Jose Mourinho's quest for a unique Champions League hat-trick began in style with Real Madrid on Wednesday, the nine-time winners beating 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 top table, Arsenal were even more ruthless in meting out a 6-0 hammering to Sporting Braga and Chelsea were similarly untroubled in a 4-1 victory over Zilina.
AC Milan and Bayern Munich had more problems but were rescued by their strikers.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic capped his Milan home debut with a quickfire double that secured a 2-0 win at home to Auxerre, while Thomas Mueller and Miroslav Klose struck late to give last season’s beaten finalists a 2-0 victory over AS Roma.
Bayern were defeated by Inter Milan in the final at the Bernabeu, a second Champions League success for Mourinho following his victory with Porto in 2004, and he promptly jumped ship to Real Madrid.
They certainly looked the part against Ajax in Group G -- at least in terms of their build-up play. It was one-way traffic almost throughout but time and again they wasted chances, to Mourinho’s evident frustration, as Real had to settle for an own-goal from Vurnon Anita in the first half and a 73rd-minute volley from Gonzalo Higuain.
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, debutants Tottenham Hotspur being the third. The prospect of becoming the first London club to win the competition, and at a “home” venue, must be tantalising 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 also beat Partizan Belgrade 1-0.