Argentinos Abroad: Messi hat-trick gives Barça easy win, Icardi fires Inter to victory & Tagliafico nets brace – Champions League round-up (VIDEO)

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Elmer Plasencia

Champions League football has returned! Europe’s biggest club completion kicked off as the top teams in Europe fight it out for continental supremacy. Opening matchday provided Argentinian football fans with plenty of intriguing storylines. Lionel Messi appeared in the competition for the first time as captain of FC Barcelona and Mauro Icardi led Inter to their firsts appearance in Champions League since 2012, while Angel Di Maria’s Paris Saint-Germain looked to build upon their round of 16 exit from last season’s competition.

We round up the first matchday of fixtures of the group stage as the Albiceleste players look to make the first step in capturing Champions League glory.

Argentinians made a statement in the first matchday of Champions League passing the 500 goal mark as a country in Champions League. In the opening matchday of the Champions League group stage, Argentinians were involved in seven goals in 870 minutes played. The Albiceleste contingent provided everything from late game heroics to beautiful free kicks and even some days to forget. We will take you around Europe to round up the performances and results of the opening matches.

FC Barcelona 4 PSV Eindhoven 1

Argentinian star Lionel Messi and his FC Barcelona teammates have made it their goal this season to win Champions League. Messi, the club’s new captain promised the fans that the team would do everything in their power to bring the trophy to the Camp Nou after infamously crashing out of the competition against Roma last year. 

After a tough 90 minutes versus Real Sociedad this past Sunday, the match started out tightly contested through the first 30 minutes with Barcelona controlling the pace but PSV pushing and getting opportunities of their own. After a PSV foul just outside the box Messi put a beautiful free kick into the top corner just past the goalkeeper for the game’s first goal.

The two sides exchanged opportunities from the beginning of the second half until youngster Ousmane Dembele scored an absolute stunner to put Barcelona up 2 to 0. Minutes later, Ivan Rakitic served a beautiful ball over the top to find Messi and give Barcelona the 3 to 0 lead. Following a sloppy 15 minutes of play that saw Samuel Umtiti sent off, a Luis Suarez through ball found Lionel Messi giving him his eighth Champions League hat trick and Barcelona the 4-0 victory. Messi finished his day with three goals, four shots on target and a 90% passing percentage.

Messi and Barcelona will travel to Wembley Stadium on October 3rd to face off against Tottenham Hotspur in their next Champions League match. They will look to build off this performance and secure the three points in their first Champions League away day of the season.

Inter 2 Tottenham Hotspur 1

Mauro Icardi made his first Champions League appearance in Inter Milan’s first match back in the Champions League since 2012. Fellow Argentinian, Erik Lamela lined up on the opposite side for Spurs which were led by Argentinian manager Mauricio Pochettino.

Both teams were held scoreless through the first half, each having their fair share of chances but neither being able convert them into goals. The second half got off to a fast start as Jan Vertonghen got a yellow card after fouling Nainggolan. A minute later Erik Lamela assisted a Christian Eriksen goal to put Tottenham up 1 to 0 heading into the last half hour of the match. 

As Inter looked to not drop points at San Siro, Icardi came up with late game heroics sending a volley from outside the box into the bottom left corner of the goal to tie the match up 1 to 1. The game ended with Matias Vecino heading the ball into the goal off of a corner in the 92nd minute to give Inter their first Champions League victory of the campaign with a final score of 2-1

The Argentinian duo in this game both had their bright spots. Lamela finishing with one assist, two shots on target and 12 completed passes. While Icardi scored the game tying goal with six completed passes and one shot on target. Inter will travel to play PSV in their next Champions League match on October 3rd while Spurs look to bounce back as they host Barcelona on that same day.

Liverpool 3 Paris Saint Germain 2

This highly contested match at Anfield featured some of the game’s biggest stars. Liverpool’s fierce attack of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane started off the game against the three man attack of Neymar, Edison Cavani and Kylian Mbappe. Argentina’s own Angel Di Maria started for PSG in the left midfield. Both teams come into the season looking to build on solid Champions League campaigns from last year. Both were knocked out of the competition by Real Madrid with PSG losing in the round of 16 and Liverpool in the final.

The match started out tightly contested with Liverpool pushing the pace and putting PSG on their heels. In the 30th minute the scoring began, Liverpool drew first blood with a Daniel Sturridge goal. Six minutes later Liverpool was granted a penalty with James Milner putting it into the back of the net. PSG answered back with a Thomas Meunier goal of their own to take the game to 2 to 1 at halftime.

