The 2021/2022 season of the UEFA Champions League began with a blockbuster as Young Boys of Switzerland stunned Manchester United 2-1 in the opening Group F game at the Stade de Suisse on Tuesday.
The returning Cristiano Ronaldo, who became the joint all-time Champions League appearance holder on his 177th appearance in the competition, fired United ahead after an exquisite pass from fellow Portuguese, Bruno Fernandes.
The all-time Champions League top scorer now has 135 goals in the competition.
United played for almost an hour with 10 men after Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s dangerous challenge on Christopher Martins in the 35th minute earned the defender a straight red card.
They looked set to hang on for a point in an entertaining match after Cameroon winger Moumi Ngamaleu’s equaliser for Young Boys in the 66th minute.
But a 95th-minute mistake by substitute Jesse Lingard – who had replaced Ronaldo with 18 minutes left – allowed Jordan Siebatcheu to score the winner for the team that had to come through qualifying to reach the group stage.
The home fans celebrated wildly while Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was left to reflect on a performance which saw United muster just two shots, the fewest Opta have on record in any of their 138 Champions League matches since 2003-04.
Having spent £120m on three major signings in the summer, United will have hoped to have come away with more than a hard luck tale against the Swiss champions.
But Wan-Bissaka’s dismissal – and Lingard’s late error – left them reflecting on a seventh defeat in 11 Champions League matches under Solskjaer.
Having missed out on qualifying for the knockout stages of the competition last season, United now host Villarreal in their next Group F game on 29 September in a repeat of last season’s Europa League final.
Elsewhere, goals from Thomas Muller and Robert Lewandowski settled a battle of the big two in Champions League Group E as Bayern Munich claimed a dominant 3-0 opening-game victory at Barcelona.
The German champions controlled the game, with Muller scoring his seventh career goal against Barca courtesy of a first-half effort that found the net off Eric Garcia’s back.
His 75th came late in the game, as he once again showed his talent in front of goal with a lashed finish after Serge Gnabry’s shot had come back off the post and fell to him in the box.
Barca, playing their first Champions League since the departure of talisman Lionel Messi, were flat and offered little, failing to muster a single shot on target.
The Catalan side have now lost three consecutive home games in European competition for the first time in their entire history.
They ended the game with four teenagers on the pitch, which did at least inject some urgency and lift a subdued crowd of just short of 40,000 because of Covid-19 restrictions.
But they were still thoroughly outclassed and by a Bayern team that were not even at their best.
The German side lead the group, with the other game, between Benfica and Dinamo Kiev, finishing 0-0.
Chelsea opened their defence of the Champions League with a 1-0 win as Romelu Lukaku finally pierced Zenit St Petersburg’s stubborn resistance at Stamford Bridge.
Lukaku, a £97.5m summer signing from Inter Milan, has already demonstrated his goal threat in the Premier League and was on the mark again with his first goal for Chelsea in the competition they won for the second time against Manchester City in June.
The holders deserved the victory but Zenit missed a glorious chance to snatch a point when substitute Artem Dzyuba slid wide from six yards as he tried to turn in Sardar Azmoun’s cross late on.
Chelsea’s victory was not a surprise given their status as Champions League holders and their impressive start to the season but this showed they are more than willing to do the dirty work to get the job done when required.
And it was Lukaku, the talisman, who showed once again what a difference he will make to Chelsea by providing the cutting edge they often lacked last season, even though they won Europe’s elite competition in Porto.
Lukaku’s chances were limited as Zenit defended well and with real resilience but he pounced on the first opportunity he was given to score with a towering header.
Chelsea struggled to make any impression in the first half but it was clear Tuchel had ordered his players to move through the gears and they were much more forceful after the break.
If Lukaku is the main man in attack, it was defender Antonio Rudiger who set the tone at both ends to lift the Chelsea fans inside Stamford Bridge.
Rudiger lifted the noise levels with a surging run from inside his own half just after the re-start which ended with a shot that flashed just wide. He then made a vital challenge at the other end as Zenit’s Iranian forward Azmoun threatened to give the visitors a shock lead, celebrating his interception with a fist pump to the crowd who appreciate the German’s uncompromising style.
It was not Chelsea at their most impressive but, as they did against Aston Villa in the Premier League on Saturday, this is now a side that is almost the complete package. They are a side who find a way to win and Tuchel will be delighted to get three points on the board in the Champions League, especially as the other European superpower in Group H, Juventus, started their campaign with an impressive 3-0 win against Malmo in Sweden.
Additional reporting from BBC