Real Madrid continued to show they have no inclination to relinquish their grip on the Champions League when they impressively defeated German giants Borussia Dortmund 3-1.
Under-fire Wales forward Gareth Bale opened the scoring, before teeing up Cristiano Ronaldo following the interval to put the visitors in charge. They then held resolute after the prolific Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang put BVB back into it a few minutes later, with the game being sealed later on by Ronaldo’s second – for his 110th goal in the competition – thumped in at the near post.
Here, we examine the stars which shone at Westfalenstadion and those who need to buck up during the challenges to come in Group H.
What a way to quieten the boo-boys from the Bernabeu.
In a career chocked full of memorable goals, his effort in Germany will live long in the memory. A delicate lofted ball from rampaging right-back Dani Carvajal was met with a finely-calibrated first-time volley which rocketed past helpless Switzerland goalkeeper Roman Burki.
He then laid the winning goal on a plate for Ronaldo, courtesy of a precise low cross.
Bale had become the fall guy for Madrid’s stuttering start to 2017/18. Yet no-one could complain about these contributions.
He must hope the injury which caused him to trudge off near the death does not cause another unwelcome spell on the sidelines.
Madrid’s riches at full-back remain the envy of Europe.
Carvajal put in a peerless performance against Dortmund, diligently covering the defence and providing a devilish attacking threat in the other half.
Centre midfielders Toni Kroos and Luka Modric would have been proud of his ball for Bale. Just as impressive was the pace shown soon after to prevent the jet-heeled Aubameyang from charging through for a one-on-one.
This was one of three tackles, which was the third-best figure registered by the men in Whites.
Harsh lessons must be learned by the 23-year-old prospect.
Toljan was consistently cut to pieces by Madrid’s beguiling attackers. Embarrassingly, the summer buy from Hoffenheim was floored by check-backs from Carvajal and Ronaldo – only forgiving finishing preventing further scores.
It was an act of mercy by head coach Peter Bosz when he withdrew his flailing defender – who made just one tackle and one interception – on the hour mark.
His pass-success rate of 73.2 per cent was only better than two of his team-mates.
It is fair to say the Turkey midfielder did nothing to elicit seller’s regret for Madrid in an hour-long run-out to forget.
Sahin – who made just four La Liga appearances from 2011-14 with the Spanish side – made a fine seven interceptions, yet his lack of athleticism could do nothing to prevent the visitors’ rapid counter-attacks from which they scored.
A 90.3 per cent pass accuracy may seem smart, but these were harmless balls from which Aubameyang struggled to feed.
When he was taken off on the hour mark, regret was etched across his face. A player of this talent, with amble inspiration provided, should have done better.
Borussia Dortmund will aim to maintain their unbeaten record at home to Real Madrid in the Champions League on Tuesday and spoil Cristiano Ronaldo’s 150th European appearance.
Dortmund and title holders Real meet in the group stage for the second year running and here are three key battles ahead of the game.
All eyes, as always, will be on Cristiano Ronaldo as the Champions League’s all-time leading scorer attempts to end his ‘barren run’ of two games – a lifetime by his standards.
The Portuguese star will be even more hungry than usual, if that’s possible, to get his name on the scoresheet, and he will be faced by a familiar foe in the form of Marc Bartra, who started his career at Barcelona.
Bartra reads the game well and has the pace to limit Ronaldo’s shooting opportunities, but he is prone to occasional errors by over-playing – and Ronaldo will be ready to pounce.
Exciting Dortmund frontman Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has long been linked with a move to Madrid as a potential replacement for Karim Benzema, especially after the Gabon international registered a goal and an assist when the teams drew in Madrid last year.
Although skipper Sergio Ramos will also obviously have an important role, the man best equipped to handle Aubameyang is Raphael Varane, who can use his pace and anticipation to limit the impact of a striker who comes into the game in great form and full of confidence, scoring a hat-trick in Saturday’s league win against Borussia Moenchengladbach.
Another player Dortmund player subjected to speculation over a move to Madrid is young midfielder Julian Weigl, whose composed passing skills and strong defensive instincts have earned comparisons with Barcelona’s Sergio Busquets.
Tonight, Weigl’s key defensive task will be closing down the space available to Isco, who provides the link between Madrid’s midfield and attack. Isco will also often drift wide and Weigl will then turn his attentions to the darting runs of Luka Modric and Toni Kroos, as well as Ronaldo dropping deep.
If Weigl succeeds in providing a shield for his back four, his team’s chances will increase significantly.
Liverpool travel to Russia on Tuesday as they take on Spartak Moscow at the Otkrytie Arena in their second Champions League Group E clash.
The Reds were held to a 2-2 draw with Sevilla at Anfield in their opening fixture two weeks ago while Russian Premier League champions Spartak drew 1-1 away to Maribor.
We take a look at three key battles which will form the foundation of an intriguing battle.
Congested traffic moves quicker than the Spartak left-back and up against the frightening pace of Salah, Kombarov could be flattened.
In fact, both flanks pitch Liverpool’s greatest strength against the host’s most obvious weakness and the Egyptian in particular has been the brightest spot despite dark days so far in this campaign.
Salah has five goals in eight games to completely dispel the notion he could struggle to adapt to English football after his miserable spell with Chelsea.
The combination of Kombarov’s positional vacancy and Salah’s quickness could be where the game is won and lost for either side.
Neither one of the Liverpool centre-back pairing of Lovren and Joel Matip are in form but the former has been repeatedly chastised for a series of individual errors so far this season.
Indeed, Liverpool are only bettered by Man City for restricting sides to the fewest shots in the Premier League but Lovren’s anxiety has spread leading to mistakes like the one which resulted in Sevilla’s opener last time out in Europe.
It’s not just his hesitancy under the high ball and the unconvincing nature he clears danger that is a concern but his positional sense is shocking at times.
While Adriano isn’t quite the mobile target man we saw at Shakhtar Donetsk, the 30-year-old still has devastating ability and his physical prowess will mean he’s a genuine threat from set-pieces. If Liverpool’s defensive deficiencies rear their head again, Adriano will prosper and Jurgen Klopp best hope his attacking talents get them out of that potential hole once again.
Back and front lines will be under the microscope, of course, but with Spartak likely adopting a 4-2-3-1, the shield in front of the defence will come in the form of Brazilian Fernando.
With captain Denis Glushakov unlikely to feature, the transition from the back, where the host’s will likely find themselves for most of the opening stages, to the front will come through the tidy Fernando.
Henderson will be the man to operate in the corresponding deeper role for the Reds and the two pivots on opposite sides will dictate how this game is played. The Liverpool skipper rediscovered his finest form against Leicester at the weekend and will be looking to build on that momentum after a flurry of criticism in recent weeks.