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Winners & Losers

Champions League winners and losers: The Haaland show, Mo Salah wakes up & Lewandowski gets burned by his ex

5:53 AM EDT 9/15/22
Champions League winners & losers
This is Erling Haaland's world and you're just living in it.

We love the Champions League.

After a weekend that saw football in England brought to a standstill, a fresh round of group-stage matches in Europe's elite club competition could not have been timed any better.

Matchday two gave us relief for Liverpool and records for Messi. There was UEFA defiance, there was Haaland. Because of course there was Haaland.

This is the Champions League and these are your winners and losers. Enjoy.

  • Mohamed Salah Liverpool 2022-23

    WINNER: Liverpool & Mo Salah

    Held by Everton, ripped to shreds by Napoli, anything but a win against Ajax would've been unthinkable for Liverpool.

    It wasn't anywhere close to perfection but Jurgen Klopp's side got the job done and they're off the mark in the Champions League for 2022-23.

    The added bonus? Mohamed Salah scoring his first Champions League goal in eight (!) matches.

    The Egyptian has been nowhere near his best this season but his goal - and the win - will be a welcome relief as the Reds head into a two-week break without any football.

  • Robert Lewandowski Barcelona 2022-23

    LOSER: Robert Lewandowski

    Getting burned by your ex cuts deep.

    Matchday two was teed up rather nicely for Robert Lewandowski to return to Bayern Munich and rub their faces in it but it didn't go according to plan.

    In fairness, Lewandowski received a largely positive welcome from a fanbase who hadn't forgotten what the Pole achieved in Bavaria but the reaction might not have been as cordial had the Barcelona striker found a way past Manuel Neuer.

    He probably should've done too - that huge chance he blazed over in the 18th minute was uncharacteristically wasteful - but it wasn't to be, for Barca or for Lewandowski. Onto the next one.

  • Neymar Kylian Mbappe PSG 2022-23

    WINNER: Mbappe, Neymar & Messi

    Neymar and Kylian Mbappe aren't the best of friends. That much is obvious. So how do you keep them both happy? Simple: goals.

    Goals make everything better and in Haifa there was one each for Mbappe and Neymar, while the GOAT also got in on the act - it's the first time they've all scored in the same the Champions League match. Everyone goes home happy tonight.

    Spare a thought for Cristiano Ronaldo, though - Messi surpassed his eternal rival on Wednesday night as he scored against a 39th different Champions League opponent. We doubt CR7 was watching though, he's got the Europa League to prepare for.

  • Emerson Royal Tottenham 2022-23

    LOSER: Tottenham's flaky defence

    Messi, is that you? Marcus Edwards - once of Tottenham - did his best GOAT impression on Tuesday night as he slalomed his way past the entire Spurs defence before being denied by Hugo Lloris for what would have been one of the all-time top Champions League goals.

    A let off for Antonio Conte's men but they weren't going to get away with it.

    They had to wait until stoppage time but Sporting finally got their reward as first Paulinho flicked home into the far corner of the net to give the hosts the lead before Arthur Gomes sent Emerson Royal back to London on his way to adding a second.

    Truth is, if wasn't for Lloris - who made six saves in total - it could've been a whole lot worse.

  • Erling Haaland goal Manchester City Dortmund 2022-23

    WINNER: Erling Haaland

    This guy. He's something else isn't he? Different breed. A football alien. A terminator.

    After being pretty anonymous for 83 minutes, Erling Haaland pops up with a moment of genius to convert Joao Cancelo's delicious cross and break the hearts of his former employers. It was Cruyff-esque and it was beautiful. It was elastic, breathtaking, and pretty terrifying. If he's volleying head height balls into the top corner we are all in trouble.

    That's 26 Champions League goals in 22 games. At 22 years old. Insane.

  • Queen tribute Rangers

    LOSER: UEFA

    Does anyone listen to UEFA? Rangers definitely don't.

    In a show of defiance to honour the late Queen Elizabeth II, fans inside Ibrox boomed out 'God Save the King' after Europe's governing body banned the playing of the anthem.

    The Nazi salutes and general chaos that was Marseille vs Frankfurt isn't a good look for UEFA either. Throw in the disgusting treatment of fans ahead of last season's Champions League final and it's more embarrassment for Aleksandar Ceferin's organisation.

    Oh, and FFP's going fantastically well too...

  • Antonio Nusa Club Brugge 2022-23

    WINNER: The minnows

    The Champions League wasn't made for the minnows.

    UEFA wants Real Madrid, it wants Liverpool. Bayern Munich and Barcelona. It wants the biggest and best players in the world, showcasing their talents to a global audience. It doesn't want upsets and it definitely doesn't want an ex-Championship striker stealing the limelight.

    That's exactly what happened on Wednesday night as former QPR forward Tjaronn Chery scored Maccabi Haifa's first Champions League goal in 20 years, against the mighty PSG no less. Scenes.

    And can we talk about Club Brugge as well?

    The Belgian champions - unfancied in Group B - dismantled Porto to continue their 100% start to the group stages, with NXGN favourite Antonio Nusa becoming the youngest player to score on his Champions League debut. What a night. What a team.

  • Juventus Benfica 2022-23

    LOSER: Juventus fans

    The last two years haven't been great for Juventus fans. Pretty dismal actually.

    After winning their ninth consecutive Serie A title in 2020, it's been downhill from there. Ronaldo's left, so has Dybala. Fourth in 2021 and fourth again - with less points - at the end of last season.

    It's not been much better in Europe either.

    In fact, Wednesday night's home defeat to Benfica perfectly summed up Juve's predicament and where they are at the moment. They were outplayed and outclassed, and on their own patch.

    The empty seats inside the Allianz Stadium were telling - the fans have had enough. Premium prices to watch that? No thanks.

  • Jude Bellingham Manchester City Borussia Dortmund 2022

    WINNER: Gareth Southgate

    He'll have enjoyed that, the England manager.

    With just two months to go until the World Cup starts, time is running out for Gareth Southgate to piece together a squad - and starting line-up - he's happy with.

    In fairness, it's been a bit of a comedown since Euro 2020, with many of his XI from that tournament struggling for form or fitness - and some have been completely binned off by their club sides. Luke Shaw we're looking at you.

    Still, matchday two of the Champions League offered some solace for Southgate.

    Jude Bellingham demonstrated once again he's more than capable of starting - and starring - for his country, while Raheem Sterling continued his productive start to 2022-23 with another goal.

    There was even a blockbuster strike from John Stones. It might just be coming home (sorry).