PARIS: Real Madrid couldn’t halt their losing streak in the Champions League, and no one seems able to stop Bayern Munich’s winning run.
Real’s 3-2 loss to a depleted Shakhtar Donetsk team was the most surprising result of Wednesday’s opening group games while Bayern delivered the most impressive performance with a 4-0 win over Atletico Madrid.
It was a third straight loss in the competition for Real — their worst run in 34 years. For defending champions Bayern, it was a 12th straight Champions League victory.
Wins for Liverpool and Manchester City capped a good round for English clubs, and Atalanta again showed their free-scoring style to win 4-0 at overmatched newcomers Midtjylland.
Real have been unconvincing, especially at home, in the Champions League since lifting a record-extending 13th European title three seasons ago.
Yet Shakhtar were missing several starters after a Covid-19 outbreak at the club. The Ukrainian champions still led 3-0 at halftime, exposing a Real defence missing injured captain Sergio Ramos.
“It’s my job to find solutions because these kind of games can’t happen,” said coach Zinedine Zidane, who left veterans Toni Kroos and Karim Benzema on the bench ahead of playing Barcelona on Saturday.
Few fans attended the eight games, because of the spiking coronavirus infections across Europe, and there were none at Olympiakos to see a stoppage-time goal earn a 1-0 win over Olympique de Marseille.
Only 1,000 were at San Siro to see Romelu Lukaku score in his ninth straight European game, including a 90th minute equaliser, to help Inter Milan draw 2-2 with Borussia Moenchengladbach.
Since Real’s last Champions League title in 2018, the club and president Florentino Perez have been linked with plans to create more elitist competitions that would avoid facing so many lower-ranked teams from countries like Ukraine.
Shakhtar are group-stage regulars, and moved on to the Europa League semi-finals in August, though were missing several of their Brazilian contingent against Real.
Strikes from Tete and Manor Solomon, either side of a Raphael Varane own-goal, in a 13-minute spell gave the Ukrainian champions a three-goal half-time lead.
Real hit back with Luka Modric’s long-range shot in the 54th and minutes later substitute Vincius Junior, who entered and ran direct from the touchline to steal possession and score.
Fede Valverde thought he had grabbed an injury-time equaliser but his deflected shot was ruled out for an offside.
Missing the injured Ramos, Real have now won just one of their last seven Champions League home games. This one was played at Real’s empty training ground while the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium is renovated.
Real are already up against it in Group ‘B’, even if rivals Inter and Gladbach cancelled each other out at San Siro.
Lukaku scored twice for Inter, opening the scoring early in the second half and then turning in a late equaliser.
In between Ramy Bensebaini netted a penalty for Gladbach and Jonas Hofmann scored what he thought was a late winner.
Two months after scoring the winner in the final against Paris St Germain in Lisbon, Kingsley Coman put Bayern ahead against Atletico in Group ‘A’ and later scored a stunning individual effort to wrap up the victory at an empty Allianz Arena.
In between Leon Goretzka and Corentin Tolisso were also on target for the German champions, with the latter’s strike a stunner from long-range.
“The winning goal in last season’s final is a good motivator, but it’s in the past now and we have fresh goals this season,” Coman told Sky Sports.
It was Bayern’s 12th consecutive Champions League win while the result for Atletico equalled their worst defeat under Diego Simeone.
Bayern next go to Russia to play Lokomotiv Moscow, who battled back to draw 2-2 at Red Bull Salzburg on Wednesday.
Eder put Lokomotiv ahead in Austria, only for Dominik Szoboszlai to crash in a brilliant equaliser. A deflected Zlatko Junuzovic goal put the hosts in front, but Vitali Lisakovich headed in to earn the Russian side a point.
Liverpool shook off the absence of Virgil van Dijk to edge Ajax 1-0 behind closed doors in Amsterdam in Group ‘D’.
Van Dijk is set to miss the rest of the season with a knee injury but Jurgen Klopp’s side kept a clean sheet and took all three points after Nicolas Tagliafico turned a wayward Sadio Mane shot into his own net on 35 minutes.
“It was not sunshine football but we wanted three points and we got it,” said Klopp.
The 2019 European champions will hope to build on this result when they host Midtjylland next week.
The Danes were outclassed at home by Atalanta on Wednesday, with Duvan Zapata, Alejandro “Papu” Gomez and Luis Muriel scoring in the first half and debutant Aleksei Miranchuk adding a late fourth.
Pep Guardiola’s City made it three wins for English clubs this midweek as they came from behind at home to beat FC Porto 3-1.
Luis Diaz gave Porto the lead with a superb individual goal but Sergio Aguero’s penalty soon brought City level and Ilkay Gundogan’s free-kick put them ahead on 65 minutes.
Substitute Ferran Torres then scored a superb goal to make sure of the win.
Also in Group ‘C’, Egyptian substitute Ahmed Hassan headed in the winner as Olympiakos downed Marseille.
Published in Dawn, October 23rd, 2020