Holders held, Barca off to a flyer

Reigning champions Inter Milan made a faltering start to their UEFA Champions League defence, drawing 2-2 away to Twente, while fellow contenders Manchester United played out a similarly frustrating goalless draw at home to a stubborn Glasgow Rangers side.

There were no such problems for Barcelona, who came from behind to thrash Panathinaikos 5-1, two of the Catalans’ goals coming from the insatiable Lionel Messi. Valencia completed a Spanish double by marking their return to the competition with an emphatic 4-0 win at Turkish debutants Bursaspor.

FIFA.com has the details on those games and more as Europe’s premier club competition made its return on a day that yielded 22 goals in all.

Match of the day
Twente 2-2 Inter Milan
Goals: Theo Janssen 18, Diego Milito og 30 (Twente); Wesley Sneijder 13, Samuel Eto'o 40 (Inter)

Twente showed no signs of nerves on their maiden outing in the competition, harrying and harassing last season’s winners to secure a creditable point. It was the Milanese giants who took the lead when home keeper Nikolay Mikhailov could only parry Diego Milito’s shot into the path of a grateful Wesley Sneijder. The Dutch outfit were level five minutes later when Janssen sent a fizzing free-kick into the top corner of the Inter goal, before Milito headed into his own net from a corner kick to give the hosts an unexpected lead. That was not the end of the first-half scoring, however, as Samuel Eto'o restored parity before the break with a firm 20-yard drive just inside Mikhailov’s left-hand post. The second half failed to live up to expectations as the two sides cancelled each other out.

Other matches
Staying in Group A, Tottenham Hotspur made a dramatic return to the continent’s leading club competition, surging into a 2-0 lead after only 18 minutes largely thanks to Peter Crouch, who first forced Petri Pasanen to turn the ball into his own net, before towering above the Finn to bullet home an unstoppable header. Hugo Almeida cut the deficit on the stroke of half-time, before team-mate Marko Marin rounded off the scoring just after the restart, securing a battling point for the Germans.

Semi-finalists last season, Lyon kicked off their campaign with a laboured 1-0 win over a combative Schalke 04 side reduced to ten men after 40 minutes. Michel Bastos scored the only goal of the game despite the best efforts of Benedikt Howedes, the man who later saw red. In the other game in Group B, Luisao’s classy volley and Oscar Cardozo’s tap-in gave Benfica a routine 2-0 win over Israel’s Hapoel Tel Aviv.

Over in Group C, Manchester United paid for their rustiness in the final third, failing to convert their dominance over a grimly determined Rangers team into three points. Sir Alex Ferguson’s men created chances but rarely managed to find the target, an out-of-sorts Wayne Rooney setting the tone in a disjointed performance. Valencia stormed to the top of the section after returning to the competition in style with a 4-0 win away to Turkish first-timers Bursaspor, Argentinian midfielder Alberto Costa scoring the goal of the game with a thunderous 40-yard strike.

Group D favourites Barcelona were boosted by a razor-sharp performance from Lionel Messi against Panathinaikos, who briefly silenced the Nou Camp when Sidney Govou finished smartly on 20 minutes. Normal service was resumed just two minutes later when Messi latched on to Xavi’s 40-yard pass to equalise, the prelude to David Villa’s first European goal for Barça. Messi then made it 3-1 with the goal of the night before missing a penalty and then teeing up Pedro for the fourth. Dani Alves made it five for Los Azulgranas with a fine header late on. Group rivals Copenhagen joined Barcelona on three points when Dame Ndoye’s late header gave them a 1-0 victory over Russia’s Rubin Kazan.

Goal of the day
Barcelona 3-1 Panathinaikos, Lionel Messi 45

Bearing down on the Pana box on one of his trademarks incursions from the right, Lionel Messi played a cute one-two with Xavi, advanced to the edge of the area before repeating the move with Pedro and then clipping a low shot past Alexandros Tzorvas and into the back of the net.

The stat
16 -
The number of consecutive appearances Manchester United have made in the group phase of the Champions League, the most by any side in the competition and one more than Porto, Real Madrid and Barcelona.

Upcoming fixtures
The four groups are back in action again on Wednesday 29 September

Group A: Inter Milan-Werder Bremen, Tottenham-Twente
Group B: Hapoel Tel Aviv-Lyon, Schalke 04-Benfica
Group C: Valencia-Manchester United, Glasgow Rangers-Bursaspor
Group D: Rubin Kazan-Barcelona, Panathinaikos-Copenhagen

Have your say
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