Monday 19 August 2019

Stephanie Roche's Champions League review: Premier League sides way behind Euro elite

Bayern Munich players celebrate at the end of the victory over Arsenal
Action Images via Reuters / John Sibley
Bayern Munich players celebrate at the end of the victory over Arsenal Action Images via Reuters / John Sibley

Stephanie Roche

This week's Champions League saw good results for three out of the four English teams involved but they are miles behind the top sides in European football.

Manchester United started brightly in their home tie against CSKA Moscow and looked lively and energetic throughout the game.

United fans are not used to seeing their team be as cautious as they have been of late and chants of ATTACK, ATTACK, ATTACK in recent games seemed to inspire the team to do just that.

Jesse Lingard brought an energy and pace to the team while Michael Carrick was on hand to spray passes in midfield that opened CSKA up.

These two players made a real difference and it was no coincidence that the two combined to set up Wayne Rooney for his record equaling 237th goal for the club which sees him level with United great Denis Law.

Rooney has been an isolated figure up front at times for United this season but the support in numbers on Tuesday night assures fans that maybe, just maybe things could be coming together for Van Gaal and his team.

Willian was the hero for Jose Mourinho and Chelsea on Wednesday night. His cross was deflected in off Dynamo Kiev's Dragovic on 34 minutes and when the same player scored in the correct goal in the 77th minute it seemed Chelsea and the increasingly under pressure Mourinho were to finish the game at 1-1.

That wasn't all however, six minutes after the equaliser a brilliant free kick from the in form Willian rattled the top corner to claim all three points for Chelsea.

The fans showed their support for Jose Mourinho throughout the match with chants of "stand up for the special on" and in the final few minutes it was ringing around Stamford bridge.

Manchester City showed their quality in the Champions League Tuesday night in what was, in Vincent Kompany's words, probably their "best performance yet" in the competition.

Early goals from Sterling and Fernandinho had city 2-0 up after just 11 minutes. Trémoulinas got one back for Sevilla but Wilfried Bony put the game to bed before halftime with a calm finish after good work from Jesus Navas.

City showed a maturity in their performance that perhaps has been missing in the Champions league for them so far. They cut Sevilla apart in a great first half performance and with Sevilla having no real threat in the second half they held out to finish the game 3-1 and secure their place in the last 16.

Arsenal were in dreamland after beating Bayern Munich 2-0 at home last week but the return fixture ended in more of a nightmare for the Gunners.

Arsenal broke Munich's record of 12 straight wins with victory at the Emirates and it seemed the German giants wanted revenge. Bayern started the game with a high tempo and scored with a headed goal from Lewandowski only 10 minutes in. Mesut Ozil thought he had equalised against the run of play only for the goal to be adjudged handball.

That didn't put any doubt into Bayerns heads though as they continued their dominance with wave after wave of attack. Thomas Muller then scored with a deflected goal and David Alaba scored a cracking long range effort to put Bayern 3-0 up at half time.

 The second half saw Bayern continue their pressure and when Arjen Robben scored with his first touch after coming on as a substitute on 55 minutes you feared the worst for Arsenal.

It was hard not to with Bayern closing in on goal so much but the second half brought chances for Arsenal. Santi Cazorla had a great chance to get a goal back for his team but Neuer stood tall to snuff out the chance.

Monreal also came close after some good play by the Gunners only to see him stumble as he tried to get his shot away. Arsenal did get the breakthrough after some good passages of play and it came from a very good finish by Olivier Giroud.

Bayern just never seemed at ease with their goals tally and wanted to score more and did just that with a great finish from Muller for his second of the game to wrap it all up.

Although there were some good performances from the Premier League teams involved this week, it's hard not to notice the difference in class compared to the likes of Bayern Munich.

Teams like Bayern, Barcelona, Real Madrid and even PSG to a certain extent seem to be able to control games with ease. Not only do they keep possession but they put on a show for fans and have real quality throughout their teams.

This was a good week for Manchester United, Chelsea and Man City (who are now through to the knockout stage) but if they're to progress to the latter stages they will need more from their players especially when faced with Europe's elite forces.

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