As usual, the Champions League served up thrilling midweek matches. Some sides had already qualified for the next round and were fighting for the top spot. Some sides were trying to secure the Europa League spot while some were trying to avoid Europe’s baby brother competition. Here are some of the major talking points after this round of games.
Stephanie Frappart Makes History
There is always cause to be happy with progress no matter how small. Yesterday Frenchwoman Stephanie Frappert became the first woman to officiate a men’s Champions League game as she held the whistle for Juventus vs Dynamo Kyiv. The 36-year-old already made history when she officiated the Super Cup final between Liverpool and Chelsea last year. She officiated the women’s World Cup final in 2019 and she officiated the Ligue 1 game between Amiens and Strasbourg in April 2019. In October, she officiated the game between Leicester City and Zorya Luhansk. We hope this becomes a common happening and then we can even get a female coach in the men’s game (looking at you Emma Hayes, Sarina Wiegman, and Jill Ellis).
Ronaldo Keeps Making History
In his favorite competition, Ronaldo scored his 750th career goal. What more is there to say about the Portuguese phenom? He hit the bar in the 30th minute and fired another shot later on but it was a comfortable tip over the bar for the Dynamo Kyiv goalkeeper Heorhiy Bushchan. In the 56th minute, Federico Chiesa went on a long run before turning a cross for Alvaro Morata. Bushchan got to it first but he punched the shot towards Morata and the ricochet fell to Ronaldo for his goal. Champions League goal number 132, career goal number 750. What a man! What a career! At 35, he still looks hungry for more goals and more titles.
Real Madrid Suffer Another Shock Loss to Shakhtar Donetsk
If the first leg result did not shock you, then the 2nd leg result definitely will. Real Madrid went to Ukraine searching for revenge after an embarrassing home defeat. Los Blancos hit the woodwork in the 4th minute signaling intention and they kept pushing. It was not until the 2nd half that Shakhtar even got a sniff of Thibaut Courtois’ goal after he saved from Taison. Another Champions League howler from Raphael Varane after an inexplicable pass from Ferland Mendy and Dentinho beat Courtois from close range. Another counter-attack in the 82nd minute and Manor Solomon beat Courtois at his near post after a lengthy drive. Real Madrid sits 3rd in their group and they face Borussia Monchengladbach who need only a draw to qualify after Inter beat them 3-2 at Borussia Park.
Istanbul Basksehir and RB Leipzig play out A European Classic
The names of the two teams won’t immediately ring a bell when you hear ‘classic’ but their game was that. In the 25th minute, a Marcel Sabitzer shot took a deflection off Yussuf Poulsen to beat Mert Gunok for the 1st goal. In the 43rd minute, Nordi Mukiele hit an effort with his left foot into the ground and it went past the keeper for another unfortunate goal. 2-0. This was after an effort from the young Frenchman was tipped over the bar from a corner. Irfan Kahveci got one back before the halftime break after stroking a lovely corner routine into the back of the net. Edin Visca skied a glorious chance for a tap in before Emile Forsberg hit the keeper from a Mukiele cross. Angelino has been Leipzig’s best player this season and he set up Dani Olmo to make it 3-1.
On 71, almost from the same position as the first, Kahveci curled a shot that flew past Peter Gulacsi into the same corner as the first. 3-2. On 84, Demba Ba won a free-kick off Ibrahima Konate just outside the box and Kahveci curled in his hattrick. 3 goals all from outside the box, all from identical positions. On 90+1 though, Alexander Sorloth finished the tie with a brilliant left-foot strike. His first in Leipzig color since his move from Turkey. The Turkish side can hold their head high even though they are last in the group. They have given us some entertaining ties this year.
A perfect hattrick plus a penalty to top it off. Sevilla and Chelsea played their 2nd string sides as both teams had qualified for the next round. The future was also on the mind as Sevilla have Real Madrid this weekend and Chelsea have Leeds United. Grabbing 1st place was still important though and the quality in Chelsea’s side prevailed. Olivier Giroud has played second fiddle to an impressive Tammy Abraham but Abraham’s performance against Tottenham received a lot of criticism. France coach Didier Deschamps has been piling the pressure on Giroud to leave Chelsea if the game time does not come and there have been transfer rumors. He got his opportunity to lead the line against Sevilla and boy did he take it.
In the 8th minute, Kai Havertz received a ball from Mateo Kovacic and drove some long yards before sliding a well-weighted pass to Giroud who turned Diego Carlos inside before finishing beyond Alfonso Pastor with his favored left foot. On 54, Kovacic flicked a delicate pass beyond the defense and Giroud held off Diego Carlos before applying a chip to the finish with his right. His 3rd was more like him. A rapid counter-attack with a fresh N’golo Kante bombing down the right and he whipped in a fine cross for his countryman to head home. Perfection. Sergi Gomez conceded a dumb penalty after tripping Giroud in the box and Giroud sold Pastor the wrong way for the 4th. It was a great performance from the entire Chelsea side who showed defensive resilience and poise but it was the Giroud show. And we loved it.