a goal in the 82nd minute.

Next up for Roma is Manchester City while CSKA will match-up against Bayern Munich.

In the final one-sided affair, Porto tallied six goals against BATE. Yacine Brahimi led the charge with his hat-trick scoring in the fifth, 32 and 57th minute. Jackson Martinez added a goal in the 37th minute as Adrian Lopez found the back of the net in the 61st and Vincent Aboubakar scored the 6th in the 76th minute.

Porto will play Shakhtar next and BATE will face Athletic Bilbao.

Olympiakos stuns Atletico– The runners-up of a year ago Atletico Madrid started the campaign in stunning fashion in Group A. However, they were on the losing end of a five-goal thriller with Olympiakos.

The Greek side jumped out to an early lead. After a short corner Ibrahim Afellay played the ball to Arthur Masuaku. His low-strike found the far corner to give Olympiakos a sensational start with the goal in the 13th minute. Afellay added a goal of his own in the 31st minute. Alejandro Dominguez drove down the left side and played a cross on the ground that Kostas Mitroglou dummied. The ball came to Afellay to finish off the move.

Atletico got back in the game seven minutes later with a goal through Mario Mandzukic. He headed home Cristian Ansaldi‘s cross at the far post.

However, Olympiakos found a third goal in the 74th minute to put the game away. Mitroglou  with a nice turn after receiving a pass from Patjim Kasami to score from close-range. Antoine Griezmann added a consolation goal, heading in from Koke‘s cross.  

Olympiakos gets Malmo next as Atletico plays Juventus.

Case for the defense– For Arsenal, it was deja vu. Playing with no regard and sending numbers forward, they were punished twice and what should have been more by Borussia Dortmund to start their campaign in Group D.

Time and time again, the Arsenal defense was knifed open by Dortmund attacks. The home side finally struck in the 45th minute. It was a swift counter attack by the not so aptly named Ciro Immobile. He beat Laurent Koscielny and then fired past Wojciech Szczesny for the opener.

Three minutes into the second half, Dortmund had their second. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang received a ball over the top from Kevin Grosskruetz. After getting around Szczesny, Aubameyang had an empty net to shoot from.

Arsenal have yet to learn from their mistakes of the past and really need to adapt a more pragmatic, defensive approach at times, particularly in on the road against tough opposition. 

Their next game will be against Galatasaray while Dortmund squares off against Anderlecht.

Bayern grabs it late– Manchester City looked set to take a point back to England in their opening Group E match. Instead, they were undone by a familiar face. Former City player Jerome Boateng scored the winner in the 90th minute.

With City failing to clear a ball in their own box, it eventually fell to Boateng. The German defender sent a half-volley to the far corner in fine fashion.

The result is ultimately tough on the visitors, but will have to bring a similar positive attitude in their next game. They will play CSKA Moscow next while Bayern will face Roma.

Barcelona get all they can handle– Barcelona may have been expecting a simple match against APOEL. It was evidenced in their Starting XI with several youngsters made their debuts.

However, it wasn’t as straight-forward. The Catalan side found the lone goal in the 28th minute. Gerard Pique headed home from a well-taken Lionel Messi free-kick.

APOEL didn’t offer much going forward, but Barcelona will be frustrated they had to put more work into this one than they would have liked at the Nou Camp. APOEL can certainly take positives from their opener in Group F.

Barcelona will play PSG next as APOEL faces Ajax.

And the rest– Klass Jan-Huntelaar tallied in the 62nd minute to earn a point at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea.

After taking the ball off of Cesc Fabregas to begin the move, Huntelaar fired the ball through defender Gary Cahill‘s legs on the way through for the equalizer in the 62nd minute.

Fabregas had put the Blues ahead in the 11th minute. The Spanish midfielder looked to have committed a foul, but none was called as the ball fell to Eden Hazard. After driving into the box, he played a pass for Fabregas, who finished the move with the goal.

Chelsea play Sporting next as Schalke faces Maribor.

Ajax were able to secure a point in Paris, getting a 1-1 draw against Paris St. Germain. On Ajax’s first chance on target Lasse Schone curled a free-kick effort into the back of the net from 20 yards out in the 74th minute.

PSG took the lead in the 14th minute through an Edinson Cavani goal. Following up on a rebound off of a Zlatan Ibrahimovic shot, Cavani was able to find the back of the net to give the home side the lead at the time.

Ajax plays APOEL next, while PSG gets a tough test in Barcelona up next.

Zenit St. Petersburg struck twice in the first half to defeat Benfica in Group C. It was two former Benfica players that did the damage.

Hulk got the Russian side off the mark in the fifth minute after chipping goalkeeper Artur. It got worse for the Benfica shot-stopper who brought down Danny and received a red card.

Shortly after, Axel Witsel headed home a Danny corner in the 22nd minute to double the lead.

Zenit face Monaco as Benfica has Bayer Leverkusen up next.

Carlos Tevez scored twice to give Juventus a victory to start Group A play against Malmo. The first came in the 59th minute after a nice exchange with Kwadmo Asamoah before slotting in his shot to the bottom corner of the net. It was his first Champions League goal for five and a half years. He then added a second in the 90th minute with a fantastic free-kick.

Next up for Juventus is Atletico Madrid and Malmo faces Olympiakos.   

Monaco started off their Champions League in fine fashion with a win over Bayer Leverkusen. Joao Moutinho‘s 61st minute striker was enough. Dimitar Berbatov headed the ball into Moutinho’s path, whose shot deflected off Emir Spahic. While it was a bit unlucky on the visitors, they will face Benfica next. Monaco faces Zenit.

Burak Yilmaz rescued a point for Galatasaray in their opening fixture against Sacha Klejstan‘s Anderlecht, although the American started from the bench.

Yilmaz scored in in second half stoppage time slotting past goalkeeper Davy Roef after a cut back from Aurelien Chedjou 

Anderlecht took the lead in the 52nd minute. Dennis Praet took down a long ball on his chest, beat two defenders and then fired past Fernando Muslera from just outside the 18-yard box. Up next for Galatasaray is Arsenal, while Anderlecht faces Borussia Dortmund.

Nani looked to have given Sporting Lisbon a victory in their opening game in Group G. His strike in the 80th minute after cutting in from the right and finding the top corner with his left footed strike looked good value to give the Portuguese side the win.

However, a scrappy Maribor found an equalizer just before the final whistle. In the second minute of stoppage time. After Lisbon failed to clear the ball away, Luka Zahovic headed in.

Maribor next plays Schalke as Sporting face Chelsea.

Athletic Bilbao and Shakhtar Donetsk played to a scoreless draw in their first match in Group H. The visitors were able to hold on despite late pressure from Bilbao in their first Champions League group stage match since 1998/99. Next up for Bilbao is BATE, while Shakhtar faces high-flying Porto.

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