Leg one of the Champions League playoffs is in the books and save one result the favorites all got positive results. Of the three match-ups we identified as possible minnow upsets, only one tie realistically could in the end result in an upset.
The biggest surprise result was Ajax drawing 1-1 with Russia’s FC Rostov. The Champions League first-timers grabbed a 13th-minute goal through a Christian Noboa free kick. Ajax responded in the 38th-minute on a penalty taken by Davy Klaassen but Rostov keeper Soslan Dzhanaev kept his club even through the second half. The former European champs now must travel to Russia next week needing a win or high-scoring draw.
Another debutant at this stage did not get nearly as positive of a result. Ireland’s Dundalk, playing in Aviva Stadium, was overrun by Poland’s Legia Warsaw 2-0. Dundalk actually was the better side for much of the match, but Andy Boyle was spotted handling the ball in the 56th minute. The penalty was arguable but the subsequent goal was not. However, it was a goal in the 94th-minute by Aleksander Prijovic that sealed the match, and maybe the tie. Dundalk will have to pull out a miracle on the road to not fall into the Europa League.
In the two other big versus small match-ups, the results are not in doubt. Celtic thrashed Israel’s Hapoel 5-2 in Scotland and the return leg sees the Hoops just needing to sit back and prevent calamity. Steaua Bucharest has even more dimmed hopes as visiting Manchester City rolled them 5-0.
Switzerland’s Young Boys wasted a major home pitch advantage and lost 3-1 to Borussia Monchengladbach. Young Boys play on a turf field which could have allowed them a slight advantage as a home underdog. They equalized an early goal by the visitors in the first half, by Monchengladbach took control in the second half.
In other “minnow” results, Dinamo Zagreb salvaged a home result with a 1-1 tie with FC Red Bull Salzburg. FC Copenhagen grabbed a 1-0 lead in their tie with APOEL but have to overcome a return leg in Cyprus. Viktoria Plzen’s winless streak in Champions League matches only 90 minutes extends to nine as they were dominated by Lodogorets 2-0.