The 2022-23 UEFA Champions League group stage continues this week, with plenty of magical moments and special performances.
Game 2 highlights include Sporting’s dramatic win over Tottenham via two injury-time goals, Liverpool’s comeback to beat Ajax, and Marco Asensio scoring his 50th career goal for Real Madrid.
Here are the highlights from this week’s round of games.
Man City’s Erling Haaland haunts former club
Norwegian forward Erling Holland was in no mood on Wednesday night, showing no mercy in scoring the decisive goal in Manchester City’s 2-1 home win over Borussia Dortmund.
The Dutchman grabbed the winner against Dortmund in sparkling fashion, hitting a sensational volley with the outside of his foot in the 84th minute in his first game against his former club since joining Man City in the summer.
It was the Dutchman’s 26th career goal in 21 Champions League games, an impressive run that is all the more impressive in light of the fact that Cristiano Ronaldo, who is the competition’s all-time leading scorer with 140 Scored more goals, did not score any goals. His first 20 Champions League appearances.
Man City are getting full value for the $62 million transfer fee they spent to pry Holland away from Germany. Haaland, 22, has now scored in six consecutive games for Man City in all competitions, taking his tally to 13 goals in eight games.
Juventus in deep trouble after second group stage loss
Italian giants Juventus are in a bit of a slump after suffering a second successive Champions League defeat, their latest defeat coming in a 2-1 loss to Benfica in Group H on Wednesday.
The Turin-based club burst out of the gate, pressing the Portuguese visitors with wave after wave of attack through the opening 20 minutes. In the fourth minute, Arkadiusz Malik’s header from Leandro Pardes’ free-kick in Souk pointed to Italy’s goal.
But Benfica took control for the remainder of the first half, their pace on the counter and systematic pressing play frustrating Juve. Fabio Merty’s needless foul late in the half led to a Benfica penalty, which Juve Mario duly converted as the score. David Neres’ goal for Benfica 10 minutes into the second half sent the home side into complete panic mode, and they were never able to recover.
Paris Saint-Germain and Benfica top Group G with six points each, while both Juventus and Israeli champions Maccabi Haifa are yet to pick up a point. There are four games left in the group stage, and under normal circumstances, you wouldn’t rule out a Juve comeback to secure a place in the knockout stages.
But Turin’s old lady have been extremely inconsistent in both the Champions League and Serie A this season, managing just one win in their last seven games in all competitions.
Four minutes to sink Barcelona in Munich
It was an unhappy homecoming for Robert Lewandowski on Tuesday night, as Barcelona beat Bayern Munich 2-0 in Group C. After scoring a hat-trick in last week’s game against Viktoria Plzen, Lewandowski came up short in his debut. Since his summer transfer move, his former side have been in complete disarray even though a number of quality scoring chances have presented the Polish striker.
Bayern beat Barcelona 8-2 in the quarter-finals of the single leg of the 2019-20 COVID-19 tournament, and then recorded a 3-0 win when the two sides met in the group stage last season. Tuesday’s clash was a close one, with both sides battling it out in a thrilling first half that saw plenty of end-to-end action.
At times, Bayern looked vulnerable when under pressure but it did not break, and it was with two goals just four minutes apart early in the second half to sink the Spaniards. Lucas Hernandez’s sublime header at the near post from a corner kick in the 50th minute was a reminder of the kind of goals Lewandowski scored so often during his eight seasons at Bayern.
To Barcelona’s surprise, it was Leroy Sane who delivered the knockout punch with a superb solo effort that saw him beat several defenders and into the penalty area before scoring with a superb finish inside the far post. Log in. Amazingly, Bayern are now unbeaten in their last 30 Champions League group stage games with 27 wins.
Alphonso Davies didn’t find his way on the scoresheet, but the Edmonton native had a solid showing in Bayern Munich’s win over Barcelona.
The Canadian pacer gave the Spanish side all sorts of problems with his probing runs down the left flank, as he put Barcelona’s right full-back Jules Conde under constant pressure. Davies was a defensive star for Byron on the night, making three tackles, a pair of interceptions and a clearance.
Davies also benefited from some good fortune, as he did not appeal for a penalty after he brought down Barca’s Ousmane Dembele in the first half.
Fellow Canadian Stéphane Eustaquio had a tough night in FC Porto’s 4-0 home loss to Club Brugge in Group B on Tuesday. Eustace, of Leamington, Ont. From, was deployed in his usual role in the heart of midfield, but he struggled. Deal with the Belgian club’s aggressive pressing game. As a result, he only completed 74.5 percent of the night.
Canadian forward Ciel Lauren was an unused substitute for Brugge, while Tajon Buchanan did not dress for the Belgian club due to injury.
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.