Return of the UCL - Winners & Reflectors
This week saw the return of Europe’s elite competition and boy did it live up to expectations. Liverpool and Manchester City were involved in five and nine goal thrillers respectively, shock defeats were in store for Barcelona and Manchester United and a star-studded PSG side failed to beat relative Champions League minnows, Club Brugge.
With the glut of goals and heroic upsets on show, there are plenty of talking points relating to the Goalkeeper’s Union.
This week Sparta Spotlight looks at the winners and reflectors of Matchday one in the 2021/22 Champions League.
Simon Mignolet - Club Brugge
A man familiar with English football fans, Simon Mignolet is still playing at a high-level with Club Brugge in his native Belgium.
Even the experienced Mignolet must have feared the worst seeing Neymar, Messi and Mbappe lining up for PSG, but he and his defence were able to keep the trip at arm’s length in a 1-1 draw in the Belgian capital.
Mignolet himself caused a bit of a stir when he said that the game was ‘not very difficult’ for the Belgian champions. Anyone who faces those three with not only their pride intact, but in a position to take the mick, is a winner in our book.
Thibaut Courtois - Real Madrid
Thibaut Courtois has had mixed reviews as Real’s stopper after his move from Chelsea, but has enjoyed a decent start under Carlo Ancelotti, whose side sit top of La Liga.
Wednesday night’s 1-0 victory over Inter Milan was a real smash and grab, with the Italian champions dominating much of the game before an 89th minute Rodrygo winner.
Inter had chance after chance, but the Belgium number one was able to keep Simone Inzaghi’s side at bay. The best save came from a thundering Edin Dzeko which Courtois was able to get a hand to and keep out.
Courtois will vastly improve his standing at the Bernabeu should he keep this form up.
Peter Gulasci - RB Leipzig
RB Leipzig have had a torrid start to Bundesliga life after Julian Nagelsmann and a 4-1 defeat at home to Bayern last weekend was followed up by shipping six in their opening group game.
Christopher Nkunku scored a hattrick for the German side but would watch on in dismay as his defence could do little to stop free scoring Man City in a 6-3 victory.
Gulasci was only able to get near Nathan Ake’s header which he tipped onto the crossbar and into the net and was dogged by a pretty hopeless Leipzig defence, themselves left exposed as they attacked aggressively.
The Hungarian, who played in his national side’s 4-0 defeat to England earlier in the month, will be pig sick of picking the ball out of his own net.
Antonio Adan - Sporting Lisbon
A 5-1 humbling at home to Ajax ensured Sporting Lisbon’s return to Champions League football after a four-year absence, was a dismal one.
West Ham flop Sebastian Haller put four past Antonio Adan who conceded five of Ajax’s six shots on target.
Adan could only stand and watch as Haller slotted home is fourth from inside the box to cap off a great European night for Ajax.
The former Real and Atletico Madrid stopper will be pleased a reduced crowd of 20,000 were permitted into the Jose Alvalade Stadium, or he could have been in for some serious stick.