We look back at the key UEFA Champions League stats, stories and moments that matter from Matchday 3 of the 2023-24 competition.
Newcastle United 0-1 Borussia Dortmund
It was all looking so promising for Newcastle; their first season back at Europe’s top table began with four points from two games against bona fide European heavyweights in AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain, the latter of whom they battered 4-1.
They went into the Matchday 3 visit of Borussia Dortmund with a 53.4% likelihood of topping Group F, making them the favourites. Furthermore, their opponents on Wednesday hadn’t scored a Champions League goal in three matches.
But now their prospects don’t look quite so rosy.
Losing Alexander Isak to injury early on was hardly helpful, and that came amid a ferocious start from Dortmund, who put Nick Pope to work right away with what was certainly the better of the play in the opening 30 minutes:
Dortmund eventually went ahead just before half-time as Felix Nmecha met Nico Schlotterbeck’s cut-back with a first-time finish into the right side of the net; that ended the club’s run of 377 minutes without a goal in the competition and ensured they weren’t going to be held to nil four matches in a row for the first time ever.
The first half served as a stark reminder for Newcastle, just in case they were starting to believe the hype after beating PSG. At the break, they’d conceded 29 shots in the opening 45 minutes of games in the competition this term, with only Crvena Zvezda facing more.
Proceedings were much tighter after the interval, though Newcastle still mustered a late onslaught.
Callum Wilson, Isak’s first-half replacement, hit the crossbar with a header in the 86th minute, just before the clock ticked a whole 30 minutes since Dortmund’s last shot.
Anthony Gordon then struck against the bar as well deep into second-half stoppage time as Dortmund just about held on to blow Group F wide open, with Newcastle dropping from first to third and their visitors going second behind PSG.
It doesn’t get much easier from here for Newcastle, either. They now have back-to-back trips to Dortmund and Paris to contend with, leaving them with a significantly reduced probability of winning the group (26.9%).
Death in the Group of Death?
Milan can’t score. Nevermind any successes in Serie A – they’re currently second but coming off a defeat to Juventus. After Wednesday’s 3-0 defeat to Paris Saint-Germain, Stefano Pioli’s side have now gone five straight Champions League matches dating to last season’s semi-final tie against Inter without scoring a goal.
That was acceptable through two group-stage matches because Milan didn’t concede either and a point against both Borussia Dortmund and Newcastle was hardly cause for sedition, but Wednesday’s loss has Milan midway through the group stage on two points at the bottom of Group F with a 23.4% chance of getting through.
This season’s UCL campaign started off promisingly enough, even if the finishing wasn’t there. Milan managed 25 shots (nine on target) with 1.99 xG on Matchday 1 at home against Newcastle. Rafael Leão was working the ball into the box. They looked legitimately dangerous and came out of that match feeling unlucky. But that dwindled to two shots on target against Dortmund on MD2 and 0.63 xG versus PSG.
After Dortmund’s 1-0 win against Newcastle, it leaves Milan and Benfica as the only two teams in the competition without a goal at the midway point of the opening round.
Perhaps two upcoming home matches against PSG and Dortmund – plus a little desperation – will get Milan started before it’s too late.
Numbers of a Favourite
No one expected Manchester City to struggle in Group G. And no one, through three matchdays, has been wrong. Sure, they’ve taken their time winning their Champions League matches, but Pep Guardiola’s side have won all three after Wednesday’s 3-1 victory over Young Boys.
While their goal difference of six is one back of Barcelona’s competition-leading mark, the underlying numbers are about as spectacular as you’d expect in a group with RB Leipzig, Young Boys and Crvena Zvezda.
They’re our favourites to win a second straight Champions League title, now with a 30.2% chance to lift the trophy in back-to-back seasons. Considering we’re still at the stage in the competition that houses 32 teams, that’s a pretty big number. It’s a pretty big number because Man City themselves put up pretty big numbers. Such as, but not limited to…
- Lead UCL in xG: Their 10.26 xG is nearly four more than the next best (Inter, 6.74).
