Champions League recap: Pefok strikes Young Boys to victory

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Jordan Pefok was the hero of the day for Young Boys, as his opportunistic last-second goal gave his team a stunning victory over Manchester United as the Champions League group stage kicked off.

Young Boys 2 – 1 Manchester United

Everything was in Young Boys’ favor for their opening group-stage match against English giants Manchester United on Tuesday evening, as they were able to take all three points thanks to American international Jordan Pefok.

The DC-born striker made the most of his 45 minutes of play, completing 89% of his passes and scoring the winning goal on his lone shot of the game.

Christiano Ronaldo had his old-new club off to a flying start after only 13 minutes when he snuck in behind a sleeping Ulisses Garcia on the left side of the 18-yard box, and one-timed a precision cross from Bruno Fernandes under the fingertips of Young Boys keeper David von Ballmoos.

All signs pointed to what would be the expected result – a storming win by the Reds – until things started to unravel five minutes past the half-hour mark.

While lunging for a loose ball in his attacking half, Manchester defender Aaron Wan-Bissaka errantly stomped squarely onto the ankle of Christopher Martins Pereira. While there was no maliciousness in the action, the recklessness was enough to force French referee Francois Letexier to reduce the visiting team to ten men for the remaining 55 minutes of the game.

Young Boys’ American head coach David Wagner sensed blood in the air, and brought on his countryman Pefok in a move that would pay dividends in the end.

Six minutes past the hour mark, the hosts pulled even when Meschak Elia received the ball wide left and fired a low cross across the face of goal. Silvan Hefti, who was positioned at a difficult angle at the near post, smartly jumped out of the way, perhaps giving the ball the slightest deflection as it found its path to the foot of Moumi Ngamaleu for an easy finish.

Despite the momentum, the game slowly ground its way towards what looked to be a 1-1 draw, still an impressive result for Wagner’s group-stage debut at this level as a coach, however a disastrous error gave the hosts the opening they needed to take it all.

In the 95th minute, approximately 40 seconds before the end of the allotted added time, Reds’ defender Jesse Lingard helped to break up a last-gasp attack from the hosts, and attempted a back-pass to David de Gea for what would have like been the clock-killing forward clearance.

However, the England international severely underhit the ball, with the perfect weight for the observant and quick Pefok to reach it just a half-step before the helpless keeper, slotting his off-balance shot into the net for the unbelievable winner.

The victory already gives Young Boys the early upper hand in their quest to secure a spot in the knockout round, as they are first in the group after the first of six games. They have two weeks before they visit Bergamo to face the mighty Atalanta on September 29, with a full slate of league and cup games in the interim.

FC Sevilla 1 – 1 Red Bull Salzburg

Brenden Aaronson played the full game for Salzburg in the center of the attack, however the team wasted every advantage in the book to settle for a draw at Sevilla.

From his position atop the midfield diamond, the young American was in the thick of the game for the full 90+ minutes, completing 24 of his 26 passes and nearly winning the game at the end with his lone shot of the game.

The visitors looked to have earned an unexpected lead after only 13 minutes when Karim-David Adeyemi was leveled just inside the area by Diego Carlos, however he made a mess of the ensuing spot kick, sending it well wide of the right post.

Luck struck again only eight minutes later, when Adeyemi was again toppled in the area, this time by Jesús Navas. This time, Luka Sucic stepped up to the line and coolly slotted his kick to the left side.

The Red Bulls had an unbelievable third spot-kick attempt when Adeyemi was once again bowled over in the area several minute later, this time by Sevilla keeper Yassine Bounou, however Sucic blew the chance, hitting the right upright.

As luck would have it, Sevilla earned a remarkable fourth spot kick of the half, when Youssef En-Nesyri was knocked over by Maximilian Wöber. While the referee didn’t initially whistle the penalty, it was confirmed shortly thereafter by VAR, and Ivan Rakitic pulled Sevilla even with a low strike to the lower left corner.

Five minutes into the second half, Salzburg looked to have found another opening after En-Nesyri was sent off through earning a second yellow from Alexy Kulbakov, as the Belarusian referee suspected he overly embellished his flop in the area.

Nevertheless, the hosts managed to hold on, despite a near-miss from Aaronson in the 91st minute from 20 yards out, which was only saved by the fingertips of Bounou.

The Red Bulls will have two weeks to regroup from the surely-disappointing result before hosting reigning French champions Lille on September 29. In the meantime, they will try to continue their perfect start to the Austrian Bundesliga season, as well as advance to the third round of the domestic cup.

Lille OSC 0 – 0 VfL Wolfsburg

John Brooks saw red in Wolfsburg’s opening group-stage match against Lille on Tuesday, however the team was still able to earn a point on the road against the French champions.

Lille forward Timothy Weah is still out with a nagging injury, and did not suit up for the game.

