The second instalment of Matchday 2 of the UEFA Champions League provided much in the way of entertainment, as no fewer than 26 goals hit the back of the net, an average of 3.2 per match, on an evening when goalkeeping excellence was conversely on show all across Europe.
Most of the pre-match favourites emerged victorious, although big-spending Paris St Germain failed to impress in a 1-0 loss to Porto, and Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund drew 1-1 in a breath-taking encounter.
The big game
Manchester City 1-1 Borussia Dortmund
Goals: Mario Balotelli pen 89 (Manchester City); Marco Reus 61 (Borussia Dortmund)
This clash of champions will go down as one of those rare matches that live up to the hype, and after 90 pulsating minutes, a score of 6-6 would have more accurately reflected a game bursting with chances and featuring two goalkeepers in the form of their lives.
Both Sergio Aguero and Marco Reus went close in the first half, before the German champions stepped up a gear in the second period, creating multiple chances for themselves and producing twice the total number of shots on target than City.
Put under pressure by the Dortmund attack, Citizens midfielder Jack Rodwell made the mistake of under-hitting a square ball, which was immediately pounced upon by a determined Reus, who ran through to slot the ball past Joe Hart. All looked lost for the home side, but in the last minute Neven Subotic handled the ball in the area, thereby gifting an opportunity from the penalty spot to Mario Balotelli. The Italian striker stroked home the equaliser, rescuing a point for the English side in the process.
The other games
Dynamo Kiev 2-0 Dinamo Zagreb
Porto 1-0 Paris St Germain
Porto moved into pole position in the section by seeing off a disappointing PSG outfit, whose outstanding player on the night was ’keeper Salvatore Sirigu, who was called upon to deal with 28 Portuguese shots, while the Parisians managed just six. The winning goal came from the left foot of Colombian James Rodriguez, who curled the ball into the back of the net with a controlled half-volley.
Dynamo Kiev, meanwhile, took just three minutes to gain control of their match with Dinamo Zagreb, Oleh Gusev grabbing the opener. An own goal 12 minutes before half-time sealed the win for the Ukrainians.
Schalke 2-2 Montpellier
Arsenal 3-1 Olympiacos
It looked at one stage as if the Greeks would prove capable of earning a point in London, but goals from Lucas Podolski and Aaron Ramsey eventually managed to put Arsenal out of sight.
Montpellier, who continued their habit of opening the scoring and subsequently falling behind, pulled off a minor surprise by claiming a last-minute share of the spoils in Gelsenkirchen, Souleymane Camara firing home the equaliser against Schalke. The result represents the only point gained this week by the three French clubs involved in the tournament.
Zenit St Petersburg 2-3 AC Milan
Anderlecht 0-3 Malaga
Malaga took a giant leap towards qualification for the knockout stage by handing out a resounding defeat to Anderlecht, scoring three times without reply and dominating every area of the pitch. Manuel Pellegrini’s men put in a highly composed performance, typified by winger Eliseu, who contributed a brace to the remarkable victory.
Elsewhere in the group, a young AC Milan XI, led by Stephan El Shaarawy, passed their European exam with flying colours, registering an impressive 3-2 success in an absorbing match in St Petersburg. I Rossoneri must have thought they had done enough to win the game as early as the 16th minute of play, after a goal from Urby Emanuelson and a solo run and finish by El Shaarawy had put the Lombardy club 2-0 up.
But propelled by an on-song Hulk, who scored one goal and set up another, Zenit drew level just after half-time. Milan denied the Russians’ attempts to complete an unlikely comeback, and instead went up the field to score a winner of their own, courtesy of an own goal by Tomas Hubocan.
Ajax 1-4 Real Madrid
Ajax did well to hold out for long periods of their duel with Real Madrid, but Los Blancos’ incessant attacks – spearheaded by Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo, who combined to great effect – eventually proved too hot to handle for the Dutch giants. Ronaldo helped himself to a hat-trick, while the French forward recorded the goal of the match, dispatching a spectacular overhead kick into the net just after the break.
It was an evening where goalkeepers came to the fore, starting with Borussia Dortmund captain Roman Weidenfeller, who showed great anticipation and a safe pair of hands throughout his side’s encounter with Manchester City. At the other end of the pitch, opposite number Joe Hart put in an equally eye-catching display, winning numerous one-on-ones and touching shots on to the bar and post.
AC Milan skipper Christian Abbiati was also on fine form on Wednesday, producing various top-class stops, including two dazzling diving saves, while Ajax No1 Kenneth Vermeer kept Real’s attacks at bay for large portions of the match. Two other high-quality performances worth mentioning were delivered by Salvatore Sirigu, who almost did enough for PSG to escape Portugal with a point, and European debutant Geoffrey Jourdren, who helped Montpellier earn a draw against Schalke.
Goal of the night
Anderlecht 0-1 Malaga, Eliseu 45+1
The Belgian defence failed to properly clear a corner, and the ball made its way to the edge of the box, where Malaga’s Eliseu was lurking. The Portuguese star did not hesitate for a second, unleashing a powerful left-footed volley into the top corner of Silvio Proto’s net for the opening goal.
13 – A youthful AC Milan side picked up an admirable result by coming away with all three points from Petrovsky Stadium, where Zenit St Petersburg were unbeaten in 13 European matches (10 victories, 3 draws). The 3-2 scoreline in the Italians’ favour is even more noteworthy given their recent Champions League record, which had seen them win just one of their eight previous matches in the competition.
Have your say
Can Manchester City still qualify from what is generally regarded as the toughest UEFA Champions League group?