Less than a month after last season’s Champions League final, all of Europe’s top five leagues have now begun their new campaigns.
Liverpool looked shaky in its first game back since winning the English Premier League title last season, scraping past newly-promoted Leeds on the opening weekend, but was in much better form against Chelsea on Sunday as Sadio Mane’s second-half brace wrapped up the points.
In truth, Jurgen Klopp’s side was handed the victory on a plate after Chelsea defender Andreas Christensen was shown a red card for hauling Mane to the ground, before yet another error from under fire goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga gifted the Senegal international his second.
Liverpool still looked vulnerable even against 10 men and had goalkeeper Alisson to thank for keeping the score at 2-0, after the Brazilian saved Jorginho’s penalty in the second half.
There was also a debut for Liverpool new boy Thiago Alcantara, signed from Champions League winner Bayern Munich last week, who was introduced at half-time to replace Jordan Henderson.
It was an accomplished Premier League debut from the Spaniard who, despite only playing 45 minutes, completed more passes than any Chelsea player.
“He was top,” Klopp told reporters after the match. “Top timing, I would say. He is not used to our thinking yet and Bayern played differently to us. Defensively it was tricky for him but with the ball, he wants to pass it.
“I think it helps, of course, that it was the perfect step in [against 10 men]. We scored two goals when he was on the pitch and he played a good game. Everybody could see what he is naturally doing, because we didn’t speak to him about anything we wanted, he just played it.
“It’s clear when you understand — he wants to switch, he wants to chip, he wants to do these things so we let him do it and he did well.”
Elsewhere, Liverpool’s city rival Everton maintained its 100% start to the season, with summer signing James Rodriguez grabbing his first goal for his new club. Arsenal, Leicester City and Crystal Palace are the only other teams to have won both matches since the start the season.
New season, same Ronaldo
Juventus began its quest for a 10th straight Serie A title with a comprehensive 3-0 win over Sampdoria in Andrea Pirlo’s first game as a manager.
The former Juventus player, considered one of the greatest midfielders of his generation, was hired at the start of August to replace the sacked Maurizio Sarri just nine days after he had initially been appointed as the club’s reserve coach.
Goals from new striker Dejan Kulusevski, Leonardo Bonucci and Cristiano Ronaldo gave Pirlo the perfect start to his managerial career, after the 41-year-old only officially received his coaching badges last week.
It was the first time fans had been allowed back into stadiums in Italy since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, with the Italian government permitting up to 1,000 fans to attend matches.
Fans return in Germany
There were even more fans allowed to attend games in Germany’s Bundesliga, which has been widely praised for its handling of the pandemic.
Six out of the nine home teams were given the green light by local health authorities to welcome supporters for the opening game of the season, with attendances ranging from 4,600 to 9,300 and no away fans allowed.
Champions League semifinalist RB Leipzig beat Mainz 3-1 in front of 8,500 fans, while Union Berlin was only permitted to allow 4,600 fans to enter for its 3-1 defeat to Augsberg in the capital.
Bayern began its season in scintillating fashion, putting eight goals past a hapless Schalke side to lay down an early marker. New signing from Manchester City Leroy Sane got his first goal for his new club and there was a hat-trick for Serge Gnabry.
Robert Lewakdowski got his goal from the penalty spot but it was his audacious rabona assist for Thomas Mueller that stole the headlines in the second half.
Reigning champs Real struggle
Real Madrid began the defense of its La Liga title with a stalemate against Real Sociedad. Despite dominating for large periods, Zinedine Zidane’s side was unable to find a breakthrough against a resilient Sociedad back line.
Martin Odegaard started in a young Real line up against the club he had a stellar season on loan at last season, while there were also debuts for youngsters Marvin Park and Sergio Arribas.
Park has risen through the ranks at Real Madrid after spells at Sporting Ciudad de Palma and Tranmere Rovers in England and helped the club win the UEFA Youth League last season.
The 20-year-old is eligible to play for three different countries after being born to a South Korean mother and Nigerian father in Spain.
Things get no easier for Real, with a trip up next to early pacesetter Real Betis which has started life under new coach Manuel Pellegrini with two wins from two.
Title rivals Barcelona and Atletico Madrid begin their campaigns next weekend.