Canadians in Europe: Millar stars in PNE debut
Liam Millar starred in his Preston North End debut, while Alistair Johnston and Celtic kept rolling and a costly mistake from Alphonso Davies saw Bayern Munich miss out on a key victory. Here's a look at Canadians in Europe over the weekend.
Liam Millar, Preston North End - Preston North End hasn't played in the top flight of English football since 1951. In the years since, they've fallen all the way to the fourth tier, but over time have worked their way back up the system and currently reside in the Championship. They have come agonizingly close to the Premier League on a number of occasions with 2005 the most devastating when PNE fell 1-0 to West Ham in the playoff final. Could 2024 be the year that Preston finally plays in the Prem? Based on early returns from the Championship season, now might be the time with a Canadian helping things along in the form of Liam Millar. The former Liverpool winger is back in England on loan from Basel. Through six matches, PNE is the lone undefeated side remaining and sits atop the table on 16 points. Their latest victory came on Saturday with Toronto's Millar scoring his first goal for the side with what turned out to be the winner on his debut in a 2-1 victory over Plymouth Argyle. The hosts were ahead almost from the jump. Picking up the ball just outside the area in the first minute, Millar shook off Kaine Kessler to get a shot off on Conor Hazard from an angle. While he was able to palm away Millar's effort, Duane Holmes was on the doorstep to head home to make it 1-0. Millar would get his goal in the 25th to complete a move that he started himself when he harried Morgan Whittaker into a bad pass near midfield. Taking possession not far from where he did on Holmes's goal, Millar danced into the area, put Julio Pleguezelo on skates and then dragged his shot past Hazard in a beautiful individual effort for his first goal in a PNE shirt. The visitors would pull one back through Ryan Hardie in the 61st, but that was as close as they would come. After the match, Millar said he was happy to be back in England. “It is amazing to be back in England and feel the atmosphere. We’ve just got to keep our heads down, stay humble and continue to improve. The players are great and the togetherness is the biggest thing, I think. The feel of this group is our biggest strength, for me." Up next for PNE is a midweek fixture with visiting Birmingham City on Tuesday afternoon.
Alistair Johnston, Celtic - Even with Ange Postecoglou now at Tottenham Hotspur, Vancouver's Alistair Johnston and Celtic haven't missed a beat thus far as they attempt to win a 12th Scottish Premiership title in the past 13 seasons with former manager Brendan Rodgers back at the wheel. Once again atop the table, the Bhoys were made to work on the weekend by a stout Dundee side in a 3-0 win as Celtic prepares for a Champions League date away to Feyenoord on Tuesday. As hard as they pressed, Celtic couldn't find an opener in the first 45 minutes. If anything, Dundee should have been ahead at the half, but Joe Hart robbed Luke McCowan from point-blank range. The champions proved to be too much for the visitors and locked up the win with three goals in a 17-minute span. In the 51st, Celtic were initially awarded a free kick for Ryan Howley's foul on David Turnbull just outside the area, but a VAR check confirmed the contact actually took place inside the box and a penalty was awarded. Turnbull stepped up to the spot himself and hammered an effort straight down the middle to make it 1-0. The Hoops took command of the match in the 63rd. After Johnston won the ball with a sturdy challenge, Callum McGregor spotted a completely unmarked Kyogo Furuhashi, who had slipped in behind the Dundee defence, to head home to make it 2-0. Kyogo would play provider to put the match to bed only minutes later. Collecting a ball from McGregor down the right side, Kyogo laid off a picture-perfect ball for the oncoming Matt O'Riley who slotted home past Trevor Carson to make it 3-0 in the 67th. Johnston played a full 90 minutes and added an interception to his key tackle. After the match, Johnston rued his two missed chances in the second half. "There was a spell on me and I was not going to score out there," the 24-year-old Johnston joked. “I could have played another 90 minutes of football out there [and not scored], but again, I’m better when I just clear the space for guys like Matty [O’Riley] to come into it and put them away. It’s another progress that I want to take into my game is getting into that box and filling that space and hopefully adding a couple of goals because it would be beneficial, but at the same time I’m a defender first so I think the guys won’t hold that against me too much." Up next for Johnston is his Champions League debut.
Alphonso Davies, Bayern Munich - Harry Kane has been everything advertised for Bayern Munich thus far in his short time in the Bundesliga, but Alphonso Davies and the rest of the team will feel like Friday was a missed opportunity against Bayer Leverkusen in a match that saw the home side blow a lead twice in an entertaining 2-2 draw at the Allianz Arena. Davies will feel at least partly responsible for why his side didn't claim the maximum points in this top-of-the-table clash. Bayern opened the scoring early through the England captain and he probably won't score an easier goal this season than the one he did in the seventh minute. From a corner, an attempted Leverkusen clearance instead found Kane entirely unmarked at the far post to head in his fourth goal in four league matches. In doing so, Kane became the first Bayern player to score four in four since Germany legend Miroslav Klose in 2007. But the lead wouldn't last long for the hosts thanks to a wonder goal from Alex Grimaldo. Standing over a dead ball just outside area, the Spanish left-back sent his free kick over the wall, past Sven Ulreich and into the top corner with a sensational effort in the 24th. Having just arrived from Benfica in the summer, the goal was Grimaldo's first in the Bundesliga. After the stalemate played into the final minutes of the match, Bayern thought they had a winner in the 86th. Mathys Tel danced down the left and then found Germany teammate Leon Goretzka just in front of the penalty spot to curl home and send the home fans into delirium. Their joy was short-lived, however, as the visitors found an equalizer in stoppage. As Leverkusen pressed forward, Davies left foot caught Jonas Hofmann just inside the area as he attempted to shepherd a ball out of trouble. After a VAR check, a penalty was awarded to Leverkusen. Ulreich guessed correctly on Exequiel Palacios's effort and got a piece of it, but the Argentina defender's shot had enough on it that it got passed the Bayern 'keeper to make it 2-2. The draw means Leverkusen holds top spot in the table through four matches on 10 points thanks to a better goal differential than Bayern. Thomas Tuchel's side won't have much time to rue their missed opportunity, though, with old foes Manchester United arriving on Wednesday in the Champions League.