Champions League Recap: Aaronson, McKennie stay undefeated in group play

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There were wildly mixed fortunes in midweek Champions League action, with Brendon Aaronson and Weston McKennie helping their teams to the cusp of knock-out round qualification, and Tyler Adams playing an unfortunate role in Leipzig’s collapse to PSG.

Paris St. Germain 3 – 2 RB Leipzig

Tyler Adams and RB Leipzig blew their chance for what would have been a stunning first group-stage win of this year’s competition, with the team once again falling to a petrol-funded powerhouse in a high-scoring affair.

The USA captain started and played the full game in midfield for head coach Jesse Marsch, however was at least partially to blame in the first of two self-destructive, second-half goals served up to their opponents on a silver platter.

PSG needed less than nine minutes to take an early lead, when Kylian Mbappe was sent through with only Willi Orbán in his way, and unsurprisingly beat the club-footed Hungarian central defender to launch a low strike inside the left side of goal.

Despite the early setback, the Leipzigers held firm, and perhaps even had the better run of play, with a number of dangerous moments in front of the Paris goal.

Shortly after André Silva hight the right upright with a shot on the turn in the 26th minute, Leipzig’s high-octane style caught their opponents short-handed in front of their own goal. Angeliño picked out Silva on the right side with a low cross across the area, and the Portuguese international emphatically struck his low shot just inside the near post.

The Germans then proceeded to take the advantage 11 minutes into the second half, this time with Angeliño setting up Nordi Mukiele in a similar fashion for a powerful shot leaving PSG keeper Keylor Navas no chance.

However, the game took a downward turn for the guests ten minutes later, with Adams cheaply giving away possession under pressure, and Mbappe storming towards goal before laying it off to Leo Messi for a clear shot. While the Argentinean’s initial attempt was deflected onto the left upright by Peter Gulacsi, it drifted in front of the open net, where he could slam it over the line for the equalizer.

PSG continued their momentum and took the lead just before the 74-minute mark. Mohamed Simakan clumsily toppled Mbappe as he worked his way into the left side of the area, with Messi chipping the go-ahead goal from the spot.

Despite the self-imposed collapse, the Leipzigers continued to push with the hopes of at least salvaging a point, and were handed a lifeline when Mbappe embarrassingly skied an added-time penalty attempt towards the upper deck of the audience seating.

However the hosts easily held onto their advantage to seal the come-from-behind victory.

The result leaves Leipzig rooted rock-bottom in Group A, with zero points and almost no hope of qualifying for the knockout round. They host PSG in the return leg in early-November in a last-ditch chance to stay within range of a Europa League spot, but first have a slate of league and cup games, first with a visit from Fürth in Bundesliga action on Saturday.

FC Barcelona 1 – 0 Dynamo Kiev

Sergiño Dest and Barcelona finally notched their first win in Group E on Wednesday evening, with the American handed a more attacking role in the first half in their narrow home win over Dynamo Kiev.

In a change from his typical deployment, Dest initially lined up on the right side of a three-man front-line, paired with Luuk de Jong in the middle and Memphis Depay on the left. The American was an active part of the team’s attack in the first half, constantly taking on defenders to bring the ball into the area, and firing several crosses goalwards.

Moments after he forced a 35th-minute corner with a hard shot from the right edge of the six-yard box, Barcelona took the lead thanks to fine link-up play by two of the most longstanding team veterans on the field.

Jordi Alba lofted a hopeful ball into the right side of the area from nearly 30 yards out, and Gerard Pique, who was still in an advanced position following the corner, adeptly slipped free from his defender and was on-target with his short right-footed shot.

Remarkably, the goal was Barcelona’s first after more than three and a half hours of group-stage play this season.

Following the halftime break, Philippe Coutinho and Ansu Fati were brought into the game by coach Ronald Koeman, which precipitated Dest’s move to the right side of what became a four-man defense for the second half.

While the Catalonians remained clearly in control, Dynamo did a good job to keep the scoreline close, with Pique’s goal ending up being the lone and deciding score in the contest.

The result pulls the Blaugrana up to third in the group, with a chance to climb into a knockout spot should they manage a win in early-November in the return leg in Ukraine. In the meantime, they return to La Liga action, with a their most important match of the season so far – El Clásico – at the Camp Nou on Sunday afternoon.

