Matchday two in the 2015-2016 UEFA Champions League group stage yielded as many questions as answers for the 32 teams in the competition. Six teams still have perfect records, one group is perfectly level, and surprises abounded throughout the Tuesday and Wednesday fixtures. Four matches still remain to right the ship or to hold on to one of the two qualifying positions in each table. What follows are a look at how each team has survived the early push one-third of the way through the group stage.
We really need to see the next two matchdays to parse out which of the two juggernauts in Group A will advance as the winner, and which will be relegated to the runner-up spot. Through the first two sets of fixtures, though, Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain have dominated Shakhtar and Malmo. Madrid sits just ahead of PSG on goal differential after knocking off Malmo 2-0 in Sweden. Cristiano Ronaldo beat Malmo keeper Johan Wiland in the 29th minute and again just before second-half stoppage time to reach (and surpass) the 500-goal mark for his career, and in the opposite goal Keylor Navas posted his seventh clean sheet in eight starts across all competitions this season.
Playing on the opposite side of the country from its home stadium due conflicts in eastern Ukraine, Shakhtar Donetsk looked disheveled as they allowed three to PSG in defeat. Midnight struck for a team that looked like it might be a Cinderella in the group after last year’s performance just seven minutes in when Serge Aurier found the back of the net, and midway through the first half David Luiz had made it 2-0. An own goal from Darijo Srna capped an ignominious evening in Lviv for Shakhtar, and they are now looking up at Malmo in the fight for the Europa League spot.
Everything is knotted up in Group B after a wild Wednesday where PSV Eindhoven ran out of time and Manchester United did pull off its comeback bid, putting all four teams level on three points and null goal differentials. The Red Devils survived at Old Trafford against VfL Wolfsburg, conceding a goal from Daniel Caligiuri just four minutes in but pulling back an equalizer after after a Caligiuri handball in the box allowed Juan Mata to put the equalizer past keeper Diego Benaglio. Then Mata swung in the corner that Chris Smalling put into the net on the other side of intermission, sealing victory for Manchester at home.
Meanwhile in Moscow, the match played out as a tale of two halves as CSKA rolled up a three-goal lead in the first half that should have been four and PSV Eindhoven fought in vain to reel in the deficit. Ahmed Musa added the first goal in the eighth minute, and then it became the Seydou Doumbia show. Doumbia headed in a Mario Fernandes cross in the 21st minute, then converted a penalty in the 36th for the brace. He had the chance to secure the hat trick before halftime, but a wild shot went over the bar. It nearly proved costly, as Maxime Lestienne hit two second-half goals and PSV tested Igor Akinfeev with eight shots on target, but CSKA held on for the 3-2 victory that rendered the slate clean for everyone in the group with four matches left.
FC Astana made Champions League history as the first team from Kazakhstan to earn a point in group play of the tournament, nabbing a point against visiting Galatasaray in a wild finish that saw three own goals in the final 15 minutes. Bilal Kisa belted in a low screamer from 30 yards out that beat Nenad Eric in goal to put the Turkish side ahead, but it looked like the hosts had stolen a point when a cross caromed off Hakan Balta for an own goal that leveled the score at one apiece. The tide turned when a blunder by Eric handed the lead back to Galatasaray with less than five minutes until stoppage time, but Lionel Carole returned the favor in the 89th minute as the Kazakhs celebrated.
Atletico Madrid is in little danger of missing the knockout stage, though a home loss to Benfica certainly doesn’t help set them up for a favorable draw once they get there. Angel Correa put the hosts ahead 1-0 in the 23rd minute, blasting an Antoine Griezmann setup into the top corner past Julio Cesar. But the longtime Inter Milan keeper tormented Atletico from there on out, stopping all six other shots on target as Atletico generated a ridiculous 22 attempts. Nicolas Gaitan leveled the match before halftime, and Benfica pulled off the upset with Goncalo Guedes’ winner six minutes after the restart. In a Group C battle that has become a fight for Iberian domination, the Portuguese representative took the early lead.
Sevilla remains above Manchester City on goal differential, but that hold is tenuous after Alvaro Morata and Simone Zaza goals gave Juventus a 2-0 victory over the Spaniards in Turin on Wednesday. Sevilla managed just one shot all match, a Yevhen Konoplyanka shot from outside the box that didn’t provide too much of a test for Gianluigi Buffon. The defending finalists remained perfect in the table as a result and look capable of making another deep run despite the shuffling that occurred in the roster over the summer.
