1st Leg of the Champions League Recap

Manuel Chimoy

The first leg of the 2018/19 UEFA Champions League wasn’t short on exciting games. Ajax and Real Madrid played perhaps the most exhilarating match, while United and PSG had an unexpected outcome. In a collection of all of Europe’s best teams, the competition will only heat up from here.

Roma vs. Porto

This was a huge game for Nicolò Zaniolo, Roma’s teenage wonderkid. The 19-year-old prospect-turned-superstar in Italian football scored twice against Porto. The first goal came in the 70th minute, when Roma’s Edin Džeko laid the ball off for Zaniolo, who drilled it at the left far post, which seemed to shock Porto’s goalkeeper Iker Casillas.

Zaniolo’s second goal came after six minutes from the first goal when Edin Džeko tried to shoot it outside of the box. After it hit the left post, the ball rolled to the right and Zaniolo was there at the right time to tap it in to make it 2-0 for Roma.

The majority of the game was back and forth, Roma created more chances and Porto possessed the ball longer.

Porto did not keep quiet the whole game though; the Portuguese side scored a goal in the 79th minute from forward Adrián López with a fantastic volley to bury it to the bottom left corner to make it 2-1, which will help Porto for the returning leg at their home Estádio do Dragão.

Manchester United vs. PSG

United came into this game with a lot of confidence; which stemmed their recent performance in the English Premier League, playing at home at Old Trafford, and with the injuries of PSG forwards Edinson Cavani and Neymar. However, this game quickly became a reality check for United.

The star of this game was PSG forward Ángel Di María, who managed two amazing assists. His tenure at United didn’t really go to well for him, so the next season he moved to PSG and got his revenge on the Red Devils.

The first half of the game was a disaster for both teams. PSG played just as bad as United, but PSG was the team that was able to adjust going into the second half.

PSG scored twice in their victory against United. The first one came from a corner at the 53rd-minute mark, taken by Di Maria, beautifully curved straight to PSG center back Presnel Kimpembe, who finished the ball as if he were a striker.

The second goal was just seven minutes after the first. Di María got a pass from PSG left back Juan Bernat, then dribbled the ball to the left side of the pitch where he saw PSG forward Kylian Mbappé in the box. Di María crossed it to Mbappe, who put it in back of the net to make it 2-0 for PSG.

United Midfielder Paul Pogba got a red card at the 89th minute, which means he will be suspended for the next leg.

PSG showed that even with two star players down, they still have a lot more to give and they don’t need Cavani or Neymar to carry the team.

As a team, United played poorly. They didn’t look like like they were ready but, United goalkeeper David de Gea played his heart out even though he got scored on twice. PSG could have won by more, but David de Gea was the one to deny all the other PSG shots that didn’t become goals.

Tottenham vs. Borussia Dortmund

Watching Dortmund play as well as they did in the first half, you wouldn’t believe the one-sided result: a 3-0 win for Tottenham.

Right away you can tell that Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris was on fire, denying every shot they came his way from Dortmund’s attack – which was relentless in the first half.

Tottenham had to change their strategy in the second half, which led to their first goal in the 47th minute by Son Heung-min. He was assisted on a by a beautiful cross from Jan Vertonghen; making it 1-0 Tottenham.

The second goal came much later in the 83rd-minute on a Tottenham right-back Serge Aurier cross to Vertonghen in the box, who finished it ball  to make it 2-0 to Tottenham.

Other than Son, Vertonghen has to be the best player of the game. He’s normally a center back for Tottenham, although in this match he was played at left wing-back. In his best performance of the season, he definitely looked like he belonged and played years in that position.

Tottenham forward Fernando Llorente scored the third and final goal on a header from a corner, and the game soon ended in the Hotspur favor.

Ajax vs. Real Madrid

This game was definitely close to my heart, because Ajax is a young team with a bright future that played beautiful football and looked like one of the best team in Europe that night. But Real Madrid, the three-time Champions League winner in a row, aided by controversial VAR decisions, still beat Ajax 2-1.