RB Salzburg 3 – 1 VfL Wolfsburg

Brenden Aaronson and RB Salzburg got the best of his American teammate John Brooks and VfL Wolfsburg on Wednesday night, with the Austrian champions handily beating their German neighbors to solidify their place at the top of the group.

Both players started and went the distance for their respective teams. Despite not playing a direct role in his team’s three goals, Aaronson was an active factor for his team while playing behind the front two of Noah Okafor and Karim Adeyemi, completing 77% of his passes, firing in three crosses and troubling the defense with a trio of key passes.

The Austrians were already off and running at the two-minute mark, when Nicolas Seiwald picked out Karim Adeyemi on the left with a fine through-ball, and the 19 year-old German international calmly slotted his low shot past Koen Casteels for the 1-0 lead.

Wolfsburg pulled even in he 15th minute after Lukas Nmecha headed in a perfect corner from Maximilian Arnold, but a pair of second-half goals from Noah Okafor sealed the win.

His first, the eventual winning goal, came in the 65th minute, when a poorly-cleared corner landed at his feet for an opportunistic finish, then he added another for insurance 12 minutes later in similar fashion, cleaning up from short-range after his teammate Bernardo’s header from a corner was initially blocked.

Salzburg now have a comfortable four-point gap atop Group G, with the return leg in Germany in three weeks, and slate of matches against domestic cannon fodder in league and cup action in between.

Wolfsburg drop below Lille into last place, but are still in contention for a knockout place if they can even slightly improve their form over the last three group games. Meanwhile, they host Freiburg on Saturday.

Young Boys 1 – 4 FC Villarreal

Jordan Pefok got the start for Young Boys on Wednesday, but was unable to help them avoid a heavy-handed defeat at home at the hands of Villarreal.

The American did his best to stem the tide in his 70 minutes on the field, managing two shots, however the game was never really within reach for the overwhelmed Swiss team.

The Yellow Submarine effectively put the game out of reach within the first quarter-hour; Yeremy headed in a long diagonal cross from Alfonsi Pedraza to the near post for the sixth-minute opener, then Gerard Moreno got his head onto a free kick by Daniel Parejo for the 2-0 advantage ten minutes later.

After Pefok had already left the field in favor of Wilfred Kanga, Young Boys did pull one back in the 77th minute when Fabien Rieder caught Villarreal sleeping, and found Meschak Elia with a long ball over the defense to narrow the lead, however a pair of late scores by the visiting Spaniards sealed the deal.

Alberto Moreno made it 3-1 in the 88th minute, putting away an initially blocked strike from Arnaut Danjuma, then Samuel Chukwueze struck the team’s fourth after one minute of added time, easily slotting away from six yards after being picked out in front of goal by Gerard Moreno.

The Swiss outfit travels to Spain in three weeks, needing an unlikely victory to stay in contention. They have a busy schedule in the meantime, beginning with a home matchup against FC Lausanne-Sport on Saturday.

Zenit St. Petersburg 0 – 1 Juventus

Weston McKennie and Juventus stayed perfect in Group H on Wednesday night, narrowly grabbing an important away win at Zenit St. Petersburg.

After sitting out the team’s weekend Serie A win following the international break, McKennie lined up on the right side of a three-man midfield, alongside Rodrigo Bentacur and Manuel Locatelli.

While not directly contributing to the team’s 86th-minute winner, the American came close to putting the team ahead in the 51st minute after being sent through on goal by Alvaro Morata, only to see his attempt saved by Zenit keeper Stanislav Kritsyuk.

He came close again in the 74th minute, heading a cross by left back Mattia de Sciglio just wide right, however the defender’s foot would indeed be responsible for the winner 12 minutes later.

Receiving a crossfield pass just outside the area on the right side, de Sciglio lofted a cross towards the far post, where second-half substitute Dejan Kulusevski was waiting to float his header into the right side to secure the victory.

With their position atop the group and a place in the knockout rounds looking increasingly secure, Juventus return to their slowly resurrecting league campaign, which sees them facing a tough visit to Inter Milan on Sunday night.


Zack Steffen was on Manchester City’s bench as their 5-1 win at Club Brugge kept them in second place in Group A. Fellow American international Owen Otasowie did not suit up for the hosts.

Giovanni Reyna is still out injured, and did not suit up for Borussia Dortmund’s 4-0 road beat-down at the hands of Ajax Amsterdam.

Injured Christian Pulisic was not in uniform for Chelsea’s 4-0 home victory over Swedes Malmö FF. Romain Gall was also not included in the squad for the visitors.


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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