It wasn’t the best of starts for England’s Champions League contingent. Away defeats for Manchester United and Arsenal and a home loss for Manchester City in the opening week of fixtures was hardly the ideal start that they had all hoped for. Only current Premier League champions Chelsea could manage a win, putting their poor league start behind them by thumping Israeli side Maccabi Tel Aviv. Jose Mourinho made a series of changes to his starting line up including leaving captain John Terry, fellow defender Branislav Ivanovic, Nemanja Matic and striker Diego Costa on the bench in a move designed to send a clear message who was boss. With only one win in their opening five matches in the Premier league, Chelsea needed to start strongly in the Champions League and they did exactly that. Goals from Willian, Oscar, Fabergas and substitute Diego Costa secured a well needed 4-0 win.
Out in Croatia, Arsenal were expected to win comfortably in their opening match against Dinamo Zagreb but in typical fashion exposed their lack of options upfront. Despite Theo Walcott’s current form, Arsene Wenger chose to leave the winger turned striker on the bench in favour of Frenchman Olivier Giroud in one of six changes to his starting line up. It proved to be the wrong decision as Arsenal fell behind early on thanks to a strange own goal by Alex Oxlade Chamberlain. Things went from bad to worse just before half time when Giroud saw red For two bookable offences. Now down to ten men, Arsenal were in the back foot going into the second half and soon fell two goals behind after Junior Fernandes connected with Paulo Machado’s pass to finish coolly. Lacking striking options from the bench, Wenger could only turn to Theo Walcott and the Emgland forward didn’t disappoint scoring just shortly after coming on. The goal however came too late as Zagreb held on for a famous victory.
The previous night saw both Manchester clubs kick off their Champions League campaigns. Manchester United travelled to Louis Van Gaal’s homeland to take on PSV still on a high after their emphatic 3-1 win over Liverpool at the weekend. But on a cool night in Eindhoven, United couldn’t find their rhythm. Strikes from Hector Moreno and Luciano Narsingh cancelled out Memphis Depays 40th minute goal, handing PSV all three points. To be fair to United, they did start strongly with Depay in particular looking menacing on his return to Eindhoven. But a serious injury to full back Luke Shaw on 15minutes proved to be the defining moment that swung the game in favour of PSV. Shaw was brutally fouled by PSV defender Hector Moreno, breaking the players right leg in two places in doing so. It’s a harsh blow for the England full back who has only recently started to show just how important he could be for Can Gaal. The Dutchman had been fairly critical of Shaw last year when he took over citing Shaw was unfit and lacking in commitment. Rather than sulking Shaw has shown a fantastic attitude by working hard behind the scenes on both his fitness and overall play. After a stop start season riddled with niggling injuries last year, Shaw was back in the fold and had made the left back position his own with a series of impressive early season performances. But the leg break and the severity of it means that the player will now miss a minimum of six months and is in a race against time to get back playing ahead of England’s appearance at Euro 2016 next summer. After his injury which delayed play for ten minutes whilst he received treatment, the United players were clearly distracted thinking more about the injury than the game they were involved in. PSV took advantage of this drop in concentration and punished United accordingly.
The only positive to come that night for United fans was that arch rivals Manchester City lost as well. Manuel Pellegrini’s side entertained Italian champions Juventus in their opening match but couldn’t replicate their early league form that has them unbeaten so far. Despite taking the lead in the second half through an own goal by Giorgio Chiellini, two goals from Mario Mandzukic and Alvaro Morata late on were enough to see off City who lacked a quality finisher in the final third. Wilfred Bony and Raheem Sterling both had chances but failed to hit the back of the net. Growing more desperate by the minute, Pellegrini was forced to throw on a semi fit Sergio Aguero into the mix to no avail. City must now regroup for the visit of West Ham this weekend.
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