Right away in the first second you could tell Ajax is there to win. Right off the bat, they came out with a high pressure attack without being afraid of a counter-attack from Real Madrid’s forwards. For the first ten minutes, Madrid couldn’t even get the ball into Ajax’s half.

In the 37th minute is where the controversy began. During a corner for Ajax, defender Matthijs de Ligt headed it to the net, but Madrid’s goalkeeper, Thibaut Courtois, saved the ball by scooping it up into the air; but Ajax left-back Nicolás Tagliafico scored the goal with a header Here’s where the controversy is: Ajax forward Dušan Tadić was inCourtois’ way for him to to make the second save, and because of that they disallowed the goal. The game remained 0-0.

Madrid’s forward Vinícius Júnior did not play to the level that fans have expected of him. Despite, or perhaps due to, the pressure on him to perform, and he wasn’t really playing well at all. But, he at least made one play that redeemed him that game.

Vinícius was open in the left side, where he dribbled the ball all the way to the center of the box and passed it to Madrid’s striker Karim Benzema, who blasted it to the top left corner to make it 1-0 for Madrid

In the 75th minute Ajax forward David Neres was free in the left side on the pitch when he saw his teammate Hakim Ziyech in the box to cross it too, and Ziyech all he had to do was finish it to the back of the net, and that’s what he did to make it 1-1.

And then came more controversy. In the 87th minute, Madrid’s right-back Dani Carvajal crossed the ball to teammate Marco Asensio, who finished it inside the box to put Madris in the lead 2-1. However, it appeared that Ajax center midfielder Frenkie de Jong was fouled in the middle of the play by Madrid’s midfielder Lucas Vázquez. However, the referee let the game play on and the goal stood.

This was definitely the most entertaining game of this Champions League yet. A team that you would think had no chance against Madrid came out fighting from the start with no hesitations.

The star player of this game had to be the youngest captain to start in the Champions League history, Matthijs de Ligt.  At 19-years-old, De Light showed why the biggest clubs in Europe want his signature next season. He played outstanding shutting down attacks from Madrid’s attack to helping in the offense when needed he was just outstanding. He was the reason why Vinícius didn’t played too well, because he was making him like a hawk and Vinícius could not handle it.

Lyon vs. FC Barcelona

Coming into this game, Barcelona was not in good form. Although they were barely winning against other teams, but Barcelona is still the favorite in this match. Lyon also has been struggling in their perspective league.

The game was a lot of back and forth for about majority of the first half, but in the second half Barcelona had way more control of the game. Barcelona had a lot of chances that game with 25 shots in total for them in compare of Lyon shots being five. You could tell that Barcelona wanted badly to score, but it was chance after chance they missed. They had trouble in the finishing department that game, but they were creating a lot of chances.

Lyon was good in the counter attacks, they exploited more of the left side since Barcelona’s left-back Jordi Alba likes to go into the attack, leaving a hole in the defense, and that’s where Lyon always started their counterattacks.

In this game you were hoping for a goal the whole game, but it never came even when there was a lot of chances created overall.

The worst player in that game must be without a doubt Barcelona’s striker Luiz Suarez. Suarez screwed up in the game, he lost possession of the ball a lot, he missed easy shots to the net, and he just couldn’t finish easy goals that a striker of his caliber should put it to the back of the net.

After that game, Barcelona should try to find someone that can take over Suarez, he’s not getting any younger and I think Barcelona knows that and will be looking for a younger striker to slowly take over the number nine role for the years to come for Barcelona.

The stars of this game were both goalkeepers, Barcelona’s Marc-André ter Stegen and Lyon’s Anthony Lopes. Without these two having incredible performance for their perspective teams, the score would have been different than what it was – a 0-0 draw.

Liverpool vs. Bayern Munich

The end result of a draw was very disappointing because I watched this with the expectation that two of the European superpowers going head-to-head would be a more exciting game. Sadly, that was not the case.

Both teams missed key players; for Bayern it was forward Thomas Müller and for Liverpool it was defender Virgil van Dijk.

The whole game was a back and forth, with both teams creating plenty of opportunities.

