Matchday 4 is typically when things turn into gear in the UEFA Champions League. For most groups, it’s either the day where the top teams pull away and separate themselves from the bottom of the group, or where the bottom flips everything around and mucks up the group. Tuesday had no shortage of both.
Here are the days big stories:
Real Madrid (ESP) vs. PSG (FRA)
I thought this game would be a lot more open than the 0-0 snooze fest these two teams played two weeks ago. Real Madrid would come out and attack more and if they got a goal it would force PSG to open things up and we’d be treated to a much more open affair. Instead Real Madrid struck first with a rather bizarre goal and then proceeded to park the world’s most expensive proverbial bus. Real would cling to an ugly 1-0 win which will earn them qualification to the knockout stage.
Three points are three points and winning ugly is just as good as winning pretty, but Rafa Benitez better start winning pretty quickly. When you’re the manager of Real Madrid and have the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, and James Rodriguez in your arsenal, winning ugly just isn’t going to cut it.
Group B tightens up
Manchester United (ENG) vs. CSKA Moscow (RUS)
“We’re Manchester United, we want to attack!” That was the song that could be heard roaring through Old Trafford as fans became increasingly frustrated with United’s lack of goal scoring opportunities. The club came into the match on the heels of three consecutive 0-0 draws. Louis van Gaal moved Wayne Rooney back to his favored No. 10 role where he had possibly his best game of the season. Finally after 79 minutes, 404 minutes in all competitions, it was Rooney who ended United’s goal drought and gave them the three points.
The win gives United seven points now, which following PSV Eindhoven’s 2-0 win over Wolfsburg, puts United in first place in the group. When the draw for the Group Stage was made, many labeled Group B as one of the toughest groups in the tournament and it’s certainly lived up to it. All four teams are now within three points of each other, ensuring that everyone will have everything to play for over the final two games, making for a very good run-in.
Sevilla (ESP) vs. Manchester City (ENG)
Manchester City have officially exorcised their Champions League demons. After struggling for their first few seasons in Europe and getting off to a slow start this season, many thought they could struggle to reach the knockout stages this season especially since they are dealing with key injuries. City put those worries to bed Tuesday by jumping all over Sevilla early and often, smashing the Spanish side in a 3-1 win and booking a spot in the knockout rounds.
Borussia Mochengladbach (GER) vs. Juventus (ITA)
Fabian Johnson became the first American to score in the Champions League since Sacha Kljestan scored for Anderlecht in 2013, which should now make it very interesting to see if he returns to USMNT camp next week for their World Cup Qualifiers after being sent home early from the last one. If Jurgen Klinsmann drops him for these games, he could face even more backlash then he’s already facing from US fans.
Unfortunately for Mochengladbach it wasn’t enough as Juventus’ late equalizer essentially eliminated them from the knockout rounds. However thanks to City defeating Sevilla, the Germans are now just one point behind Sevilla for third place and a chance to progress to the knockout round of the Europa League.
Atletico Madrid travelled to Astana today where the two teams played out a very dull 0-0 draw. Over in Portugal Benfica flipped around their 2-1 loss to Galatasaray from two weeks ago to move into first place in the group. The top three teams all remain close ensuring a lot to play for over Matchdays 5 and 6. It should be a lot of fun.