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.
👏 Congratulations! pic.twitter.com/Pv8gnXgaIk
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) September 21, 2018
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.
DOBLETE DE TAGLIAFICO PARA EL AJAX#ChampionsxFOX | Reviví la victoria del conjunto holandés 3-0 sobre el AEK de Grecia, con dos goles del lateral de la Selección Argentina. pic.twitter.com/pXJQQSdc2B
— FOX Sports Argentina (@FOXSportsArg) September 19, 2018