Sixteen of Europe’s top teams were back in action Tuesday as the fourth matchday of the UEFA Champions League group stage kicked off.
These are the four biggest takeaways.
AC Milan pays back Paris Saint-Germain
With no wins and no goals scored through its first three games — including a 3-0 shellacking by PSG in France on Oct. 26 — the Rossoneri really needed to win Tuesday’s rematch at the San Siro.
They got off to the worst possible start, with longtime Inter Milan defender Milan Škriniar nodding the visitors ahead inside 10 minutes. AC Milan responded almost immediately through Rafael Leão, who pulled the hosts level with a spectacular bicycle kick before panic could set in:
With the game tied once again, the hosts slowly began to take control. Early in the second half, the ageless Olivier Giroud did what he always seems to, scoring a huge goal that stood up over the final 40 minutes to give Milan all three badly needed points.
The comeback vaulted Stefano Pioli’s side over PSG, from the bottom to second place in Group F. The only bad news was that both Leão and U.S. national team forward Christian Pulisic had to be subbed out late with injuries. Pulisic’s is an apparent pulled right hamstring that could keep him out of a pair of CONCACAF Nations League games for his country later this month — not that Pioli or the Rossoneri faithful will care much about that.
Barcelona stunned by Shakhtar Donetsk
Barça entered Tuesday’s contest a perfect 3-0 in this year’s tournament. They’re perfect no more after being upset by the Ukrainian side 1-0 on Danylo Sikan’s strike five minutes before halftime:
The beautifully constructed goal was no happy accident for Shakhtar, which more than held its own with the five time continental champions for the second consecutive game. Barça — which narrowly beat the Ukrainians 2-1 last month in the Catalan capital — managed just one attempt at goal to the underdogs’ four Tuesday. Only a razor-thin offside call kept Xavi’s team which from losing by two, with Newerton’s curler past Marc ter Stegen nullified by the assistant referee’s flag in the 87th minute.
It’s still a landmark victory for Shakhtar, one made more impressive by the fact that the match was staged in the neutral venue of Hamburg, Germany because of Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine. For Barça, the biggest concern has to be the form of star striker Robert Lewandowski, who has now has zero goals in his last six appearances for the club.
Borussia Dortmund doubles up Newcastle
A quirk of scheduling saw all the same foes from match day three meet again two weeks later in the return. Dortmund had already gotten the better of the Magpies on their own turf, winning 1-0 on Tyneside last month— a result that meant Newcastle needed to rerun the favor in Germany Tuesday to keep their dreams of surviving this season’s undisputed Group of Death realistic.
It didn’t happen. In front of BVB’s famous “Yellow Wall” at the 81,000-seat Westfalenstadion, Eddie Howe’s team had no answers for the hosts, the English visitors conceding a goal in each half of the eventual 2-0 defeat. Niclas Füllkrug bagged the opener, with Julian Brandt sealing all three points for the hosts with just over 10 minutes to go:
The victory sent Dortmund — which left the USMNT’s Gio Reyna on the bench for the second straight game — to the top of Group F. As for Newcastle, Howe’s sqaud has a daunting trip to PSG looming on Nov. 29 next.
Haaland returns and scores twice as Manchester City stays perfect
When Man City manager Pep Guardiola pulled a seemingly hurt Erling Haaland at halftime of Saturday’s English Premier League contest with Bournemouth, the Norwegian goal machine’s availably for Tuesday’s visit from Switzerland’s Young Boys seemed to be in serious doubt.
Not only did Haaland start Tuesday, he was the difference maker. Haaland — who last week was denied his first Ballon d’Or by Lionel Messi — scored from the penalty spot in the first half, then added a beautiful second en route to the Sky Blues’ 3-0 stroll.
Phil Foden had the other goal in the win, which made City the first team to win its first four group stage games this year. (Real Madrid, the only other still unbeaten and untied team, welcomes Portugal’s Sporting Braga tomorrow.)
Haaland’s brace upped his career total in soccer’s most prestigious club competition to an astonishing 39 goals in just 34 games.
Doug McIntyre is a soccer writer for FOX Sports. Before joining FOX Sports in 2021, he was a staff writer with ESPN and Yahoo Sports and he has covered United States men’s and women’s national teams at multiple FIFA World Cups. Follow him on Twitter @ByDougMcIntyre.
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