Champions League Recap: Pulisic returns in Chelsea win

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Christian Pulisic made his long-awaited return to action in Chelsea’s narrow win in Malmö while Weston McKennie and Juventus stayed perfect in the group in a high-scoring home match against Zenit. St. Petersburg.

Malmö FF 0 – 1 Chelsea

Christian Pulisic took the field for Chelsea the first time in over two months, playing the final 15 minutes in their important one-goal road win over plucky Swedish opponents Malmö FF.

Romain Gall has not been seen in uniform for Malmö since returning to the club in the summer from a loan to Örebro, and was not a participant in Tuesday’s game.

Despite the Londoners dominating the run of play in nearly every way – with 73% possession and an advantage of 22 shots to four by their hosts – their were forced to content with a resolute Swedish side that made them fight until the end for the points.

Hakim Ziyech netted what would be the eventual winner just over ten minutes into the second half, putting away a fine cross from the left by Callum Hudson-Odoi, however the real excitement for American fans came with 16 minutes left in regulation when Pulisic entered the game as a late substitute, ending his long absence from the field.

While the 23 year-old American wasn’t able to help Chelsea increase their lead in the final run, he was frustratingly close when slipped through the defense for a one-on-one with the Malmö keeper in the final seconds, only to send his shot wide of the mark with what would be the final action of the game.

The victory brings Chelsea to the cusp of qualification to the knockout round, with the likely battle for first in the group happening on November 23 when they host leaders Juventus.

VfL Wolfsburg 2 – 1 RB Salzburg

John Brooks and Wolfsburg finally picked up their first win of group play at the expense of Brenden Aaronson’s Red Bull Salzburg, holding steady to prevail in the second half against Austrian powerhouse.

Aaronson was active from his deployment in the center of the midfield, taking a pair of shots while completing close to 80% of his passes. For his part, Brooks did well to thwart the Red Bull attack, making six clearances, three tackles and intercepting three passes while picking up a yellow card midway through the second half.

After struggling mightily in their previous group games, Wolfsburg were almost immediately off to the races after Ridle Baku stormed in on the right side to put away a cross from Yannick Gerhardt that rolled unabated through the six-yard box.

Salzburg pulled even shortly before the half-hour thanks to a brilliant free kick to the upper right corner from Maximilian Wöber, but the hosts hit a well-deserved winner off the foot of Lukas Nmecha, who skillfully controlled a long pass from Maximilian Arnold on the right side of the area and put away his angled shot fro 2-1.

The win lifts Wolfsburg out of the group basement, although they still have work to do as they are third in the group, behind Lille on goal differential. They host Augsburg in league play on Saturday, before their next Champions League game on November 23, when they visit Sevilla in tricky game that they must avoid losing if they hope to stay in contention.

Salzburg still lead the group despite the loss, although now feel the pressure as they have only a two-point gap ahead of Lille and Wolfsburg. They visit the French Champions in three weeks, with several dates against domestic cannon fodder in between.

FC Sevilla 1 – 2 Lille OSC

Tim Weah started atop the Lille attack and played just over 70 minutes, as their 2-1 win at Sevilla kept them alive in the fight for a place in the final 16.

The American national team player made the most of his 72 minutes, completing 73% of his passes while getting off a pair of shots.

The Spaniards were first on the board just over 14 minutes into the game; a lucky deflection gave Rafa Mir a clear shot on goal from 15 yards out. While his shot was parried by Lille keeper Ivo Grbić, it landed at the foot of Lucas Ocampos for a clean strike for the lead.

Lille equalized from the spot two minutes before the half, after Danish-American midfielder Thomas Delaney accidentally struck Jonathan Bamba just inside the area, with Jonathan David burying the resulting penalty.

Six minutes after the restart, the French champions secured their first win of the campaign in what looked like a game of pinball; Zeki Celik’s shot from the right bounced hard off the far upright, directly to the foot of Jonathan Ikoné for an easy finish.

