Winners, losers from opening day of Champions League
As we sort through today’s results (and try to get caught up on eight matches), let’s take a quick inventory of winners and losers from the first day of UEFA Champions League action:
U.S. television viewers - By now, FOX Soccer’s motive for choosing its lead game is pretty clear. They want ratings, and usually that means picking the game featuring the English team with the highest profile. Rarely does that lead to viewers actually seeing the best game, but today, it all came together. Real Madrid and Manchester City scored five times over the last 23 minutes in Madrid, including a Cristiano Ronaldo game winner in the 90th minute - exactly the type of action every broadcaster wants.
The State of Qatar - This was the night Qatar Investment Authority wanted when it bought Paris Saint-Germain - Champions League soccer, under the lights, at the Parc de Princes. And their team didn’t disappoint. PSG’s two high-priced imports from Milan (Zlatan Ibrahimovic and - on his debut - Thiago Silva) scored within 30 minutes as the Parisians rolled to a 4-1 win over Dynamo Kyiv.
Vitor Periera, head coach, Porto - Periera nearly lost his job last year when the Portuguese champions failed to advance out of an easy group. Perhaps Periera learns from his Champions League debut, because today Porto took care of business. The second-year boss led the former champions to a 2-0 victory in Zagreb, snapping Dinamo’s 33-match unbeaten run.
Isco, midfielder, Málaga - The 20-year-old has recently been linked with a move to Borussia Dortmund. If today was a try out, he got the part. Two goals (his first three minutes in) helped Málaga to a successful Champions League debut, an easy 3-0 win over Russian champions Zenit.
Milan coach Max Allegri - Milan has gone 270 minutes without scoring at home this season after today’s 0-0 draw with Belgian champions Anderlecht. Many are giving the coach a pass, given he lost his best attacker (Ibrahimovic) this summer. But when you look at Allegri’s team, there’s almost no excuse for not getting something at the San Siro against Sampdoria, Bologna, or Anderlecht. Expect the rumblings about Allegri’s job to intensify.
Zenit’s checkbook - At the beginning of September, the Russian champions spent $104 million to lure Alex Witsel and Hulk from Portugal. Since, the team has gone 1-1-1, fallen to fourth in the Russian Premier League, and opened this season’s Champions League with a thud in Andalusia. It looks like Zenit tried to fix something that wasn’t broken.
Borussia Dortmund - How can a team that won 1-0 be a loser? Technically, they’re not, and 87th minute winners (this one from Robert Lewandowski) have a way of sending a team off the field triumphant. But then there’s context. BVB fell flat in last year’s Champions League and have a difficult group this year (with Real Madrid and Manchester City). Facing an Ajax team that’s clearly the fourth of four in Group D, Dortmund had a chance to not only get three points but also salve doubts they can compete with the group’s big spenders. So much for that idea.
UEFA discipline - Arsene Wenger began his three-match suspension as Arsenal visited Montpellier. The Gunners still won, 2-1. Even if Arsenal had lost, the touchline ban would have probably been insignificant. It’s not like the manager isn’t pulling the strings, regardless. The loss, however, gives Wenger a way to thumb his nose at UEFA as he serves his third suspension within a year. It might not be logical to couple today’s result with the suspension, but in sports, scoreboard has the final say.