- Lead UCL in xG against: Their 1.67 edges Real Sociedad (1.68).
- Lead UCL in xG difference: duh because – well – simple mathematics from above.
- Lead UCL in shots: 81 is more – much more – than 48 (next best Bayern Munich).
- Lead UCL in shots faced: 16 with Feyenoord next best at 23. The 16 shots they’ve faced aren’t only the fewest, but eight teams have allowed as many or more shots on target than City have allowed total shots.
- Lead UCL in sequences of 10+ passes: 80. Only two other teams have surpassed 60.
- Lead UCL in sequence start distance from goal: 46.9 metres. Next best is Feyenoord (46.8), whom we wrote about earlier today in this very post (read on).
While it may not have been a game to capture the imagination of many neutrals, Antwerp 1-4 FC Porto was momentous even before it kicked off.
It was a day to remember particularly for Porto centre-back Pepe, who at 40 years and 241 days old became the eldest outfield player to feature in a Champions League game.
The record had previously been 40 years and 211 days, which was curiously set by two players in 2010: Alessandro Costacurta and David Weir.
The Brazil-born Portugal international has been a colossus of European football through his career, particularly during a glittering 10-year spell with Real Madrid from 2007 to 2017, winning the competition three times at the Santiago Bernabéu.
Following two years at Besiktas, Pepe returned for a second spell at Porto in 2019 and is still going strong into his fifth decade.
However, Pepe’s still got a little way to go to become the Champions League’s outright oldest player; four goalkeepers (Mark Schwarzer, Olexandr Shovkovskiy, Gianluigi Buffon and Marco Ballotta) have all played in the competition aged 41 or older.
Ballotta holds the all-time record. The Italian was 43 years and 252 days old when he played against Real Madrid for Lazio in December 2007.
It’s a record that’ll take some beating, especially for outfield players. But in the home of Port, Pepe is aging like a fine wine nonetheless.
Teammate Evanilson also has reason to raise a glass; he became just the seventh player in Champions League history – and the first Brazilian – to score a hat-trick off the bench, his heroics proving decisive in Belgium.
Feyenoord 3-1 Lazio
On digital paper, Feyenoord-Lazio was the joint-closest matchup up of Champions League Matchday 3 in what’s shaping up to be a rather compelling group in this season’s competition. Lazio entered the match ranked 26th in the Opta Power Rankings with Feyenoord two places behind as the second best Dutch side (Milan and Paris Saint-Germain were also separated by two positions heading into today’s games).
On the pitch, the gap was far greater from the opening whistle as the Eredivisie champions took ahold of Group E with a 3-1 win at De Kuip.
The first goal came from the scoring source they’ve come to rely on domestically but haven’t yet been able to play in the Champions League. Santiago Giménez’s 31st-minute goal came not long after he had another disallowed for offside, and they didn’t slow down.
Ramiz Zerrouki made it 2-0 in first-half stoppage time with a first-time strike from the top of the box on a ball played back from the penalty area by Calvin Stengs – one of a match-leading seven chances created by the winger. Each of those chances came from open play for the highest single-match total by a player in the competition this season.
Giménez’s second came in the 74th minute, and the 22-year-old has now scored 15 goals on a nine-match scoring streak in all competitions. He’s the first Feyenoord player with a streak of that length in a decade.
Lazio have now gone 22 Champions League games without a clean sheet, which amounts to the longest active run of any side currently in the competition. They entered this match with a 61.1% chance of progressing with Feyenoord trailing behind at 48.7%.
They’ve swapped with Feyenoord as the second most likely team to progress (68.6% to Lazio’s 42.5, both behind Atlético Madrid) from the group, and for at least the next two hours, Arne Slot’s side are atop Group E with six points.
Barcelona 2-1 Shakhtar Donetsk
A great week for Fermín López got even better as the young midfielder scored what proved to be the winning goal on his first Champions League start for Barcelona.
The talented 20-year-old was signed in pre-season from Linares but has enjoyed a rapid ascension, breaking into the first-team squad and already signing a new contract to keep him tied to the club until 2027.
