Champions League Recap: Rough start continues for Dest and Barcelona

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Sergiño Dest and Barcelona suffered another heavy defeat on their visit to Benfica, while Brenden Aaronson put in a solid shift for Salzburg, who beat Tim Weah and Lille thanks to a pair of spot kicks.

Atalanta 1 – 0 Young Boys

The Goddess had her way with Young Boys on Wednesday evening, as Jordan Pefok and his teammates were shut down by hosts Atalanta in a one-goal loss that flattered the visitors.

Pefok played the opening 66 minutes of the game, however was unable to make much of an impact in the loss, failing to create any danger against a surprisingly stifling Atalanta defense.

After the American was the deciding factor in the Swiss team’s remarkable victory over Manchester United two weeks ago, head coach David Wagner deployed the forward at the tip of the attack.

Despite the narrow scoreline, the game was never really close on the field, with Atalanta dominating Young Boys on the ball with roughly two-thirds of possession over the 90-plus minutes, and in front of goal with a margin of 13 shots compared to three.

Shortly after losing German star player Robin Gosens to what looked to be a severe hamstring pull in the tenth minute, Atalanta nevertheless looked well on their way when Sandro Lauper knocked a deflected free kick from Ruslan Malinovskyi into his own net, however the goal was called back after Rafael Tolói was found to have been offside in the build-up.

Atalanta kept constant pressure on their visitors, and were close on several occasions, perhaps most tantalizingly when Matteo Pessina had the ball land at his foot just beyond the right post in a scrum following a corner just before the half.

The 24 year-old Italian national would finally put his team in front after 68 minutes. Duvan Zapata did a fine job of advancing the ball to the Young Boys endline and maintaining possession under pressure before hitting a short pass to the near post. Pessina was lurking just in front of goal and tapped his shot in from close range for the winner.

Despite looking set to increase the lead on many occasions over the final 20 minutes, the referee’s whistle finally blew to confirm Atalanta’s 1-0 victory.

The result, combined with the win by fellow Group F competitors Manchester United over Villarreal, leaves Young Boys in third place. They face Servette FC in league action on Sunday before heading into the international break. Their next Champions League clash will be when they host last-place Villarreal on October 20.

Benfica 3 – 0 FC Barcelona

Sergiño Dest and Barcelona continued their poor run to begin this season’s Champions League, never getting off the back foot in their 3-0 loss at Benfica on Wednesday.

The American played the full game on the left side of the defense, but had an evening to forget, capped by a late handball that led to their hosts’ third score.

Despite seeing a turning of fortunes as of late, the game couldn’t have started out worse for the visitors, as their Portuguese hosts jumped to a lead within three minutes. After a takeaway near the midfield, Julian Weigl lobbed a long pass over the defense to Darwin Núñez in the left flank. The attacker cut inside, found an angle on goal, and put away his low shot for the early 1-0 lead.

Núñez was close to striking a second in the 51st minute when Barcelona keeper Marc-André ter Stegen came off his line and the Benfica striker hit the right upright, however the hosts were celebrating a 2-0 lead 22 minutes before full-time as Rafa put away a shot that was initially blocked by the German keeper.

Núñez finally earned his second from the spot with 11 minutes remaining. The striker headed long cross towards goal from the penalty spot, however it immediately struck the unfortunately outstretched arm of the American. After reviewing in VAR, Núñez coolly slotted past te Stegen for the final 3-0 advantage.

If the lopsided scoreline weren’t enough, Barcelona were dealt a blow for their next game when defender Eric Garcia was shown his second yellow of the game, leaving head coach Ronald Koeman with one fewer option in the back in three weeks.

The result leaves Barcelona at the very bottom of Group E on zero points and a lot of work to do should they hope to advance to the knockout round. More remarkably, their -6 goal differential leaves them as the second-worst-performing team in the 32-team group stage, with only Malmö having a worse record.

They face a tough last test in la Liga action at Atletico Madrid on Saturday, before heading into the international break. In Champions League, they next host Dynamo Kiev on October 20, in a must-win game that effectively decide whether they have any chance to reach the final 16 of the competition.

