PSG, Man City shine in Champions League; big names struggle

Sports

PSG’s Angel Di Maria, center, celebrates with his teammates PSG’s Juan Bernat, left, and PSG’s Mauro Icardi after scoring his side’s opening goal during the Champions League group A soccer match between PSG and Real Madrid at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris, Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

GENEVA (AP) — Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City succeeded where storied rivals failed in their opening Champions League games.

Even with its star forwards absent, PSG eased to a 3-0 win Wednesday over 13-time European champion Real Madrid, which missed the influence of suspended defender Sergio Ramos.

The French champion relied instead on Angel Di Maria, the former Madrid winger, who scored twice with smart, first-half shots that quickly settled the outcome.

Man City was also ruthless and efficient in winning 3-0 against Shakhtar Donetsk in Ukraine.

Wins for two wealthy clubs with burning ambition to get a first European title came as the traditional Champions League powers struggled this week.

Of the nine clubs to have played in the final since 2011, only Bayern Munich won this week — also by 3-0 on Wednesday against a Red Star Belgrade team which had to come through four qualifying rounds.

Juventus and Tottenham both let two-goal leads slip away from home, before drawing 2-2 against Atlético Madrid and Olympiakos, respectively.

PARIS SHINES

The biggest stars at the Parc des Princes were watching from expensive seats in the stands.

Neymar, who was suspended, and injured teammate Kylian Mbappe were captured by television cameras whooping and giggling at the sight of full-backs Juan Bernat and Thomas Meunier marching through Madrid’s defense in stoppage time to create and score a deserved third goal.

The third PSG star striker, Edinson Cavani, was also out injured yet the French champion’s victory was never in doubt.

“People say we’re not favorites and it can take the pressure off,” PSG coach Thomas Tuchel said.

PSG has flattered to deceive too often in recent Champions Leagues, though this looked like a statement win for Tuchel over Zinedine Zidane, who lifted the trophy in each of the three seasons he first coached Madrid from 2016-18.

Madrid’s biggest offseason signing Eden Hazard rarely connected with his teammates, while club veterans Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema had goals disallowed.

“Normally, with the players we have, we create a lot of chances and today it wasn’t possible,” Zidane said.

SPANISH STRUGGLES

It’s been a tough week for the big three of Spanish football.

Madrid failed to score on the road, like Barcelona which was lucky to take a 0-0 draw from Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday.

Atlético’s 2-2 draw at home showed more resolve and fight, and stopped long-time nemesis Cristiano Ronaldo — who was booed throughout by home fans — from scoring for Juventus. Goals from Juan Cuadrado and Blaise Matuidi had Juve dominating deep into the second half.

Atlético fought back through Stefan Savic in the 70th and Mexico midfielder Héctor Herrera leveled in the 90thwith a header from Kieran Trippier’s cross.

EASTERN PROMISE

Clubs from eastern Europe are often overmatched in the Champions League, and Dinamo Zagreb had lost its last 11 group-stage games, scoring just once.

Still, Zagreb gave a painful lesson to Atalanta, thrashing the Italian debutant 4-0. Mislav Orsic scored a hat trick.

Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini called it “a nightmare of a game. They were stronger in every aspect.”

Lokomotiv Moscow scored a rare away win for a Russian team, winning 2-1 at Bayer Leverkusen.

Red Star Belgrade couldn’t complete the hat trick of wins in Munich. Bayern controlled the game but had only Kingsley Coman’s first-half header to show before late goals from Robert Lewandowski and substitute Thomas Mueller.

EARLY DRAWS

Maybe it’s the unusual kickoff time — at 6:55 p.m. in most of Europe — but all four early evening starts produced draws this week.

Tottenham wasted a two-goal first-half lead at Olympiakos on Wednesday, taking control with a penalty by Harry Kane and a smart shot from Lucas Moura in Athens.

The Greek league runner-up struck back on the stroke of halftime before Mathieu Valbuena beat his former France teammate Hugo Lloris from the penalty spot in the..

In Belgium, Club Brugge drew 0-0 with Galatasaray, as both teams failed to make a stronger mark on Group A where PSG and Madrid are strongly favored to advance.

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