Jesse Marsch, the first American to manage in the Champions League, was well aware of how important Tuesday’s opener vs. Genk would be.
“The first game is massive for us,” Marsch told Yahoo Sports’ Doug McIntyre.
His RB Salzburg squad sure played like it.
Erling Braut Håland recorded a first-half hat trick and RB Salzburg hammered Genk 6-2 on Tuesday in an impressive start to Marsch’s European campaign.
Elsewhere, Christian Pulisic was confined to the bench in Chelsea’s 1-0 loss to Valencia, while Sergiño Dest started in Ajax’s 3-0 victory over Lille.
Jesse Marsch’s RB Salzburg runs rampant
It’s a clichéd word in soccer, but what better way to describe this game?
It was immediately clear which side was superior. Håland scored inside of two minutes after Takumi Minamino turned impressively and poked a ball through, and he added his second goal in the 34th minute and third right before halftime.
Håland became the third-youngest player to record a Champions League hat trick, according to TruMedia stat maven Paul Carr, behind only Real Madrid luminary Raúl and Manchester United legend Wayne Rooney.
Here are all three of Håland’s goals collected together (via Bleacher Report):
Hwang Hee-chan also scored for RB Salzburg in the 36th minute, while Dominik Szoboszlai added the fifth in first-half stoppage time and Andreas Ulmer tacked on the sixth in the 66th minute.
Now comes the hard part. Marsch knew this fixture would be critical because Group E also includes reigning European champion Liverpool and Serie A power Napoli, and RB Salzburg will need to stack together points when it can.
Tuesday is probably what he had in mind.
Christian Pulisic sits as Valencia surprises Chelsea
Chelsea manager Frank Lampard went with 10 of the 11 starters that pounded Wolves over the weekend in the Premier League.
That meant Christian Pulisic started on the bench. He ended the game there, too.
Valencia’s winning goal arrived in the 74th minute, when Rodrigo turned left and brushed a Daniel Parejo free kick past Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga:
Ross Barkley had a chance to pull Chelsea level with a penalty shortly before injury time, but Barkley skimmed the crossbar with his lackluster effort:
The starting attackers were Tammy Abraham, Willian and Mason Mount, who unfortunately was the victim of a hideous challenge by Francis Coquelin and had to come off after only 16 minutes.
Mount was replaced by Pedro, and as noted by NBC’s Joe Prince-Wright, Pulisic was the fourth-choice winger for the Blues, at least on this night.
Chelsea has a huge Premier League clash with Liverpool on Sunday, which means Pulisic has another chance to start and make an impression. He’s still looking to score his first goal in the English top flight.
If he doesn’t get the chance yet again, his status really starts to feel uneasy.
Sergiño Dest, Ajax thump Lille
United States defender Sergiño Dest started at right back and played the full 90 minutes. Dest’s most influential moment may have come shortly after halftime, when his run down the flank opened up space for David Neres to slip through Edson Álvarez.
The 21-year-old Mexican international floated his finish far-post for his first Champions League goal:
Lille was without Tim Weah, the 19-year-old American attacker who is still sidelined with a hamstring tear.
Dest, just 18 years old, impressed in the United States’ friendlies over the recent international break and won’t rule out a switch to the Netherlands.
It’s where he’s building his promising club career. Tuesday was just the latest evidence.
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