We look back at the key UEFA Champions League stats stories and moments that matter from Matchday 1 of the 2023-24 competition.
Goal and Assist for Kane as Onana Howler Hands Bayern Win Against Man Utd
Manchester United’s return to the Champions League could barely have been more difficult, and though they showed some late fight, it was in vain as Bayern Munich won 4-3 at the Allianz Arena, with Harry Kane grabbing a goal and an assist. It means that United have now conceded three or more goals in three consecutive games for the first time since December 1978 under Dave Sexton.
André Onana’s error for Bayern’s opener will grab the headlines, but in fairness, the former Ajax and Inter Milan goalkeeper hasn’t really been to blame for Man Utd’s poor start to the season. He’s faced 29 shots on target in his five Premier League games, conceding nine. Only five Premier League teams have faced more shots on target this season.
Manchester United started well enough in Munich, with Bayern not having a shot until the 20th minute, and even that was blocked. However, there was no blocking to be found eight minutes later when Leroy Sané hit a relatively tame shot from the edge of the box, with Onana inexplicably letting it through his hands and in. The expected goal (xG) value of Sane’s effort was only 0.02, somewhat highlighting the extent to which the Cameroonian stopper really should have saved it.
Serge Gnabry doubled that advantage less than five minutes later after superb work from Jamal Musiala down the left. The former Arsenal player now has seven goals in his last six appearances against English clubs in the Champions League, also scoring against Tottenham (four) and Chelsea (two). That amounts to 47% of Gnabry’s Champions League career goals (7 of 15).
The visitors needed a quick response in the second half, and they got it when some neat play around the Bayern box led to Rasmus Højlund getting his first goal for United via a deflection off Kim Min-jae. The Premier League side’s optimism didn’t last though as a penalty was given for handball against former Tottenham man Christian Eriksen and was scored by former Tottenham man Kane. Kane now has the second-best penalty conversion rate in the 21st century in all competitions (min. 50 penalties taken) with 88% (44 out of 50). Only former Bayern striker Robert Lewandowski has a better rate (90% – 60 out of 67).
Casemiro pulled two goals back either side of substitute Mathys Tel adding another for the hosts. United may take solace from their late fightback, but they have lost four of their opening six competitive matches to a season for the first time since 1986-87 under Ron Atkinson.
Arsenal Blow PSV Away with Fast Start
Arsenal’s most recent Champions League game is finally not a 5-1 humbling defeat at home to Bayern Munich. Instead, it’s now a very comfortable 4-0 home victory against PSV Eindhoven.
It’s safe to say the first big European night for this new Arsenal era could not have gone better. Key behind their dominant win was their splendid first-half performance, as they raced out of the blocks and caught their visitors cold.
Bukayo Saka’s eighth-minute goal was the earliest Arsenal have ever scored in their opening match of a UEFA Champions League campaign, and it was one of seven shots on target they had in the first half, as their 10 shots overall brought them a total of 1.85 expected goals. Only once before in Champions League history have Arsenal landed more shots on target in a first half (8 vs. Standard Liège in 2009), and they’ve only amassed a higher first-half xG total on one prior occasion (2.15 vs. Sporting Braga in 2010).
Leandro Trossard and Gabriel Jesus added two more first-half goals to make the score 3-0 at half time. Arsenal have only ever hit more than that once previously, scoring four in the first half in a 5-1 home win against Rosenborg back in 2004.
Martin Ødegaard added a fourth in the second half as Arsenal begin a Champions League campaign with a win on Matchday 1 for the first time since 2013-14.
They already look a lock to win Group B comfortably.
Salzburg Young Guns Win in Portugal
Behold, the youngest starting XI in UEFA Champions League history:
The 11 players who started for FC Salzburg against Benfica tonight had a staggering average age of just 21 years and 183 days old. Six of those players were under the age of 21.
Roko Šimić (aged 20) and Oscar Gloukh – who at 19 is the first Israeli teenager to record a Champions League goal – scored for the away side, as the youngsters pulled off a brilliant away win in Portugal. Their goals mean that each of Salzburg’s last 21 Champions League goals have been scored by players aged 23 or younger.
