Champions League: Real Madrid bests Napoli in thriller, Manchester United loses

After taking a week off, the group stage of the 2023-24 UEFA Champions League resumed Tuesday with eight games to kick off Matchday 2.

Here are the five biggest takeaways:

Bellingham’s best goal yet

With seven goals in his first eight games for Real Madrid heading into Tuesday’s hotly anticipated, marquee encounter away to Serie A champs Napoli, Jude Bellingham was already off to a record-breaking start with his new club.

The 20-year-old Englishman continued his hot streak in Italy, scoring in his eighth goal in his most impressive fashion yet — a slaloming run past several defenders before a cut-back and finish past keeper Alex Meret with his right foot.

Bellingham’s latest strike put the 14-time European champs up 2-1; Napoli’s Leo Skiri Østigård gave the hosts an early lead before Vinicius Junior canceled it out. A third would’ve sealed the win for Real. Instead, the Neapolitans were awarded a Charmin-soft penalty following a VAR check. Piotr Zieliński converted it, denying Bellingham what would’ve been a worthy game winner. 

But a late Meret own goal — following a blistering shot by Federico Valverde that ricocheted off the crossbar, hit the keeper and went in — meant Real was still able to take all three points back to the Spanish capital from a match that more than lived up to the billing.

Arsenal’s defeat overshadowed by Saka injury

Things started off great for Arsenal away to French side Lens. After a confidence-building Match Day 1 rout of PSV Eindhoven, the Gunners took an early lead at Stade Bollaert-Delelis via Gabriel Jesus. But it all unraveled from there.

First the hosts equalized though a superb, curling goal by Adrien Thomasson. Then Arsenal’s star attacker Bukayo Saka went down with a non-contact injury that forced him from the match after just 34 minutes.

Elye Wahi eventually broke the deadlock for the hosts with about 20 minutes remaining in the second half, and it ended 2-1. Blowing a lead and leaving with nothing was bad enough, but the prospect of missing Saka for any length of time is even worse. After the match, Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta suggested that the injury is serious. If that proves true, the Gunners lost twice on Tuesday.

Reeling Manchester United stunned at home again    

It had been 20 matches since Galatasaray so much as scored an away goal in the Champions League. On Tuesday against Man United at Old Trafford, the Turkish power managed three in a 3-2 triumph that left the Red Devils with zero points through their first two group stage games.

Even worse, the visitors’ final two tallies came in the last 20 minutes of the rain-soaked affair. “Not acceptable,” was the instant, field-side reaction of United legend Peter Schmeichel, who was covering the match for the official broadcaster. “It’s just not good enough, the mistakes that are being made.”

After losing to Bayern Munich in Germany two weeks ago, Erik ten Hag’s team rebounded with a pair of wins in the Premier League and EPL Cup, respectively. But Tuesday’s defeat came on the heels of another stunning home loss, on Saturday in the Prem against Crystal Palace. It was no fluke, either: before he scored the winner, Mauro Icardi missed a penalty kick for Galatasaray. 

The good news for Red Devils supporters is that two of the club’s next three games are at home, including one in the Champions League on Oct. 24 against FC Copenhagen. Lose that one and it will surely be curtains for Ten Hag — assuming the coach is still on the sideline three weeks from now.

Bayern gets all it can handle in Copenhagen

As perennial trophy contenders, Bayern were expected to go to Denmark’s capital midweek and return home with all three points. That’s what happened in the end, but boy did the hosts make the German titans work for their win.

Scoreless at halftime, Lukas Lerager put FC Copenhagen ahead 10 minutes after the break. Bayern’s fans were sweating at that point. Normal order was restored before it was over, though, with goals by Jamal Musiala and Mathys Tel within the final half hour keeping Tomas Tuchel’s side perfect two games into the new Champions League campaign:

Union Berlin loses at the death again

Union thought it had earned a point at Real Madrid two weeks back in the first Champions League match in club history, only for Bellingham to score a stoppage time winner. A point from that match would’ve felt like three.

Back in Berlin on Tuesday, Union needed an actual victory against Portugal’s Braga. Which is why, with the scored tied 2-2 late, the hosts — playing at 74,000 Olympic Stadium because it seats more than three times as many fans as their own Stadion An der Alten Försterei — were throwing players forward and into the attack in search of a third goal. They almost got it, but second half substitute Brenden Aaronson sent his header wide of the target on his team’s best opportunity. 

Braga silenced the huge crowd when André Castro stroked home the decider following a counterattack With just seconds left in stoppage time. For the hosts, this loss was a far bigger gut punch — especially because they squandered the two goal lead Sheraldo Becker’s brace gave them in the first half. Union will be looking to avoid another late heartbreaker when it hosts Napoli in its next Champions League match.

Doug McIntyre is a soccer writer for FOX Sports. Before joining FOX Sports in 2021, he was a staff writer with ESPN and Yahoo Sports and he has covered United States men’s and women’s national teams at multiple FIFA World Cups. Follow him on Twitter @ByDougMcIntyre.

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