Just one day after that news was announced, Xavi handed Fermín his first Champions League start; he certainly repaid the faith.
He’d already hit the crossbar before eventually converting, picking out the bottom-left corner after cleverly turning away from a defender, adding to Ferran Torres’ opener.
That made Fermín the fifth-youngest Barcelona player to score to score on his first Champions League start at 20 years and 167 days old – he thought he had a second goal later but saw the towering header disallowed for a marginal offside call.
It was also a good day for Ferran, who’s opener came via a cool finish on the rebound after Fermín struck the bar. He was then the one to find the youngster for the second, making this the first time since April that he’s recorded a goal and an assist in the same game.
Despite Barcelona’s dominance, the second goal proved vital. Heorhii Sudakov (21y, 54d) became Shakhtar’s youngest Ukrainian scorer in the Champions League since November 2000 after the hour, forcing a slightly tense finale, but they got the job done to move on to nine points from three games.
The knockouts are within touching distance.
Manchester United 1-0 Copenhagen
Harry Maguire and André Onana were the heroes as Manchester United secured a much-needed first win of the season in the Champions League.
Erik ten Hag’s men were desperate for a win after losing their opening two Group A games against Bayern Munich and Galatasaray, and for large parts of Tuesday’s clash against Copenhagen they didn’t look like they were going to have an easy night of it.
Jacob Neestrup’s visitors enjoyed much of the play at Old Trafford and started strongest, recording five shots in the opening six minutes – including Diogo Gonçalves hitting the post – as United struggled to find their legs.
In a first half that barely featured anything worth noting, Copenhagen’s Elias Achouri tried to produce some magic with a nice run in from the left, only to drag his shot from range wide of the near post.
Christian Eriksen replaced Sofyan Amrabat at half-time for United, but it was again the visitors who threatened first in the second half as a counter attack ended with Viktor Claesson setting up Lukas Lerager, who was denied by a good save from Onana.
Former Liverpool goalkeeper Kamil Grabara made an equally impressive stop from Eriksen, though the Polish stopper was fortunate moments later to see a flag go up against Marcus Rashford after he brought the England international down in the area.
The arrival of Eriksen did indeed make a difference though as it was his cross following a cleared corner in the 72nd minute that allowed Maguire to put United ahead with a header from close range.
There was some late drama as Scott McTominay conceded a penalty in the last seconds of stoppage time, though it allowed Onana to make amends for some high-profile errors this season with an excellent save to his left to deny substitute Jordan Larsson from the spot.
Manchester United ended a run of five Champions League games without a win (D2 L3), and Onana’s save also ensured their first clean sheet in the competition since their last victory in November 2021 (2-0 vs Villareal).
Sevilla 1-2 Arsenal
Arsenal made hard work of their trip to Spain despite taking a two-goal lead after 53 minutes against Sevilla. Their three points at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan lifted them to first in Group B after PSV Eindhoven and Lens played out a 1-1 draw in the other game on Tuesday night.
Gabriel Martinelli had the first clear chance of the night but was denied by the feet of Ørjan Nyland in a one-on-one. The Brazilian would have to wait until the final act of the first half to make amends.
Gabriel Jesus sprung Martinelli free in the fourth minute of stoppage time at the end of the opening 45 and the winger made no mistake as he rounded Nyland and stroked it home to give Arsenal the lead. It was the first time two Brazilians have combined for a Champions League goal for Arsenal.
Martinelli has now scored on his first start in the Champions League (vs Sevilla), Europa League (vs Standard Liège), Premier League (vs West Ham) and EFL Cup (vs Nottingham Forest) for Arsenal.
It was the other Gabriel’s turn next time as Jesus picked the ball up on the right, cut inside and curled a peach beyond an outstretched Nyland.
Sevilla gave themselves a lifeline when Nemanja Gudelj headed home a corner at the near post as the Sanchez Pizjuan and Sevilla came to life. With new manager, Diego Alonso, emptying the bench of every attacking threat he had, Sevilla threw caution to the wind. And they were almost rewarded.
