Tuesday’s action started with a surprise. Barcelona were held in a 0-0 draw at home by Slavia Praha in one of two early kickoffs. But unlike other teams that have gained points at the Camp Nou, Slavia had opportunities to win the game. Barcelona’s 62% ball possession, in the meantime, was mostly ineffective. Leo Messi hit the woodwork and had a goal ruled out by VAR.
Over in St. Petersburg, RB Leipzig took all three points in a convincing 2-0 win against Zenit. For RB Leipzig, this was a significant result. The Red Bulls are now first with nine points out of four games. Five points ahead of Zenit, the Germans need one point out of the last two games to advance thanks to Olympique Lyon’s 3-1 victory over Benfica.
Leipzig were not the only side to make a big step towards the next round on Tuesday. Liverpool hosted Genk at Anfield. The Belgians, however, were a surprisingly tricky opponent. The Reds took the lead in the 14thminute, Georgino Wijnaldum was the scorer. Mbwana Aly Samatta equalized in the 41st minute. Genk’s hope was short-lived; with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scoring the winner in the 53rd minute.
The other two teams in Group E dropped two points. Napoli and Salzburg drew 1-1. Norwegian sensation Erling Haaland scored from the spot in the 11th minute. Hirving Lozano equalized just before halftime. Heartbreak for Jesse Marsch’s Salzburg. The Austrians have been very competitive in the Champions League but have dropped points in tight games against LFC and Napoli.
Borussia Dortmund, in the meantime, made the most of Barça slipping against Slavia. The Black and Yellows, however, made it complicated against Inter. Dortmund had the Italians in the defensive third throughout the match. But Samir Handanović was fantastic and made three big saves in the first half. On the other end, Lautaro Martínez and Matias Vecino hit Dortmund on the counter-attack. But Dortmund battled back. The second half was like a hockey power play, and Real Madrid loanee Achraf Hakimi was on fire, the right back scoring two goals to make it 1-2 and then 3-2 after. Julian Brandt found the equalizer.
It was, however, not the only dramatic game of the matchday. Ajax led Chelsea 4-1 in the 55th minute. Tammy Abraham (2’ OG), Quincy Promes (20’), Kepa (35’ OG) and Donny van de Beek (55’) had scored for Ajax. Despite quickly Abraham canceling out his own goal with a penalty following Christian Pulisic winning a foul within the box, Chelsea were in absolute disarray, a defensive disaster that was sliced open by the Dutch. Thankfully, for Chelsea, however, Ajax are prone to defensive lapses as well, and by the time the 74th minute rolled around, it was 4-4. Two Ajax red cards in the same passage of play that led to a penalty being given for handball in the area saw both center backs exit as Ajax went down to nine men. Jorginho dispatched the penalty, and Reece James scored Chelsea’s fourth. Then in the 78th minute, Chelsea believed they had the winner, but Cesar Azpilicueta’s goal was called back as Abraham had played the ball with his arm in the buildup.
Absolute drama in London then. Absolute drama in Group H overall. Valencia dispatched Lille 4-1 after falling behind 0-1, which puts Ajax, Chelsea and Valencia on seven points each going into matchday 5. It is perhaps the most finely balanced group in the Champions League this year.
The Champions League continues with more drama on Wednesday when Matchday 4 resumes. FC Bayern open the matchday against Olympiacos in what will be the first game after the club parted ways with Niko Kovač. Other ICC teams are also in action. Paris St. Germain will host Brugge, Atlético travel to Leverkusen, Juventus to Moscow to face Loko and Real Madrid host Galatasaray.