The first instalment of the third matchday of the UEFA Champions League saw Atletico Madrid maintain their 100 per cent record by picking up their third successive victory on Tuesday – their second away from home – and take a huge step towards qualification for the knockout stage in the process.
Chelsea defeated Schalke 3-0 in Gelsenkirchen, while Borussia Dortmund earned a hard-fought three points versus Arsenal. Napoli’s win at Marseille boosted their chances of progressing, but Porto now find themselves up against it, following a second consecutive home reverse.
The big match
AC Milan 1-1 Barcelona
Goals: Robinho 9 (AC Milan); Lionel Messi 23 (Barcelona)
Inspired by Kaka, cheered to the rafters by the San Siro faithful in his first home match since his return to Italy, and an on-form Robinho, AC Milan took the match by the scruff of the neck from the outset.
I Rossoneri opened the scoring in the ninth minute, Robinho playing a one-two with Kaka and dispatching the ball into the net, after the former Santos striker had robbed Javier Mascherano in the middle of the park.
But the Catalans eventually fought their way back into the match, re-imposing their traditional game as the minutes passed by.
Gerardo Martino’s men equalised in familiar fashion: Andres Iniesta regained possession in midfield and sprayed the ball out to Lionel Messi, who was lurking with intent on the right-hand edge of the box. The talented Argentinian cut back inside before slipping the ball past Milan custodian Marco Amelia.
After the break, despite some moments of great skill from both sides, there was to be no change in the scoreline. In spite of his goal, Messi put in a relatively subdued performance, giving the impression that he perhaps already had one eye on his club’s upcoming clash with Real Madrid this Saturday.
The other games
Steaua Bucharest 1-1 Basel
Schalke 0-3 Chelsea
Schalke, who had not yet conceded a goal in the competition, were taken by surprise in the fifth minute, as an Oscar corner, which eluded the entire German defence, was deftly headed home at the back post by Fernando Torres.
After appearing to have taken control of the match, Chelsea subsequently took their foot off the pedal and had an on-song Petr Cech to thank for keeping their slender lead intact.
It was not until 68th minute that the Blues sealed the points, a counter-attack led by Eden Hazard and Oscar ending with Torres rounding the ’keeper for his second of the night. Hazard later put the icing on the cake with a fine solo effort. Both teams now share the lead of Group E with six points.
Basel, meanwhile, despite going ahead through a stylish strike from Chilean midfielder Marcelo Diaz, had to settle for a point after Leandro Tatu conjured up an equaliser for Steaua two minutes from time.
Arsenal 1-2 Borussia Dortmund
Marseille 1-2 Napoli
Last year’s Champions League finalists caused Arsenal significant difficulties for long periods in London, pressing the Gunners high up the pitch, a tactic that paid off early on when Aaron Ramsey lost possession to Marco Reus on the edge of the area. Robert Lewandowski promptly fed Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who poked the ball calmly into the net.
Just before the break, Olivier Giroud levelled for the home side, opportunistically taking advantage of hesitant play by Roman Weidenfeller to smash the ball home. The match then swung this way and that, as Arsene Wenger, who was celebrating his 64th birthday, urged his charges forward.
A Santi Cazorla shot against the bar might have won the game, but it was Lewandowski who had the last word, surging into the box to expertly get on the end of pinpoint cross from Kevin Grosskreutz.
In the section’s other match, Napoli, moving the ball around more smoothly and showing greater skill on the night, provided a disappointing Marseille side with their third defeat of the campaign at Stade Velodrome.
Spanish front man Jose Callejon, who picked up a lovely pass from Gonzalo Higuain and fired past Steve Mandanda, and Colombian striker Duvan Zapata, who curled a memorable strike into the top corner, did the damage for the Italians.
The French club find themselves rooted to the bottom of the group, while the other three teams are now level on six points.
Porto 0-1 Zenit St Petersburg
Austria Vienna 0-3 Atletico Madrid
Atletico Madrid, who overpowered Austria Vienna via a goal by Raul Garcia and a brace from Diego Costa, triumphed for the third outing in a row, and will likely be pleased by the experience and control they exhibited in the Ernst-Happel-Stadion.
Reduced to ten men in the sixth minute after Mexican midfield man Hector Herrera committed two fouls within a minute, Porto held out until the dying stages of their duel with Zenit before succumbing to an Alexander Kerzhakov header, following a tempting cross from Hulk.
The Russians’ victory sees them move into second spot, ahead of a Porto team that still has to fulfil two fixtures away from home.
Celtic 2-1 Ajax
A coolly taken penalty by James Forrest just prior to half-time and a deflected shot from Beram Kayal helped Celtic to secure their first victory in Group H, against an Ajax outfit that continues to struggle away from home.
The only Armenian in history to score in Europe’s premier club tournament, Henrikh Mkhitaryan is a player with a rising reputation.
Capable of performing up front or in midfield, the Borussia Dortmund schemer found himself in the unusual position of being set up by team-mate Robert Lewandowski – when usually the opposite is true – and handing his side the lead versus Arsenal.
The strike was his first Champions League goal of the season, following on from the two he nabbed for Shakhtar Donetsk in the previous campaign.
Austria Vienna 0-2 Atletico Madrid (Diego Costa 20)
Picking up the ball inside his own half, Diego Costa charged forward on a remarkable solo run, skipping past Manuel Ortlechner and clinically slotting home under the body of the on-rushing Heinz Lindner.
26 – The number of goals scored by Lionel Messi in his last 23 Champions League matches.
Have your say
Can Porto still qualify for the knockout phase?