Champions League

Champions League Top Five, Matchday One: Haaland gives Red Bull Salzburg wings

RB Salzburg dismantle Genk thanks to the hottest young striker in Europe

 
1:00pm on Friday 20th September 2019
By
Paul Macdonald

The Champions League is back, and there's no doubt what the standout performance was.

RB Salzburg have suffered many failures to reach the promised land of the group stages, but they made up for lost time by battering Genk 6-2. Elsewhere, Ajax pick up from where they left off and Dinamo Zagreb give Atalanta a rough welcome to the tournament.

All the plaudits went to Haaland and rightly so, but his attacking compatriot Hwang was in totally ruthless form, tearing Genk apart in spectacular style. All four of his shots were on target, scoring once, and Haaland owes him everything for his second goal with a brilliant assist that showcased pace, strength and intelligence to tee up his team-mate. And he did it again before half-time, sliding a pass across goal that Haaland could barely miss. Erling owes his team-mate a fair chunk of the inevitable signing-on fee when he makes it big.

Ajax may have sold De Ligt and De Jong but another stalwart of their exploits from last season, Nicolas Tagliafico, has begun the new season in spectacular form. After netting a wonder goal at the weekend in the Eredivisie, he turned in another perfect display as the Dutch champions dealt with Lille with ease. His teasing cross opened the scoring for Quincy Promes and his bullet header sealed the win in the second half. Undoubtedly one of the most in-form full-backs in Europe at the moment.

The hottest of hot properties. Haaland seems to have everything going for him; height, strength, composure, and a knack for for being in the place to convert chances. His build-up play needs some work but you can't argue with three shots, three goals, including two excellent one-on-one conversions. His agent is allegedly Mino Raiola; expect the transfer rumours to explode in the coming months. Salzburg simply can't hold onto him for much longer.

Orsic wears No. 99, an affront to the nature of the conventional 1-11, but he was as close to 100/100 as possible against a shell-shocked Atalanta making their CL debut. His first was a perfectly-timed slot into the corner from outside the area, he poached a close-range header just before half-time, and broke the offside trap to expertly trap a high ball and slot with ease past the goalkeeper. A surprising, but thoroughly thrilling, display.

Thiago Alcantara remains one of the finest central midfielders in Europe, and in a match where Bayern were required to be patient to break down a well-drilled Crvena Zvedza, he was the metronome needed. 130 touches, more than any other, including 110 completed passes with a 90% completion rate, he also won five tackles, made three interceptions, and produced one of the sexiest assists of the season so far, scooping over the defensive wall to feed Thomas Muller.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

PSG's thumping 3-0 win over Real Madrid should not be overlooked, not least a moment of redemption for Angel Di Maria (8.9) who scored twice against his previous employers and stepped up in the absence of Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani.

Edson Alvarez (8.8) has stepped into the gaping hole left by Frenkie De Jong at Ajax, and was excellent in the win over Lille, scoring a superb goal in the process, while Timo Werner (8.5) hit a double in Benfica to give RB Leipzig the perfect start to their campaign.

ROUND TO FORGET

Andrew Robertson (5.5) conceded a penalty late in the day against Napoli and he will have had better days for Liverpool. Poor Genk goalkeeper Gaetan Coucke (4.9) just couldn't cope with the Salzburg onslaught, conceding six, while Romelu Lukaku (5.3) was miles off the pace against Slavia Prague, managing just 27 touches and losing possession 14 times in 90 minutes.

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