The first matchday in the group stages in the UEFA Women’s Champions League was well worth the wait. Some teams performed to expectations while others were worse off than what many had anticipated. In the end, the so-called “Group of Death” (which right now consists of two groups, Group A and Group C) set things in motion that could see one the biggest names in women’s football not make it out of the group stages for a second season in a row.
KS Vllaznia 0-2 Real Madrid CF
The first of Group A’s teams to kick of their Champions League journey saw Vllaznia welcome Real Madrid to the Loro Boriçi Stadium in Albania. The hosts looked to defend deep inside their own half and try to catch out Real Madrid on the break. Apart from one opportunity in the first half, Vllaznia couldn’t really come out of their own half and had Real Madrid been more ruthless in front of goal, the scoreline would’ve been more indicative of how dominant the Spanish outfit was. Instead, Real Madrid had to wait until the 54th minute for the breakthrough as Esther Gonzalez finally found the back of the net and then Olga Carmona wrapped up the win with a 76th minute penalty.
Paris Saint-Germain 0-1 Chelsea FC
In the biggest tie of the day (October 20th), Chelsea travelled to Paris without manager Emma Hayes but still had enough grit, talent and a great tactical plan to not only stifle PSG but also limit the number of chances the hosts could create for most of the game. The only goal of the game came in the 7th minute when a recycled corner floated over Sarah Bouhaddi and was promptly volleyed home by Mille Bright. The rest of the match saw Chelsea look to not only press PSG but also cut out their usual passing lanes, thus keeping Grace Geyoro and Kadidiatou Diani quiet. As the game was winding down, PSG started to push forward and had they been a little sharper, probably could have found an equalizer but they couldn’t.
VfL Wolfsburg 4-0 SKN St. Pölten
Wolfsburg are expected to qualify from this group and outright win it so this performance against St. Pölten doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone who follows this sport. Ewa Pajor, when fit, is one the best strikers around and she made her mark on this game with a brace within the first 15 minutes of the match. Lena Lattwein and Jill Roord added goals of their own in the second half as Wolfsburg picked up an easy first win at home in Group B
AS Roma 1-0 SK Slavia Praha
It took a 62nd minute goal from Emilie Haavi to put the game to bed for Roma in what turned out to be a more evenly contested tie than what had been anticipated. Praha have shown that they are not an easy side to break down and if you’re not at your sharpest, they will make life very difficult for you. That showed throughout this game and had it not been for Haavi’s preciseness in front of goal, Roma could have been looking at a draw to start their first ever campaign in the Champions League.
FC Zürich 0-2 Juventus FC
FC Zürich held on for as long as they possibly could, amplifying the troubles that Juventus have had this season so far. Unfortunately for the hosts, Juventus just had more quality overall and managed to find two goals to put themselves in a great position to qualify for the knock out rounds. Valentina Cernoia and Barbara Bonansea were the goal scorers on the night for Juventus but they had to wait until the 71st minute to breach Zürich’s goal. Once Bonansea had added a second, it was essentially done and dusted for the visitors.
Olympique Lyonnais 1-5 Arsenal FC
The biggest result of Matchday 1 has to be the one in Lyon. The hosts are still missing almost an entire first eleven of players missing from the team but even then, some of the disappointing performances that happened against Arsenal were surprising considering who those players were that weren’t quite on their game. Arsenal sensed that Lyon were there for the taking and thanks to braces by Caitlin Foord (who is in fantastic form this season) and Beth Mead, as well as a goal by Frida Maanum, the three points were more than assured for the visiting side. Lyon managed to get a goal for themselves through Melvine Malard but overall, just weren’t at the races. With three teams all capable of making it past the group stages, a 5-1 loss will not help Lyon’s bid to retain their title.
Bayern Munich 2-1 FC Rosengård
Bayern Munich haven’t had the best of starts in their league campaign and their issues carried over into the Champions League as well. They got the win, just, after Rosengård had taken the lead in the 25th minute thanks to Loreta Kullashi and Rosengård could’ve had more in that first half had they been a little more clinical in the final third. Instead, Bayern found another gear and goals from Carolin Simon and Linda Dallmann saw off the challenge from Rosengård.
FC Barcelona 9-0 S.L. Benfica
Yes. You read that right. When Barcelona want to destroy a team, they can make it look so easy and although Benfica aren’t a terrible team, when Barcelona are in the kind of mood they were in for their opening group game, there’s not many teams that can resist them. After Alexia Putellas had presented the home fans with her second Ballon D’Or, Barcelona got down to business and it took less than a minute for Patri Guijarro to open the scoring. That was then followed by goals by Aitana Bonmatí, Mariona Caldentey, Ana-Maria Crnogorčević and Clàudia Pina, as well as braces from Asisat Oshoala and Geyse.