The much-awaited meeting between Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie ended with Chelsea humiliating Juventus, while the other all-Yank battle over in Group G left Brenden Aaronson, Tim Weah and John Brooks all with with hopes to advance.
Chelsea 4 – 0 Juventus
The heavily hyped meeting between Chelsea and Juventus on Tuesday night ended as an unexpectedly one-sided battle, with Chelsea grabbing the advantage in Group H with a four-goal victory.
Both American stars on the two teams – Pulisic and McKennie – started for their respective squads, with the former playing 71 minutes at the tip of Chelsea’s attack, and the latter going the distance on the right side of the Juventus midfield.
While the game started off on fairly even terms, with McKennie looking early on like a dominant force in the Juve midfield, the hosts grabbed the advantage after 25 minutes and never looked back.
Hakim Ziyech sent in a corner from the right side, which Antonio Rüdiger chested down into the path of Trevoh Chalobah for a short strike and the 1-0 lead.
Chelsea needed another half-hour to increase their lead, but nabbed two in rapid succession to put the game out of reach.
First, Reece James nailed a tight-angled shot from the right side to the far post in the 55th minute, then Ruben Loftus-Cheek showed his magic footwork in front of goal to maintain possession before setting up Callum Hudson-Odoi at close-range.
The hosts then added a fourth for good measure in the final seconds of added time, this time with Ziyech benefitting from a miscue from McKennie, before sliding a cross to an open Timo Werner to the right of goal for a simple finish.
The result moves Chelsea atop Group H, even on points with Juve but inching ahead in the head-to-head criteria. With both teams qualified, their final games in two weeks – Juve hosting Malmö and Chelsea visiting Zenit – will likely see some squad rotation.
FC Barcelona 0 – 0 Benfica Lisbon
Barcelona’s first Champions League test under new coach Xavi was a dud, with a scoreless draw against Benfica leaving the team needing a heroic performance in their last game to advance to the knockout round.
American Sergiño Dest was back in action after more than three weeks on the sidelines due to a back problem, playing the final four minutes plus added time as a substitute.
The closest either team came was when Yusuf Demir’s looping shot from the right side bounced off the far post, but otherwise it was a toothless game of cat and mouse, with Barcelona dominating possession and shots, but displaying little bite.
While the draw leaves them in second place, Barcelona know that they have to beat the still-perfect Bavarians on their home turf in Munich in the sixth and final game of the group stage to be assured to advance, as their Portuguese rivals are likely to run up the score against visiting Kiev.
In the two weeks before that game, they will visit Villarreal and subsequently host Real Betis in La Liga action.
Young Boys 3 – 3 Atalanta
Jordan Pefok netted the opening goal for the hosts on Tuesday, as Young Boys scored repeatedly after welcoming The Goddess into their house, ending up with an exhilarating draw for their efforts.
Pefok was a menace on the attack in his 90-plus minutes on the field, managing a pair of shots, one being for the early equalizer, and putting his teammates into dangerous positions with his passing work.
After putting five away versus Spezia over the weekend, Atalanta continued their scoring touch as Colombian force of nature Duván Zapata stuck a stunner on the turn from the center of the area in the tenth minute.
Young Boys hung in the battle despite the early setback, and Pefok was the hero in the 39th minute, heading in a corner at the near post delivered by Michel Aebischer.
The 1-1 score stood until the half, but all hell broke loose after the break.
Atalanta defender José Luis Palomino looked to have hit the winner for the visitors at the 50-minute mark with an opportunistic strike from the top of the area, however a flurry of goals in the final ten minutes of regulation saw Young Boys equalize, then gain and finally concede the lead.
Moments before the 80-minute mark, Vincent Sierro pulled even for the hosts when he slapped a scuffed pass from Moumi Ngamaleu into the Atalanta net, then Silvan Hefti gave them the lead four minutes later with a spectacular strike from outside the area.
