Matchday two of the Champions League thrilled, shocked and awed over the space of two nights. Bayern Munich, Tottenham Hotspur, Real Madrid, Club Brugge, Liverpool FC, Salzburg enthralled audiences, at the expense of each other. We look at some of the highlights and the talking points that filled the column inches across Europe and the world this midweek.
Surprise Package: Salzburg
To come to the home of the European Champions from a league in Austria (The Austrian Football Bundesliga) and match them blow for blow? We didn’t see that coming. Jurgen Klopp and his charges duly did, however.
"Salzburg will surprise a lot of people. The way they play is made for surprising bigger teams. But if there is anybody who knows about the way they play, it is me. And they have a pretty good side," noted Jurgen Klopp in the build-up to the Liverpool vs Salzburg match. And boy, was he right.
Football Manager and FIFA have opened our minds to the possibility of world-class ‘regens’ (a term given to wonderkids generated in-game if the simulation is played long enough) and youngsters such as Hee-Chan Hwang, Takumi Minamino, Erling Braut Haland are those regens made into real-life.
"(Salzburg) are very good at it (scouting), and the main reason is Ralf Rangnick. Outstanding manager, outstanding sporting director. It's all based on him," offered Jurgen Klopp in an attempt to explain the sheer amount of talent Salzburg tend to unearth at a steady frequency. All that talent was on show at Anfield, and there was little or no case of stage fright.
“Other teams maybe break down after 3-0 at Anfield, but they were not really bothered,” commented Jurgen Klopp on the fact that Salzburg pushed Liverpool far enough to make the European Champions squander a three-goal lead.
Salzburg played with gumption and without fear. Normalcy was restored (to a degree) when Mohamed Salah scored the winner. But if this game was anything to go by, Salzburg certainly have the ability and the nerves (or the lack of) to replicate the success Ajax’s young side had last season and go deep into the unforgiving jungle of the latter stages of the Champions League. A scalp or two may very well be on the in order.
Biggest Underachiever: Real Madrid
Elsewhere, Club Brugge, a team with a rich history in the early years of the European Cup, was another side that was on the brink of humbling a giant. Against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu, the scoreline read 2-2, but for Madrid supporters, it would have tasted bitter as a loss.
The club with the most European titles to their name were down by a goal by the ninth minute and two down by the 45th. Winless in the competition, a defeat would have meant they would be lodged firmly behind Paris Saint Germain, Brugge and Galatasaray in the group standings — a position a club of the stature of Real Madrid are ill at ease with.
Thibaut Courtois’s performance was symptomatic of what’s wrong with Real Madrid. Embarrassed in back-to-back Champions League matches (beaten 3-0 by PSG in Paris), he looked pale and half-spirited, and duly substituted at half-time.
Goals from Casemiro and Sergio Ramos cancelled out strikes from Emmanuel Bonaventure and Ruud Vormer (sent off for a second bookable offence), but the mighty whites even with a man advantage couldn’t take the lead.
For followers of LaLiga, this form is not surprising: Real Madrid have only amassed one shot on target in their last three league fixtures. Luka Modric, when asked by journalists of whether there is complacency in the team, replied with a “maybe.”
This result tells the world of a deeper disconnect than merely complacency: tabloids believe there’s drama in the dressing room and from the looks of it, it is spilling over.
Most embarrassing result: Tottenham 2 - Bayern Munich 7
Shades of the 1-7 between Brazil vs Germany at the Estádio Mineirão in Belo Horizonte, anyone?
Son-Heung Min and Harry Kane’s goals provided no consolation to the plunder of Joshua Kimmich, Robert Lewandowski and Serge Ganbry. Tottenham visibly gave up when the third goal went in, while Bundesliga champions showing no mercy pegged in three goals in the final seven minutes of the game. This was echoed by the Tottenham manager, Mauricio Pochettino: “The feeling at the end when we conceded the three goals — it was like the team was tired and gave up.”
There was a palpable feeling of a collective numbing of the sense around the stadium. For so many associated with Tottenham Hotspur, this start of the season has sucked out any optimism they have had from their last season, finishing as finalists of this competition.
Many downplayed Liverpool’s feat when they went to Bayern's backyard and beat them imperiously. Those quick to call Bayern a spent force after that result were reminded first-hand the power of the five-time European Champions.
Best Player: Serge Gnabry and Erling Braut Haland
Former Arsenal player was in wonderland scoring four goals against erstwhile neighbours Tottenham. In fearless 19-year-old Haland, Salzburg have a potential world-beater that Jurgen Klopp has very much his eyes on.
Best Match: Liverpool FC vs RB Salzburg (4-3)
Pause. Rewind. Play. Pause. Rewind. Play.
Liverpool playing in Europe inevitably means figurative fireworks on the pitch. The 4-3 scoreline is a testament to that. It had everything for the neutrals: The potential of an upset in the grandest scale, full-back assisting another full-back, a player scoring against their former club and goals galore. Sadio Mane, Andrew Robertson, Mohamed Salah answered questions posed by Salzburg’s Hee-Chan Hwang, Takumi Minamino, and Erling Braut Haland in a game full of highlight reels and edge-of-your-seat action.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and Salzburg manager Jesse Marsch made no secrets of the deep-seated admiration for the Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp. Going as far in his compliments to state that Salzburg tries to do all the things Liverpool do, but the latter have made it into a high-art. “It is a terrible match-up for us in one sense, because all the things we do well, they are better at. I have never met Jürgen but there are a lot of things that I really respect about how he runs his team,” he said.
The man to his left side of the technical area, his hero Jurgen Klopp, wore the expression of an enraged Odinson (read: Thor) as his thunder-and-lightning high-press football was being shadowed by a rogue storm blowing the other way.
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Updated Date: Oct 03, 2019 11:12:45 IST