The Warm-Up: Batman seals Chelsea win while Robben eats his words
Jack Lang brings news of Champions League romps, nascent Twitter feuds and plenty more besides...
THURSDAY’S BIG STORIES
Eighth Wanda of the world
Hey, remember when Chelsea were in crisis? It’s probably hazy – this was, oh, fully six weeks ago now – but it really was a grim moment in their history. They lost to Burnley, you see, and… well, that was actually it, but it really did mean something, you know? The dominance was over, the endtimes definitely, definitely coming.
It looked like being a long old night when someone rewired the dormant ‘inexplicable gaffe’ programme on David Luiz’s motherboard – the Brazilian’s numbskull foul on Lucas Hernández allowed Antoine ‘Point Break’ Griezmann to net the opener from 12 yards – but the Blues reacted well, Alvaro Morata netting his first ever goal against Atleti after a cross from the lively Eden Hazard.
A draw would have been a fine result at the shiny Wanda Metropolitano, but Chelsea did not settle and got their reward deep into injury time, with literally the last kick of the game. Substitute Michy Batshuayi was the hero, turning home from close range after a lovely passing move down the right channel.
The result was another feather in the cap of Antonio Conte, and anyone who doubted his commitment to the Chelsea cause a month or two ago would do well to dig up his post-match comments.
A cheery toast to three points gained, perhaps? Nothing of the sort: a lengthy moan about the fact his team have to play on Saturday and not Sunday this weekend. Classic fighting talk, in other words, and more proof that Chelsea are back, back, back from a nadir that never really was.
Antonio Conte, Manager of Chelsea celebrates with Alvaro Morata of Chelsea after he scores his sides first goal during their UEFA Champions League group C matchGetty Images
“Yes, hello. Is that… De La Soul? Oh good. Yes, it’s Jose Mourinho. The football manager. Really? I won the Champions League twice. Still nothing? Wow. Oh well, never mind. Your loss.
“Anyway, I’m calling to get something straight. It’s about the magic number. I’m sure you guys researched it or whatever, so maybe it’s just inflation, but… it’s actually not three. It’s four.”
Yep, the Manchester United Goal Roadshow pitched up in Moscow and the inevitable happened again, Mourinho’s charges making hay in the final third. Romelu Lukaku netted twice, taking his tally to 10 goals in nine games for the Red Devils, with Anthony Martial also impressing.
In truth, it was all too easy for United (more on that presently), but you know what they say: You can only put four goals past what’s put in front of you. And United did, for the fifth time already this season.
Kylian me softly
“Money doesn’t score goals,” Arjen Robben said before Bayern Munich played Paris Saint-Germain. To which the obvious response, 90 minutes of one-way traffic later, is, “No, but the players it buys do.” Summer additions Neymar and Dani Alves both netted in a 3-0 rout that only further confirmed Les Parisiens’ status as major contenders this season.
The real star of the show, however, was Kylian Mbappe. The teenager was unplayable throughout, setting up two of PSG’s goals and making David Alaba look like a Sunday-league player with one heart-stopping bit of trickery that had Rio Ferdinand purring like a cat at a deserted dairy farm:
IN OTHER NEWS
Twitter is excellent.
HEROES AND ZEROES
Hero: Dimitri Oberlin
The Warm-Up had never heard of him either, but that’s changed now. The 20-year-old forward was the star man in Basel’s eye-catching 5-0 success over Benfica, finishing off a superb box-to-box counter-attack and then adding another goal after the break. Not bad considering it was his first ever start in the competition proper.
Zeroes: That creaking CSKA defence
We’ve all heard those damning Igor Akinfeev stats (no Champions League clean sheet since the industrial revolution – and counting!), but CSKA’s performance last night provided a timely reminder that the poor man doesn’t have much to work with, defence-wise.
Vasili Berezutski (very much the thinking man’s Berezutski, Aleksei be damned) and Sergei Ignashevich were both guilty of errors that would have made a teenage novice blush, which is odd because they’ve both been collecting pensions for some time now. Life gave Akinfeev lemons and they were sour.
45 years ago today, Ajax blew Independiente away to secure their maiden Intercontinental Cup. Johan Neeskens, Johan Cruyff, and Johnny Rep starred in the through-ball masterclass:
IN THE CHANNELS
It’s always nice when a footballer ventures beyond the glib platitudes that media advisers favour and into more interesting waters. So it’s with some interest that The Warm-Up is observing the early UK-Twitter stylings of Benjamin Mendy, Manchester City’s very own online tinderbox.
His previous personal best involved understandable bemusement at his low rating on the latest FIFA game, but he trumped that on Wednesday by taking the battle to one unfortunate journalist who dared to speculate about the nature of his knee injury:
Spicy stuff, and that wasn’t the end of it. The journalist in question kindly (read: smugly and condescendingly) translated the tweet in French:
Lovely, sure, but one key detail was amiss and Mendy wasn’t about to let the open goal pass him by. The Warm-Up awaits his next outing with baited breath.
Thursday nights, BT Sport. Yep, it’s Europa League stalwarts Arsenal, back in action against the continent’s… best, is it? Tonight’s opponents are BATE, from the sunny metropolis of (*Googles*) Barysaw, but anyone hoping for a full-strength Gunners side are to be disappointed.
Arsene Wenger is without Alexis Sanchez, Alexandre Lacazette, Mesut Ozil, Aaron Ramsey, Granit Xhaka, Alex Iwobi, Hector Bellerin, Nacho Monreal, Sead Kolasinac and Laurent Koscielny, so expect a team full of Football Manager regens, plus a few misery-stricken oldies like Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud.