Date: 16th September 2021 at 5:20pm
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The Champions League returned this week with Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United and Manchester City making up the English contingent for this season’s competition. 

Thomas Tuchel’s reigning champions got the defence of their title off to a winning start against Russian Premier League side Zenit St. Petersburg, while Manchester United fell to a shock 2-1 defeat to Young Boys on Tuesday.

On Wednesday evening, there were goals galore as both Liverpool and City ran out winners, over AC Milan and RB Leipzig respectively.

Elsewhere in Europe, they were big wins for both Ajax and Juventus, while Sheriff won their first ever group game, beating Shakhtar Donetsk 2-0.

Below, we list five players who shone during the opening round of fixtures.

Jack Grealish – Manchester City 6-3 RB Leipzig

The former Aston Villa man has been an ever-present in the City line up since joining for £100 million during the summer. Having recently surpassed the 100 mark in terms of Premier League appearances, the Champions League would have been Grealish’s next focus, and he took to the European stage with ease.

After creating the opening goal of City’s victory for Nathan Ake, the Englishman continued to shine throughout the match, before capping his European debut with a brilliant solo goal, beating defenders out wide before cutting inside and curling an exquisite effort into the top corner.

On a night when City had six different goalscorers, Grealish stood out and earned a deserved man of the match award.

Romelu Lukaku – Chelsea 1-0 Zenit St. Petersburg

The Belgian striker has enjoyed a fruitful return to Stamford Bridge so far, scoring three goals in three Premier League appearances, including a brace last time out against Aston Villa.

Now, it was time for the striker to make his European return with the Blues, and he continued his rich vein of form.

After a drab first half performance from the holders, it was Lukaku’s goal that broke the deadlock and earned Chelsea the three points.

Lukaku has now scored four goals in four games since returning to Chelsea in the summer

Cesar Azpilicueta’s cross was met by Lukaku at the back post, with the 28-year-old nodding a well-placed header into the corner of the net to score his first European goal for the club.

With Juventus and Malmo making up Group H, anything other than a win on the opening week could have proved costly for the Blues, but Lukaku’s goal ensured they travel to Turin level on points with the Italian side.

Robert Lewandowski – Barcelona 0-3 Bayern Munich

With a new Champions League campaign starting, goals from Robert Lewandowski seemed inevitable, with it being a case of when, rather than if, the Polish striker would get off the mark this season.

In what could prove to be his final season with the Bundesliga club, Lewandowski ensured they got off to the perfect start as they look to win a seventh European title.

The 33-year-old scored twice in Bayern’s convincing victory over a lacklustre Barcelona, meaning that the German side will top the group when they host Ukrainian side Dynamo Kyiv next time out.

The striker’s double made it 22 goals in his last 17 Champions League games for the former Borussia Dortmund man.

Jude Bellingham – Beşiktaş 1-2 Borussia Dortmund

While Erling Braut Haaland continued his meteoric rise to stardom by scoring the winner in Dortmund’s opening week victory over Turkish side Besiktas, it was one of his teammates who stole the show.

Young English midfielder Jude Bellingham managed a goal and an assist in the win, making him the youngest player in history to score in consecutive Champions League matches.

The 18-year-old, who was playing in the Championship for Birmingham City just two seasons ago, has made a remarkable rise to the top.

Bellingham provided a goal and an assist for Dortmund against Besiktas

Having established himself as a regular in the Dortmund side, Bellingham has also since made his England debut and was part of the squad for Euro 2020.

Bellingham’s performance against Besiktas earned him a number of plaudits from all over Europe, including his own team, who simply tweeted ‘Jude Bellingham, very good at football’.

Sebastien Haller – Sporting CP 1-5 Ajax

Former West Ham United striker Sebastien Haller put in arguably the individual performance of the night on Wednesday, as the Ivorian scored four goals during Ajax’s convincing victory over Portuguese side Sporting.

The 27-year-old, who was playing in his first Champions League game, scored two goals either side of the interval to ensure that the Eredivisie side join Borussia Dortmund at the top of Group C.

The former Hammers man became the first player to score four goals on his Champions League debut since Marco Van Basten in 1992.

The forward now sits top of the goalscoring charts after the first round of fixtures, with RB Leipzig’s Christopher Nkunku just a goal behind.

Christopher Nkunku – Manchester City 6-3 RB Leipzig

Despite being on the wrong end of a nine goal thriller, Nkunku’s individual performance against City cannot be overlooked.

The Leipzig man scored a hat-trick against Pep Guardiola’s side, and looked to have given the visitors a glimmer of hope with his third, before late goals from Gabriel Jesus and Joao Cancelo ensured victory for the hosts.

Nkunku will be hoping to continue his fine form in front of goal next time out against Club Brugge, in what could prove to be a must-win game for the German side.

Nkunku’s hat-trick means he currently sits second in the goal scarring charts, behind Haller and one goal ahead of Lewandowski.

After an explosive return of the Champions League, focus now turns once again to domestic action, before the second round of fixtures in a fortnight.

With three of the four English sides involved in this season’s competition having won, the pressure will be on Manchester United to get off the mark next time out against Spanish side Villarreal, who beat United in the Europa League final last season.

 
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