The 2022-23 UEFA Champions League kicked off this week, as the group stage of the tournament entered the home stretch.
Matchday 4 highlights saw Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah come off the bench to score a tournament record hat-trick against Rangers in six minutes and 12 seconds, Israeli club Maccabi Haifa’s first Champions League game since 2002. beat Juventus, and Bayern Munich and Napoli record their fourth straight wins to advance to the knockout stages.
Here are the highlights from this week’s round of games.
Barca, Inter play out a thrilling 3-3 draw at the Camp Nou
FC Barcelona are alive – but just barely – in Group C of the Champions League after a 3-3 draw against Inter Milan on Wednesday.
The Catalans started the day in third place in the group, three points clear of Inter after losing 1-0 to Italy last week. A second defeat to Inter would see Barca exit the tournament with two games remaining in the group stage. Barcelona was also eliminated from the group stage last season.
When German international Ruben Gossens scored in the 89th that gave it away Nerazzurri Leading 3-2, it looked like the Spanish’s fate was sealed. But Robert Lewandowski headed home in injury time to help Barcelona pull away, allowing them to fight back the next day.
Barcelona took the lead shortly before half-time when Ousmane Dembele headed home from a set-up by Sergi Roberto. Inter responded early in the second half with goals from Nicolo Barella and Lotaro Martinez. Lewandowski leveled Barca at 2-2 when his 82nd-minute effort deflected off goalkeeper Andre Onana.
From there the game descended into chaos, with Goossens scoring in the final minute of regulation and Lewandowski equalizing at the death.
“This Champions League is cruel to us. We conceded a lot in the second half but the first one was very good. The first goal was an obvious mistake from the defensive line that we talked about. … But this is the Champions League. We should have played the game from the first half, but it wasn’t to be,” Barcelona manager Xavi told Spanish outlet Movistar+ after the game.
Canadian content: Bayern win without Alphonso Davies
The absence of Canadian full-back Alphonso Davies didn’t slow Bayern Munich down one bit as Bayern Munich cruised to a 4-2 road win over Czech Republic side Viktoria Plzen in Group C on Wednesday.
Davies, a 21-year-old from Edmonton, was ruled out of Bayern’s midweek clash with a heart injury suffered during the Bundesliga game at Borussia Dortmund over the weekend. Davies was injured before half-time when he challenged Dortmund’s Jude Bellingham. The English midfielder accidentally punched Davies in the face to try to win the ball, sending the Canadian international crashing to the ground.
Elsewhere on Wednesday, Club Brugge earned a 0-0 draw with hosts Atletico Madrid in Group B to book a place in the knockout stages. Canada’s Tajon Buchanan started at wing-back for Berg and impressed in the 83rd minute of action, threatening the Belgian side as they went forward in attack and helping the team defend. Back for when Atlético were in power.
Also in Group B, FC Porto shut out Bayer Leverkusen 3-0 in Germany, with Canadian midfielder Stéphane Eustaquio putting in a solid defensive turn for the Portuguese club before being stopped in the last minute of regulation time.
Milan have no complaints about the red card at the San Siro
AC Milan stormed out of the gate and went toe-to-toe with visitors Chelsea in their Group E clash on Tuesday, looking to avenge a 3-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge a week ago. .
But the game turned in the English club’s favor in the 18th minute when former Blues defender Fikayo Tomori was booked for a tackle on Chelsea’s Mason Mount. Not only did it earn Chelsea a penalty, but Tomori was given a red card as German referee Daniel Seibert adjudged that the Milan defender had illegally prevented a clear scoring chance. The VAR booth took a look and upheld Seibert’s decision. Jorginho converted the spot-kick and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang doubled the visitors’ advantage in the 34th to give Chelsea a 2-0 win.
Milan coach Stefano Pioli was furious when he went off Seibert after the final whistle at the San Siro, protesting a decision he felt had completely changed the game.
“The game had just started and I felt we were doing well. The red card and the penalty changed the game, against a team that was already strong and didn’t need an extra man,” Pioli told Italian broadcaster Mediate Infiniti. you said
But Pioli has no complaints. It was a foolish move by Tomori to use his hands to block Mount, and he made no legitimate attempt to obstruct the Chelsea midfielder. Tomori had to accept some of the blame for his frantic attempt to stop the mount from firing when he was on target. Had he kept his hands to himself, things might have turned out differently for Milan.
Borussia Dortmund’s Jude Bellingham joins elite company
Judd Bellingham is enjoying a Champions League season. The English midfielder scored in the 35th minute when he headed home Thomas Meunier’s cross to earn German side Borussia Dortmund a 1-1 draw at visiting Sevilla in Group G on Tuesday.
It was a valuable point for Dortmund, who are second in the group with five points ahead of Sevilla with just two games remaining.
For Bellingham, 19, it was his fourth goal in the tournament this season, but also a history-maker. He became only the third teenager to score in four consecutive UEFA Champions League matches.
This more? No less than two of the best strikers in the world at the moment: Erling Haaland (five games for Red Bull Salzburg in 2019) and Kylian Mbappe (four games for AS Monaco in 2017).
No wonder the youngster is attracting the attention of major English clubs such as Arsenal and Liverpool. Should Bellingham continue to impress in the Champions League – and have a strong showing for England at the FIFA World Cup next month – the list of potential suitors will certainly get longer.
John Molinaro is one of the leading soccer journalists in Canada, having covered the game for over 20 years for several media outlets, including Sportsnet, CBC Sports and Sun Media. He is currently the editor-in-chief of TFC Republic, a website dedicated to in-depth coverage of Toronto FC and Canadian soccer. TFC Republic can be found over here.