A defensive-oriented affair saw few chances on either side in the first half, with the first breakthrough coming three minutes after the break when Jonathan David beat Brooks on the outside and slotted away from 10 yards out, however the goal was called back due to the ball rolling momentarily out of bounds on the build-up.

Brooks put his team in a tough spot three minutes past the hour mark when he handled blatantly and needlessly handled the ball in the midfield, earning a second yellow and early trip to the locker room as a result.

Nevertheless, the visitors hung on for what could prove to be an important road point in what will likely be a tight group.

Brooks will miss Wolfsburg’s next group game against visiting Sevilla on Sept. 29 through suspension, but should be back in the team’s starting lineup on Sunday when they host Eintracht in league action.

Malmö FF 0 – 3 Juventus

Despite losing his spot in the Juventus starting 11, Weston McKennie still played the last 20-plus minutes on Tuesday night as The Old Lady cruised past Malmö by a three-goal margin.

Malmö winger Romain Gall has yet to feature for the team since returning from his recent loan to Örebro, and was not in uniform for the game.

Despite their disastrous league form as of late, Juventus were already well on the ascendency when the USA international entered the fray.

Alex Sandro opened the scoring for the visitors in the 23rd minute with an off-balance header from the top of the six-yard box, then Paulo Dybala made it 2-0 with a cheeky penalty down the middle shortly into the added time after Alvaro Morata was pulled down in the area.

Making the most of the added time, Juve quickly made it 3-0 just seconds later, with the opportunistic Morata pouncing on a loose ball while charging towards goal to effectively seal the win before halftime.

McKennie entered the game with 23 minutes left on the clock, however the visitors were already in lock-down mode by that point, easily securing the final three-goal win.

Juventus next face Chelsea in group play on September 29, but will try to rescue their thus far failing league campaign on Sunday when they face visiting AC Milan.

Manchester City 5 – 3 RB Leipzig

Tyler Adams played the full 90 for RB Leipzig on Wednesday night, as Jesse Marsch’s squad were on the losing end of a wild nine-goal contest at Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium.

City’s backup keeper Zack Steffen is still out due to contracting the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and was unable to take up his usual spot on the team’s bench.

In a game which will certainly give both teams reason for concern about their defensive fortitude going forward, the hosts always held the upper hand and were already up by two goals within the half-hour.

First, Nathan Aké put City ahead after 15 minutes after heading in a corner from Jack Grealish, then the visitors gifted them the 2-0 lead just before the half-hour Nordi Mukiele heading the ball into his own goal instead of into the hands of his helpless keeper as he intended.

Leipzig kept pushing forward and stayed in the game due to the sheer talent and drive of Christopher Nkunku.

The former PSG cast-off made it 2-1 in the 42nd minute, heading in a set-up from Mukiele, with Adams heavily involved in the buildup.

After City expanded their lead to 3-1 just before halftime with Riyad Mahrez striking from the spot, the future French international Nunku brought the deficit again to a single goal in the 51st minute, this time athletically heading in Dani Olmo’s forward cross while on the charge.

Again, City opened a two goal lead through Grealish’s tremendous solo effort in the 56th minute, but again, Nkuku kept his team in the running. This time, the attacker completed his hat-trick by slipping free from the defense on the right of the area thanks to a pass from Yussuf Poulsen, hitting his tightly angled shot to make it 4-3.

Sadly for the Bulls’ faithful, this would be the last ray of hope for the team, as City wrapped up the win with a strike moments later by highlight-reel, 20-yard strike moments later by Joao Cancelo, and an opportunistic short-range closer from Gabriel Jesus five minutes from full time to seal the 6-3 win.

Between the final two goals, Leipzig defender Angelino picked up a second yellow card of the contest and will be forced to miss their next group game at home against Brugge on September 28, while Adams also finds himself at risk of future suspension after earning a yellow earlier in the game.

The result gives Marsch a troubling record so far of one win compared to four losses from his first five games as Leipzig’s boss. The team faces a pair of must-win league games against Cologne and Hertha Berlin, before they return to European action in two weeks.


Sergiño Dest was a surprise inclusion in Barcelona’s traveling squad to Munich on Tuesday night after recovering faster than expected from a minor injury, but was an unused substitute in their 3-0 drubbing at the hands of FC Bayern.

Christian Pulisic is injured and did not suit up for Chelsea’s 1-0 home win over Zenit St. Petersburg on Tuesday.

Giovanni Reyna is out injured, and did not take part in Borussia Dortmund’s 2-1 road victory over Besiktas JK on Wednesday evening.


David Smith

I'm YA's resident doctor, but not the kind of doctor you would want giving you an examination anywhere outside of a lecture hall. I've been YA's feet-on-the-ground in Germany since 2008, have an affinity for overly verbose descriptions of irrelevant minutiae, keep an eye on YAs in most of the destinations on mainland Europe, and watch a whole lot of Serie A.

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