Messi Falters, Haller Shines in Thrilling Night

  • The Champions League provided one of its most memorable nights ever on Wednesday. 
  • PSG drew with Club Brugge on Lionel Messi’s European debut, while Manchester City won a nine-goal thriller.
  • Former West Ham striker Sebastien Haller also scored four goals as Ajax beat Sporting Lisbon. 

It was supposed to be Lionel Messi’s night.

Making his first start in the Champions League for his new club Paris Saint Germain against the unfavored Club Brugge on Wednesday, the Argentine lined up alongside Neymar and Kylian Mbappe in the sort of front three dreams are made of.

The trio, however, in particular Messi, faltered as the world’s richest team was held to a 1-1 draw by the reigning Belgian champion.

Ander Herrera scored PSG’s only goal on the night, sweeping home Mbappe’s low cross after just 15 minutes.

But the visitors were soon pegged back when the excellent Hans Vanaken finished off a superb team move by crashing the ball into the top corner from the middle of the box.

Thereafter, a resolute Brugge stood strong while PSG failed to blow down the doors, managing just three shots on target for the rest of the game, one of which saw Messi hit the bar.

“I didn’t really have a lot of work to do, we played very well collectively,” said Brugge keeper Simon Mignolet after the match.

“We tried to defend collectively to not leave them with any spaces. I made two or three saves, that weren’t that difficult.”

Brugge manager Philippe Clement called the result the “most beautiful” of his career, while PSG boss Mauricio Pochettino conceded that his superstar group of players are “not a team yet.”

Haller steals the show for Ajax

While Messi struggled to make an impact on his Champions League debut for his new club, the same certainly can’t be said about Ajax’s Sebastien Haller.

Making his first European appearance for the Dutch side since completing a $28 million switch from West Ham in January, Haller hit four goals as Erik ten Hag’s men thrashed Sporting Lisbon 5-1.

Haller took just two minutes to get off the mark and added a second after just nine.

Sporting pulled one back for the hosts in the 33rd minute, but Steven Berguis restored Ajax’s lead moments later with his first goal of the season.

After the break, Haller hit a brace to complete the scoring.

The Ivorian’s four goals saw him become only the second player in Champions League history to score four on his maiden appearance in the competition.

A post shared by Sébastien Haller (@sebastien.haller)

“We made a really strong performance, and for myself also, a dream debut,” the former Hammer, who scored just 10 goals during his 18-month spell in England, said after the match.

“I’m just happy.”

A thriller at the Etihad 

Nine goals, a wasted hat-trick, a comical own goal, and a red card — Wednesday’s clash between Manchester City and RB Leipzig had it all.

Defender Nathan Ake opened the scoring in the 16th minute, before Nordi Mukiele scored a calamitous own goal to double City’s advantage.

Unable to read a teasing cross from midfielder Kevin De Bruyne, the Frenchman daringly attempted to head the ball back to keeper Peter Gulacsi, only to see it go straight into his own net.

Despite City’s dominance, Leipzig’s Christopher Nkunku made sure the home side wasn’t going to run away with things.

The midfielder hit a sublime hat-trick – scoring between strikes from City’s Riyad Mahrez, Jack Grealish, and Joao Cancelo – to set up a tense finish.

After Leipzig’s Angelino, formerly of City, was sent off in the 79th minute, however, Brazilian striker Gabriel Jesus scored from close range to complete the scoring an seal an impressive 6-3 win for Pep Guardiola’s side.

While the match was a thriller, there were over 10,000 empty seats at the Etihad on the night, resulting in Guardiola pleading with the club’s fans to do better in future.

“I would say the last three games we played here we scored 16 goals,” Guardiola told BT Sport. “So I would like to come more people next game on Saturday, we need the people next Saturday. Please.”

Elsewhere in a thrilling European night of action, Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson scored a stunning goal to hand the Reds a deserved 3-2 victory over AC Milan; Erling Braut Haaland scored his 66th goal in 66 games for Borussia Dortmund as it beat Besiktas 2-1; and Moldovan team Sheriff Tiraspol pulled off an unlikely victory over Shakhtar Donetsk. 


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