There was no shortage of drama Wednesday as the fourth match round of the 2023-24 UEFA Champions League group stage wrapped up with eight matches across Europe.
Here are the biggest takeaways:
Manchester United blows 2-0 lead after Rashford sees red
Leading 2-0 host FC Copenhagen on a pair of first half goals by Danish striker (and Copenhagen native) Rasmus Højlund, things couldn’t have been much better for Man United 41 minutes into Wednesday’s Group A contest.
That all changed when United forward Marcus Rashford was shown a red card following video review of a clumsy challenge on Lions fullback Elias Jelert:
Reduced to 10 men with more than a half still to play, the hosts took immediate advantage of the sudden momentum swing. Mohamed Elyounoussi cut the deficit in half just three minutes after Rashford was sent off. Diogo Gonçalves then equalized from the penalty spot deep into first half stoppage time after Red Devils defender Harry Maguire was whistled for illegally handling the ball.
The visitors regrouped at the break, and actually retook the lead against all odds through a Bruno Fernandes spot kick. But willed on by their fans, it was always going to be hard to keep Copenhagen from further capitalizing on the numerical advantage.
Sure enough, the hosts found the net twice over the final seven minutes of regular time, dooming Man United to what felt like an inevitable 4-3 defeat. Copenhagen’s winner was scored by 17-year-old substitute Roony Bardghji:
It’s just the latest blow for Erik ten Hag’s United, with the manager’s already hot seat now positively scorching. The Red Devils sit dead last in Group A, with just one win through their first four games so far.
Arsenal shakes off VAR controversy, rolls over Sevilla
If the Gunners were still upset about Saturday’s controversial loss to Newcastle in English Premier League action, it sure didn’t show Wednesday against Sevilla. Or maybe it did. Whether forgotten or used as motivation, Arsenal clearly came to play.
Mikel Arteta’s team dominated from start to finish, and could’ve won by more than the final 2-0 scoreline had they executed just a little bit better. The hosts attempted 11 shots in all. Two of the three they put on target — a first half strike by Leandro Trossard and one in the second from Bukayo Saka — went in. Saka’s goal was a beauty:
Combined with its victory over the same foe in Spain two weeks ago, Arsenal now has a semi-commanding four point lead atop Group B over second place PSV Eindhoven — which held serve with a 1-0 win over Lens Wednesday. If the Gunners can beat the French club when they welcome Lens to London on Nov. 29, they’ll qualify for the knockout stage.
Real Madrid tops Braga to stay perfect and advance
No Jude Bellingham, no problem.
The record 13-time European champs booked their place in the knockout stage Wednesday with two games to spare and without Bellingham, the 20-year-old English attacker who has emerged as one of the best players in the world since arriving in the Spanish capital over the summer.
Bellingham was rested Wednesday, but Real didn’t miss him. They’re off the business end of the tournament after a routine-looking 3-0 win over Portugal’s Sporting Braga. Brahim Diaz, Vini Jr. and Rodrygo were all on target for the hosts at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu. Rodrigo’s tally put the outcome beyond doubt:
Napoli held by Union Berlin, which finally catches a break
The unluckiest team in this season’s competition has no doubt been first-time tournament participant Union. The Berliners suffered last-gasp defeats to Real Madrid and Braga in their first two games, then lost to Napoli at home two weeks ago.
The Italian champs were the overwhelming favorite to complete the sweep Wednesday at Estadio Diego Maradona in Naples. This time, though, Union finally caught a break. While Matteo Politano opened the scoring for the home side in the 39th minute, David Datro Fofana canceled it out by equalizing shortly after halftime.
Napoli poured on the pressure late in search of all three points. They might’ve gotten them had Berlin keeper Frederik Rønnow not been in perfect position to stop Khvicha Kvaratskhelia’s blistering shot in the fifth minute of second half stoppage time:
But Napoli had to settle for a share of the spoils in the end, which for Union Berlin means its first-ever Champions League point.
Harry Kane plays hero for Bayern Munich yet again
Bayern knew that a win over Turkish visitor Galatasaray on Wednesday would send the German titans to the knockout stage.
Still, for 80 minutes in Munich, Thomas Tuchel’s team couldn’t find the breakthrough it needed. Tuchel & Co. were maybe even a little lucky that what initially appeared to be a goal for Galatasaray around the hour mark was (correctly) ruled offside.
Of course Harry Kane came to the rescue. And such is the form that the Bayern striker has been enjoying since his August move to Bavaria that he scored not once but twice over the final 10 minutes.
The hosts needed both of them in the end, as Cédric Bakambu goal for the visitors in the 93rd minute cut the lead to 2-1. Despite a tension-filled last few minutes, that’s how it ended.
Kane now has five goals in his last two Bundesliga and Champions League matches and 19 goals in just 14 games across both competitions this season.
Doug McIntyre is a soccer writer for FOX Sports. Before joining FOX Sports in 2021, he was a staff writer with ESPN and Yahoo Sports and he has covered United States men’s and women’s national teams at multiple FIFA World Cups. Follow him on Twitter @ByDougMcIntyre.
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