This was Benfica’s first Champions League group stage defeat since losing 5-2 to Bayern Munich in November 2021 – they had previously gone eight unbeaten in group games before tonight (W5 D3).
Ironically, it was a teenager on the opposition side who handed them a massive leg up in this contest. 19-year-old Benfica defender António Silva was sent off after just 13 minutes after handling the ball on his own goal line. Silva is only the 16th teenager to be sent off in a Champions League match and the youngest ever Portuguese player to see red.
Šimić dispatched the resulting penalty to send the Austrians on their way to just their fourth away win in 17 Champions League matches. They now have a 65.1% of qualifying from Group D.
Sevilla’s Old Guard Unable to See Through Lens
Sevilla went with an opposite approach to Salzburg. With Sergio Ramos and Jesús Navas both featuring for Sevilla tonight against Lens, it was the first time a team have fielded two outfield players aged 37+ in a Champions League game since Manchester United did so in December 2012 (Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs vs. CFR Cluj).
However, despite all that experience and all the medals they have between them, José Luis Mendilibar’s team were unable to beat their French opponents at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán Stadium.
It started well enough for the UEFA Europa League holders, with Lucas Ocampos giving them the lead in the ninth minute with a flicked header past Brice Samba. Since Mendilibar took charge of Sevilla in March, only Youssef En-Nesyri (nine) has been directly involved in more goals than Ocampos in all competitions (six – four goals and two assists).
Lens were level soon after though as Angelo Fulgini smashed in a superb free-kick into the top-right corner of the net. It was the third direct free kick scored in the Champions League this season in just 16 games, already equalling the total across the competition in the whole of 2022-23 (three in 125 games).
Sevilla weren’t able to get back in front, and the game ended all square. They have now only won two of the last seven Champions League games in which they have scored first (D2 L3). Lens should probably have won it themselves, having twice as many shots as the home side did (10-5) in the second half.
There are still five games to go, but should Sevilla end up in third place in Group B, at least there’s always the Europa League…
Jude Bellingham Saves Real Madrid Once Again
As far as places to make your Champions League debut go, the Santiago Bernabéu is one of the worst (or best, depending on your disposition) stadiums to do it. Nevertheless, that was the task of tournament newcomers Union Berlin, and they got heartbreakingly close to earning a valiant point.
But Real Madrid’s new golden boy, Jude Bellingham, had other ideas, popping up in Union’s box to score a 94th-minute winner.
Given his remarkable start to life in Madrid – the Englishman already has five goals in five La Liga games, including three match-winners – it was hard to imagine Bellingham’s star rising any higher in the Spanish capital. But European nights are that extra bit special for Carlo Ancelotti’s men, and Bellingham delivered once again when his side needed him.
Aged 20 years and 83 days old, Bellingham is now the youngest player to score a 90th-minute winning goal for Real Madrid in the Champions League, and the youngest Englishman to do so in the competition for any side.
It earned Madrid what was, on reflection, a well-earned three points. Ancelotti’s men absolutely dominated the game, taking 32 shots to Union Berlin’s four and registering north of 3.0 expected goals.
The former Dortmund man now has six goals in all competitions in 2023-24. The rest of the Madrid squad have five combined.
This is Bellingham’s world and we’re all just living in it.
Need a Hero? Step Forward Ivan Provedel
Deep into injury time, trailing Atlético Madrid 1-0, Lazio needed a miracle to rescue a point in their opening game of the UEFA Champions League season. Their goalkeeper Ivan Provedel provided just that, with a bullet header from Luis Alberto’s teasing cross in the fifth minute of added time.
It’s not Provedel’s first professional goal, either. He also scored a 95th-minute header to rescue a draw in a Serie B game back in February 2020. Away at Ascoli and losing 2-1, he scored Juve Stabia’s second goal to earn them a point with a 2-2 draw.
The Italian is the fourth goalkeeper to score in the UEFA Champions League, and just the second to do so excluding penalties.
Hans-Jörg Butt is still the goalkeeper with the most UCL goals, netting three spot-kicks, all for different teams (Bayer Leverkusen, Bayern Munich and Hamburg) in different matches, but all against the same opponent – Juventus. You won’t find many quirkier Champions League stats than that.