In the second half, both teams struggled to break through on goal, Roberto Firmino coming on in the 72nd for Daniel Sturridge while Thomas Tuchel made changes of his own taking out Edison Cavani and Angel Di Maria and putting in Julian Draxler and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting. Shortly after the substitutions, Kylian Mbappe broke through to tie the game up 2 to 2 off of a Neymar assist. Late game heroics once again came up on the day though as Firmino scored a stoppage time goal to give Liverpool the three points at Anfield.

Argentinian Angel Di Maria did not have his best day, finishing the game with one shot on target. He was largely held at bay in his 80 minutes on the pitch. Liverpool travels to Napoli for their next Champions League fixture as PSG host Red Star Belgrade, both on October 3rd.

Monaco 1 Atlético Madrid 2

Europa League Champions, Atlético Madrid travelled to Monaco to face a team that failed to get out of the group stage in last year’s Champions League but did finish second behind PSG domestically. Angel Correa was the sole Argentinian to line up for either side, he started as a right midfielder for Atlético. This match was crucial for both sides as they look to start strong in a tough group that also includes Borussia Dortmund and Club Brugge.

Atlético started off the match strong dominating possession and looking to be the better team going forward. Nevertheless, Monaco were the first to capitalize off a mistake with Samuel Grandsir scoring the game’s first goal. Atlético were quick to rally back though with Griezmann assisting Diego Costa to tie up the game in the 30th minute. They continued to press forward with Jose Gimenez heading a ball in the back of the minute just before half off of a Koke corner kick.

In the second half, neither team were able to create much attack with Diego Simeone’s side playing a strong defensive game and limiting Monaco’s chances to hold the lead. Angel Correa came off in the 70th minute, he wasn’t able to make much of an impact with 70 touches, a 71% pass success and one shot that was off target. 

In the next round of fixtures, Atlético will host Club Brugge at the Wanda Metropolitano on October 3rd while Monaco travel to Dortmund on the same day.

Ajax 3 AEK Athens 0

This match featured two Argentinians, Nicolás Tagliafico for Ajax and Ezequiel Ponce for AEK Athens. Ajax finished second in the Eridivisie last season, they acquired Tagliafico from Independiente in the January transfer window. He went on to become a regular starter making 15 appearances for the Dutch giants. Ezequiel Ponce begins his third loan consecutive loan spell, joining AEK Athens for this season. He has already scored two goals for the Greek champions and is looking to carry that performance into European football.

The first half of the match was largely uneventful with Ajax controlling possession and getting the majority of the attacking chances. The second half started off with a bang as Tagliafico finished off a cross from David Neres putting Ajax ahead. Ajax continued to attack and Donny van de Beek found the back of the net to double Ajax’s lead. After failing to make much of an impact, Ezequiel Ponce was substituted in the 81st minute to end his day. Tagliafico had other plans though as he scored what seemed to be intended as a cross that went pass the goalie into the net for his second goal of the day, this gave Ajax the 3-0 win over AEK.

Ajax faces a tough test against German champions Bayern Munich on October 2nd at Allianz Arena. They will look to build off the momentum from this game and pull off a result in Bayern’s backyard. AEK Athens will host Portuguese giants Benfica on October 2nd and will look to bounce back from their subpar performance.

Benfica 0 Bayern Munich 2

German giants Bayern Munich traveled to Lisbon to play Portugal powerhouse Benfica. The match featured two Argentinians, Eduardo Salvio and Franco Cervi who both play on the wings in Benfica’s 4-3-3. Bayern is looking to build off a strong campaign last season where they won the Bundesliga and reached the Champions League semifinals. Benfica on the other hand had a strong season domestically, finishing in second place but failed to pick up any points in Champions League finishing dead last in their group.

The match started out with both teams pressing each other looking to catch one another off guard. Bayern drew first blood with a Robert Lewandowski move and finish to put them up 1-0 in the 10th minute. Bayern continued to attack the remainder of the first half and Benfica countered with their occasional chance, the best of which coming from an Eduardo Salvio shot that was saved by Manuel Neuer for a corner. Bayern dominated most of the half with Franco Cervi almost earning a penalty towards the end of the first half.

The second half started off with the same pressure from Bayern with Renato Sanches finishing off a precise cross from James Rodrigues to put Bayern up 2-0. The Sanches goal proved to be the nail on the coffin as Benfica were only able to get two shots on target in the second half which were both saved by Neuer. The two Argentinians for Benfica had their bright moments but were unable to produce goals for the Portuguese side. Salvio was subbed off in the 63rd, finishing his night with one shot on target and a 62% pass percentage. Cervi played the full 90 minutes, completing 71% of his passes and drawing two fouls.

