Champions League roundup: PSG held on Messi’s first start; Haller hits four for Ajax

Real Madrid and Rodrygo trump Inter Milan; Atletico Madrid saved by VAR. Haaland’s prolific Champions League record continued with a goal in Borussia Dortmund’s 2-1 win at Besiktas.

PSG's Lionel Messi, center, is challenged by Brugge's Clinton Mata, right, during the Champions League Group A match between Club Brugge and PSG at the Jan Breydel stadium in Bruges, Belgium.   -  AP

Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar lined up together in the near-perfect attack for Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday and still could not score or deliver a win in the Champions League.

Instead, it was low-key midfielder Ander Herrera who got PSG’s goal in a 1-1 draw at underrated Belgian champion Club Brugge.

Though Messi saw a first-half shot strike the crossbar, he was later shown a yellow card for a foul and Mbappe went off because of an injured left ankle.

French forwards flourished elsewhere, with Sebastien Haller scoring four for Ajax in a 5-1 rout at Sporting Lisbon and Christopher Nkunku netting all of Leipzig’s goals in a 6-3 loss to Manchester City.

Grealish nets on UCL debut in Man City's wild 6-3 win over Leipzig  

The English clubs in action combined for two wins in matches involving 14 goals as Liverpool beat AC Milan 3-2 in the Italian side’s return to the competition after a seven-season gap.

There was just one goal in the games involving the Madrid clubs, and Rodrygo’s 89th-minute strike won it for Real Madrid at Inter Milan. Atletico Madrid was held 0-0 at home to Porto.

Debutant Sheriff Tiraspol from the Moldovan league won 2-0 against Shakhtar Donetsk from neighbouring Ukraine.

PARIS MISFIRES

Three-time European champion Messi was added to PSG’s already stellar squad last month to drive the Qatar-owned club’s quest to win football's most coveted club prize.

The Jan Breydel Stadium in Belgium was a modest venue for the Messi-Mbappe-Neymar forward line to be unveiled for the first time. They lasted just 50 minutes together, though Mbappe did create Herrera’s opening goal from a sharp first-time shot in the 15th minute.

Club Brugge rose to the moment, and captain Hans Vanaken levelled in the 27th.

PSG superstars held by Club Brugge in Champions League  

City leads Group A after beating Leipzig 6-3 with six different scorers, including record signing Jack Grealish. Leipzig defender Angelino was sent off on his return to his former club.

PSG hosts City on September 28 in a rematch of last season’s semifinals. The English champion advanced after winning the first leg 2-1 in Paris.

LIVERPOOL COMEBACK

Liverpool's Jordan Henderson, center, celebrates after scoring his side's third goal during the Champions League Group B match between Liverpool and AC Milan at Anfield.   -  AP

 

Liverpool and AC Milan traded titles facing each other in the 2005 and 2007 Champions League finals yet had never met at any other stage of the competition.

Their first match at Anfield was a typically rousing affair in the storied venue that thrives on European nights.

Liverpool’s early surge yielded only a Trent Alexander Arnold-inspired opening goal and a penalty for Mohamed Salah saved by Milan goalkeeper Mike Maignan.

Milan stunned its host with two quick goals just before halftime, but the lead lasted just a few minutes into the second half before Salah levelled.

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson clinched a 3-2 win with a sharp half-volley shot in the 69th minute.

Atletico’s returning star forward, Antoine Griezmann, was jeered by many home fans at the Metropolitano Stadium when he came on as a substitute in a goalless draw with Porto.

REAL MADRID

Real Madrid's Rodrygo celebrates scoring his team's first goal with teammates.   -  REUTERS

 

Like the Liverpool-Milan game, Inter Milan-Real Madrid paired two teams that tried to break away from the Champions League by signing up to the Super League fiasco in April.

Madrid, which has refused to join the others in renouncing the project, came away from San Siro with three points from Rodrygo’s late goal superbly assisted by teenage substitute Eduardo Camavinga, for a 1-0 win.

In a week, when returning fans created raucous atmospheres at Champions League games, there were 37,000 in San Siro, which can be at 50 per cent capacity for games.

Also, in Group D, Sheriff brought the Champions League to one of the most unusual parts of Europe — the breakaway region of Transnistria, which has declared independence from Moldova.

Sheriff, which advanced through four qualifying rounds, started with no Moldovan players in its lineup to face Champions League veteran Shakhtar. Brazilian full-back Cristiano created both goals in a 2-0 win, for Mali forward Adama Traore and Guinean forward Momo Yansane.

Madrid hosts Sheriff on September 28.

FINALLY HALLER

Ajax's Sebastien Haller celebrates scoring his team's fifth goal and his fourth goal.   -  REUTERS

 

Sebastien Haller’s much-delayed European debut for Ajax wrote some Champions League history.

Signed from West Ham in January for 22.5 million euros ($26.7 million), Haller could not play in the Europa League because of his new club’s administrative error.

The France-born Ivory Coast forward showed what Ajax missed by scoring two early goals and two more in the second half at Portuguese champion Sporting.

Haller matched the record four-goal Champions League debut of Marco van Basten, the former Ajax great. Van Basten scored all four in Milan’s 4-0 win over Gothenburg on the first night of the first Champions League group stage in November 1992.

Erling Haaland’s prolific Champions League record continued with a goal in Borussia Dortmund’s 2-1 win at Besiktas. The Norway star now has 21 goals from 17 games in the competition.

England teenager Jude Bellingham impressed again, scoring Dortmund’s first and setting up Haaland’s goal.

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