Arsenal and Chelsea delivered decisive Wednesday victories while Real Madrid, Milan and Bayern eased to home wins to open their UEFA Champions League campaigns.
The day's most impressive result was at the Emirates. While Arsene Wenger had hoped to take advantage of Sporting Braga's Champions League inexperience, it seems that as well as a number of factors contributed to the Gunners' 6-0 rout of Portugal's second place team. At least, is seems improbably that inexperience alone would have caused such a huge landslide. For Arsenal, Cesc Fabregas had two goals and two assists. Carlos Vela added two goals, with Marouane Chamakh and Andrei Arshavin (two assists) adding tallies.
Particularly impressive about Arsenal's performance: Braga has become known (over the last year) for their organization in defense, but that is also an aspect of their team that would be quick to crumble should inexperience be a factor. Domingos Paciencia's high regard for Arsenal (comparing them to Barcelona pre-match) may have also been code for Braga having faced few challengers of Arsenal's style or talent over the last year. Braga is a team that was knocked out of last year's Europa League at the qualifying stages. The only had domestic competitions to consider. Today was a huge step-up for them, even considering the Sevilla play-off.
Elsewhere in Group H, Shakhtar Donetsk held serve against Partizan, getting a late goal from Darijo Srna to beat the Serbians, 1-0. Srna's 26-yard free kick beat Vladimir Stojkovic to eep the Ukrainians on track to not only compete for the group's second knock-out round spot but also start to cope with the absence of Fernandinho. And in that way, today's result might prove more than holding serve. This could turn-out to be a very strong result.
In Group G all thoughts were on coach José Mourinho, debuting for Real Madrid in the competition he was brought-in to win. The 2-0 score doesn't tell the degree to which the hosts dominated Ajax, the Luis Suárez-less visitors under constant pressure throughout the match. Real Madrid could have been more ruthless in the final third, often settling for a shot from distance rather than exhibiting patience, but a brace from Gonzalo Higuain with a nice set-up (on the second) from Mesut Özil provided hints Mourinho's formula is starting to take hold.
The group's other titan, Milan, posted an identical result, though it was nowhere near as easy. While Milan controlled their match against Auxerre, they failed to dominate to the same degree as Real Madrid, spending most of the match teasing a 0-0 draw. Early in the second half, after Robinho came on for countryman Alexandre Pato, Zlatan Ibrahimovic woke-up, scoring his first two Milan goals, the second a right-footed finish from 17 yards. The result allowed the Rossoneri to sit even with Real Madrid after one match day, thought if they were not nearly as impressive.
Group F saw the day's only upset, with Spartak Moscow winning in France despite failing to register a shot on goal. A late own goal from right back Cesar Azpilicueta left Marseille on the losing end of a match in which they generated the only scoring opportunities. With Marseille failing to get home points against the team most likely to unseat them for second, Azpilicueta's goal could loom large as group play progresses. If Spartak can get six points from Zilina, they'll have nine points would likely need only one point in Moscow from l'OM to go through.
Speaking of Zilina, the Slovaks made their Champions League debut against Chelsea, going down three goals within half and hour. The teams traded goals early in the second half, but the England leaders would leave Slovakia with a 4-1 win. It was an impressively regimented result for a Blues team that was without Didier Drogba, Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard. Nicolas Anelka had a goal and two assists.
Bayern Munich is at the top of Group E after their 2-0 win over Roma, getting a well-deserved three points after late goals from Thomas Müller and Miroslav Klose. Roma is now scoreless through three competitive matches and are starting to hint the play that led to year's near-title in Serie A won't be repeated. Today, they were markedly worse than a Bayern team playing without its two most dynamic players.
Perhaps Roma just needs Mirko Vucinic back. He was their best attacking player for much of last season, but against a team missing some of their best attacking talents, Claudio Ranieri should have been able to create more trouble - Vucinic or no.
In the group's other match, CFR Cluj got two early, headed goals against visiting Basel, and although the Swiss champions pulled one back before halftime, the Romanians were able to hold on for a 2-1 win. They sit second in Group E after the first match day.