Both goalkeepers, Liverpool’s Alisson Becker and Bayern’s Manuel Neuer, did good enough against the other team, to keep them from scoring. Bayern’s defense was a little bit better than because they defended Liverpool’s forwards Sadio Mané and Mohamed Salah well, making it harder on Liverpool to score which is exactly what they did.

The best player in this game for sure must be Bayern’s midfielder Javi Martínez due to his strong defense. He was also good when he committed going forward, he’s one of the big reasons why the game ended 0-0 which could have ended differently.

Atletico Madrid vs. Juventus

This game was a shocking had a shocking result. Juventus was the favorite one to win since they have Cristiano Ronaldo and there in good form. Atletico were not the favorite to win this game since in the Spanish league, they have been losing and barely won one game out of their past three and were struggling a lot to find their form.

This game had to be the definition of back-and-forth both teams created a lot of chances, and Atletico had 13 shots to Juventus 14 but Juventus had 64% possession compare to Atletico 36% possession.

There were multiple controversial calls in this game, but the one, in particular, is Atletic striker Álvaro Morata’s disallowed goal.

In the 70th minute, Atletico defender Filipe Luís received a pass from one of his teammates. Filipe saw a great opportunity to cross since he saw Morata in the box, which he did, and Morata scored a header – or so he thought. The referee used VAR and decided to cancel the goal because Morata pushed Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini before he headed the ball, so it was still 0-0.

The 78th minute is where Atletico’s defender José Giménez scored the first goal of the game. The goal came to from a corner that was bounced around in the middle of the box, and Giménez was there at the right time to finish it to the bottom left corner of the net to make it 1-0 for Atletico.

It only took five minutes for Atletico’s next goal by defender Diego Godín, which came from a set piece. Godín turned around and saw the ball coming his way and volley it in to make it 2-0 for Atletico.

The star of the game had to be Atletico’s goalkeeper Jan Oblak. Without him in this game Juventus could easily have had another score. He saved a powerful free-kick from Ronaldo, a powerful header from Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci, and other important shots.

Schalke 04 vs. Manchester City

This game was another shocking one in a way since no one thought Schalke would even get one goal in this match because they are in the 14th place of the Bundesliga table and City are 2nd place in the English Premier League table.

The first goal came in the 18th minute mark, when Schalke’s goalkeeper Ralf Fährmann passed it to defender Salif Sané, who was distracted and didn’t see City’s midfielder David Silva behind him. So, Silva stole the ball and passed it to City’s striker Sergio Agüero to finished it inside the box to make it 1-0 to City.

In the 38th minute mark, a controversial penalty in favor of Schalke happened because City’s defender, Nicolás Otamendi, was called on a handball. Schalke midfielder Nabil Bentaleb took the penalty, and then he buried it at the right side of the net to make it 1-1.

There was another controversial penalty just seven minutes after the last penalty. Schalke was in a set piece, and they took it but Sané was held and dragged down by City’s defender Fernandinho and the ref called it, and it was a penalty for Schalke. Bentaleb took the penalty again, and the result was the same, he power shot it to the top left corner to make it 2-1 for Schalke.

First half was a negative for City just because of the unlucky penalties from Schalke; if that weren’t the case, then City would have been alright in the first half since they dominated the majority of the first half.

Otamendi fouled Schalke striker Guido Burgstaller in the 68th minute; as a result, Otamendi was sent off for accumulating two yellow cards, so City will be playing with ten players.

City’s forward Leroy Sané made a free kick in the 85th minute to make it 2-2. The free kick was so perfect, with a beautiful curved to the top right corner.

From that moment you can tell that City wanted to come back to win it all. Even with one man down they were still motivated; and Schalke didn’t look thrilled after they noticed that City could come back.

City’s last goal came all the way from City’s goalkeeper box after City’s keeper Ederson, kicked a super long pass to Raheem Sterling that was across the pitch and Sterling just took the ball and shot it in to make a comeback for City 3-2.

The game overall was entertaining because of all the ups and downs, at one point you thought City was going to win and then you thought they were going to lose.

The star of the game must be Sterling because of his last-minute goal to save City to shut down Schalke.