Friday, September 22, 2023

Premier League in Europe

Newcastle parked the bus to accomplish a goalless draw in its Champions League match with AC Milan at the San Siro. The Magpies did not have a shot on target until stoppage time but played tenacious defense and received some key saves from goalkeeper Nick Pope to come away with a result in their first taste of European nights in 20 years. Rafael Leao was the danger man for AC Milan but failed to convert the best two chances for the Italian side against the Newcastle defense. Newcastle’s Pope registered a second consecutive clean sheet after blanking Brentford in league action his last time out.

Manchester City dominated first half play but found itself down 1-0 at the break after a 45th minute goal by Red Star Belgrade. Suitably awakened, the Citizens rolled in the second half, Julian Alvarez scoring the first of his two goals on the night just two minutes into the second stanza. Alavarez would convert again in the 60th minute and Rodri would score the third goal for Manchester City in a match where the scoreline probably flattered their opponent. Manchester City had 37 shots, 16 of them on target versus 3 and 2, respectively, for the Serbian side.

A howler from Manchester United goalkeeper Andre Onana opened the door to Bayern Munich’s 4-3 victory over the Red Devils. Onana muffed a shot by former Manchester City player Leroy Sane to give the German side its first lead. Two late goals by Casemiro twice brought the Red Devils back within a goal but it proved a matter of too little, too late. Striker Rasmus Hojlund scored his first goal for Manchester United while Harry Kane, who many once thought would be playing that position for United this season, buried a penalty kick for the Germans.

Arsenal, meanwhile, ran amok over visiting Dutch side PSV in a 4-0 final at the Emirates. Four different players scored for the Gunners whose three first half goals gave Manger Mikel Arteta the opportunity to rest players for this weekend’s north London derby. David Raya made a second consecutive start, both clean sheets, between the sticks for Arsenal as the future of fellow goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale becomes cloudier.

Surprise losers in Thursday matches were Brighton and Aston Villa. The Seagulls stumbled in their first ever European match as they lost 3-2 to AEK Athens in the Europa League. Joao Pedro twice brought Brighton back to level with the Greek side before Athens scored the game winner in the 84th minute. Both Pedro goals came on penalty kicks for a Brighton side which generated little from the run of play despite controlling 75% of possession. The injury absence of Brighton defender Lewis Dunk contributed to a poor defensive effort on a tough day for the Seagulls.

Aston Villa’s 3-2 Europa Conference League defeat at Legia Warsaw was even more surprising as Manager Unai Emery’s Premier League side entered the match as a favorite to win the tournament that West Ham won last season. Overconfidence could well have played a part in Villa’s poor start to this year’s tournament.

West Ham and Liverpool meanwhile, both took care of business by posting comeback wins in their Europa League matches. The Hammers overcame a nervy moment when Backa Topola scored the opening goal before West Ham recovered to beat their Serbian opponent 3-1. The visitors scored the opener when a West Ham defensive error in their own end conceded possession and a breakaway goal. The Serbians gave back the advantage on an own goal before former Ajax player Mohammed Kudus scored his first goal for West Ham to put his new side in the lead. Tomas Soucek provided the Hammers’ insurance goal.

Liverpool also spotted their opponent LASK an early goal before unleashing their own attack. Darwin Nunez, Luis Diaz and Mohamed Salah scored second half goals in front of the roaring Anfield faithful to complete a 3-1 defeat of their Austrian opponents.

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