Europe

Five takeaways as Champions League makes a return

1. Ukraine exiles Shakhtar Donetsk beats Leipzig

Ukrainian team Shakhtar Donetsk, exiled from their war-hit country, began their Champions League campaign with a stunning 4-1 win at Leipzig on Tuesday.

Donetsk arrived for the game with a weakened squad that had played just three domestic league games this season. They had previously not seen competitive action for more than eight months due to the conflict. 

However, two goals from Marian Shved and late strikes by playmaker Mykhaylo Mudryk and substitute Lassina Traoré routed Leipzig.

“I could not have imagined in my wildest dreams such a game with four goals for us,” Shakhtar captain Taras Stepanenko said.

Leipzig reached the semi-finals of the Champions League as recently as 2020.

2. France star Kylian Mbappe breaks Champions League record

Kylian Mbappe became the youngest player to score 35 goals in the Champions League after he netted twice in Paris Saint-Germain’s 2-1 win over Juventus. 

He took the record from teammate Lionel Messi, who was 47 days older when he reached the milestone.

Mbappe, Messi and Neymar were all prominent as PSG went 2-0 up in the first half. Juventus had a good 10-minute spell in the second half after American midfielder Weston McKennie pulled a goal back, but PSG held on to take all three points.

“We had the opportunities to score that third goal which would have meant a quieter end to the game, but that’s also the Champions League,” PSG coach Christophe Galtier said.

Galtier also tried to clarify his ‘ironic’ comments about the club’s use of private planes, which drew sharp criticism from France’s sports minister.

“Here at PSG we are not out of touch,” he said. “The club as a whole, the players, the staff, everyone is obviously very attentive to the problems of climate.”

The French league champions have defended their use of chartered flights rather than more ecological trains after an executive for France’s high-speed rail network called out the club for flying its players on a short-haul journey to Nantes last weekend.

3. Karim Benzema injured as Real Madrid beat Celtic

Champions League holders Real Madrid overcame an injury to the competition’s top scorer from last season, Karim Benzema, to seal a 3-0 victory over Celtic. Benzema was replaced by Eden Hazard, who scored one goal and set up two others.

Vinícius Júnior and Luka Modric also scored second-half goals for the defending champions at Celtic Park.

Benzema, the competition’s top scorer last season with 15 goals, had to be substituted in the 30th minute with an apparent knee injury. 

The France striker started limping after sprinting with the ball, and put his hand on his right knee before asking to be replaced and slowly walking off the field.

4. Erling Haaland makes it 25 goals in 20 Champions League games

Norway striker Erling Haaland could well be the piece that Manchester City has been missing as it has repeatedly come up short in Europe under Pep Guardiola.

On Tuesday he scored twice in the English champions’ 4-0 win over Seville.

Haaland again showed his uncanny ability to be in the right place at the right time, as he was on hand to steer in a cross from Kevin De Bruyne in the 21st minute and then tapped in a rebound for the team’s third goal in the 67th. 

Phil Foden and Ruben Dias scored the other goals for City in a dominant performance at Estadio Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán.

5. Dinamo Zagreb stun big-spending Chelsea

Mislav Oršić must wish he could play English teams every week.

The Croatian forward ran from the halfway line and produced a deft finish in the 13th minute to lead Dinamo Zagreb to a surprising 1-0 win over Chelsea in their opening Group E match in the Champions League on Tuesday.

This adds to Oršić’s goals against English clubs in the Europa League: a winner against West Ham last season and a hat trick to eliminate Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham in 2020-21.

It also marked a memorable start by Dinamo to its first group-stage campaign in Europe’s top competition since 2019-20, having reached this point by coming through three qualifying rounds.

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