Manchester City nearly fell further behind, as Lars Stindl put the hosts ahead 1-0 nine minutes after halftime and Borussia Monchengladbach regularly challenged Joe Hart throughout the match. The Sky Blues were rescued by their Albiceleste connection, as Martin Demichelis leveled the score in the 65th minute and Sergio Aguero converted a self-earned penalty conceded by Fabian Johnson in the 90th to secure three points on the road. The English side continues to look far less impressive in Champions League play than Premier League action, yet they sit tied on points with Sevilla and are plenty alive in the hunt.
For the longest time on Tuesday, it looked as though Lionel Messi’s injury would doom Barcelona in this year’s Champions League. Bayer Leverkusen held a 1-0 lead thanks to a Kyriakos Papadopoulos goal midway through the first half, and it appeared that the defending champions of Europe were about to drop the match at the Camp Nou to plummet to the bottom of Group E. Then Sergi Roberto and Luis Suarez struck inside the final 10 minutes, the scoreboard was flipped, and the Catalans survived a scare at home and leapfrogged Leverkusen into the top position in the table.
Roma wasn’t nearly as lucky on its road trip to Belarus, where BATE Borisov jumped out to a 3-0 halftime lead and left the Italians struggling to catch up. Igor Stasevich opened the scoring, Filip Mladenovic added a brace inside the first half-hour, and the Romans could only pull within one by the final whistle. After opening a few eyes with a draw against Barcelona on the first matchday, Roma now occupies the cellar in the group while BATE sits level with Leverkusen on points. If the Belarussians can achieve similar results home and away against an ailing Barcelona over the next two matches, a surprise team could keep contending for a knockout spot.
Once again the Gunners cannot seem to put things together for any sort of extended European run. Losing to Dinamo Zagreb in Croatia was disappointing, yet it wasn’t entirely unexpected. It was only slightly more shocking to see Arsenal drop their first home match in group play. Olympiakos needed only four attempts on target to put three past David Ospina, and an Arsenal barrage was mostly parried by Ospina’s counterpart Roberto Gago to secure the Greek upset. Arsene Wenger’s squad continues to underachieve in Champions League competition, and the Gunners already look like a squad eliminated.
Meanwhile in Munich, Robert Lewandowski continued his outrageous goal-scoring form to pace Bayern to an easy 5-0 victory over Dinamo on Tuesday. The Polish captain followed up a ridiculous showing against Wolfsburg with another hat trick against the Croatians, and Pep Guardiola’s side now sits securely atop Group F as a result with six points and an eight-goal advantage in the differential. Olympiakos has a slight advantage in goal differential, but the two teams will have a pair of matches head-to-head over the next two matchdays to determine which moves solely into second place behind Bayern.
It was a rough homecoming for Jose Mourinho, as Chelsea continued its downward spiral of 2015-2016 with a 2-1 defeat at FC Porto on Tuesday. Things still looked fine for the Blues at the intermission, with the score deadlocked at 1-1 following goals by André André for the home side and a stoppage-time equalizer from Willian. But once Maicon netted a second goal eight minutes after the half, things went downhill for the visitors. An emphatic win over Maccabi Tel Aviv in the opener papered over a season that has gone completely awry, but Chelsea still looks disheveled and nowhere near the Premier League-winning form of last season.
That has left the door open for Dynamo Kyiv, which drew against Porto two weeks ago before and followed up that result with its own victory over Maccabi on Tuesday. Less than four minutes into the match, Andriy Yarmolenko had put the visitors up 1-0 in Israel, and from that point Dynamo never looked in danger of sacrificing the full three points. Moraes added a second goal within five minutes after halftime, and as a result Kyiv now sits level on points with Porto. Chelsea still has the chance to recuperate against the Ukrainians on October 20, though Dynamo has the chance to effectively lock down its position in the top two positions at the same time.
Gent gave Lyon all it could handle in the opening matchday, and they gamely found a 56th minute equalizer from Thomas Matton after Artem Dzyuba put the hosts up 1-0 in the first half. But Zenit simply generated too many chances with its high-pressure counterattack, and Hulk threaded the ball in to Oleg Shatov for the winner. The Russians have now secured a full six points from their first two matches, and sit alone atop Group H. They already hold one win over Valencia, and Zenit is unlikely to cough up too many points in a quartet where they are obviously the best assemblage of talent.
The Spaniards rebounded from the loss to Zenit on the opening matchday to claim three points against Olympique Lyonnais at Stade Gerland, thanks to a Sofiane Feghouli goal from outside the box just before the half. Lyon has hardly looked decent yet this season, already eight points off the pace set by PSG in Ligue 1 and languishing at the bottom of the Champions League group. The French side had the majority of chances at home, generating 21 attempts — but only putting four shots on goal. Gent looks more likely to push Valencia for the spot behind Zenit as this group schedule progresses.