Champions League: Five things from matchday one of Europe's elite competition

We look at the five main events from matchday one of the 2019/20 Champions League
We look at the five main events from matchday one of the 2019/20 Champions League

The Champions League returned to our screens this week and with it the incredible drama that comes with Europe's top club competition.

Tuesday was a poor one for the English clubs, who dominated last season with Tottenham meeting Liverpool in the final, as Napoli beat Liverpool and Chelsea fell to a shock defeat to Valencia.

Dortmund managed to keep substitute Lionel Messi quiet, and should have secured all three points against Barcelona, while Salzburg hit six past hopeless Genk.

On Wednesday, Tottenham blew a two-goal lead as they could only manage a draw at Olympiacos.

Spurs were 2-0 up after half an hour but Daniel Podence's goal on the stroke of half-time let Olympiacos back into it and Mathieu Valbuena's spot-kick after the restart gave the hosts a deserved point.

Manchester City bounced back from a shock defeat against Norwich with a win away at Shakhtar Donetsk as Riyad Mahrez, Ilkay Gundogan and Gabriel Jesus got themselves onto the scoresheet in a 3-0 victory.

Here, Tom Carnduff takes a look at the five big talking points from the first round of fixtures.

Magnificent Haaland!

Erling Braut Haaland's hat-trick on Champions League debut

Not many would have predicted a 19-year-old making his Champions League debut would lead the goal-scoring charts after matchday one...

However, Erling Haaland - son of former Leeds and Manchester City midfielder Alf-Inge - netted a first-half hat-trick as Salzburg hammered Genk 6-2 in their group opener.

"He is a great player but even more important for me is that he’s a great young man," Salzburg boss Jesse Marsch said afterwards.

"He shows up every day, he works hard and takes nothing for granted. He gives everything for his teammates every day and does it with a smile."

Haaland is emerging as one of Europe's hottest prospects, with scouts from over 50 clubs reportedly observing him in recent months.

It's also seen him move into 16/1 to finish as the Champions League top goalscorer after hitting 25% of Lionel Messi's winning tally in 2018/19 with just one game played.

That's made him more fancied for the accolade than the likes of Harry Kane, Antoine Griezmann and Eden Hazard - incredible work at such an earlier point in his career.

Next up for Salzburg? A trip to Liverpool, where Virgil van Dijk will have to be at his very best in order to keep the youngster quiet.

The stats behind the performance:

  • Erling Haaland - aged 19 years and 58 days - is the third youngest player to score a Champions League hat-trick, behind Raúl (18y 113d in 1995) and Wayne Rooney (18y 340d in 2004).
  • Erling Haaland became the first teenager to score more than once on his Champions League debut since Wayne Rooney scored a hat-trick for Manchester United against Fenerbahçe in September 2004.
  • Erling Haaland’s three goals for Salzburg makes him the eighth different player to score a Champions League hat-trick on their debut after Marco van Basten, Faustino Aspirlla, Yakubu, Wayne Rooney, Vincenzo Iaquinta, Grafite, and Yacine Brahimi.

VAR, huh, what is it good for?

Napoli 2-0 Liverpool | UEFA Champions League Highlights

VAR has divided opinion, but it's great to slot into some Edwin Starr lyrics and make a headline when it doesn't work as planned.

Liverpool's defence of their title started away at Napoli where, like last season, they were beaten in Italy.

It was a fairly even contest with both sides seeing their fair share of chances. However, Napoli hit late with two goals in the final ten minutes.

The big talking point came when Andy Robertson was adjudged to have brought down Jose Callejon in the penalty area.

Dries Mertens then converted from the spot in the 82nd minute and that set Napoli on their way to victory with a rare van Dijk error allowing former Tottenham striker Fernando Llorente to seal the result.

While Robertson did kick out for the ball, there are question marks surrounding how much contact he actually made with Callejon to cause him to fall.

After the game, Jurgen Klopp said: "I could say a lot of things about it but then I would look like a bad loser. I'm not the best loser in the world but I'm not bad at it.

"It was very decisive in that moment for sure but we can't change it. As long as human beings make the decisions then there is still potential for (mistakes). The rules are like this and we trust in the rules."

Barkley auditions for late Rugby World Cup spot

Chelsea 0-1 Valencia | UEFA Champions League Highlights

VAR, huh, wha...ok we'll avoid that one again - but Chelsea were quite literally handed a late lifeline as they trailed 1-0 at home to Valencia.

Rodrigo gave the LaLiga side the lead when he took advantage of some poor marking from a free-kick with 74 minutes on the clock.

As the hosts pushed for an equaliser, Fikayo Tomori's header was blocked by Daniel Wass with instant appeals from those in blue shirts.

On review, the correct decision was made that Valencia handled the ball inside the area and the penalty was given.

However, an argument ensued between the Blues' regular taker Jorginho, Ross Barkley and Willian. Barkley had only come on eight minutes earlier but he took responsibility.

Whether it was excitement for the upcoming Rugby World Cup (which you can read all about here) or maybe the memory of Ben Stokes' Headingley heroics still being fresh in the mind, the midfielder blasted his penalty onto the crossbar and over.

It led to discussions off-the-pitch as to why Chelsea hadn't arranged an actual taker. Lampard though, made it clear that Barkley was right to go to the spot.

