Chelsea, beaten 2-1 at home by Basel, and Borussia Dortmund, defeated by the same scoreline in Naples, were the big losers of Wednesday’s second instalment of the opening matchday of the UEFA Champions League.
There were three away victories on a night where 23 goals were scored, seven fewer than on Tuesday. Lionel Messi was one of the stars of the evening, mirroring Cristiano Ronaldo’s performance for Real Madrid by scoring his first hat-trick of the season for Barcelona.
Matchday 2 is scheduled for 1 and 2 October.
In front of a raucous crowd at Stadio San Paolo, and in driving rain, last year’s runners-up experienced an evening to forget. The Neapolitans, propelled by Lorenzo Insigne, took the game to their opponents from the outset, creating numerous golden opportunities.
The closely contested encounter swung in favour of the home side just before the half-hour mark, when Colombian full-back Juan Zuniga drove over an accurate cross from the left that was glanced into the net by the head of Gonzalo Higuain.
The match then took a tempestuous turn, and in first-half stoppage time, following a rapid counter-attack led by Napoli’s newly signed Argentinian, Dortmund goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller handled the ball outside the box and was promptly sent off.
After the break, the Italians made the most of their numerical advantage to protect their lead, and sealed the points through a superb long-range free kick from Insigne. A late own goal by Zuniga gave the Germans a sliver of a chance, but the current Serie A leaders held on for a highly valuable win.
The other games
Chelsea 1-2 Basel
Schalke 3-0 Steaua Bucharest
Chelsea appeared to have done enough to secure three points at Stamford Bridge after Frank Lampard had set up Brazilian midfielder Oscar for the game’s opening goal just before half time. The match was turned on its head in the second half, however, as Basel poured forward in search of an unexpected result.
Unlike Chelsea’s forwards, who were guilty of missing several clear-cut chances, Mohamed Salah, from the right-hand side of the box, and then Marco Streller, with a header from a corner, made no such mistake, earning a stunning triumph for the Swiss side.
In Gelsenkirchen, meanwhile, Steaua Bucharest held out for 68 minutes versus Schalke, but eventually suffered a 3-0 loss, conceding three goals in the final third of the match.
Marseille 1-2 Arsenal
Once again Marseille found Arsenal an insurmountable obstacle at Stade Velodrome, but will harbour regrets about not taking more from the 90 minutes. The Gunners’ experience proved crucial, as demonstrated by Theo Walcott’s quick and clinical reaction to Jeremy Morel’s poor clearance.
Six minutes from the end, Aaron Ramsey, put through by Kieran Gibbs, held off various challenges before steering the ball past Steve Mandanda and doubling the Londoners' lead. A Jordan Ayew penalty in injury time cut the deficit to one, but the goal arrived too late for the home team.
Austria Vienna 0-1 Porto
Atletico Madrid 3-1 Zenit St. Petersburg
A strong run and cross from Danilo down the right flank followed by a calm, controlled finish from captain Lucho Gonzalez proved sufficient for Porto to emerge victorious from their clash with Champions League debutants Austria Vienna at the Ernst-Happel-Stadion.
Elsewhere, Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid showed the same will and desire as their coach by securing an important win over Zenit St. Petersburg.
In the first half, the Russians were unable to find a way through the 4-2-3-1 formation chosen by the Argentinian tactician, and it came as no surprise to the watching public when Los Colchoneros took the lead through centre-back Joao Miranda.
In the second half, Hulk suddenly brought the visitors level with an unstoppable shot that flew into the top corner. Turkish winger Arda Turan subsequently restored Atletico’s advantage with a close-range effort, prior to providing a fine through ball for Baptistao, who finished in style.
Despite the scoreline, the Dutch had their moments, forcing numerous excellent saves from Victor Valdes, who was handed the captain’s armband for the evening.
In the group’s other match, AC Milan struggled for 82 minutes against a Celtic side that could consider themselves unfortunate not to have broken the deadlock earlier in the match. Two late goals clinched the points for I Rossoneri.
The right-footed winger, who earned a first cap for Italy last year, exhibited agility, speed, vision and technical skills, but also showed that he is a force to be reckoned with at set pieces, firing home an impressive free kick after 67 minutes.
Chelsea 1-1 Basel (Mohamed Salah 71)
Marco Streller controlled a pass from Matias Delgado and instantly laid the ball into the path of the onrushing Mohamed Salah, who guided a right-footed shot into the bottom corner of Petr Cech’s net.
1 – The first victory recorded by Atletico Madrid in the Champions League since November 2008. Real Madrid’s great rivals had previously lost three and drawn six of their last nine matches in the competition.
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