Arsenal rode their luck at times with Mariano Diaz rattling the crossbar, though he had handled the ball in the build-up. David Raya also punched a cross on to the top of his own net as Gunners fans begged for the final whistle. Lucas Ocampos had one last chance as time ran out but he blazed a shot wide from an awkward angle.
During the final sprint to the finish, Arsenal fans watched as Jesus limped off with what looked like a hamstring injury, and they will now hold their breath over the striker’s fitness after he only just returned from a layoff.
With 14 goals and four assists, Jesus has been involved in 18 goals in his last 17 starts in the Champions League, and is only the second player to score in his first three appearances for Arsenal in the competition, after Marouane Chamakh in 2010.
Sevilla finished with 56.3% possession but Arsenal travel back to London with all three points.
SC Braga 1-2 Real Madrid
It was a Jude Bellingham goal that ultimately sealed the deal for Real Madrid against Braga on Tuesday night in Portugal. Let’s be honest, it’s always a Jude Bellingham goal that ultimately seals the deal for Real Madrid.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side remain perfect in this season’s Champions League with their third win in a row despite some nervy moments at the Estádio Municipal de Braga.
Going into the game, Rodrygo had taken 41 shots for a total of 5.2 expected goals (xG), but only had one goal to show for his efforts. He improved that after 16 minutes on Tuesday night, though, when he finished from a Vinícius Júnior cross from the left. It was the Brazilians’ 16th goal in 42 games in the Champions League, just one fewer than he has managed in 118 LaLiga games (17).
Jude Bellingham netted his 11th goal in 12 games for Real Madrid since joining in the summer on 61 minutes to give Madrid a two-goal cushion. Only Serhou Guirassy (15) and Lautaro Martínez (12) have scored more for a team in Europe’s big five leagues this season.
His slick finish into the bottom corner of Braga’s net saw him equal Christian Karembeu with three goals in his first three games in the Champions League for Real Madrid. They are the only two players to achieve the feat in the club’s long and storied history in the competition.
Any notions Real Madrid had of taking their foot off the pedal with the Clásico on the horizon were short-lived. Álvaro Djaló found himself free in the penalty area and he smashed home to cut Madrid’s lead in half. Ancelotti’s men weathered the storm as Braga grew increasingly desperate and brave as the game ticked on.
There were 51 places in the Opta Power Rankings between these two teams at the start of the night, but you wouldn’t have known it from the trouble Braga caused the visitors late on.
Real Madrid managed to hold out though and can now turn their attention to domestic affairs. They also sit atop La Liga and face Barcelona – who play Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday night in Group H – in a game that could see them extend their lead to four points over their Clásico rivals.
Union Berlin 0-1 Napoli
Napoli sealed a second win in Group C in an unconvincing performance in Berlin, with Giacomo Raspadori scoring the only goal of a quiet game that saw a combined xG of just 0.69 (Union Berlin 0.44-0.25 Napoli).
Union Berlin have lost their first three games in the Champions League this season, becoming only the second German team to lose their first three matches in the competition, following Schalke 04 in 2001-02.
Union had faced their fair share of heartbreak in this season’s UCL, conceding stoppage-time goals to lose against both Real Madrid and Braga. The only side in the competition’s history to lose three such games in this manner in a single campaign is Dynamo Kyiv in 2003-04. Their fate was sealed a bit earlier this time, though.
The Bundesliga side were denied a superb opener in the first half as Chelsea loanee David Datro Fofana went on a run down the right side before squaring to Janik Haberer to score a simple tap in, but the flag went up against Fofana for offside.
Rani Khedira fired wide as Union continued to have the better of it in their first ever game against Italian opposition, with Fofana (1) the only player on the pitch to have a shot on target in the first half.
It took until the 65th minute for Napoli to register their first shot on target, and it gave them the only goal of the game as good work from Khvicha Kvaratskhelia saw the Georgian maestro find Raspadori to finish at the near post.
Raspadori joined a list of players born from 2000 onwards to have scored at least five goals in the last two Champions League seasons, along with Jude Bellingham, Rodrygo, Erling Haaland, Vinícius and Julián Álvarez.
