The group stage of the UEFA Champions League is on its final lap as the competition moves to its next round. Some teams were trying to secure the top spot in Europe’s premier competition while some were fighting for qualification. For some, the fight is for a place in the Europa League. For some it is a fight to save face as their fate at the bottom of their group is sure. As usual, the matchday served us some incredible talking points across the various matches, we discuss them below.
PSG Versus Istanbul Basaksehir Comes to a Stand Amidst Accusations of Racism From the Fourth Official
the talk of the Champions League night, this does not look good at all. In the 13th minute of the tie between PSG and Istanbul Basaksehir, Presnel Kimpembe of PSG caught Fredrik Gulbrandsen with a bad challenge. Former Cameroonian striker Pierre Webo who is now part of the Istanbul Basaksehir coaching staff did not like something he had seen.
The referee came over to see what the fuss was about. As he arrived he asked the fourth official what was going on and he was asked to show Webo a red card.
Now here is the thing, when the referee asked the fourth official Constantin Coltescu who he was to show the card to, the Romanian official referred to Webo as negru which has no negative connotations to a Romanian but not the same to a more Westernized man.
Demba ba, Kimpembe, Kylian Mbappe, and the rest of the Istanbul Basaksehir players were demanding why the official had used that kind of description. It is tough to blame the official if his domestic language does not find fault in the description ‘negru’ but this is a messy case. The game is set to continue today from the 14th minute but yesterday’s breakdown will be a long and arduous discussion.
Cristiano Ronaldo vs Lionel Messi? Gianluigi Buffon Steals the Show in Battle of the Old Guard
Juventus versus Barcelona means we get to see one more installment of Ronaldo versus Messi but it did not happen in the first leg due to injury. This time Ronaldo scored two penalties between a spectacular Weston McKennie effort to seal the tie for the old lady. Lionel Messi was pulling the strings from the center, behind Antoine Griezmann but the Argentine could not find his way past Buffon. Messi took 7 shots and the 42-year-old Buffon saved all.
Messi’s display could have won him man-of-the-match but his teammates were not up for it like he was. He was trying to create and to score but it would not happen for him. Juventus was happy to sit off and hit them on the counter.
It was on one of those runs that Ronaldo took the ball outside Ronaldo Araujo and the Uruguayan blocked Ronaldo off the ball. The referee deemed it a penalty and Ronaldo converted it for his first Champions League goal against Barcelona.
In the 50th minute, Clement Lenglet unknowingly touched the ball in the buildup to a fantastic shot from Aaron Ramsey and a stunning save from Marc-Andre ter Stegen. Ronaldo scored his 2nd to seal the victory as Juventus finish on top of the table. Buffon was inspirational in the tie, preventing Messi with some great saves. The old man still got it.
Manchester United Sent Crashing Back Down Into the Europa League
United only needed to avoid defeat to secure a place in the next round of the Champions League but Julian Nagelsmann and his boys had other ideas. It is hard to evaluate United under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as their record is quite decent. However, the football on display is shitty, the team is unorganized, bereft in quality movement of the ball while relying on individual quality and inexplicable refereeing for any sort of result.
United was playing a back 3 but Marcel Sabitzer running the show in midfield still managed to find Angelino at the back post for the first goal. For the 2nd goal, Amadou Haidara met an Angelino cross from the left side at the back post. The 3rd was as calamitous with captain Harry Maguire shielding the ball to allow Justin Kluivert to finish on his blind side.
After all of United’s efforts last season to secure a place in the Champions League, this campaign will end as an embarrassment and an indictment against OGS. In their last match, a game against West Ham, they were tepid and uninspiring until Bruno Fernandes’ second-half introduction.
It has been the same for much of the season with the team under-performing and relying on their Portuguese talisman’s brilliance or that of Marcus Rashford. Before West Ham, they lost to PSG. Before that, they needed 2nd half inspiration from Bruno and Edinson Cavani to overturn a 2-0 Southampton lead.
They have lost to Arsenal, Tottenham, and Istanbul Basaksehir this season. This descent into the Europa League is a new low. Have they made progress under the Norwegian coach?
Billy Gilmour You Fantastic Little Scotsman
Some 3 years ago Chelsea paid 500,00 fine British Pounds to Rangers in Scotland for 15-year-old Billy Gilmour. 3 years later, after a breakthrough season halted by a knee injury in a win over Crystal Palace in July, Gilmour made his Champion League debut and he marked it with a stellar performance in the middle of the park.
The 19-year-old is slight in body frame but masterful in the brain. He moved the ball cleanly and used his low center of gravity to escape pressure when pressed. Gilmour is a nimble footballer who is not afraid to put a tackle in too, how else will he impress the delightful Roy Keane? He has good short and long-range passing and this allows him to dictate play. Alongside Mateo Kovacic, they dominated the center with Jorginho even though the latter did not shield the defense well enough.
The Scottish U21 midfielder will be hoping to secure a place under Lampard with this performance or find a good club for a loan to build match fitness in January. Whatever decision Chelsea, Gilmour, and Frank Lampard take, you can see that there is a good footballer in there. Lampard has shown his willingness to find some game time for the younger players and this bodes well for his development if he decides to stay.