Bayern Munich and Juventus became the first two clubs in the hat for the Champions League round of 16 draw as both secured impressive wins to take them to 12 points from 12 in the group stages. Julian Nagelsmann’s side had their wobbles against Benfica, conceding two goals in a game for the fourth time this season. Happily for them, however, Robert Lewandowski marked his 100th Champions League appearance in style with a hat trick that made him the club’s record scorer in the competition — he could have had four had he not tamely missed a penalty. Leroy Sane and Serge Gnabry also scored exceptionally in a 5-2 win.
Juventus’ goals were equally impressive and came at both ends against Zenit. Paulo Dybala’s smart early strike was canceled out by a remarkable flicked header into his own net by Leonardo Bonucci. However, Massimiliano Allegra’s side continued their fine form in Europe as Dybala netted a penalty, Federico Chiesa powered in a low drive and Alvaro Morata finished off a flowing counter attack.
Unsurprisingly, Manchester United delivered the greatest drama on the night, a thrilling 2-2 draw with Atalanta that kept them in top spot in Group F. Yet again, it was Cristiano Ronaldo who saved Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, equalizing late in the first half and the second as United came from behind for the third straight Champions League game, even if on this occasion they had to settle for a point. A David De Gea error had handed Josip Ilicic the opener while it was Harry Maguire to blame for Atalanta’s second, playing Duvan Zapata on to slip a finish high into the net.
Meanwhile, Ansu Fati’s thunderous strike kept Barcelona in the hunt for second place behind Bayern while what could be Unai Emery’s final game as Villarreal manager ended in a 2-0 victory over Young Boys that leaves them well placed in Group F. Group G is shaping up for a dramatic conclusion after Jonathan David and Jonathan Bamba earned Lille a 2-1 win at Sevilla that drew them level with Wolfsburg in the race to catch Red Bull Salzburg.
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In the day’s earlier games, Chelsea took a sizeable step toward the last 16 with a hard fought 1-0 win in Malmo. Hakim Ziyech scored the game’s only goal in the 56th minute in a match where U.S. international Christian Pulisic made his first club appearance since Aug. 14 after spells out with COVID-19 and an ankle injury. Some of the best drama was to be found in Wolfsburg, where goals from Riedle Baku and Lukas Nmecha fired home either side of a superb Maximilian Wober free kick, earning three crucial points for Florian Kohfeldt’s side against Red Bull Salzburg. The Austrian champions had more than enough chances to earn the win that would have guaranteed them qualification with Karim Adeyemi spurning two good chances on his left foot.
You can watch all the Champions League action from Wednesday’s games live on Paramount+, a fixture slate that includes Liverpool’s clash with Atletico Madrid and the meeting of Paris Saint-Germain and RB Leipzig.
Champions League results
Bayern Munich 5, Benfica 2
Dynamo Kyiv 0, Barcelona 1
Villarreal 2, Young Boys 0
Atalanta 2, Manchester United 2
Wolfsburg 2, Red Bull Salzburg 1
Sevilla 1, Lille 2
Malmo 0, Chelsea 1
Juventus 4, Zenit 2
Match of the day
Atalanta 2, Manchester United 2: I’m beginning to think we should rename this the Cristiano Ronaldo presents the Champions League match of the day award. After all, only a weekly basis he continues to deliver in the clutch, bailing out Ole Gunnar Solskjaer whenever he seems to be on the brink. Yet again, it seemed like United’s manager had set them up to struggle, rolling out the back three solely because it held out a woeful Tottenham side even though it quickly became apparent that personnel changes forced (Victor Lindelof’s injury) or otherwise (Paul Pogba’s involvements) made the tactical plan all the more muddled.
Duvan Zapata kept getting away down the left, scoring one thanks to a clumsy offside trap by Harry Maguire having already laid one on for Josip Ilicic. This was a game that Atalanta could have killed off though you are starting to wonder if there is any scoreline that is immune from Ronaldo’s narrative powers.
His first goal showed an interplay with Bruno Fernandes that has slowly but surely started to develop, but the second was almost all his own work, a reflection of his remorseless will to win as he drove through the defense, made sure he was in place when the ball bounced up to him and struck the ball in just the right spot.
Robert Lewandowski: Was it ever going to be anyone but Lewandowski on the occasion of his 100th Champions League game. He marked that in style with three goals that make him Bayern’s record scorer in this competition, showcasing the sheer variety of scoring in the 33 year old’s arsenal: A close range header, a dinked finish and a perfect dart behind the offside trap took him to 81 goals in this competition, a gaudy amount against what ought to be the best defenses in Europe.
And yet you still suspect he’ll be at least a little grumpy about that penalty he missed.
Goal of the day
There’s plenty to choose from here. I was partial to Sane’s wonderful volley and Gnabry’s impudent backheel in Bayern’s win while Federico Chiesa’s howitzer for Juventus would still be accelerating right now if it had not crashed into the net. In second place is Nmecha’s howitzer into the roof of the net to earn Wolfsburg victory over Red Bull Salzburg.
But the heart wants what it wants, and on this occasion it’s time to praise that classic of football blooper videos and DVDs (kids, ask your parents): The own goal that would be a golazo at the other end. Ladies and gentlemen, Leonardo Bonucci.
Most surprising result
Sevilla 1, Lille 2: A shock in Andalusia if only because Julen Lopetegui’s side have made something of a virtue of grinding out narrow wins in La Liga this season while Lille’s recent difficulties hardly convinced you that they would pile such pressure on Bounou’s goal. In the end, David’s penalty and Bamba’s winner were no less than the French champions deserved in a game where the shot count may have been relatively even but all the best chances fell the way of the visitors.
What to look out for tomorrow
The pick of Wednesday’s game is surely at Anfield where Liverpool host Atletico Madrid, a repeat of the meeting last month where the Reds blew a two goal lead but came back to win 3-2 would certainly be a pleasure for neutrals. The Reds and Ajax can both book their places in the knockout stages tomorrow; if Erik ten Hag’s side win against Borussia Dortmund again then their standing as potential dark horses for the whole tournament is further burnished. Then there is the small matter of Kylian Mbappe and Neymar against RB Leipzig. Plenty to look forward to.
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