European club football returned to our screens with some exciting fixtures in both the Uefa Champions League and the Europa League in terms of the match-up, actual performance and result. As would be expected, it was a mixed bag all around and there are those who are excited, others relieved and several others disappointed with how Match Day 1 went.
The pick of the day was arguably Tuesdayâ€™s encounter in the Bernabeu where Spanish champions Real Madrid sought to put their stuttering start to their title defence behind them as they hosted their English counterparts Manchester City. After several spurned chances the match only came alive towards the end when goals rained with a vengeance. The 3-2 win was a timely reprieve for Jose Mourinho and his charges.
Not so much joy for his former side Chelsea who surrendered a quick-fire 2-0 lead at home to Italian champions Juventus, thereby spoiling Oscarâ€™s sensational European debut. Whatever happens to the defending champions in this yearâ€™s competition, the Brazilianâ€™s performance which was capped with an early contender for goal of the season will have brought a lot of hope to everyone in blue.
There was also a scare for Barcelona at the Camp Nou as they had to rely on the individual talent of you-know-who to save their face after falling behind against Russiaâ€™s Spartak Moscow. It was also largely relief for Manchester United and the Arsenal for whom the three points would count for more than the actual performance. Of course, the Gunners will take heart from the fact that they came from behind on foreign soil.
In the Europa League, Brendan Rodgers would also be relieved to see his gamble in Switzerland pay off, but not without a scare. He not only left eight definite starters back in Liverpool, but even those starters that he took to Bern started on the bench. While he will be pleased to see his goal-shy charges find the net five times, he would have been disappointed with all the three goals the team conceded.
The other English representatives in the tournament settled for goalless draws of different quality. Tottenham Hotspur were held by Italyâ€™s Lazio while Newcastle United would feel hard done by after hitting the woodwork three times against Maritimo on the Portuguese islands of Madeira. It is interesting to see some notable names in this yearâ€™s competition and competition should be stiff in the latter rounds.
Attention meanwhile shifts to domestic action and Anfield will be the focus of attention in the English Premier League tomorrow [Sunday] when United visit Liverpool. What is already a big fixture in ordinary times assumes even greater prominence given last seasonâ€™s tensions and the fact that this is the first game on this pitch since the release of the Hillsborough Independent Panelâ€™s report.
There will certainly be interest in the pre-match handshake between Luis Suarez and Patrice Evra, given what happened between John Terry and Anton Ferdinand last Saturday, and also the chants in the stand given the anti-Liverpool offensive jibes by some United fans at Old Trafford. One hopes neither of this overshadows what I expect to be an exciting fixture between Englandâ€™s biggest football institutions.
For Liverpool, this is a win would go a long way towards boosting the teamâ€™s confidence after a poor start to the league while United will also be looking to change their recent poor record at Anfield.