Schalke (Group E), Arsenal (Group F), Atletico Madrid (Group G) and Barcelona (Group H) all picked up their second consecutive UEFA Champions League victory on Tuesday and claimed top spot in their respective sections in the process.
This entertaining first instalment of Matchday 2 fixtures, which featured four away wins, also saw two of the big-name teams defeated last time out, Chelsea and Borussia Dortmund, get their campaigns back on track with resounding successes, during which they scored a total of seven goals and conceded none.
The big match
Arsenal 2-0 Napoli
Goals: Mesut Ozil 8, Olivier Giroud 15
In a breathless opening quarter of an hour, Napoli found themselves pinned back and two goals down before they even had time to settle. Every time Arsenal came forward, propelled by the influential Mesut Ozil, who was ably supported by Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud, they looked likely to score.
The first goal was a fine example of the trio’s impact, as Giroud took the ball on his chest and flicked it on for Ramsey, who strode down the wing and drove over the ideal ball for Ozil, who side-footed the ball beautifully past Pepe Reina from the edge of the area.
It was a similar story seven minutes later, as Ozil took a short pass from Giroud, burst into the box and returned the ball to the Frenchman, who lofted it over Reina to double the Gunners’ lead.
Subsequently, the Partenopei slowly came back into the match, but they never truly looked like mounting a comeback.
The other games
Basel 0-1 Schalke
Steaua Bucharest 0-4 Chelsea
Schalke confirmed that German football remains in good health by going top of Group E. The match in Basel proved to be a fierce contest between well-matched opponents, and as often happens, a piece of individual skill – in this case, a controlled half-volley from outside the box by Julian Draxler – made the difference on the night.
Elsewhere, Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea bounced back from recent disappointments to register a comfortable victory in Romania. The Blues gained the upper hand in midfield early on and were clinical in the final third of the pitch.
Samuel Eto’o was involved in the first two goals, setting up Ramires and provoking an own goal after Bucharest goalkeeper Ciprian Tatarusanu had spilled his initial shot. After the break, Ramires landed an impressive second, before Frank Lampard rounded off a strong all-round performance.
Borussia Dortmund 3-0 Marseille
Marseille had entertained hopes of repeating their feat of December 2011, when the French side triumphed 3-2 in Dortmund, but Borussia have developed into a very different team over the past couple of years.
Solid in every area of the pitch, lightning quick and backed by a raucous home support, last year’s losing finalists dominated L’OM, who showed determination but struggled to create tangible opportunities.
The Germans made the breakthrough courtesy of Robert Lewandowski, prior to sealing the points via a long-range Marco Reus free kick that was badly misjudged by Steve Mandanda. A Lewandowski penalty made it 3-0 and completed a win that Die Schwarzgelben desperately needed after their opening-day defeat by Napoli.
Zenit St. Petersburg 0-0 Austria Vienna
Porto 1-2 Atletico Madrid
Atletico Madrid are enjoying the best start to a season in their history. Three days after their unexpected success at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, Los Colchoneros pulled off their first-ever away victory over Porto.
However, it was the Portuguese team that made the better start, taking a 16th-minute lead through a diving header from Jackson Martinez.
But Atletico remained in the match, soaking up pressure before hitting their hosts on the break. The equaliser came on the hour mark, Diego Godin outjumping Helton to steer the ball into the unguarded net.
And then, with four minutes to go, a perfectly choreographed free kick saw an unmarked Arda Turan collect the ball inside the area and smash it home to not only earn all three points but send the Spaniards to the top of the pool.
Zenit, meanwhile, reduced to ten men after Axel Witsel was sent off just before half time, were unable to find a way past a stubborn and surprisingly mature Austria Vienna outfit. The Russians could well regret dropping two points at home to the Champions League debutants.
Ajax 1-1 AC Milan
Celtic 0-1 Barcelona
With Mario Balotelli fulfilling the lone striker role, Milan appeared content to play for a draw. But a commanding header from Ajax defender Stefano Denswil in injury time asked serious questions of the visitors’ tactics.
However, Balotelli was in no mood to let the Amsterdam crowd celebrate for too long, winning a penalty almost immediately, and slotting away the ensuing spot kick himself to level the score.
Beaten at Celtic Park in the group stage last year, Barcelona gained revenge over the Bhoys, overcoming the absence of Lionel Messi to secure a 1-0 triumph in Glasgow. Not intimidated in the slightest by the total commitment on display from the Scottish champions, the Catalans, and Neymar in particular, looked dangerous against a side reduced to ten men midway through the second half by a red card for captain Scott Brown.
At the very moment that ten-man Celtic were exerting some pressure, Barça finally struck: Neymar played a fine ball through for Alexis Sanchez, who floated in a perfect cross from the right onto the head of Cesc Fabregas.
Samuel Eto'o is back. “It’s nice to have competition for places,” said the Cameroonian striker, who started Chelsea’s match versus Steaua on the bench, after Jose Mourinho had opted for Fernando Torres up front.
But an injury to the Spaniard after just ten minutes saw Eto'o come on as a substitute, and the former Inter Milan star did not take long to stamp his authority on the encounter, demonstrating his range of shooting and bringing about two first-half goals for the visitors in the process.
With his Anzhi Makhachkala interlude – during which he scored 36 times in 73 matches – now behind him, Eto'o appears very much in the mood to make his mark on the Champions League once again.
Borussia Dortmund 1-0 Marseille (Robert Lewandowski 19)
Joining a whirlwind-like counter-attack led by Marco Reus, a yellow wave of six Borussia players raced into the Marseille box. Henrikh Mkhitaryan nonchalantly fed the on-rushing Eric Durm, who threaded a fine pass through for Robert Lewandowski in the middle. The dynamic Pole, all on his own, could not miss from point-blank range.
3 - The number of defeats Scottish champions Celtic have suffered at home in 24 UEFA Champions League matches, and the number of victories registered by Barcelona in their last eight away games.
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