Matchday 4 is now concluded and it’s time to get everyone up to date on what’s been going on and where things stand for the Americans in the Champions League Group Stage.
Christian Pulisic - Attacking Midfielder, Chelsea FC
Pulisic has had a great few weeks since the International break. A week after returning to his club, they headed to Amsterdam to take on AFC Ajax. Pulisic began the match on the bench, but Frank Lampard turned to the 21-year-old in the 66th minute. It was his first Champions League appearance with Chelsea. With the match scoreless, Pulisic produced the moment of creativity needed to win it. In the 86th minute, Pulisic cut to his left and crossed it between Sergiño Dest’s legs to Michy Batshauyi who finished clinically.
Pulisic ➡️ Bats for Chelsea's match winner— Bleacher Report Live (@brlive) November 5, 2019
Lampard’s two second-half subs were clutch pic.twitter.com/t0o9GtFPJm
The 1-0 win put Chelsea on top of Group H on goal differential. On Matchday 4, Pulisic earned his first start in the competition this season and it was his 24th career appearance in the Champions League, which sets a new record for Americans. In the 4th minute with Ajax already leading 1-0, Pulisic made an impact again when he dribbled at the Ajax defense and drew a foul just inside the penalty area.
The ensuing penalty tied the score. Ajax seized control and raced out a 4-1 lead after that. The win appeared to be in the bag, but then the match flipped on its head. Pulisic was involved in the buildup to help Chelsea pull a goal back in the 63rd minute. Five minutes later, both Daley Blind and Joel Veltman were sent off on the same sequence that ended with a Chelsea penalty (Blind was called for his second yellow after a tough foul while Chelsea were breaking; Veltman was the whistled for a handball in the box). The ensuing goal pulled Chelsea within one. Just a few minutes later, Chelsea tied the score after a corner kick fell to Reece James. Chelsea thought they won it but VAR correctly overturned their 5th goal. The wild match ended 4-4, and Chelsea remains in first place in Group H on goal differential. It will be a battle to maintain that position with Ajax and Valencia both equal on points. Chelsea travel to Spain to face Valencia in a massive matchup on Matchday 5 on November 27th.
Sergiño Dest - Fullback, AFC Ajax
Dest’s breakthrough campaign continued on Matchday 3 as he got his third straight start in the Champions League Group Stage as they hosted Chelsea. Dest had some good moments, but he wasn’t at his best in this match. He didn’t cover himself in glory on Christian Pulisic’s game-winning assist, and he also had a few sloppy giveaways. On Matchday 4, Dest went as an unused substitute in the 4-4 shootout with Chelsea. Ajax is level with Chelsea and Valencia on points. They face Lille next in a match they have to win to feel comfortable about advancing to the knockout round.
Jesse Marsch - Manager, Red Bull Salzburg
RB Salzburg continue to be one of the most entertaining teams in the competition this season. On Matchday 3, Salzburg hosted Napoli in a huge matchup in Group E. Trailing 1-0, Salzburg clawed back to take tie the score just before halftime. In the second half, Napoli again went in front through Dries Mertens. Again, Erling Braut Håland pulled them level in the 72nd minute. The lead was short-lived however, with Lucas Insigne putting the visitors back in front for good just moments later. On Matchday 4, Salzburg travelled to Napoli and once again were impressive. After 11 minutes, Håland converted a penalty to put them in front (the Norwegian scored his 7th goal in 4 games in the competition-he has an outrageous 23 goals and 6 assists in all competitions this season). The road win wasn’t meant to be as Chucky Lozano tied the score just before halftime. The 1 point they have from their two matches with Napoli unfortunately puts them in a precarious position for qualifying for the knockout round. Salzburg trails Napoli by 4 points and Liverpool by 5 points in the standings. They need to win their final two matches against KRC Genk away and Liverpool at home to have any chance. Still, they are in a great spot to qualify for the Europa League knockout round as the third place team.
Ethan Horvath - Goalkeeper, Club Brugge
Horvath remains a spectator as Simon Mignolet starts basically every match for Club Brugge (Horvath has started in the Belgian Cup). Brugge have fought very hard, but they are clearly overmatched in their group. French mega club Paris St. Germain walked all over them on Matchday 3 to the tune of a 5-0 drubbing. On Matchday 4, they had a much more respectable performance in a 1-0 loss away to PSG. They now face Galatasaray in a match they need to win to qualify for the Europa League knockout round. Their final match will be against Real Madrid where any points will be difficult.
Tyler Adams - Central Midfielder, RB Leipzig
We still wait on our chance to see Tyler Adams play in the Champions League. The 20-year-old has yet to make his debut this season as he works back to full fitness. His team, however, has been fine without him. Currently top of the standings in Group G, Leipzig have consecutive wins over Russian Premier League Champions Zenit on the last two matchdays. They have 9 points and hold a 2-point advantage on Olympique Lyonnais. A win on Matchday 5 against SL Benfica would ensure them a spot in the knockout round. Hopefully Adams will get his opportunity to feature in the competition at some point this season.
Timothy Weah - Winger/Striker, Lille OSC
The other American really struggling with injuries this fall is Timothy Weah. He still hasn’t played since the second game of the season while recovering from a torn hamstring, and it appears unlikely he’ll get his shot this season. Lille have struggled mightily, picking up just 1 point through 4 matches. They need a miracle to even qualify for the Europa League knockout round at this point. It’s a shame for Weah.
Hit the comment section to discuss what or who has stood out in the Champions League this season and what you expect to see from them as the group stage nears its end.