BARCELONA: Lionel Messi came to the rescue with a late double to earn Barcelona a 3-2 victory over Group G opponents Spartak Moscow, which coach Tito Vilanova termed ‘very important’ for his side’s campaign.
The hosts went ahead early on through Cristian Tello, but an own-goal from Dani Alves after 29 minutes brought Spartak back into the contest.
Barca were enjoying the vast majority of the play but Romulo’s second-half goal put a damper on them. Messi, though, put their European ambitions back on track with two poacher’s goals inside the last 20 minutes.
“To start off with a win is very important,” said Vilanova. “This was never going to be an easy game as we were playing against a Spartak side with good players including a lot of foreigners.”
Spartak’s Spanish coach Unai Emery had never beaten Barcelona during his time in charge of Almeria or Valencia and it was always likely to be a severe test.
“We are not happy obviously with the way the game turned out,” said Emery. “But if there’s something good to take from it then we made it difficult for Barcelona and we know that we have a bright future.”
Nani’s miss almost costs United
Sir Alex Ferguson’s 100th Champions League victory was hardly one to remember as Manchester United beat Galatasary 1-0 at Old Trafford but it was more memorable for Portuguese winger Nani surprising his veteran manager by appointing himself penalty taker.
For the third consecutive match, United missed a penalty, Nani halting in his run-up to try and wrong foot goalkeeper Fernando Muslera before seeing his attempt easily saved.
But Michael Carrick’s early goal was enough to earn United a winning start to their group campaign. The England midfielder attempted to make light of the surprising record of penalty misses.
“The manager will probably have something to say,” said Carrick. “But each time we’ve missed one, we’ve won the game.”
The win hands the English club a solid platform upon which to advance in this year’s cup.
Quagliarella prevents Chelsea victory
Juventus stunned Champions League holders Chelsea as Fabio Quagliarella’s late equalizing goal rescued a dramatic 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge and ruined new signing Oscar’s command performance for the Blues.
Oscar marked his first start for Chelsea with an impressive brace that included a stunning solo effort to fire Roberto Di Matteo’s side into a 2-0 lead before half-time in their Group E opener. But the Brazil midfielder’s heroics were in vain thanks to a gutsy recovery from the Italian champions, who reduced the deficit before the break through Arturo Vidal and salvaged a point with 10 minutes left thanks to Quagliarella’s clinical finish.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 21st, 2012.
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