Tuesday, September 15, 2015

It Happened in Europe: PSV upset Manchester United, Manchester City's struggles in Europe continue

Champions League coverage in America expanded quite a bit this season. Instead of Fox Sports controlling everything, they decided to split the load with ESPN. Between the two networks, all eight of today's games were available either on television or streaming online. Through my television, PC, and mobile device, I managed to max out at video feed of six out of eight matches. A real test of my concentration if there ever was one.

Group A
Paris St. Germain 2-0 Malmo
PSG was expected to roll through the Swedish champions and Angel di Maria, freshly arrived from Manchester United, made sure to get the Parisians off to a flying start with a goal in the fourth minute of play. It took them a while to add their second despite controlling the match. Edinson Cavani headed home a cross from Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the 61st minute.

Real Madrid 4-0 Shakhtar Donetsk
It took a half hour for Karim Benzema to give Real Madrid the lead, and that was all they would get before the half. Things got rough for Shakhtar in the 50th minute when Taras Stepanenko was shown his second yellow and was sent off. After that, Real Madrid were rolling. Cristiano Ronaldo converted a pair of PKs to put the game clearly out of reach for the Ukrainian runners up. Ronaldo's hat trick came in the 81st minute, as if Real needed anything more to sew this one up tightly.

Nothing out of the ordinary here. Real Madrid and PSG are expected to roll through this group rather easily, as today proved. There's no question those two will advance, but the battle for the top spot will be fun.

Group B
Wolfsburg 1-0 CSKA Moscow
Kevin de Bruyne's departure was supposed to be a big blow for Wolfsburg, but it was his expensive replacement Julian Draxler with their first Champions League goal this year in the 40th minute. That was all they needed to take care of the visitors from Russia.

PSV Eindhoven 2-1 Manchester United
A scary opening for this one. Luke Shaw was aggressively challenged by Hector Moreno. After laying on the pitch for what felt like an eternity, he had to be stretchered off and replaced by Marco Rojo. In the 41st minute, United got some good news as Memphis Depay put them in front. United kept pressing, but it was Moreno, the perpetrator of Shaw's injury, providing Eindhoven with an equalizer in the second minute of first half stoppage time by heading home a corner. After creating a midfield turnover, PSV was able to break forward leading to a beautiful cross from Maxim Lestienne and header for the goal by Luciano Narsingh to make it 2-1 to the Dutch side. The 12th man that was the ruckus PSV Eindhoven crowd was too much for Manchester United to overcome in the end.

Wolfsburg gets a bit of a boost here thanks to PSV Eindhoven's upset of Manchester United, making their road to advancement a little easier. This should end up as nothing more than a bump in the road for the Red Devils, however. As they should be able to handle Eindhoven and Moscow at home. The tricky part, and the way that Eindhoven or CSKA Moscow can slip in ahead of United, is how well they do on those tough road games in Wolfsburg and the Russian capital.

Group CBenfica 2-0 Astana
Astana, who I expected to get waxed right out of this group, was holding their own for quite some time here. They were scoreless heading into half time, but Nicolas Gaitan made sure to get Benefica moving in the second half. His run through the Astana defense and subsequent shot were a thing of beauty to put the Portuguese champions up a goal. The second came from Greek international Konstantinos Mitroglou in the 62nd.

Galatasaray 0-2 Atletico Madrid
Heading to Turkey is never an easy task for any club, as those Galatasaray supporters can be quite hostile. Antoine Griezmann was not bothered. Last season's leading goal scorer for Atletico bagged the opener in the 18th minute and a second in the 25th.

Atletico Madrid looked quite good in a tricky road game, so they have to be considered bigger favorites than they were before to take the group. The second spot, which is generally considered up for grabs between Galatasaray and Benfica, goes slightly in the favor of the Portuguese champs after Galatasaray failed to take points at home.

Group D
Sevilla 3-0 Borussia Monchengladbach
The first half may have lacked fireworks, but the second was all about Sevilla running up goals on their German opposition. Two second half penalties against Gladbach were enough to undo them. Kevin Gameiro converted the first just two minutes into the second half. Ever Banega nailed the second in the 66th. Substitute Yevhen Konoplyanka provided the third goal in the 84th minute to put it away for good.

Manchester City 1-2 Juventus
Looking to make a real mark in Europe for the first time, Manchester City were handed a difficult opening match against one of last year's finalists. After a scoreless first half, Manchester City finally went in front off the head in Vincent Kompany. Mario Mandzukic levelled for last year's runners up in the 70th minute. Alvaro Morata made it 2-1 to Juve in the 81st minute, thus continuing Manchester City's continental struggles.

Sevilla got their emphatic home win against a side that we really don't know much about, Manchester City gave themselves a bit of a hurdle to climb ass they were unable to hang onto a lead at home. Juventus may be the best in the group, but Sevilla might be a force to challenge them. As for City, what more can be said? They are cruising through the Premier League early on, but at least after one game, still seem unable to exorcise their European demons. Before we really pass judgement, let's see what happens against Gladbach and Sevilla.

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