Real Madrid rallies; Manchester City, Dortmund cruise in Champions League
Defending European champion Real Madrid scored twice in the final minutes to turn defeat into victory on a Champions League night that was far livelier and less predictable than the first half of Matchday 1. After a string of thumping wins for the elite clubs on Tuesday, Wednesday brought tension and drama.
A Bruno Cesar goal had had Sporting Lisbon dreaming of an improbable victory, but Cristiano Ronaldo leveled with an 89th-minute free kick against his former club before Alvaro Morata’s injury-time header delivered the three points.
Admittedly, there wasn’t much intrigue in the other game in Madrid’s group as Borussia Dortmund hammered Legia Warsaw 6-0 in Poland. The Legia fans put on a spectacular display of flares before their game against Borussia Dortmund, but rather spoiled the impression by using pepper spray to attack their own stewards.
— Ultras-Tifo (@UltrasTifo) September 14, 2016
On the pitch the game barely lasted quarter of an hour as a contest. Mario Gotze headed the opener 1,250 days after his last goal for Dortmund, Sokratis Papastathopoulos nodded a second and Marc Bartra claimed the third within 17 minutes. Raphael Guerreiro made it four six minutes after the break, Gonzalo Castro added a fifth–assisted by 17-year-old American Christian Pulisic–and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang rounded off the scoring with a sixth.
Elsewhere, Juventus was held at home, drawing 0-0 with Sevilla, Tottenham went down 2-1 at home to Monaco and Bayer Leverkusen threw away a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 against CSKA Moscow.
A neat finish from Admir Mehmedi put Leverkusen ahead after nine minutes, and Hakan Calhanoglu doubled that advantage with a deflected strike nine minutes later. But a superb goal from Alan Dzagoev pulled one back, and Roman Eremenko seized on Lacina Traore’s pass to level before halftime.
Leicester City enjoyed a dream start to life in the Champions League, ruthlessly exploiting Club Brugge’s defensive shortcomings with a 3-0 win. Marc Albrighton touched in the first after a Luis Hernandez throw had caused chaos in the box and Riyad Mahrez followed up with two: a superb free kick and a penalty.
Porto was surprisingly held 1-1 at home by Copenhagen in the other game in the group. Otavio drilled in the opener from the edge of the box after 19 minutes but the former Cardiff City striker Andreas Cornelius leveled seven minutes into the second half after some neat chest control.
Meanwhile, Lyon brushed Dinamo Zagreb aside 3-0 with goals from Corentin Tolisso, Jordan Ferri and Gnaly Cornet.
Here are the top performers and three major takeaways from the day's action:
Player of the day: Sergio Aguero
No matter how good a side’s approach play, it still needs a striker and in Sergio Aguero, Manchester City has one of the finest in the world. In five games this season he has scored nine goals, including two hat tricks, taking his tally of trebles for City to nine. His first came after nine minutes as he touched in an Aleksandar Kolarov cross at the near post. His second was a penalty (and he has missed two of them this season) and his third was neatly taken, running into Raheem Sterling’s pass and rounding Jurgen Sommer before rolling his shot in.
Goal of the day: Alan Dzagoev vs. Bayer Leverkusen
The sumptuous free kicks from Riyad Mahrez and Cristiano Ronaldo were superb but Alan Dzagoev’s goal for CSKA to get the Russians back into the game away at Bayern Leverkusen was the best of the night. As Aleksei Ionov played the ball in from the right he flicked it over Jonathan Tah and ran on to finish crisply.
Que bueno es Alan Dzagoev.
— Iván López (@Ivan8Lopez) September 14, 2016
Real Madrid's rallies for really late turnaround
Zinedine Zidane has still only lost two games as Real Madrid coach, but he came extremely close to losing this one. Bruno Cesar put Sporting ahead three minutes after halftime, seizing on a loose ball just inside the box and shaping a low finishing into the bottom corner. But as Madrid applied more and more pressure, Sporting tired and with a minute to go, Cristiano Ronaldo floated in a super free kick against his first club. In injury time, Alvaro Morata, who had scored the previous goal by an away player at the Bernabeu back in May while playing for Juventus, headed in James Rodriguez’s cross to give Madrid the three points.
Tottenham's Wembley woe
Tottenham evoked memories of Arsenal’s unhappy time playing Champions League games at Wembley Stadium almost 20 years ago as Spurs returned to the competition with a 2-1 defeat against Monaco.
Wembley is five meters longer and two meters wider than White Hart Lane, a statistic that takes on a greater significance given Mauricio Pochettino’s previous comments that his side can’t be as expansive as he would like at home because of the small pitch. Ever meticulous, the Spurs manager has had his team training on pitches that match Wembley’s dimensions.
“When you play on a big pitch it can help a team who try to build from the back, as we do, because you have more space,” he explained.
It was perhaps overplaying from the back that led to Tottenham going behind after 15 minutes, as Erik Lamela was caught in possession and Bernardo Silva was allowed to wander through before finishing adroitly.
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) September 14, 2016
Tottenham had failed to win in any of its six previous visits to Wembley, a record that seemed all the more pertinent after Thomas Lemar thrashed in a second as Spurs failed to deal with Djibril Sidibe’s 31st-minute cross.
Toby Alderweireld headed in an Erik Lamela corner on the stroke of halftime to give Spurs hope, but even with the pressure they applied in the second half, there was no equalizer and only a handful of clear chances.
Sampaoli delivers tactical masterclass
Jorge Sampaoli led Chile to its first major trophy, the 2015 Copa America, and must take much of the credit for its second, the Copa America Centenario. But there were doubts as to whether his hyperactive style would translate to the club level, particularly after he began his league career as Sevilla coach with a 6-4 win over Espanyol. This, though, showed the other side of his management as he successfully stifled Juventus, restricting the Italian champion to just four shots on target in a goalless draw in Turin.