The 2021/22 season of the UEFA Champions League returned last week and brought along with it plenty of excitement, drama, surprises, and of course, some top-tier football. Young Boys famously edged past Cristiano Ronaldo’s Manchester United while Club Brugge held Messi, Neymar and Mbappe’s PSG to a stalemate.
Manchester City got the better of RB Leipzig in a nine-goal thriller while Liverpool won a classic fixture against another European giant AC Milan. The likes of Chelsea and Real Madrid also picked up impressive wins while Bayern Munich put Barcelona to the sword at the Camp Nou and put three goals past Ter Stegen.
Which players were the most impressive after the first round of action in the UEFA Champions League? We discuss below:
SEBASTIEN HALLER – AJAX
Following his transfer to Ajax last season, Sebastien Haller couldn’t be registered in the UEFA Champions League squad because of an administrative error. This time, however, he took little time to get going and led Ajax’s dream start to the Champions League campaign with a 5-1 dismantling of Sporting CP.
Haller found the back of the net on four occasions becoming only the second player (after Marco van Basten who also played for Ajax) to score four goals on his Champions League debut. The Ivory Coast international also became the first African footballer to score four goals in single Champions League match.
Haller has revived his career at Ajax following a disappointing spell with West Ham in the Premier League. He has scored 21 goals in 28 matches wearing the red and white shirt of the Dutch giants.
ROBERT LEWANDOWSKI – BAYERN MUNICH
Robert Lewandowski has been at the peak of his powers in these last few seasons and there seems to be no way of stopping him. In Round 1 of the Champions League, Barcelona had to suffer at the hands of the Pole number 9.
Lewandowski popped up at the right place at the right time to score a wonderful brace at the Camp Nou as Bayern Munich defeated the Catalans 3-0. He has now scored in 18 consecutive matches. Since the beginning of the 2019/20 season, Lewandowski has netted 119 goals in all competitions, the highest in Europe.
Bayern Munich will be firm contenders for the Champions League once again and as their Polish predator showed recently, he will be leading the charge against opposition defences.
JUDE BELLINGHAM – BORUSSIA DORTMUND
Jude Bellingham continues to grow as an elegant and efficient midfielder with time. The 18-year-old is among the most promising talents in Europe and he excelled once again in Borussia Dortmund’s opening fixture against Besiktas which they ended up winning 2-1.
Bellingham opened the scoring in the 20th minute of the match. He then turned provider for Erling Haaland right at the end of half-time as the Black and Yellow took an unassailable 2-0 lead into the break.
The England international ran riot against the Besiktas defence and also dominated proceedings in midfield. Performances like these are sure to convince England manager Gareth Southgate of his inclusion into the side sooner rather than later.
JOAO CANCELO – MANCHESTER CITY
Joao Cancelo continues to be one of the most potent wing-backs in Europe. Playing in the more familiar right flank at City, Cancelo was a constant thorn in the RB Leipzig defence. He made forward overlapping runs all game and continued to expose the chink in the armour on the left side of RB Leipzig’s defence.
His passing was also a threat and the Portuguese was unfortunate to see a fine assist get cancelled as Ferran Torres was slightly offside. Undeterred by it, Cancelo struck a piledriver from some distance and was rewarded with a goal of his own in the thriller against RB Leipzig!
THIBAUT COURTOIS – REAL MADRID
Real Madrid began their Champions League campaign in winning fashion – with a late goal against Inter Milan at the San Siro. Rodrygo’s 89th minute goal earned them all three points from the game. However, that victory wouldn’t have been possible without the presence of their wall in goal, Thibaut Courtois.
The Belgian international made as many as five saves from inside the box alone to keep Real Madrid in the contest. He was kept busy by the Inter Milan forwards but Courtois had an answer for every question that was asked of him.
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