"Ross is the penalty taker," he said. "He took some in pre-season and he has been when he has started, and he was today when he came on.

"I don't know what conversation was, but Jorginho and Willian were penalty-takers until Ross came on the pitch."

Olympiacos fightback stuns Spurs

Olympiacos 2-2 Tottenham Hotspur | UEFA Champions League Highlights

It looked like Tottenham were going to be the first English team to win on matchday one when they rushed into a 2-0 lead less than half an hour into their contest in Greece.

Yet, as some would describe in 'Spursy' fashion, they blew their advantage and were pegged back to a draw as Olympiacos battled away.

The Greek side deserved a point too and should probably consider themselves unlucky not to have gained victory.

Harry Kane felt Daniel Podence's goal in the closing stages of the first-half was a turning point in the contest - with the Olympiacos man striking minutes before the whistle.

"Conceding the goal before half-time really changed the momentum and that's disappointing from our point of view," he told BT Sport.

"Second half was 50-50. I still felt we could have done better on the ball, but it's a point away from home that we have to try and improve on."

There is some hope for Mauricio Pochettino though. They lost their opening two matches of last season's Champions League but went onto feature in the final in Madrid.

"We wanted to get off to a winning start and put ourselves in a great position," Kane added.

"Last season we didn't start too well and we really had to play catch up, but we've definitely got the resilience in the squad to do that.

"It's only the first game, so we're definitely backing ourselves to still get through, but we know we've got a lot of improving to do."

The damage Di-livered

Paris Saint Germain vs Real Madrid (3-0) | UEFA Champions League Highlights

One of the two heavyweight clashes on Wednesday saw PSG come up against Real Madrid.

The Ligue 1 champions were without Kylian Mbappe, Neymar or Edinson Cavani but Angel Di Maria stepped up to put in a dominant performance with two eye-catching strikes.

The first of which beat Thibaut Courtois from close distance, but the second made you leap out of your chair.

Receiving a pass at the edge of the area, the midfielder let the ball roll across his body before unleashing a fierce left-footed effort into the bottom corner.

Some fancied Real for victory given the absentees for the hosts, but PSG laid down a marker as they look to make a serious impact in the Champions League.

Despite significant investment, they are yet to match the semi-final appearance in the 1994/95 season. Could the 2020 edition be their year to claim the trophy?


Odds correct at 1715 BST (18/09/19)

Follow Sporting Life on social media - find us on Facebook here or tweet @SportingLifeFC

Related Champions League links

Like what you've read?
Help your friends Know It All by sharing this article to your social media.

Most Read Football

Jurgen Klopp reacts during Liverpool's draw with Manchester United1

Klopp blasts United's system

Jurgen Klopp has expressed his frustration at Manchester United's defensive approach when they come up against Liverpool.

Adam Lallana celebrates his goal at Old Trafford2

Lallana denies United victory

Adam Lallana's late strike secured a point for Liverpool at Old Trafford. Watch the highlights of the Premier League clash.

Marcus Rashford in action at Old Trafford3

Liverpool happier with point?

Tom McDermott analyses Manchester United's 1-1 draw with Liverpool at Old Trafford and wonders what ramifications the result will have for both sides for the rest of the season.

Sporting Life's preview of Sheffield United v Arsenal4

Blades to strike on Monday night

Sheffield United welcome Arsenal to Bramall Lane on Monday night. Tom Carnduff picks out two best bets at attractive prices.

Premier League and EFL football gossip and transfer rumours5

Paper Talk: Pay the man

Christian Eriksen's potential future club has taken another twist, while Raheem Sterling is on the brink of a new mega-contract.

Most Read Football

Jurgen Klopp reacts during Liverpool's draw with Manchester United1

Klopp blasts United's system

Jurgen Klopp has expressed his frustration at Manchester United's defensive approach when they come up against Liverpool.

Adam Lallana celebrates his goal at Old Trafford2

Lallana denies United victory

Adam Lallana's late strike secured a point for Liverpool at Old Trafford. Watch the highlights of the Premier League clash.

Marcus Rashford in action at Old Trafford3

Liverpool happier with point?

Tom McDermott analyses Manchester United's 1-1 draw with Liverpool at Old Trafford and wonders what ramifications the result will have for both sides for the rest of the season.

Sporting Life's preview of Sheffield United v Arsenal4

Blades to strike on Monday night

Sheffield United welcome Arsenal to Bramall Lane on Monday night. Tom Carnduff picks out two best bets at attractive prices.

Premier League and EFL football gossip and transfer rumours5

Paper Talk: Pay the man

Christian Eriksen's potential future club has taken another twist, while Raheem Sterling is on the brink of a new mega-contract.

Football Tips

Sporting Life's preview of Sheffield United v Arsenal

Blades to strike on Monday night

Sheffield United welcome Arsenal to Bramall Lane on Monday night. Tom Carnduff picks out two best bets at attractive prices.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette celebrate a goal for Arsenal in Valencia

Sporting Life Tipping Record

A look at how the Sporting Life recommended bets have performed in October 2019.

Sporting Life's preview of Manchester United v Liverpool

Target these two at Old Trafford

Super Sunday sees the return of one of the Premier League's biggest rivalries as Manchester United take on Liverpool, and Tom Carnduff has a brace of bets.