UEFA Champions League is inarguably the most prestigious club competition in European football. But its popularity is not limited to Europe alone, since the tournament attracts global viewership on a massive scale. As per hard data collected by television monitoring experts, the first ever all-German UEFA final of the 2012-13 season, played between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, was watched by a record 360 million viewers across the world. That match was played at London’s Wembley Stadium and its TV viewership record is still unsurpassed. And there is a powerful reason why. The advent of smartphones and an enormous spread of social media have changed people’s perceptions on viewing live events in modern times. Since Facebook and Twitter provide instantaneous interactions, technical savvy fans prefer watching sports events via the social media sites on tablets or smartphones. Television sets installed in pubs or drawing rooms do not provide the freedom to air or share ones thoughts. Regardless, UEFA Champions League football is still a huge crowd puller in stadia and still a keenly watched event on television. After the draw for the Group-stage for the 2016-17 Season on August 25, Match-Day 1 games were played on September 13 & 14. Like every year, there are 32 teams, divided in 8 groups in this stage and all of them finished their first matches this week.
The group-stage games in this season’s UEFA Champions League began with 50 goals scored over two days on September 13 & 14, 2016. The most talked about match was in Group C, where FC Barcelona whitewashed Celtic 7-0, helped by a Messi hat-trick, 2 goals from Suarez and one each from Neymar and Iniesta. Barca’s rivals Real Madrid in Group F almost lost their match to Sporting CP after trailing until the 89th minutes. Then Cristiano Ronaldo brought the equalizer and Real scraped through with a 2-1 victory with an injury time goal by Alvaro Morata. The other emphatic wins on Match-Day 1 came from Borussia Dortmund’s 6-0 thrashing of Legia Warszawa in Group F; Bayern Munich outplaying Rostov 5-0 in Group D and in Group C, Manchester City shot 4 times into Borussia Monchengladbach’s goal and Sergio Aguero scored the second hat-trick of Match-Day 1.
Of the other Match-Day 1 games; Paris Saint-Germain drew 1-1 with Arsenal in Group A and in the same Group, Basel and Borussia Monchengladbach also ended at the same 1-1 score. In Group B, Napoli scored a 2-1 away victory over Dynamo Kyiv while Benefica and Besiktas were locked into a 1-1 draw. As already mentioned, 11 goals came in Group C games, where Barcelona beat Celtic 7-0 and Manchester City humbled Borussia Monchengladbach 4-0. In Group D, besides Bayern’s 5-0 win over Rostov, Atletico Madrid stole a 1-0 away victory over PSV Eindhoven. In Group E, Bayer Leverkusen and CSKA Moscow drew 2-2 while Tottenham Hotspur lost 1-2 in the home game against Monaco. There were over 85000 Tottenham fans at Wembley for that game and they all went home disappointed. In Group F, while Real Madrid got lucky in the end against Sporting CP, the other Group game was highlighted by Borussia Dortmund’s huge 6-0 win over Legia. In Group G, Leicester City scored an impressive 3-0 away win over Belgium’s Club Brugge and in other game, Porto and Kobenhavn ended in a 1-1 draw. In Group H, Lyon overpowered Dinamo Zagreb 3-0, while the match between Juventus and Sevilla ended in a goalless draw.
With 50 goals scored on Match-Day 1, the new Champions League season couldn’t have got off to a better start. Now the teams wait for their second games on September 27, when Real Madrid travel to Germany to play against Borussia Dortmund. This could be another hurdle for Real. The other Madrid team, Atletico also have formidable foes in Bayern Munich but Atleti will have the home advantage. Real’s rivals FC Barcelona have been drawn to play their second game with Borussia Monchengladbach but FCB are expected to win, despite playing away from home. After 6th and last Match Day on December 6, the 16 qualified teams will engage themselves in two-legged Last 16 play-offs before the quarterfinals in April 2017 and semifinals in May 2017. The Grand Finale will be staged at Wales’ Millennium Stadium at Cardiff on June 03, 2017.
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