Jose Mourinho’s quest for a unique Champions League hat-trick began in style at the Bernabeu on Wednesday as Real Madrid beat Ajax Amsterdam 2-0 on a night of commanding wins for the main contenders.
While Real were giving Ajax a harsh lesson on their return to the European elite, Arsenal began their campaign with a ruthless 6-0 victory over Braga and Chelsea saw off Zilina 4-1 in another gross mismatch.
AC Milan and Bayern Munich had tougher assignments in their opening games and needed their strikers to come to the second-half rescue.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic capped his Milan home debut with a quickfire double that secured a 2-0 win over Auxerre, while Thomas Mueller and Miroslav Klose struck late to give last season’s beaten finalists a 2-0 victory over AS Roma.
Bayern’s Group E rivals CFR Cluj beat FC Basel 2-1 at home.
Inter defeated Bayern in the final at the Bernabeu in May, when Mourinho clinched his second Champions League success and promptly accepted a move to Real Madrid.
His target is to deliver the club’s 10th European Cup, an achievement that would make him the first coach to win the Champions League with three different clubs.
Mourinho witnessed an outstanding Group G performance against Ajax, who endured an unhappy night on their Champions League return after a five-year absence.
Only Real’s finishing let them down and Mourinho reacted furiously as the chances came and went before an own-goal from Vurnon Anita settled their nerves and a 73rd-minute volley from Gonzalo Higuain wrapped up the win.
“It can happen that in a match when you play badly you score three goals and other times you can do everything on the pitch but score,” said Mourinho who also led Porto to the trophy. “The goals will come.”
Real’s main Group G rivals are Milan, who looked to be heading for trouble against Auxerre before Ibrahimovic justified the effusive welcome back to the San Siro he was given by fans.
There is an interesting sub-plot to this edition of the Champions League, with Arsenal and Chelsea among three London teams bidding to reach the final at Wembley, Tottenham Hotspur being the third.
The prospect of becoming the first London club to win the competition, and at a “home” venue, must be a tantalizing one and both Arsenal and Chelsea certainly made statements of intent.
Cesc Fabregas and Carlos Vela scored two apiece for Arsenal in their rout of Braga in Group H, where Shakhtar Donetsk beat Partizan Belgrade 1-0.
Braga were so overwhelmed against Arsenal in their Champions League debut that coach Domingos Paciencia said he wished the game could have been called off at halftime.
“We could not have played any worse,” Paciencia told reporters. “I wish we could have finished the game at halftime and even then it still would have been a bad experience.”
Wenger spoke in a calm, almost matter-of-fact fashion after his side had torn Braga to shreds.
“We have a big potential but what you forget is that I always believed in this team,” Wenger told reporters. “The players that were here at 20 and 21 are now 23 and they are continuing to grow.”
“What they did at 20 was exceptional even though some people can’t accept that we haven’t won trophies,” he said.
On their day the Gunners play the most attractive soccer in England and few opponents could have lived with them on Wednesday.