Since the start of last season, only Vinícius and Kevin De Bruyne (6 each) have provided more Champions League assists than Kvaratskhelia (5).
Napoli sit second in the group, three points behind Real Madrid and three ahead of Braga, while Union remain pointless at the bottom.
Galatasaray 1-3 Bayern Munich
Despite both featuring so often in the European Cup/Champions League over the years, it may have surprised people that this was the first meeting between Galatasaray and Bayern Munich since the 1972-73 European Cup first round.
The Turkish giants had not won at home in the competition since September 2018, going winless in their previous six, and despite a valiant effort in a game in which they were much the better side for an hour, that ultimately became winless in seven on Tuesday (D3 L4).
Bayern were looking to win their opening three games of a Champions League campaign for the fifth consecutive year, having done so in every season since 2019-20. After beating Galatasaray, they have won each of their last eight away games in the group stage of the competition and are unbeaten in their last 19 away from home in the group stage (W17 D2).
It was a bright start for the hosts, but it was Bayern who took the lead with their first attack. The Germans countered well with Jamal Musiala combining with Leroy Sané, who found Kingsley Coman in acres of space to his right. Coman had time to take a touch and fire low across Fernando Muslera into the far corner.
Coman is now one of four players to score in each of the last seven Champions League seasons (since 2017-18) along with Robert Lewandowski, Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappé.
Kerem Aktürkoğlu – one of our players to keep an eye on before the competition began – forced Sven Ulreich into a superb reaction save moments later, before somehow skying an effort from point-blank range after Ulreich palmed across straight into his path.
Galatasaray kept pushing and were rewarded just before the half-hour mark as Mauro Icardi went down under a challenge from Joshua Kimmich, resulting in a penalty. Icardi missed a spot kick in the 2-1 win at Manchester United on MD 2, which made his successful Panenka to make it 1-1 against Bayern feel all the cheekier.
Okan Buruk’s men had 16 shots in the first half to Bayern’s three, the first time on record (since 2003-04) that Bayern had conceded 14 or more shots in the opening 45 minutes of a Champions League game.
Galatasaray appeared to tire as the game went on, and that was all Bayern needed to edge back ahead. Musiala passed inside for Harry Kane, who needed two goes at it but eventually forced the ball in with just under 20 minutes remaining at Rams Park. It was the former Tottenham man’s 11th goal of the season for the Bundesliga champions.
The victory was wrapped up in the 79th minute when Kane repaid the favour to Musiala, passing from the left to give the youngster a simple finish to make it 3-1 and put Bayern on nine points in Group A, with Galatasaray left on four.
Inter Milan 2-1 Salzburg
Inter Milan took a big step towards the knockout stages of the Champions League with a 2-1 win over Red Bull Salzburg at San Siro on Tuesday evening. Goals in either half from Alexis Sánchez and Hakan Çalhanoğlu did the job against the spirited and attacking young Austrian side.
Sánchez became the top-scoring Chilean in Champions League history when he struck in the first half after a nice pass into the penalty area from Henrikh Mkhitaryan, which was inadvertently flicked on by Davide Frattesi.
It was Sánchez’s 16th goal among Europe’s elite. With that strike, he overtook Arturo Vidal, who scored 15 during his time in Europe – hitting his UCL goals for Inter, Bayern Munich and Juventus. Sánchez has netted in the Champions League for Barcelona, Arsenal, Inter and Marseille.
Salzburg’s young guns did level things through 19-year-old Oscar Gloukh after a sweeping move up the field but their grip on a draw soon slipped when Frattesi became the meat in a Lucas Gourna-Douath and Strahinja Pavlovic sandwich in the penalty area.
Up stepped Çalhanoğlu and the writing was on the wall. Çalhanoğlu has scored all nine of his attempts from the spot since joining Inter. It was the first penalty the Italians had scored at San Siro in the Champions League since 13 March 2012 when Giampaolo Pazzini netted from the spot against Marseille.