Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich and Juventus enter Round of 16 / Manchester City made to wait
The highpoint of the Matchday 4 of the UEFA Champions League was by far the one between Chelsea and Ajax at Stamford Bridge that ended with a score line of 4-4. Frank Lampard’s men mounted a thrilling fightback from 1-4 down to earn a crucial Champions League point as Ajax were reduced to nine men on a night of high drama at Stamford Bridge. Ajax, semi-finalists last season, looked to be in total control and on course to a comfortable win when Donny van de Beek gave them a three-goal lead in just the 55th minute of play finishing stunningly from 12 yards. But in a chaotic closing period Chelsea completed a remarkable recovery as the visitors lost their cool. Chelsea pulled one back through Cesar Azpilicueta’s close-range finish to make it 2-4 in the 63rd. And it was high drama after that. Daley Blind fouled Chelsea striker Tammy Abraham with referee Gianluca Rocchi allowing play to go on. But a goal-bound shot then hit Joel Veltman’s arm in the 18-yard box and Rocchi had no choice but to award a penalty. Rocchi then went back to a loudly protesting Blind and showed him a second yellow card with fellow center-back Joel Veltman also sent off seconds later for the handball. Jorginho scored a penalty for the second time in the match and the score was 3-4 with still around 20 minutes of play to go. Substitute Reece James, 19, pulled Chelsea level in the 74th minute and became the club’s youngest Champions League goal scorer with a low strike from a rebound after Kurt Zouma had headed against the bar. With the hosts pushing for a winner and backed by a delirious crowd, Azpilicueta thought he had scored their fifth goal, only for the VAR (video assistant referee) to intervene and detect a handball by Abraham. Both sides had chances in the closing moments but in the end settled for a draw that left them both level on 7 points with Valencia, who beat Lille 4-1 in this extremely tight Group H.
Barcelona were stunned when they were held to a 0-0 draw by Group F bottom-scrapers Slavia Praha home at Nou Namp. The Catalan giants still retain their premier position in the cluster, though, despite the drawn game. But Borussia Dortmund have edged closer to Barca and are a point below Barca’s 8 after their 3-2 win over Inter-Milan in a thriller at the Westfalenstadion. The hosts were down 0-2 to goals from Lautaro Martinez and Matias Vecino in the 5th and 40th minute, but double-strikes from Achraf Hakimi in the 51st and 77th and one by Julian Brandt in the 64th turned the game around for the hosts quite sensationally.
European champions Liverpool stole a march over Napoli in the Group E cluster to move to 8 points when they beat Genk 2-1 at Anfield. It was a far cry from the drubbing of 1-4 the Reds meted out to the Belgian club a fortnight ago. Georginio Wijnaldum shot into the roof of the net from close range after Genk captain Sebastien Dewaest made a mess of clearing James Milner’s low cross to give the hosts the lead in the 14th minute. Genk’s Tanzanian striker Mbwana Samatta powerfully headed in the equalizer at the near post from a corner in the 40th. But Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain settled the issue for the Reds, spinning around and converting a low strike into the bottom corner for the winner in the 53rd minute. Napoli relinquished their pole position in the Group when they were unexpectedly held to a 1-1 draw at home by Red Bull Salzburg. Nineteen-year old Norwegian striker got his second goal of the championship when he converted a penalty in as early as the 11th minute of play. Hirving Lozano gave the hosts the equalizer in the 40th but Napoli could not better the score line despite numerous attempts and lost out on the chance of becoming the first team to enter the Round of 16.
Italian giants and Serie A champs Juventus raced to the top of the table of Group D and booked a berth in the Round of 16, riding on their away win of 1-2 against Lokomotiv Moskow. Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid could have followed in Juventus’s footsteps but a shock 1-2 loss to Bayer Leverkusen at the BayArena put paid to any such hopes. Atleti midfielder Thomas Partey’s own goal gave Leverkusen a first-half lead before Kevin Volland’s strike in the 55th minute doubled the lead for the hosts. A consolation goal for the Spanish visitors came in injury time in the 94th off the boots of Alvaro Morata.
Premier League champions Manchester City were held to a 1-1 draw away in Italy by Atalanta in a Group C fixture. Raheem Sterling had given the visitors a 1-0 lead in the first half before Chelsea loanee Mario Pasalic equalized 4 minutes after the interval. In a bizarre moment of the game, goalkeeper Claudio Bravo was sent off on a red card for a sliding tackle on Josip Ilicic outside the box. Thanks to Bravo having replaced first-choice keeper Ederson at half-time, there was no other option than defender Kyle Walker to act as custodian for City during the remaining 10 minutes of play. A victory at the San Siro on Wednesday night would have sent the English champions through to the last 16. But Pep Guardiola’s men remain five points clear at the top of Group C despite failing to win for the first time in the group stages this season.
Tottenham Hotspur bettered their position in Group B with a falttering 0-4 win over Red Star Belgrade away in Serbia. Real Betis loanee Lo Celso showed his talent, touching the ball more times (102) than any other player and even eventually getting the visitors their first goal in the 34th minute of play. In-form Son Heung-Min trebled Spurs’ lead with strikes in the 57th and 61st with Christian Eriksen making it 4-0, deftly clipping one in just five minutes before the final whistle. The London club have now moved up to the 2nd spot of the cluster with 7 points but still 5 behind the very overpowering Bayern Munich who made the easiest of passages to the Round of 16 with a 2-0 win over Olympiacos. Bayern Munich along with Paris Saint Germain are the only two teams in the Championship so far to have won all four of their fixtures.
PSG, too, made an easy entry to the knock-out stages with a sedate 1-0 win over Belgian club Brugge in a Group A fixture in Paris. Real Madrid moved to 7 points and closer to a qualification in the Round of 16 after hammering Turkish club Galatasary 6-0 at the Bernabeu stadium. Brazilian forward Rodrygo’s hattrick and Karim Benzema’s double strike helped complete the rout of the visitors.
Standings and points of teams after 4 Group games
|Real Madrid CF||7|
|FC Bayern Munich||12|
|Red Star Belgrade||3|
|Olympiacos FC 3||1|
|Manchester City FC||10|
|FC Shakhtar Donetsk||5|
|GNK Dinamo Zagreb||5|
|Club Atlético de Madrid||7|
|FC Lokomotiv Moskva||3|
|Bayer 04 Leverkusen||3|
|SK Slavia Praha||2|
|RB Leipzig ||9|