RB Salzburg 2 – 1 Lille OSC

Brenden Aaronson helped set up Salzburg’s first goal on Wednesday, as they claimed the top spot in Group G with a victory over Lille and Tim Weah.

Continuing a trend from their first group game, Salzburg were again benefitted by multiple clear spot-kick decisions on their behalf, and had a man-advantage on the field for much of the second half.

This time, however, they didn’t squander their chances and made relatively straightforward work of the reigning French champions, despite their guests managing to keep the scoreline close with a bit of second-half luck.

Karim Adeyemi struck first in the 35th minute, running onto a long pass from Aaronson into the area before being upended by Sven Botman for an obvious penalty at the half-hour. After the VAR officials took several minutes to confirm the decision, paying attention to a seeming collision between Adeyemi and a Lille defender in the build-up, the German international nailed his shot off the fingertips of Lille keeper Ivo Grbic for the 1-0 lead.

Six minutes into the second half, Lille were dealt a double-blow when Maximilian Wöber’s free kick was errantly deflected by Botman’s arm. The defender saw a second yellow and the resulting red card for his mistake, and Adeyemi converted from the spot with ease for the two-goal lead.

After a mostly ineffective shift, Weah was subbed out of the game just before the hour mark in favor of attacker Jonathan Bamba.

Ten-man Lille did pull one back in the 62nd minute after Salzburg keeper Philipp Köhn blew what should have been a routine save off of a direct free kick from Burak Yilmaz, however the Austrians easily held on to take all three points.

Salzburg sit atop their group on four points after two games, with a visit from Wolfsburg on October 20, and a home game against Linzer ASK this weekend.

Lille are last in the group on one point, and will try to get things back on track when they host Sevilla in the next round. Meanwhile, they welcome Olympique Marseille in Ligue 1 action on Sunday.

Juventus 1 – 0 FC Chelsea

Weston McKennie played the final 13 minutes for Juventus in their narrow victory over reigning champions Chelsea on Wednesday, helping to lock down the defense in the final minutes to send the Old Lady atop group H.

Christian Pulisic is out injured and did not suit up for the visitors.

The game was a relatively dull affair, with Chelsea dominating nearly three-quarters of possession, however without nothing to show for it in the end.

The game was decided within 11 seconds after the halftime break, with quick charge forward by the hosts on the kickoff ending with Federico Bernardeschi laying the ball off to the onrushing Federico Chiesa for a powerful short-range finish.

Juve head coach Massimiliano Allegri brought the American midfielder onto the field in the 76th minute in a double switch alongside Moise Kean to replace the winded Adrien Rabiot and goalscorer Chiesa.

Chelsea had their best chance eight minutes from time when Ross Barkley found Romelu Lukaku in a dangerous position defended only by the slow Leonardo Bonucci, however his shot was barely high.

The Juventus victory leaves the team on six points after two group games, three ahead of both Zenit and Chelsea. They visit the Russians in their next Group H game on October 20, but in between have a full slate of Serie A action, beginning with the short visit to city-rivals Torino on Saturday.

Chelsea are third on three points trailing Zenit St. Petersburg by goal differential. They will expect to pick up three points on October 20 when they host last-place Malmö, but first return to Premier League action with a visit from Southampton on Saturday.


Zack Steffen watched from Manchester City’s bench on Tuesday night as hosts Paris St. Germain cruised to a 2-0 win.

Tyler Adams was deployed by RB Leizpig head coach Jesse Marsch a 79th-minute substitute, as their 2-1 home loss against Club Brugge left them at the bottom of Group A with zero points.

Giovanni Reyna is out injured and missed Borussia Dortmund’s 1-0 victory over Sporting Lisbon on Tuesday.

Romain Gall was not included in Malmö’s lineup on Wednesday as they were easily handled by hosts Zenit St. Petersburg by a 4-0 scoreline.

Malik Tillman was not in FC Bayern’s lineup on Wednesday for their 5-0 thrashing against visiting Dynamo Kiev.

John Brooks is suspended for his red card two weeks ago, and was a spectator for Wolfburg’s 1-1 draw against visiting Sevilla on Wednesday.


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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