PARIS: Harry Kane and Jude Bellingham made $100 million moves in the off-season and proved their worth on Wednesday in Champions League debuts for their new clubs.
England captain Kane and his likely successor Bellingham scored key goals for Bayern Munich and Real Madrid, respectively, to show why they are adored already by their new home fans.
Kane’s precisely taken penalty quickly restored Bayern’s two-goal lead against Manchester United early in the second half of a 4-3 win. The final result was due to a late and fruitless flourish by the club that wanted to sign Kane from Tottenham Hotspur and keep him in England.
“A crazy finish,” Kane told British broadcaster TNT Sports after netting his fifth goal in six games for his new club. “We lost a bit of concentration there in the last five minutes. Thankfully we were able to hold onto the lead. Overall it’s a really good start to the campaign against a tough side.”
Bellingham landed just where he wanted in Madrid and his 94th-minute goal in a 1-0 win over tournament debutants Union Berlin made it six goals for the former Borussia Dortmund star in six straight wins to start the Spanish giants’ season.
“I hope I keep on scoring goals in minute 94 or 95,” Bellingham said. “Although it might do my heart, and the club, good to scorer earlier.”
Back home in England, Arsenal returned to the Champions League after a six-year absence as if they had never been away. PSV Eindhoven were thrashed 4-0 in a no-doubt win sparked by England winger Bukayo Saka’s goal in the eighth.
Late goals got Italian teams off to good starts in the last-ever group stage before the new Champions League format takes effect next year.
Serie A champions Napoli won 2-1 at Braga thanks to an own-goal in the 88th by Mali defender Sikou Niakate.
Lautaro Martinez was key to Inter Milan’s run to the final last season and the Argentina forward struck in the 87th to take a 1-1 draw from Real Sociedad.
Galatasaray got goals in the 86th and 88th to deny FC Copenhagen a valuable away win in Istanbul — it ended 2-2 — and Europa League winners Sevilla was held 1-1 at home by Lens. Red Bull Salzburg surprised Benfica by winning 2-0 in Lisbon.
The meeting between German champions Bayern and a struggling United side, a repeat of the 1999 final, was the biggest game of the opening round of matches in this season’s competition and it did not disappoint.
Leroy Sane gave Bayern the lead at the Allianz Arena with a shot that squirmed through the grasp of United goalkeeper Andre Onana, and Jamal Musiala set up Serge Gnabry to make it 2-0 just after the half-hour mark.
Rasmus Hojlund pulled one back early in the second half with his first United goal, but shortly after Christian Eriksen was penalised for a handball in the box and Kane blasted in the resulting penalty.
Sane hit the post for the hosts before a crazy finish saw Casemiro reduce the deficit again, substitute Mathys Tel score Bayern’s fourth, and Casemiro nod in another at the death.
Erik ten Hag’s United team have now suffered three consecutive defeats in all competitions and lost four of their last five matches.
“After my mistake we lost control of the game. It’s a difficult situation for us, for me,” said Onana in reference to Bayern’s first goal.
Thomas Tuchel’s side are already in control of Group ‘A’, in which the other game saw Galatasaray come from two goals down to draw with Copenhagen.
Goals from Mohamed Elyounoussi and Diogo Goncalves had the visitors in control in Istanbul but they then had Elias Jelert sent off and Galatasaray struck twice in the last four minutes of regulation time through Sacha Boey and Tete to earn a point.
In Madrid, Bellingham popped up from close range to score the winner as record 14-time European champions Real beat Union in Group ‘C’.
Union resisted Madrid’s first 29 goal attempts but the 30th proved too much when Bellingham pirouetted to finish a game of pinball in the goalmouth and shoot into an empty net.
“He has great qualities, it seems he’s got luck too, because the goal is a rebound, but he was there, he arrives from deep, and he’s more switched on than others, he’s got that quality and he’s taking advantage of it,” said Real coach Carlo Ancelotti.
Real next go to the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium on Oct 3 to face Napoli.
Giovanni Di Lorenzo had put Napoli ahead but Bruma looked to have earned Braga, who are in the Champions League for the third time and the first in 11 seasons, a draw when he struck with six minutes left.
But four minutes later Niakate sealed the win for the visitors with an unfortunate intervention, netting a pass by Piotr Zielinski from close range with his first touch.
In Arsenal’s first Champions League game since the 2016/17 season, Saka, Leandro Trossard and Gabriel Jesus all scored first-half goals in the rain in London and Martin Odegaard wrapped up the win after the break.
“It was a beautiful night after such a long time. It was great to see the atmosphere, the Champions League music. It was emotional before the game,” Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta said.
Their Group ‘B’ rivals Sevilla and Lens drew in Spain, with Angelo Fulgini’s free-kick earning the French side a draw after Lucas Ocampos headed the hosts in front.
Sociedad dominated Inter for most of the Group ‘D’ game on their first Champions group-stage appearance in a decade after Brais Mendez had given them an early lead in San Sebastian.
The hosts spurned several opportunities to build on their lead and conceded in the final stages when substitute Davide Frattesi’s raking pass found Martinez, who smashed home.
In the same group,Salzburg missed one penalty but scored another in their win away to Benfica.
Karim Konate blazed the Austrian team’s first spot-kick over the bar in the third minute but home defender Antonio Silva was sent off on 13 minutes for a handball on the line and Salzburg’s second penalty was converted by Roko Simic. The Croatian, who turned 20 this month, set up 19-year Israel forward Oscar Gloukh for an easy second early in the second half.
Published in Dawn, September 22th, 2023