Down, but not out, The Goddess had one last surprise for the hosts, with substitute Luis Muriel earning the point three minutes from full time with a tricky free kick that evaded the wall and keeper Guillaume Faivre at the near post for the final, breathtaking 3-3.
Young Boys are still most likely to finish last in the group, however could climb into a third-place spot that would give them entry into the Europa League should they beat Manchester United and see Villarreal defeat Atalanta in the sixth game in two weeks.
Lille OSC 1 – 0 RB Salzburg
A battle of the Yanks in Group G saw Tim Weah and Lille claim top spot over Brenden Aaronson and RB Salzburg on Tuesday, in a narrow contest that left all still up for grabs on the final gameday in two weeks.
Both Aaronson and Weah started and played all but the final five minutes, however it was their CONCACAF neighbor, Canadian star Jonathan David, who once again stole the show.
Just past the half-hour, a hectic, yet effective bit of combination play by Burak Yilmaz and David, with perhaps a couple fortunate deflections off of Salzburg players, allowed them to quickly move the ball from the upper left corner of the 18-yard box to the middle, where the Canadian struck the winner.
While Lille currently lead the group with eight points, all four teams can still potentially win the group or finish outside of the top two.
For Lille and Salzburg, wins in their final two games, at Wolfsburg and at home against Sevilla, respectively, will guarantee their advancement. Lille are also through with a draw, however the Austrian will have to watch out for Wolfsburg should they only take a point in two weeks.
FC Sevilla 2 – 0 VfL Wolfsburg
Sevilla gave John Brooks and Wolfsburg a small mountain to climb if they hope to reach the Champions League final 16, as a two-goal loss in Spain put them into an all-or-nothing scenario heading into their final game.
Wolfsburg entered the game knowing that only a win would put them into a better, although hardly safe, position, however they failed to even earn a point in the Estadio Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán.
Brooks started in the center of the Wolfsburg defense, and was efficient with his passing out of the back, hitting the mark close to 79% of the time, including three long bombs forward, and making four clearances to disrupt the Sevilla attack.
Nevertheless, the Spaniards opened the scoring quickly, jumping ahead in the 13th minute when Joan Jordan stooped low to head in Ivan Rakitic’s long cross from the right flank for the lead.
Brooks gave the hosts a tremendous opportunity just past the hour when a careless pass straight to opposing attacker Papu Gomez set the Argentinean up for a long shot that was
The American was sacrificed in the final moments of regulation in favor of striker Daniel Ginczek, as head coach Florian Kohfeldt looked for an equalizer, but it would be Sevilla who would be celebrating moments before the close.
In the sixth minute of added time, Lucas Ocampos worked into the right side of the area and slid a cross towards center, where Rafa Mir was waiting unguarded for an uncontested finish and the final 2-0 advantage.
Wolfsburg are in a precarious position, as they must beat leaders Lille in two weeks in order to advance to the final 16, and otherwise have no chance of even reaching the Europa League.
No Americans participated in Leipzig’s 5-0 win at Brugge that kept them in contention for a spot in the Europa League knockout round. On Leipzig’s side, Tyler Adams was suspended for yellow card accumulation and head coach Jesse Marsch stayed in Germany due to a positive result for SARS-CoV-2. For Brugge, Owen Otasowie was on the team’s bench, but not called into action.
Romain Gall was not in uniform for Malmö on Tuesday as they heroically drew 1-1 against visiting Zenit St. Petersburg to earn their first point of the group stage.
Zack Steffen was on the bench as Manchester City’s backup keeper on Wednesday as their 2-1 home win over Paris Saint-Germain gave them control over Group A with one game to go. With first place secured, Steffen could see the field in two weeks when they close the group stage with a visit to Leipzig.
Gio Reyna is still recovering from injury and was not available for Dortmund’s 3-1 loss at Sporting Lisbon. With no chance to climb to second or fall to last place, they will face Besiktas in two weeks in a dead-rubber game with a spot in the Europa League knockout on the horizon.