Matchday 1 of the UEFA Champions League began with a bang on Tuesday as Real Madrid snatched a dramatic last-minute victory against Manchester City, while headline-grabbing Paris Saint-Germain ran out easy winners against Dynamo Kiev.
Elsewhere AC Milan spluttered, new boys Malaga excelled and the experienced quartet of Arsenal, Schalke, Porto and Borussia Dortmund began their campaigns on the right foot.
The big game
Real Madrid 3-2 Manchester City
Goals: Marcelo 76, Karim Benzema 87, Cristiano Ronaldo 90 (Real Madrid); Edin Dzeko 68, Aleksandar Kolarov 85 (Manchester City)
Jose Mourinho opted for a safety-first approach by lining up with three midfield ball-winners and leaving the creative trio of Luka Modric, Mesut Ozil and Karim Benzema on the bench. Los Merengues still dominated for the first hour of the game but could not break the deadlock, despite the best efforts of Cristiano Ronaldo and Marcelo. It was then that Roberto Mancini decided to throw on Edin Dzeko, the switch paying dividends inside four minutes as the Bosnian broke clear to put the visitors ahead.
Throwing caution to the wind, Mourinho introduced his attacking substitutes, and was relieved to see Marcelo level things up with his third goal attempt of the evening. Kolarov’s flighted free-kick deceived everyone to restore City’s advantage with just five minutes remaining, the prelude to a frenetic finale as first Benzema and then Cristiano Ronaldo struck to turn the game around, much to the delight of their Portuguese coach on the touchline. The win was Real’s 100th in the competition.
The other games
Dynamo Zagreb 0-2 Porto
Paris Saint-Germain 4-1 Dynamo Kiev
Porto know all about Champions League group phases and it showed as goals from Lucho Gonzalez and Belgian international Steven Defour gave them a fully merited three points away to the overly cautious Croatians. Meanwhile, PSG produced a devastating first-half performance to sweep into a 3-0 lead against the outclassed Ukrainians, who could find no way back after the restart.
Montpellier 1-2 Arsenal
Olympiacos 1-2 Schalke 04
After falling behind early on, Arsenal needed just two first-half minutes to turn their game against the French newcomers around, the Londoners fending off a spirited second-half display by the reigning Ligue 1 champions to secure the points. In the other game in the section, Jefferson Farfan did the prompting and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar the finishing as Schalke saw off an Olympiacos side that threatened going forward but struggled at the back.
Malaga 3-0 Zenit St Petersburg
AC Milan 0-0 Anderlecht
Hulk’s powerful forays forward proved in vain as the Russians were swept aside by the well-grooved team play of the Spanish debutants. Eliseu’s distribution was outstanding, while Isco stole the show with two classy strikes. There was no such joy for AC Milan, who reprised their mediocre Serie A form in a goalless stalemate against the perfectly drilled Belgians.
Borussia Dortmund 1-0 Ajax
The German champions were indebted to Robert Lewandowski’s winner three minutes from time as they recovered from a second-half penalty miss to beat an Ajax outfit that carried plenty of threat on the counter.
20-year-old Francisco Roman Alarcon Suarez, better known as Isco, is the latest gifted livewire to roll off the seemingly inexhaustible Spanish production line. The attacking midfielder, who learned his trade at Valencia, gave another demonstration of his rich talent on Tuesday, setting Malaga on the road to victory by slaloming his way past three defenders in the box and then curling a shot inside the Zenit keeper’s far post. For good measure he completed the scoring with a thumping right-footed drive from the edge of the area.
Goal of the night
Montpellier 1-1 Arsenal, Lukas Podolski 16
The Gunners’ equaliser came about after a flowing move that began when Abou Diaby played a pinpoint pass to Santi Cazorla, who then threaded the ball through to Olivier Giroud on the edge of the box. The Frenchman set Podolski free with his first-time pass, leaving the unmarked German with time enough to slot past the wrong-footed Geoffrey Jourdren in the Montpellier goal.
6 - The number of clubs for whom Zlatan Ibrahimovic has now scored in the Champions League, one more than previous record holder Hernan Crespo, who scored for Parma, Lazio, Inter Milan, Chelsea and AC Milan in the competition. Formerly with Ajax, Juventus, Inter, Barcelona and Milan, the well-travelled Swede took his competition tally to 29 goals in converting from the spot to set PSG on the way to victory.