The group stages of various continental competitions kicked off in Europe and Asia in a very busy and thoroughly entertaining week. Here are five of the biggest and most memorable results:
🏆 UEFA Champions League: Bayern Munich 4-3 Manchester United
The UEFA Champions League was back with a bang on its first matchday of the 2023/24 season, as German champions Bayern Munich hosted English champions Manchester United.
These two sides have been involved in some unforgettable high-stakes matches in the past, but right now, both of them seem some way from their very best.
The Red Devils are certainly having a tougher time of it than Bayern, and that was reflected in this match.
Although the final scoreline might have suggested a thrilling end-to-end encounter, the hosts were in control throughout.
They never lost the lead after taking it through Leroy Sane before the half-hour mark, and two of the three goals they let in were in the dying stages of the match.
Man United’s issues need no introduction but this match was also a reminder for Bayern that they have some work to do, albeit not as much as their English counterparts.
🏆 UEFA Europa League: Ajax 3-3 Marseille
When Ajax and Marseille were drawn against each other in Group B of the Europa League, many people pointed out that this match-up would not have looked out of place in the Champions League. However, the game showed why the two teams were playing in the secondary European competition.
What we witnessed was a battle between two decent attacks and two terribly mediocre defences, which was reflected well in the scoreline, xG figures and number of chances created.
Marseille’s woes might be excusable as they were playing under a new coach after Marcelino suddenly announced his departure earlier in the week having only joined before this season (after a less-than-stable start it should be said), but Ajax have looked porous like this for several weeks now. Maurice Steijn will need to set things right quickly, especially with a tough fixture list coming up too.
🏆 UEFA Europa Conference League: Zrinjski Mostar 4-3 AZ
As ever, the Europa Conference League provided even more drama and, in some cases, sheer madness.
We had several teams making their debut and numerous nations represented for the first time in European competition, including the Faroe Islands through KÍ, Iceland thanks to Breiðablik and Bosnia and Herzegovina through Zrinjski Mostar.
The Bosnian champions had a tough test as they faced AZ Alkmaar, who seemed intent on giving them a rude welcome. The Dutch visitors were three goals to the good at half-time and looked on course for a very comfortable win, but then it all changed very quickly.
Zrinjski decided to score from every angle possible to make it 3-3 with about 20 minutes left on the board, and then went on to win it even later on!
As far as European debuts go, they do not get much better than that.
🏆 AFC Champions League: Mumbai City 0-2 Nassaji Mazandaran
The new season of the AFC Champions League began in September because the schedule has now shifted to a cross-year format.
The first match of the tournament was held in a city that not only did not have any team in the competition but does not even have a professional football club!
Mumbai City and Nassaji Mazandaran kicked things off in Pune, which will be the former’s base for the tournament some 150 kilometres from their home.
The home side put together a pretty good performance, but the Iranian debutantes were more efficient in the final third and came away with their first win and points in the AFC Champions League.
So, this is yet another positive result in what is as good a time as ever to be a Nassaji Mazandaran fan, as they only made their top-flight debut in 2018 and won their first major trophy last year to qualify for this competition.
🏆 AFC Cup: FC Ulaanbaatar 3-1 Tainan City
On a similar note, the AFC Cup had an even bigger result this week.
Mongolian champions FC Ulaanbaatar made their continental debut while hosting Tainan City, and with a 3-1 success, they became the first club from their country to win an AFC match.
Another sign of the patient progress being made in the nation placed 183rd in the FIFA rankings.
Stats courtesy FotMob and Transfermarkt.
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