A scrappy 2-1 win was the outcome against Montpellier, as The Brain and Lukas Podolski continued their goalscoring runs to overturn an early deficit.
Truth be told I missed almost all of this game, my dodgy internet connection only served to intensify my already-grumpy-at-having-to-get-up-up-at-4.30am mood. I saw all three goals, but only in a mess of enlarged pixels and broken commentary. Then some absolute chump of a copyright lawyer (or one of his cronies) got the stream turned off. As such, there’s not really much I can say about the game this game first-hand outside of the highlights I saw a little later on. So take this post with a grain of salt.
It was clear the debutants turned up tonight, as Léo thought they might in our slightly left-of-centre match preview, and they looked more French champions than relegation candidates. On the evidence provided by the chances they created in the second half they’ll definitely cause problems for the other two sides in the group — Schalke and Olympiakos — and I can still see them qualifying. Even from the highlights you could see what a canny and clever player Younes Belhanda is and his penalty was the height of confidence on a big stage.
For our boys, what can you say? We showed great tenacity to overturn the deficit so quickly and turn a potentially sour night into something extremely positive. A point away from home is always a good result in the Champions League, so to get three in our opening match from a losing position was a terrific outcome. Montpellier might have battered us in the second half and really should have leveled the game, but our ability to hold onto the result illustrated again the resolve this team appears to possess.
I can’t hide my delight for The Brain after his third goal in two games. He is a player I enjoy watching so much and adding the final product to his excellent dribbling skills makes him a dangerous prospect. Finishing doesn’t seem to come naturally to him — even his goal tonight came off the knobby bit on his ankle rather than the leather of his boot — but the more things go his way the more confidence he will build. The more players we have contributing goals the less pressure there is on any one player to replace Robin van Persie and in The Brain’s case, as an already-established player in this squad, his contribution affords Olivier Giroud that little bit longer to settle in.
Speaking of Giroud, by all reports his hold-up play in the first half was excellent and we got another taste of what he can provide in and around the area for Podolski’s goal. It seemed Montpellier were overly concerned about their former superstar — as many as three players converged on him with his back turned on the edge of the area — and the clever switch to set Podolski free was an efficient piece of play. The goals will come for him but with assists like this coupled with Gervinho and Podolski’s contributions we’re hardly gagging for them.
The final flourish on an excellent night (or morning, if you’re me) of football came as Manchester City fell to Real Madrid despite leading twice in the last 20 minutes. It was absolute humdinger of a game, Madrid having the best of it until a City counter-attack and goal set the pitch on fire. Gameplans went out the window as both sides traded goals with Cristiano Ronaldo grabbing the late winner, hitting a dipping shot past Joe Hart.
If that game tells us anything it is that (1) City are there to be got at and (2) City are still dangerous when they are there to be got at. Yaya Toure’s bursts from midfield were Diaby-esque in nature and they have an abundance of talent that will need to be shackled this weekend. It is great that both City and us travelled this week, even better that we got the psychological boost of the three points and they didn’t. It puts us in a good position to challenge for points on Sunday night. What a belter that game should be.
All in all an excellent result and if readers out there could share more of their thoughts on the game, I’d absolutely love to hear them.