Provedel was the first goalkeeper to score in the competition since Vincent Enyeama’s penalty for Hapoel Tel Aviv versus Lyon in September 2010, while the only other goalkeeper to score from open play in the competition was Sinan Bolat for Standard Liège against AZ Alkmaar in December 2009.
Goalkeepers to Score in the UEFA Champions League
Jörg Butt – Hamburg vs. Juventus: 13 September 2000 (penalty)
Jörg Butt – Bayer Leverkusen vs. Juventus: 12 March 2002 (penalty)
Jörg Butt – Bayern Munich vs. Juventus: 8 December 2009 (penalty)
Sinan Bolat – Standard Liège vs. AZ: 9 December 2009
Vincent Enyeama – Hapoel Tel Aviv vs. Lyon: 29 September 2010 (penalty)
Ivan Provedel – Lazio vs. Atlético Madrid: 19 September 2023
41 Before 25
Whether it was a penalty for you or not, Kylian Mbappé converted it. Following a Borussia Dortmund handball in the penalty area, Mbappé stepped to the spot in the 49th minute and scored his 41st Champions League goal as Paris Saint-Germain got out in front of the group of death with a 2-0 win following the Milan-Newcastle draw. He settled for the one goal after stringing together three straight matches with braces in Ligue 1, but it gets him within 10 of Lionel Messi’s record of 51 Champions League goals before the age of 25.
Now, to match or surpass that mark, Mbappé has some serious work to do, and he could have made it somewhat easier had he converted one or two of his late chances on Tuesday. He turns 25 on 20 December, meaning he’s only got the five remaining group-stage matches this season to get there. He got the first 41 in 62 matches with PSG and Monaco, but as we said above, he’s been dealing in braces lately. Can he get the next 10 or 11 in five? That may be particularly difficult with the level of competition PSG face in Group F with Dortmund, Milan and Newcastle United, all of whom rank within the top 17 of the Opta Power Rankings.
Even if he were to pull off that ridiculous pace, Erling Haaland may have something to say about it. The Manchester City striker is six goals behind Mbappé and won’t turn 25 until 21 July 2025, meaning Haaland has all of this season and next season to track down Messi.
Of the 41 UCL goals Mbappé has scored, 35 have been for PSG. Among Frenchmen to score for one specific side in the competition, that draws him level with Thierry Henry at Arsenal, while only Karim Benzema for Real Madrid (78) more.
Lewandowski’s Century Quest Continues
Even Robert Lewandowski will tell you there is zero chance of him catching Cristiano Ronaldo’s 140-goal record UEFA Champions League goal tally, or even the 129 scored by Messi in second. However, both of those are gone from Europe now, with fourth-ranked Benzema joining Ronaldo in Saudi Arabia. This leaves Lewandowski out on his own among the top scoring UCL players of all-time to still be playing in the competition.
His target will undoubtedly be to become just the third player to reach 100 goals in the competition (excluding qualifiers), and he edged closer with a goal versus Royal Antwerp on Tuesday. Now on 92 goals, he’s just eight away from the century.
Antwerp were the 33rd team to concede a goal to the Polish striker in the Champions League, with Lewandowski’s spread lower than only Messi (40), Ronaldo (38) and Benzema (34) in the competition.
At 35 years and 29 days old, Lewandowski also became Barcelona’s all-time oldest goalscorer in the Champions League, overtaking Gerard Piqué (34y 260d). With age no longer on his side, he’ll be hoping Barcelona can get past the group stage to help him on his personal goal quest. Despite five goals in five UCL games last season, they exited before the knockout stages and dropped into the Europa League, but with arguably the easiest group this time around, it’s unlikely to happen again.
Reigning Champions Prevail… Eventually
In the end, Manchester City eased to a win over Crvena Zvezda, as expected. But at half-time, with Pep Guardiola’s side wasteful in front of goal – failing to score with 22 shots worth 2.32 xG – the Serbian side took advantage, Osman Bukari scoring with their only first-half shot on the counter attack.
