Champions League kicks off with night of one-sided games

Manchester United's Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku, center, heads the ball to score his team's second goal during the UEFA Champions League Group A football match between Manchester United and Basel at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England on Tuesday. (AFP)
Updated 13 September 2017
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Champions League kicks off with night of one-sided games

LONDON: As the Champions League opened with a series of one-sided games, Jose Mourinho was blunt. For the Manchester United manager, it was not the Champions League at all.
“For the Real Madrids, Barcelonas and Bayerns, the Champions League starts in February. Now is just the warming up,” Mourinho said after a routine win for his Manchester United team over Swiss club Basel. “Let’s qualify, let’s make the points to qualify for the knockout phase. When we do that, let’s enjoy playing against the big guys.”
United, Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich all cruised to easy wins on Tuesday, scoring 17 goals between them and conceding none.
Barcelona’s 3-0 win over Juventus was something of an exception, if only because the Italian team — last season’s defeated finalist — had been expected to put up more of a fight.
In the event, Lionel Messi started another European campaign in imperious fashion with two goals against an injury-depleted Juventus side.
GROUP A
Manchester United’s players did not have to exert themselves too much to see off Swiss side Basel 3-0, as Romelu Lukaku scored his sixth goal in six United appearances.
Marouane Fellaini and Marcus Rashford’s goals completed the win for United.
In a worrying sight for United fans and coach Mourinho, captain Paul Pogba hobbled off with a possible left hamstring injury.
GROUP B
Two woefully uncompetitive games saw Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich post easy wins.
PSG’s expensively assembled forward line of Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani ran riot against Celtic in a 5-0 win, scoring four between them. A Celtic own goal ensured a night to forget for the Scottish champion.
Bayern seemed rustier in its 3-0 win over Anderlecht, leading by just one goal at halftime despite Anderlecht having a man sent off in the 11th minute.
The red card allowed Robert Lewandowski to score from the penalty spot, before Bayern wasted a string of opportunities. Thiago Alcantara and Joshua Kimmich added to the scoreline in the second half.
GROUP C
Davide Zappacosta’s stunning long-distance goal from the right flank impressed the Stamford Bridge faithful, but Chelsea needed nothing special to thrash Azerbaijan’s Qarabag 6-0.
A poor Qarabag defense also conceded goals from Michy Batshuayi, Pedro Rodriguez, Cesar Azpilicueta and Tiemoue Bakayoko. There was also an own goal by Maksim Medvedev.
Atletico Madrid sees itself as a contender to win the Champions League, but poor finishing made it look well short of that standard in a 0-0 draw with Roma.
GROUP D
Lionel Messi started the new European season with yet another game-winning performance for Barcelona, while the Catalan club’s record signing Ousmane Dembele made his debut.
Still, Barcelona’s three-goal winning margin against a weakened opponent was slight revenge for its loss to Juventus in last year’s quarterfinals.
On Tuesday at the Camp Nou, Juventus was missing defender Giorgio Chiellini, forward Mario Mandzukic and midfielder Sami Khedira through injury, while Juan Cuadrado was suspended.
Sporting Lisbon won 3-2 at Greek side Olympiakos, taking the lead after just 69 seconds through forward Seydou Doumbia, on loan from Roma.


World Cup boost for Egypt as Mohamed Salah "is ready to play against Russia"

Updated 4 min 16 sec ago
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World Cup boost for Egypt as Mohamed Salah "is ready to play against Russia"

  • Liverpool star took part in full training
  • Egypt team manager says Salah is poised to make his World Cup bow

ST PETERSBURG: Mohamed Salah is a looming obstacle as Russia attempt to virtually secure their place in the knockout stages of the World Cup in Saint Petersburg on Tuesday.
Fears that poor performances from the home side could dampen enthusiasm in the host nation were blown away by a 5-0 demolition of Saudi Arabia in the opening game.
The seven-time African champions will pose a much tougher task, but a lot will depend upon Salah's fitness.
Liverpool star Salah has not featured since leaving the field in tears early in the Champions League final just over three weeks ago after landing heavily on his left shoulder and had to watch from the bench as Egypt lost 1-0 to Uruguay in their opening game.
Salah has been declared 100 percent fit by Egypt's team doctor and his agent, leaving little doubt he will be thrown back into action in the Pharaohs' hour of need.
However, as he returned to training on Saturday, Salah was seen by AFP reporters at Egypt's training camp in Grozny needing help from teammates to lift a training top over his head.
"Salah participated in training with his teammates for the entire session and he is ready to play against Russia according to technical staff," Egypt's team manager Ihab Leheta told FIFA.com.
Egypt coach Hector Cuper's decision not to risk Salah against Uruguay may have been influenced by the fact his side held out for 89 minutes before conceding to Jose Gimenez, by which time the Argentine had made all three of his substitutions.
"Russia's game is fateful and difficult because of our defeat against Uruguay," said Leheta. "Winning is our only choice".
If fully fit, the sight of Salah, who scored 44 goals in a remarkable debut season at Liverpool, will strike fear into the Russians.
Concerns Russia could become just the second host nation to bow out of the World Cup at the group stage after a seven-game winless run ahead of the tournament have been alleviated by a perfect start.
With Uruguay favourites to top the group, though, Russia are keen not to have to rely on getting something from their final group game against the two-time former world champions.
"The second game will be our most important one in the group stage," said Russia's deputy prime minister and former football federation president Vitaly Mutko after attending Russia's training session on Sunday.
A close ally of President Vladimir Putin, Mutko oversaw preparations for the tournament at a cost of more than $13 billion.
"In the first match, everyone saw how much the players cared. If we play up to our level, I don't see any problems."
Denis Cheryshev was Russia's hero against Saudi Arabia as he came off the bench to score twice.
And the Villarreal winger accepted it will be a more "interesting" clash if Salah is fit.
"If he's not there, does that mean our task becomes easy? Not at all," he told FIFA.com "If he plays, it will be hard but more interesting. He's one of the best and you always want to compete with the best and win."
Russia will be without one of their key players, with Alan Dzagoev expected to miss the rest of the tournament with a hamstring injury.