By: Mariano López V.
The Champions League never disappoints. Never. It does not matter if it is their previous phases, where the most humble fight to reach the football elite, or the group phase, where those already established are measured in dream duels. Like Manchester City vs. PSG for example. English and French, led by two old acquaintances such as Pep Guardiola and Lionel Messi, gave away an exhibition worthy of the most prestigious club competition in the world.
Just by looking at the formations of both teams – where there were names of the stature of Mbappe Neymar Mahrez and Sterling, to name a few – one could sense the spectacle to come. The first half, however, was a show for the local team, which dominated from start to finish but failed to transfer its superiority to the scoreboard. In the complementary part, and in one of the few clear opportunities they had, Ney and Lío combined wonderfully so that Mbappé, who had completed 50 games in the Champions League, scored and reached 29 goals in the contest. At only 22 years old, the talented Kylian established himself as the third leading French scorer in Champions League history, only behind Thierry Henry and Karim Benzema. Parisian happiness would become sadness when Pep decided to admit Gabriel Jesús: in a matter of minutes, the Brazilian assisted Sterling to equalize the shares (63 ′) and then sealed the final 2-1 (76 ′). Those led by Mauricio Pochettino, second with eight points, will be second in group A no matter what happens on the last day. The ‘citizens’ secured the tip.
To the surprise that the Sheriff gave at the Bernabéu, the technical director of Real Madrid, Carlo Ancelotti he took his precautions and sent his best starting eleven available on his visit to Transnistria. Benzema, Vinicius Jr. and Rodrygo, the starting offensive trident of the ‘Casablanca’, promised to complicate the squad led by Peruvian Gustavo Dulanto but it was not they who stood out in the first half. Rather, the protagonists were a central defender and a midfielder.
With a formidable shot from a still ball (30 ′), David Alaba became the first defender to score a direct free kick for him Real Madrid since Roberto Carlos against Bayern Munich in February 2004. And, already in added time (45 +2 ′), Toni Kroos finished off the crossbar the ball bounced inside the line and the referee determined, thanks to the use of technology, that it was indeed a goal. Starting the second half (55 ′), Benzema was present on the scoreboard and finished the game with his 76th goal in the Champions League, the fourth highest figure in that competition for an active player.
Despite the 3-0 received, and thanks to Inter’s 2-0 win over Shakhtar Donetsk, the humble Sheriff secured third place in Group D and will continue his path in the Europa League.
In group B anything can happen. Except for the one already classified Liverpool of Jurgen Klopp, who beat Porto 2-0 at Anfield with goals from Thiago Alcántara (52 ′) and Mohamed Salah (70 ′), the other three teams will reach the final date of the tournament with opportunities to reach the second round, play Europe League or it is out of everything. For what is this? With Milan’s 1-0 victory over Atlético de Madrid, Porto came second (five points), Milan third (four points and -2 difference) and Atleti fourth (four points and -3 difference). Everything will be defined when Porto receives the ‘colchoneros’ and Milan to the ‘Reds’ on Tuesday, December 7. What’s next …
He suffers it. With yesterday’s defeat Mauricio Pochettino became the coach who defeated Guardiola the most times (13) in his career as a DT.
Inside. Of the five Spanish teams in this Champions League, Real Madrid is the first to qualify for the eighth.