Friday, October 6, 2023

Premier League in Europe

Long suffering Newcastle fans were rewarded Wednesday as the first Champions League match at St. James Park in more than 20 years delivered victory over an esteemed opponent. Newcastle sailed past French League Champion PSG and star Kylian Mbappe by a dominating 4-1 scoreline. Perhaps no Geordies were happier than Magpies Dan Burn and Sean Longstaff, both of whom scored a Champions League goal in the same stadium where they watched matches from the stands as children. The magical evening saw Newcastle deliver its quartet of goals from just 26% possession of the ball on an unproductive evening for the French. The Magpies now top their group standings.

Manchester United, on the other hand, sit at the bottom of their group after a second consecutive loss in Champions League play. The Red Devils were 3-2 losers to Galatasaray despite a stellar performance from 20-year-old striker Rasmus Hojlund who twice gave his club the lead in Tuesday’s match. Defensive frailty, however, sent the Red Devils to a third loss in their last four matches at Old Trafford across all competitions. Casemiro was at the center of the follies. The midfielder was caught out on Galatasaray’s second goal and then was later red carded for a foul committed in the box after a giveaway by United goalkeeper Andre Onana. Mauro Icardi missed the penalty but would later score the winner against 10-man Manchester United. Former Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha, who also spent a brief and unsuccessful stint at Manchester United, scored Galatasaray in his return to Old Trafford.

Arsenal also lost in Champions League play Tuesday, falling 2-1 at Lens in a sluggish performance by the Gunners. Squad depth could be telling on Arsenal as Bukayo Saka started the match despite being forced off with discomfort in Saturday’s Premier League win over Bournemouth. The match against the Cherries was Saka’s 87th consecutive Premier League start. Mikel Arteta may regret Saka’s subsequent participation in Tuesday’s match as Saka pulled up with a muscle injury which could affect his fitness for this weekend’s all-important showdown in the Premier League with Manchester City. Goalkeeper David Raya was at fault for one of the Lens goals, adding further spice to the goalkeeping competition between he and Aaron Ramsdale for the Gunners. Elye Wahi, meanwhile, assisted the first and scored the second Lens goal to become the youngest player to assist and score in a Champions League match since Kylian Mbappe in 2018.

Manchester City responded to back-to-back defeats in the Carabao Cup and Premier League by scoring a 4-1 victory over RB Leipzig to remain perfect in its Champions League group. Substitutes Julian Alvarez and Jermy Doku both registered a goal and assist for the Citizens.

West Ham established a new English club record by extending its unbeaten run in European competition to 17 matches. The Hammers stayed perfect in their Europa League group with a 2-1 win at FC Freiburg. No West Ham fans were in attendance for the historic win as they were banned from the match as punishment for poor behavior after the club’s Europa League title victory last spring.

Liverpool secured its second group win with a 2-0 Europa League defeat of Union Saint Gilloise at Anfield. Ryan Gravenberch scored his first Liverpool goal in the victory.

Brighton is still in search of its first Europa League victory after a 2-2 draw at Marseilles. Brighton will be happy with the point, however, as the Seagulls recovered from a two-goal deficit to tie the match on an 88th minute penalty kick by Joao Pedro. It was Brighton’s first point ever in a European match.

John McGinn’s stoppage time header gave Aston Villa a 1-0 Europa Conference League victory over Zrinjski. All four clubs in Aston Villa’s qualification group now have a win and a loss. 

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