The 2022-23 UEFA Champions League got underway again this week as the tournament reached the halfway point of the group stage.
Game 3 highlights include FC Barcelona going a third straight road game without a goal, Bayern Munich extending their unbeaten run in the group stage to 31 games, and Lionel Messi scoring against 40 different opponents to Set a new competition record.
Here are the highlights from this week’s round of games.
Sevilla, Bayer Leverkusen have sacked their coaches after losses
Former Liverpool and Real Madrid midfielder Xabi Alonso has been named the new coach of Bayer Leverkusen, replacing Gerardo Sion, who was sacked by the Bundesliga club on Wednesday.
Leverkusen decided to part ways with the Swiss coach after Tuesday’s 2-0 loss to FC Porto in Group B. Despite finishing third in the German league last season, Sion couldn’t hold their own. Same magic during the current campaign. Bayer were knocked out by third division outfit SV Elversberg in the first round of the German Cup and are second last in the Bundesliga standings after eight games.
At least the German outfit waited a day to release Sion from his duties. Julen Lopetegui wasn’t so lucky, as Sevilla announced they had sacked the former Spanish national team coach minutes after Wednesday’s 4-1 home loss to Borussia Dortmund.
The loss moved Sevilla into a tie with FC Copenhagen for last place in Group G with one point each. Sevilla are 17th in the Spanish league standings with five points from less than seven games, and are just one point above the relegation zone.
Lopetegui clearly knew his time was up after the final whistle blew, as he waved goodbye to the fans inside the Estadio Ramón Sánchez Pizjuan as they chanted and chanted his name. Sevilla won the UEFA Europa League and posted three consecutive top-four finishes in La Liga during Lopetegui’s three years in charge.
Erling Holland couldn’t stop scoring for Man City
Opposing teams must absolutely hate when they see Manchester City come into the schedule, because they know they will be competing with Erling Holland.
The Norwegian striker continued his prolific scoring streak with a brace as Man City beat Danish side FC Copenhagen 5-0 in Group G on Wednesday. Holland, 22, has scored 19 goals in 11 games for City this season, earning $62 million. Million transfer move from Borussia Dortmund over the summer.
Holland was the picture of efficiency against the Dane, his two goals coming in just four shots and a total of 11 touches on goal before being subbed off at half-time.
Incredibly, Haaland now has 28 career goals in 22 Champions League games. To put it in context. Cristiano Ronaldo, the competition’s all-time leading scorer with 140 goals, has not scored in his first 20 Champions League appearances. Or, put another way, Haaland has passed Luis Suarez (27 goals) on the all-time Champions League list with 51 fewer games played!
Canadian competition: A successful start for Tajon Buchanan
A quad injury has sidelined Canadian winger Tajon Buchanan for much of the Belgian league season – he only made his debut for Club Brugge late last month.
But Buchanan showed no signs of rust during Tuesday’s Champions League opener, starring in Brugge’s 2-0 win over visitors Atletico Madrid in Group B. Buchanan looked alive to take on Atlético defenders one-on-one and effectively. Interacted with his attacking teammates by regularly getting into dangerous positions. His pace and quickness off the dribble allowed him to regularly unbalance the Spanish crowd, as he completed 89 percent of his passes and registered one shot before missing after 79 minutes.
Elsewhere, Canadian full-back Alphonso Davies started and played 45 minutes in Bayern Munich’s 5-0 Group C win at home to FC Viktoria Plzen on Tuesday. It was a brilliant pass in transition from Davies that helped set up Serge Gnabry’s goal that put Bayern 2 up. 0 lead after just 13 minutes. With 24 Champions League games under his belt, Davis passed Atiba Hutchinson to become the Canadian men’s team’s all-time leader in appearances.
Also on Tuesday, Canadian midfielder Stefan Eustaquio put in a solid defensive shift, playing the full 90 minutes of FC Porto’s 2-0 home win over Bayer Leverkusen.
Napoli beat Ajax to stay 3-0
It is not Premier League giants Liverpool FC who top the Group A table, but Napoli, who cruised through the group stage with an impressive 6-1 win over Ajax in Amsterdam on Tuesday. continued its full run. It was the legendary Dutch club’s heaviest loss since a 5-1 defeat against Bayern Munich in 1980.
The Italians aren’t the only team to have recorded three wins to start this year’s competition, but they’ve been the most effective in doing so, scoring a tournament-leading 13 goals, while conceding just twice. .
22-year-old forward Giacomo Raspadori has proved a revelation for Napoli since joining them on loan from fellow Serie A side Sassuolo. Last month, he scored his first Champions League goal in a 3-0 win over Rangers, and added to his tally this week with a goal against Ajax.
Many critics tipped Liverpool to win the group in September, but Napoli, who are also unbeaten in Serie A and top of the table, have a dynamic attack with a well-oiled defence. Perfectly balanced which helps them to grind efficiently. A string of results in Europe, including a 4-1 home win over Liverpool in September and a demolition job at Ajax in the Netherlands.
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.