The UEFA Champions League returned with a bang on Wednesday morning as holders Liverpool fell to defeat away at Napoli, while Frank Lampard’s Champions League career as a manager began with a loss and nothing could separate Borussia Dortmund and Barcelona at Signal Iduna Park.
Napoli 2-0 Liverpool
In a repeat of last year’s group stage, Liverpool travelled to the Stadio San Paolo to take on Carlo Ancelotti’s Napoli.
The Reds instantly improved their performance from their loss in the last campaign and posed the greatest goal threat in a tense and even opening half.
Adrian was forced into action just after half time, as he flew to make a superb save to keep Dries Mertens’ effort from going in.
Alex Meret’s similar heroics would later thwart Mohamed Salah as this game looked destined to end deadlocked.
But with under 10 minutes remaining, Jose Callejon was deemed to have been felled by Andrew Robertson in the penalty area, allowing Mertens to score from 12 yards despite Adrian getting a heavy hand on the Belgian’s effort.
Liverpool were forced to chase the game but it was not to be, as a defensive miscommunication allowed substitute Fernando Llorente on goal in stoppage time. The experienced Spaniard finished coolly into the bottom left corner to seal a big victory for Gli Azzurri on opening day.
Red Bull Salzburg 6-2 KRC Genk
Group E’s other match was a stunning affair with Austrian Bundesliga leaders Red Bull Salzburg sweeping Genk aside in their first Champions League match in 25 years.
Norweigian wonderkid Erling Haland opened the scoring within two minutes before doubling his and the team’s tally just after the half hour.
Fellow youngster Hwang-Hee Chan quickly made it three for Salzburg, before Genk looked to have a route back into the match with Jhon Lucumi’s goal five minutes from the interval.
That only sparked Salzburg back into life, however, as Haland made it a first half hat-trick and fellow teenager Dominik Szoboszlai struck in added time to make it an incredible 5-1 score line after just 45 minutes.
Genk’s top scorer in the league Mbwana Samatta sought to instigate a remarkable comeback with a 52nd minute header, but the pick of the goals went to Salzburg’s Andreas Ulmer just after the hour mark.
The 33-year-old captain picked out the bottom right corner after a swift one-two inside Genk’s penalty area, capping off a dream start to their Champions League campaign.
Chelsea 0-1 Valencia
Frank Lampard began his first Champions League campaign as a manager after lifting the trophy with Chelsea in 2012 as his Blues took on Valencia at Stamford Bridge.
The game was marred by an ugly Francis Coquelin challenge on Mason Mount that saw the Chelsea youngster substituted and in a substantial amount of distress.
The game carried on as the Londoners chased a winning return to Europe’s premier competition, with Willian and Marcos Alonso coming close either side of the half-time interval.
It was the visitors that would take the lead however, with Rodrigo on hand to finish Dani Parejo’s delivered free kick with 15 minutes to play.
Lampard’s side continued to chase an equaliser in the dying embers of the game until they were awarded a penalty after the fact, with VAR ruling that Fikayo Tomori’s header struck Daniel Wass’ hand.
Ross Barkley stepped up to the spot despite the best efforts of Jorginho and Willian to take the kick in a peculiar sequence of events. Barkley might be wishing he left it to one of his teammates as he saw his effort clatter the crossbar and go over, all but condemning Chelsea to opening day defeat.
Borussia Dortmund 0-0 Barcelona
Borussia Dortmund had some penalty issues of their own in a home draw against last season’s semi-finalists Barcelona.
Marc Andre Ter Stegen was the hero for Barca, saving early on from Marco Reus before foiling the Dortmund captain again from the penalty spot when Jadon Sancho was brought down by Nelson Semedo.
Julian Brandt crashed a long range drive into the crossbar in front of the famous Yellow Wall as the home side dominated proceedings but failed to find the all important goal.
Lionel Messi very nearly stole it with the last kick of the game for the Blaugrana on his return from injury, but his strike at the back post was blocked in the nick of time.
Last season’s great entertainers Ajax got their campaign off to a flyer, showing no signs of missing Matthijs de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong with a comfortable 3-0 home win over Lille. New signing Quincy Promes scored on his Champions League debut for the club.
Inter Milan needed a stoppage time equaliser from Nicolo Barella to register a point at home against Slavia Prague. The Czech champions played superbly against their favoured opponents and led just after the hour, but were ultimately unable to hold onto victory.
Two goals in nine minutes from Timo Werner meant Haris Seferovic’s 84th minute strike was a mere consolation for Benfica as they succumbed to defeat against Red Bull Leipzig 2-1. That brace adds to Werner’s fantastic start to this club season, with five goals already to his name in just four Bundesliga matches.
Lyon were left frustrated as they spurned 20 shots and the majority of possession in a 1-1 home draw against Zenit St.Petersburg. The Russian champions took the lead just before half time through Sardar Azmoun before Memphis Depay equalised from the penalty spot shortly after the break.