Lille climb to second in Group G after the victory, even with Wolfsburg on points but barely ahead on goal differential. They host leaders Salzburg in three weeks time, with a pair of Ligue 1 and the international break in between.

Juventus 4 – 2 Zenit St. Petersburg

Juventus clinched their spot in the knockout round thanks to their high-scoring home win over Zenit St. Petersburg, with Weston McKennie going the distance in the team’s midfield.

McKennie was all over the field for The Old Lady, contributing to the attack with three shots and four chance-creating passes, while disrupting the Zenit attack with a pair of intercepted passes and an overall strong presence in the middle of the park.

The game was on even footing at the end of the first half, after Leonardo Bonucci controlled a corner into the box and set up Paolo Dybala for the opener in the 11th minute, then headed the ball into his own net 11 minutes later to gift Zenit an equalizer.

The Russians returned the favor ten minutes after the break, with Claudinho impeding Federico Chiesa’s run into the area and Dybala successfully converting from the spot, and then Chiesa netting his own from the left side at the 73-minute mark after making space amongst a crowd of defenders.

Alvaro Morata put the game on ice with eight minutes left by pulling down a beautiful chipped pass from Dybala over the defense and putting away his off-balance shot for 4-1, making the 91st-minute consolation goal from Zenit’s Sardar Azmoun a nearly forgotten note on an otherwise dominant display by the hosts.

The only question remaining for Juve now is whether they will go through as group winners, or will lose ground to Chelsea when the teams square off in London in three weeks. Meanwhile, they will try to get their Serie A campaign back on track with matchups against Fiorentina and Lazio.

RB Leipzig 2 – 2 Paris St. Germain

Jesse Marsch’s RB Leipzig squad was finally able to take more than simply a moral victory from a hard-fought match against a European giant, pulling equal at the death to salvage a 2-2 draw with visiting Paris St. Germain.

US National Team captain Tyler Adams started and played 74 minutes for the hosts, once again having some trouble against the powerful Parisian attack, most notably picking up a yellow card for a hard foul on Angel di Maria that will keep him out of RB’s next game in 3 weeks.

The Leizpigers were first on the board in the eighth minute, after a bad turnover in the PSG defense allowed Andre Silva the opportunity to fire in a cross from the left side, which was headed past Gianluigi Donnarumma by former PSG player Christopher Nkunku.

They blew their chance to make it 2-0 barely two minutes later when Silva’s weak penalty attempt was saved by Donnarumma, after he was fouled in the area was easily saved by the Italian keeper.

They were made to rue their wastefulness, with PSG pulling even in the 21st minute off the foot of Georginio Wijnaldum from short-range, then taking the 2-1 lead in the 39th on a header from the Dutchman after VAR confirmed that Adams barely kept him onside following a corner.

Marsch’s squad looked headed to a fourth group defeat in four games, until a late VAR decision went their way. A melee to the left of goal was originally ruled to have resulted in a corner to the hosts, however after a long inspection, officials decided that Presnel Kimpembe fouled Nkuku in the struggle, allowing Dominik Szoboszlai to bury the equalizer in injury time from the spot.

While mathematically eliminated from any possibility of qualifying for the knockout round of this competition, Leipzig can still finish third and qualify for the Europa League, but will need to win on their visit to Brugge on November 24 to have any chance.


Sergiño Dest was reported to have a minor knock, and was left on Barcelona’s bench for the duration of their 1-0 win at Kiev. The second straight group win brings them to second in Group E, with a tough final two games against Bayern and Benfica.

Jordan Pefok played the final eight minutes for Young Boys on Tuesday as their 2-0 loss at Villarreal left them last in Group F. David Wagner’s team will be in a must-win situation in their next group game on November 23, a home matchup against Italians Atalanta.

Zack Steffen was Manchester City’s backup keeper for their 4-1 home win over Brugge.

Giovanni Reyna is still recovering from injury and did not feature in Dortmund’s 3-1 home loss to Ajax.


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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