Up next, Benfica will travel to Greece to face off against AEK Athens who is also coming off a loss. Bayern will look continue their momentum from this match as they face Ajax at the Allianz Arena.

Manchester City 1 Lyon 2

Manchester City looked to build off of a record setting season in the Premier League where they won the league while making the Champions League quarterfinals. Lyon looked to make strong start as they came back to the Champions League after one season away from the competition, the French side finished in third in last season’s campaign domestically and reached the round of 16 of the Europa league. 

Manchester City’s manager, Pep Guardiola was suspended for this match. The Manchester side started out putting the pressure on with multiple chances in the first 20 minutes. Lyon answered in a big way with Nabil Fekir cross being put into the back of the net Maxwell Cornet in the 26th minute to put the French side ahead in Manchester. The two sides exchanged opportunities for the remainder of the half with Fekir making a sensational run and strike in the 43rd minute to stun City and put Lyon up 2-0. 

City’s fortunes turned with a couple of tactical substitutions in the 2nd half, Leroy Sane came on in the 55th minute while Sergio Agüero came on in the 63rd. These changes sparked some life into City’s attack and Bernardo Silva pulled one back for the home side in the 67th with a shot from inside the box. Argentinian, Agüero really made his presence known with multiple chances that challenged Anthony Lopes. Both teams continued to attack throughout the remainder of the game as City looked to get an equalizer but some big saves from Lopes sealed the huge result for Lyon as they beat Manchester City 2 to 1.

Sergio Agüero was the only Argentinian used in either of the sides. He played 27 minutes and had two quality shots on goal, completed 80% of his passes but did pick a yellow card. Nicolás Otamendi was an unused substitute.

In the next round of matches, Manchester City will travel to Germany for their next Champions League match as they will face Hoffenheim. Lyon will host Shaktar Donetsk as they look to build on the huge result in Manchester.

Real Madrid 2 Roma 0

Reigning Champions League winners, Real Madrid played host to Italian side Roma at the Santiago Bernabéu. This season’s campaign is very different for Real Madrid as they will line up for the first time in the competition in the post Cristiano Ronaldo era. They will look to build a new identity and build off their success of last year’s finish. Roma had a strong campaign last season as well as finishing off a historic comeback against FC Barcelona and reaching the semifinals of the competition.

The match started off with Real Madrid putting on the pressure with two near scoring opportunities in the first ten minutes of the match. Madrid continued to dominate the first half giving Roma very little opportunity to attack and recovering quickly whenever Roma did break through with opportunities. The match’s first goal came after a De Rossi yellow card gave Isco a free kick which he put over Roma’s wall and into the back of the net as the keeper could only look.

The second half started with the same pressure from Real Madrid as they capitalized off a turnover and scored on the counter attack as Luka Modric sent a through ball onto a streaky Gareth Bale who outpaced the Roma defender and put the ball into the far net past the keeper. Real Madrid’s third and final goal came from a stunning strike from Mariano who struck the ball into the back net from outside the box to give Madrid the 3-0 win.

There were two Argentinians on the matchday rosters, both suiting up for Roma. Central defender Federico Fazio played the full 90 minutes with one shot off target off a corner. He completed 85% of his passes, had one tackle and three interceptions on the day. Forward Diego Perotti came on for 28 minutes, he complete 88% of his passes but wasn’t able to create any opportunities with no shots on goal.

Real Madrid will travel to Moscow on October 2nd to face CSKA Moscow as they look continue to build off of the opening win. Roma will look to bounce back from their poor performance as they host Viktoria Plzeň on the same day.

Remaining Champions League Results

Club Brugge 0 vs Borussia Dortmund 1

Red Star Belgrade 0 vs Napoli 0

Schalke 1 vs Porto 1 – Argentinian striker Franco Di Santo was an unused sub in Schalke’s tie against Porto.

Galatasaray 3 vs Lokomotiv Moscow 0

Shakhtar Donetsk 2 vs Hoffenheim 2

Viktorian Plzeň 2 vs CSKA Moscow 2

Valencia 0 vs Juventus 2 – Argentinian forward Paulo Dybala was an unused sub in Juventus’ victory at La Mestalla.

Elmer Plasencia is a Peruvian living in Columbus, Ohio. Spending nearly the first decade of his life in Trujillo, Peru and Mar de Ajo, Argentina he fell in love with all things football. Moving to Ohio in 2000 he has become a fan of Major League Soccer, particularly Columbus Crew SC. Making a living working as a product specialist in Corporate America. Elmer spends his free time watching, playing and writing about the beautiful game. He pays special attention to River Plate, Barcelona and West Ham United.

Click on his name to go to his Twitter and give him a follow!

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