Joao Felix and Kylian Mbappe shine brightest as Brendan Rodgers has nine-man nightmare

Irish Mirror   19/09/2023 21:50

It was a thrilling opening night of Champions League action with Joao Felix and Kylian Mbappe among the standout stars, as Celtic lost their discipline and Lazio goalkeeper Ivan Provodel scored a sensational last-minute header.

Barcelona have failed to progress through the Champions League group stages in each of the past two seasons, but an opening day win over Royal Antwerp has put them on course to end that unwanted record.

Along with Porto, the Catalan giants are heavy favourites to progress in Group H and that played out in the opening round of results on Tuesday. The Blaugrana powered past Belgian champions Antwerp at Montjuic with three goals in the opening 22 minutes.

Joao Felix fired the hosts into an early lead before Robert Lewandowski finished off a wonderful team move to double their advantage in the 19th minute. Just three minutes later, the visiting side’s defender Jelle Bataille inadvertently deflected into his own net to put the game beyond the Belgian side.

Gavi fired in a fourth after the break – the talented young midfielder’s first Champions League goal – before Felix added a fifth midway through the second half.

Due to the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, Shakhtar Donetsk – who have not played in their home city since 2014 – were playing their ‘home’ game against Porto in the German city of Hamburg. It was a frenetic encounter – with four goals scored in a thrilling 20-minute spell in the first half.

Wenderson Galeno struck twice for Porto either side of Kevin Kelsy’s header from Shakhtar, while the visitors took a two-goal lead thanks to Mehdi Taremi’s wonderfully-timed finish.

Paris Saint-Germain saw off Borussia Dortmund in a two-goal victory in the French capital as Kylian Mbappe continued his incredible form in the competition. He scored his 41 st goal in the Champions League from the penalty spot – ensuring he has netted in each season he has played in it.

The decision to award the penalty was somewhat controversial as it was awarded from a handball by Niklas Sule, who appeared to be using his arm to break his fall. Mbappe has now 63 goals or direct assists in 62 Champions League games. PSG wrapped up the win as Achraf Hakimi rounded off a fine flowing team move to score against his former club.

In what was a repeat of the 1970 European Cup final – and the first meeting between the clubs since – Celtic fell to a two-goal defeat at Feyenoord. The Scottish club have endured a difficult few decades in Europe and they saw two players sent-off in a damaging second half.

Calvin Stengs opened the scoring on the stroke of half-time for the Dutch champions, as his free-kick went through Joe Hart – who will maybe feel that he should have done more to prevent the goal.

But Celtic lost their discipline in the second half; Gustaf Lagerbielke was dismissed when conceding a penalty, although Igor Paixao’s penalty was saved by Hart – who atoned for his earlier error. Just minutes later, substitute Odin Thiago Holm received a straight red card for a studs up challenge.

Feyenoord unsurprisingly dominated the closing stages of the encounter as Lutsharel Geertruida’s effort was ruled out for a marginal offside call before Alireza Jahanbakhsh’s effort did count as he blasted home a second.

Elsewhere in Group E, Lazio goalkeeper Ivan Provedel scored an incredible last-minute equalising goal against Atletico Madrid in Rome. The home side’s boss Maurizio Sarri once infamously remarked: “If I had to play the way Diego Simeone sets up his team, I would go back to working in a bank.”

Former banker Sarri had the last laught with Provedel scoring a sensational last-gasp header to cancel out the opener from Pablo Barrios, whose long-range strike took a cruel deflection off Daichi Kamada to entirely wrongfoot Provedel.

Group G is perhaps the most unbalanced in the competition, with Manchester City and RB Leipzig overwhelming favourites to advance to the knockout stages at the expense of outsiders Red Star Belgrade and Young Boys respectively.

RB Leipzig secured an impressive opening day win in Switzerland, even if two of their goals in a 3-1 victory came in the closing stages of the match. Young Boys forward Mechak Elia cancelled out Mohamed Simakan’s early opener for the visitors.

After the German side saw a strong penalty claim for a foul on Xavi Simons turned down and having an effort ruled out for offside in a period of dominance, they did eventually do enough to secure the points as Xaver Schlager and substitute Benjamin Sesko both found the net to settle the points.

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