By Jason Pettigrove
Match Week Three proved a strong one for the Spanish clubs, barring Athletic Club, who continued their poor run of form with a home defeat to Porto. Jason Pettigrove gives his thoughts on the performances.
Athletic Club (1-2 loss vs. Porto)
The Basques continue to endure a horrible start to the season, both domestically and in Europe. Ernesto Valverde has spectacularly failed to guide his troops to victory for the last nine matches in succession.
Having said that, after falling behind in Portugal, Athletic at least rallied and for a time were deservedly level, Guillermo cancelling out Hector Herrera’s strike just before the hour mark.
The introductions of Iker Muniain and Benat gave Los Leones a renewed purpose in the match but Ricardo Queresma’s 75th minute strike put paid to any hopes the away side had of taking points back to Spain.
There was a palpable sense of heads dropping thereafter and the Spaniards now have it all to do to qualify.
Valverde tried to look at the positives, telling reporters after the game: “We were better in the second half, got level and were looking for the winner, but then they scored the second.
“We lost the match by the same score as last time [against BATE] but it leaves a better taste. But we have three games left and we have to make the most of our options.”
Good night for: Iker Muniain
Bad night for: Ernesto Valverde (the managerial trap door is creaking open…)
FC Barcelona (3-1 win vs. Ajax)
The Blaugrana made hard work of their last La Liga fixture vs. tiny Eibar, and were hoping for a decent night’s work against the Dutch champions ahead of their titanic El Clasico battle at the weekend.
Within 23 minutes, after goals from both Neymar and Lionel Messi, Barca were in cruise control and a 91% pass accuracy across the 90 minutes is a new Champions League record.
A captain’s performance from Andres Iniesta in his 101st UCL appearance was the pick of a very good bunch, and such dominance allowed Luis Enrique the luxury of taking off three of his main protagonists after an hour.
The Catalans did, however, need a late strike from Sandro Ramirez to seal matters after a defensive lapse allowed Anwar El Ghazi to net for the away side.
Ajax were as poor as Barca were excellent. They will be hoping for a similar result as last season at the Amsterdam Arena in a fortnight.
Good night for: Andres Iniesta
Bad night for: Dutch football (total football that was totally useless on the night)
Real Madrid (3-0 win vs. Liverpool)
Played three, won three, scored 10.
Real Madrid, who let’s not forget had never previously beaten Liverpool, handed the Reds their biggest home defeat since early 2007.
The special Anfield European nights on which Liverpool have thrived upon in the past just never really got going for the home side, once Cristiano Ronaldo – who else?! – expertly guided Los Blancos into the lead. The Portuguese now has 20 goals for club and country this season – and we’ve still got a week left of October!
Benzema’s brace gave the score-line a fair reflection of the away side’s dominance on the night, the difference between the sides both in ability and attitude notable.
Mario Balotelli – why always him?! – just stood and stared once his early first half chance had gone begging. Swapping his shirt with Pepe probably wasn’t the best decision he’s ever made either.
His teammates were second to the loose balls and second best overall, which wont sit at all well with Brendan Rodgers, who admitted this week he would like to coach in Spain at some point.
If this is the standard, it’s easy to see why he might head for sunnier climbs.
Contrast Liverpool’s laziness and tardiness with the energetic work ethic and constant running of a whole number of Real Madrid players.
Will Madrid become the first Champions League side to retain the trophy in the modern era? Don’t bet against it.
Good night for: Karim Benzema. About time he got the credit he deserves.
Bad night for: Anyone wearing red.
Atletico Madrid (5-0 win vs. Malmo)
A stunning second-half performance at the Vicente Calderon has put Atletico Madrid back in charge of their own destiny in Group A.
Plucky Malmo held out until just after half-time giving their band of noisy travelling fans something to hold onto. All of their good work was undone once Koke worked his magic from the 48th minute though.
A well-taken finish was followed by two assists in as many minutes just after the hour, when Mario Mandzukic and then Antoine Griezmann finished to take the game away from the Swedes.
A third assist for Diego Godin’s late goal saw Koke equal a record for a single Champions League game.
Alessio Cerci compounded Malmo’s misery at the death and with Juventus surprisingly losing at leaders Olympiacos, the Rojiblancos go second as we move to the next set of matches.
Good night for: Koke – he’s the real thing.
Bad night for: Ricardinho – Brazilian by name, not by nature.