Manchester United ended Juventus’ unbeaten start to the 2018-19 season with a 2-1 win in the UEFA Champions League in Turin on Wednesday. Cristiano Ronaldo got the opener, but Juan Mata and an own goal from Alex Sandro turned the match on its head.
The Bianconeri dominated most of the contest and deservedly took a lead when Ronaldo dispatched a perfect volley. The hosts failed to add a second goal, however, and were made to rue their misses late. Mata equalised with a free-kick before Sandro put the ball past his own goalkeeper in the final minutes.
The result leaves the Red Devils in second place in Group H behind Juventus, while Valencia are third. All three teams can still qualify for the next round.
Juventus Need Ruthless Edge to Succeed in Champions League
The Bianconeri entered this match unbeaten in all competitions, having dropped points just once in Serie A. Fans of the team were anything but satisfied, however, as the Italian champions have been flirting with defeat for weeks now.
The team’s inability to put opponents away has been a talking point for some time. During the weekend they had to wait until Juan Cuadrado bagged a third against Cagliari before they could really celebrate, and wins over United and Empoli all came with just a one-goal difference.
The approach had already cost them against Genoa, who bagged a 1-1 draw in Turin, but it really hurt the team on Wednesday. Per Chiellini it had been coming:
Perhaps this could be the wake-up call the Bianconeri need, and Massimiliano Allegri’s troops will learn from this and improve. If not, their European dreams for this season may not amount to much.
Real Madrid moved on to nine points in Group G of the 2018/19 UEFA Champions League after beating Viktoria Plzen 5-0 at the Doosan Arena in the Czech Republic on Wednesday.
Karim Benzema scored twice, while Casemiro, Gareth Bale and Toni Kroos added goals to give caretaker boss Santiago Solari a third win in a row in all competitions.
Real Still Own the Best Midfield in the Champions League
Cristiano Ronaldo’s goals weren’t the only reason Real have won this tournament the last three seasons running. They’ve also owned the competition because of the most-balanced midfield in Europe.
It’s a unit comprised of Casemiro, Kroos and Luka Modric. The group is still the best in the Champions League thanks to the way each player perfectly complements the other.
Casemiro remains an indispensable member of Real’s midfield.
Casemiro is an elite holding player, the destructive ball-winner who anchors midfield and shields the defence. Modric also plays a withdrawn role, but the 33-year-old is the quintessential deep-lying playmaker.
Possession runs through Modric and Kroos, although the latter operates further forward in areas where his technique, vision and shooting power can change games.
Modric was on the bench against Plzen, but the other two members of this trio excelled. Casemiro got a rare goal, heading in from a Kroos corner, with the latter showcasing his creative radar from the start:
Kroos had pulled the strings earlier when he set Benzema free to open the scoring. There was still time for the Germany international to add an exquisite goal to his night’s work when he lofted in a delightful chip to make it 5-0 in the 67th minute.
When Kroos and Casemiro are supported by Modric, Los Merengues boast a complete midfield. It’s good enough to make them a contender for a fourth trophy in as many years, even without Ronaldo.
It’s Time to Move on from Reckless Sergio Ramos
He’s got 11 major trophies to his credit and has been a rock at both club and international level. However, there comes a point when Real have to consider moving on from skipper Sergio Ramos.
The time is now to seek out a replacement for the 32-year-old centre-back. Specifically, Real would be wise to call time because of the reckless side of Ramos’ game.
This side showed itself again when the veteran caught Plzen defender Milan Havel with an elbow when the hosts were on top early in the first half. The blow appeared deliberate to some, but was at the very least highly controversial:
Sergio Ramos is at it again 🤦🏻♀️ pic.twitter.com/V4N3ifMbWC
— Aysha Ridzuan (@ayshardzn) November 7, 2018
Of course, this is far from the first time Ramos’ rugged style has been called into question during his career. His challenge on Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah in last season’s final raised the ire of many.
Ramos hasn’t been immune from criticism from Real supporters recently, but the former Sevilla star defended himself by saying the hecklers “fill my rucksack with stones,” per Sport.
Those words have already worked against Ramos following his clash with Havel:
There are even questions about his conduct away from the pitch, since “there are also those who feel that Ramos holds too much power and sway with regards to how the club is run,” according to Marca’s Santiago Siguero.
He also noted, “It’s no coincidence that after some rather pointed words, when the defender was asked about the potential appointment of Antonio Conte at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, Florentino Perez’s pursuit of the Italian quickly came to an end.”
If his skills are deteriorating, Los Blancos have little excuse not to move on from Ramos. There is ample cover at his position, where the versatile Nacho has grown in importance and France World Cup winner Raphael Varane remains a considerable talent.
Pep Calls For VAR & Rightly So
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola called for the implementation of VAR in the UEFA Champions League after Raheem Sterling controversially won a penalty by tripping himself up against Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday.
“I went to chip the ball and I don’t know what happened next. I ended up on the floor and turned around. I don’t think I felt contact, it was just my bad. I hit the floor and scuffed the floor. Apologies to the ref and apologies to Shakhtar.”
Guardiola defended his player, saying “he didn’t realise” what had happened, and he added: “I don’t like to score a goal in that situation.”
But he also called on referees to be given more assistance, per Smith: “VAR, where is it? The referees said a long time ago they must be helped. They don’t want to make mistakes. They must be helped. It takes two, three, 10 seconds to make a decision [with VAR].”
Worst Sterling fall since Brexit pic.twitter.com/ITlZgVj05g
— Wedgeman Simon (@miniminter) November 7, 2018