It took just 72 seconds and one shot into the second half for City to do what they failed to do before the break, with Julián Álvarez netting his first of two goals in this win. Overall, Álvarez was in electric form, having direct involvement in 15 of their shots on the night (eight shots, seven chances created). Only four players have been involved in more within a single UCL match since 2003-04 – two of those were Cristiano Ronaldo (the others were Arjen Robben and Kaká, if you’re asking).
Only once in the previous 28 seasons have the competition holders lost their opening group-stage match, with Liverpool going down 2-0 at Napoli in 2019-20. City didn’t make the same mistake as their Premier League rivals, to back up the Opta supercomputer’s prediction of making them heavy favourites to be just the second side to retain the UEFA Champions League title after Real Madrid in three years between 2016 and 2018.
Erling Haaland – last season’s top scorer in the Champions League with 12 goals – failed to score for a fourth consecutive appearance in the competition, extending his personal record drought in the UCL. He could afford to have an off night in front of goal, with Álvarez in such exciting form.
Overall, Man City had 37 shots in this win – only three teams on record (since 2003-04) have had more inside 90 minutes of a UCL match, while only four teams have attempted more than their 16 shots on target tonight. It may have only ended 3-1, but it was an utterly dominant performance from Pep Guardiola’s side.
João Felix’s UCL Arrival
If you watched Barcelona’s 5-0 win over Antwerp, you witnessed a quarter of João Felix’s career Champions League goal involvements. It was his Barcelona debut in the competition, and the Portugal international got the scoring started in the 11th minute, assisted Robert Lewandowski eight minutes later, then scored his second in the 66th. It’s the first time he’s had three goal involvements in a UCL match and fourth time he’s had at least three in his club career dating back to his time with Benfica.
Felix hasn’t traditionally thrived in the Champions League – at least from a goals and assists perspective – having scored seven goals with two assists in his previous 32 matches with Benfica, Atlético Madrid and Chelsea. Two of those goals came from the penalty spot.
This time last year, Felix was still with Atlético for six group-stage matches before his winter move in time for four UCL matches for Chelsea. He didn’t score or assist across 463 minutes with both clubs to extend a streak of matches in the competition without a goal or assist to 13.
That’s over, and the 23-year-old now has three goals and an assist in 142 minutes across three matches for his new club.
Milan 0-0 Newcastle
AC Milan were drawn into the Champions League group of death a season after reaching the semi-finals, and they reached that elite European stage with what at times was a rather conservative style. They didn’t allow a goal in their final two group-stage matches through their first quarter-final clash with Napoli, and on that five-game run Milan never had an advantage in possession. After the group stage, they never managed more than four shots on target in a match.
Things started faster on Tuesday at San Siro against Group F opponents Newcastle, with Rafael Leão dancing the ball through penalty area and Rade Krunić creating three chances in the first 19 minutes, but being on the front foot didn’t translate to three points – or even a goal.
Stefano Pioli’s side were consistently more aggressive out of the gate with six shots on target in the first 20 minutes, and they ended the first half with seven, the most they’ve managed in the first half of a Champions League match dating to 2003-04. Their 15 shots in the half were the most they’ve had since 17 against BATE in 2011-12, while it took Newcastle 41 minutes to produce their first attempt after a two-decade absence from the competition.
Milan eased off somewhat in the second half but were still the more threatening side, finishing with 25 shots and nine on target. The data says it should have amounted to two goals with a 2.08-0.19 expected goals advantage, and the history books confirm there have only been four occasions since 2003-04 of a team having more shots on target in a UCL game without scoring than Milan had on Tuesday. Milan themselves were held goalless in 2005 with 13 shots on target against PSV, while Braga and Atlético Madrid (twice) have reached 10 shots on target without scoring.
On an individual level, Krunić finished the match with seven chances created (four from corners) to match Sandro Tonali’s effort from a group-stage match last season against Dinamo Zagreb for the most by a Milan player since 2012-13.
Eddie Howe’s side didn’t have a shot on target until second-half stoppage time and were out-touched in the opposition penalty area 33-10, but an away point against one of last season’s semi-finalists is something for them to work with to start the competition after a generation away from it.