Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday marked the beginning of group stage play in both the Champions League and Europa League, and the seven Bundesliga clubs overall responded well. In the Champions League, only Borussia Mönchengladbach stumbled as Bayern Munich, Bayer Leverkusen and VfL Wolfsburg found victory. In the Europa League, Borussia Dortmund and Schalke nailed opening day wins, while, after a very fine first half, FC Augsburg fell to Athletic Club Bilbao.
VfL Wolfsburg 1-0 CSKA Moscow
Wolfsburg got their Champions League tournament underway in the right fashion with a one-goal win over visiting CSKA Moscow. The Moscow side had been undefeated in eight Premier League matches, but even then probably the least-favored club to advance out of the tough Group that includes Manchester United and PSV Eindhoven.
Wolfsburg weren’t particularly impressive to watch, especially playing at home, but nevertheless did the business. Statistically, the Wolves did look good, earning 58% of possession while outshooting CSKA 20-8, with seven shots on goal. The only goal needed was by Wolfsburg newboy Julian Draxler, whose 40th minute goal was his first for Wolfsburg. Draxler kicked in his rebound, after a pass from Max Kruse resulted in Draxler’s header, which was initially stopped by goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev before Draxler charged in to tidy up immediately.
With PSV defeating Manchester United, Group B should be a tight affair. Besides the three points Tuesday, Wolfsburg Coach Dieter Hecking had to be happy that none of his players picked up any cards.
Sevilla 3-0 Borussia Mönchengladbach
Any hopes that a foreign adventure would turn Gladbach’s misfortunes evaporated quickly in Spain, as Sevilla shut out their guests, 3-0, as Favre’s men continue to suffer over a lack of goals scored.
Die Fohlen held tight during the first half, which ended in a scoreless draw. The second half barely started, though, when Gladbach keeper Yann Sommer was called for a foul, with Gameiro converting to give Sevilla a 1-0 lead. Yet another bid from the spot came only minutes later, but this time Germeiro hit the crossbar. In the 66th minute, yet another penalty (this time on Tony Jantschke) was called, and Banega did the honors for Sevilla to put the Spaniards up by two, with the third goal coming in the 84th minute. Sevilla dominated the statistics, as Gladbach were outshot 19-9 and only managed to get one shot on frame. and Sommer, Roel Brouwers and Lars Stindl picked up yellow cards.
Gladbach’s group is even tougher than Wolfsburg’s, and things get no easier when Die Fohlen host Manchester City on September 30.
Olympiacos 0-3 Bayern Munich
The Greek side held off the Bavarian giants for 52 minutes, but were punished by a Thomas Müller brace as Pep’s boys made a good start to their Group F competition. Bayern had a lusty 65% of possession along with launching 22 shots as Manuel Neuer made four saves to earn the clean sheet.
Müller leads the Bundesliga in scoring thus far this season and got his first Champions League goal of the year in a rather fortunate manner, as his cross-like shot from the right flank seemed to catch Olimpiacos GK Roberto off-guard and flew past into the net. But the game wasn’t really settled until late, when substitute Mario Götze finished from a Douglas Costa pass from the goalline. Müller ended the game with a successful PK as Bayern next will host surprising Dinamo Zagreb, who beat Arsenal Tuesday.
Bayer Leverkusen 4-1 BATE Borisov
After losing their last two league matches, Bayer Leverkusen had it all their way Wednesday when they defeated BATE Borisov handily at the Bay Arena. Next up for Die Werkself in Group E competition will be a trip to the Camp Nou on September 29 against a FC Barcelona side that punished them severely in the past.
But Wednesday all went well for Roger Schmidt’s side. Admir Mehmedi got his side on the board in the 4th minute, as he picked up a loose ball in the box and hit a right-footed shot with the outside of his boot into the far top corner of the Borisov goal. A great sign after Leverkusen had suffered two consecutive shutouts, though was dimmed when the club from Belarus equalized only six minutes later and the half ended 1-1.
But it was all Leverkusen in the 2nd half. Hakan Çalhanoğlu scored the first of his brace just after intermission, as his left-footed shot deflected and looped into goal. Newcomers Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez and Kevin Kampl combined for Leverkusen’s third goal twelve minutes later, when Kampl on the right passed forward to the Mexican international, whose pedigree was apparent as he shot with precision to earn his first German goal. The win should lift spirits in Leverkusen, but Die Werkself face another challenge Sunday when they travel to Borussia Dortmund.
Borussia Dortmund 2-1 FK Krasnodar
Things were a bit sticky for Dortmund in their Europa League opener at their packed Signal Iduna Park, but a late goal from Park Joo-Ho gave the home side all three points against the Russians.
It was a big nite for the South Korean, who earned the assist on BvB’s first goal, but BvB trailed for much of the first half as Fedor Smolov skinned Matthias Ginter and passed to a slicing Pavel Mamayev, who stuck the ball past Roman Weidenfeller for a Krasnodar lead. The first half ended, though, with Park providing the a high cross from the left that Ginter headed into the goal for a 1-1 score.
Dortmund continued to have a tough time cracking Krasnodar’s defense, and it looked like a draw would be the result when, in added time, Park stooped low to head a pass from Ginter into the goal to give the yellow-blacks a dramatic victory, redemption for Ginter and a big day for the former Mainzman Park.
APOEL Nicosia 0-3 Schalke
The Royal Blues built on their MatchDay 4 win last Sunday over Mainz by shutting out APOEL in Cyprus Thursday. Klaas- Jan Huntelaar had a brace after Joel Matip, who scored over the weekend, scored once again with a headed shot from a Johannes Geis kick in the 28th minute. The Hunter added his first goal seven minutes later on a long, low shot that bounced past Dutch goalkeeper Boy Waterman.
Huntelaar put the match out of reach in the 72nd minute, as he again shot low to score, and again was assisted by Max Meyer. Ralf Fahrmann kept the clean sheet for Andre Breitenreiter’s club, making four saves in a match in which Schalke outshot their hosts 22-8 and had 12 corner kicks to only three for the Cypriot side. Geis and Franco Di Santo will carry yellow cards into Schalke’s next EL match, at home to Asteras Triploli, who drew 1-1 with Sparta Prague.
Athletic Club Bilbao 3-1 FC Augsburg
After finishing fifth in the Bundesliga last season and earning their first European bid, FC Augsburg made history when they travelled to Biilbao for Thursday’s match. After a brilliant first half, though, the FCA could no longer contain their hosts and came home empty-handed.
Bilbao posed quite a challenge for FCA, as they earlier this season won the SuperCopa de Espana over FC Barcelona and were runnerups in the Europa League during the 2011/2012 season. The Basque side seemed to take FCA, winless this season in the Bundesliga, a bit lightly and veteran Halil Altintop gave FCA a dream start with his right-footed goal. FCA continued to impress throughout the half, and were unfortunate not to pad their lead, as Tim Matavz had several great chances and Sevilla’s Iago Herrerin was brilliant between the posts.
FCA could only hold Bilbao off for ten minutes after intermission, as 34 year-old striker Aritz Aduriz netted twice to put the Basque club in the lead. A late goal from Markel Susaeta further spoiled what started out as a fairy-tale evening for Die Fuggerstädter, but Coach Markus Weinzierl should be able to build confidence after based on their first half performance, as well as their weekend loss to Bayern on a soft, late penalty, when FCA host Hannover on Sunday.
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