Shakhtar Donetsk pulled off the most impressive result of the first instalment of Matchday 3 of the UEFA Champions League, seeing off European champions Chelsea in style.
Manchester United and Barcelona were both made to work hard in their closely contested home victories over Braga (3-2) and Celtic (2-1) respectively, as were Juventus, who played out a 1-1 stalemate with Danish outsiders Nordsjaelland, their third consecutive draw of this campaign.
The big game
Shakhtar Donetsk 2-1 Chelsea
Goals: Alex Teixeira 4, Fernandinho 52 (Shakhtar Donetsk); Oscar 88 (Chelsea)
It was Mircea Lucescu who won the most hotly anticipated tactical battle of the evening, negating Roberto Di Matteo’s gameplan of unlocking the Ukrainian defence through the middle. Chelsea were caught cold in the opening minutes of the Group E clash, falling behind to an Alex Teixeira snapshot that eluded the outstretched right hand of goalkeeper Petr Cech.
Things went from bad to worse for the defending champions, as Frank Lampard was forced to go off injured. Second to the ball and consistently outpaced by a lively home team, the Blues found themselves 2-0 down just after half-time, Brazilian midfielder Fernandinho breaking into the right-hand side of the box and blasting past Cech.
The other games
Nordsjaelland 1-1 Juventus
The Danish outfit had their fans dreaming of an unlikely success after Mikkel Beckmann’s superb free-kick found its way past Gianluigi Buffon to hand them the lead over Italian champions Juventus.
With ’keeper Jesper Hansen on excellent form, it appeared as if it might well be the home side’s night up until the 81st minute, when Mirko Vucinic turned in Mauricio Isla's cross with aplomb, securing a third successive point for La Vecchia Signora in this season’s competition, and obtaining Juventus' ninth draw in a row in European competition. The Italians are third in the section, while the Danes remain bottom.
BATE Borisov 0-3 Valencia
Lille 0-1 Bayern Munich
Valencia brought BATE Borisov down to earth with a bump, soaking up considerable Belarusian pressure before hitting them on the counter-attack with an eye-catching Roberto Soldado hat-trick. With two wins already under their belt, the home team may have been guilty of overconfidence, but it was the Spaniards’ experience, allied to Soldado’s clinical finishing, that swung the balance in the end.
Consequently, Valencia move to the top of the group on goal difference, above Bayern Munich, who defeated Lille via a Thomas Muller penalty, during a match where goalscoring opportunities were at a premium.
Spartak Moscow 2-1 Benfica
Barcelona 2-1 Celtic
Barcelona have not had things their own way at home in the tournament so far, and this encounter doubtless had the Camp Nou faithful shifting uncomfortably in their seats at times. Celtic took the lead in the 18th minute through an unfortunate own goal by Javier Mascherano, during one of the away side’s rare incursions into opposition territory.
Typically, Barça did not appear unduly concerned, continuing to pass their way towards the Celtic box from a multitude of angles. Andres Iniesta’s well-worked goal provided his team with a deserved equaliser, but Fraser Forster’s remarkable performance between the sticks for the Scottish giants appeared to have earned his team-mates a draw, until Jordi Alba got on the end of a deep Adriano cross in the final minute of stoppage time to claim all three points for the Catalans.
Spartak Moscow, meanwhile, overcame Benfica courtesy of a high-octane performance from Brazilian midfield man Rafael Carioca. The Portuguese heavyweights pressed hard in the second half, but to no avail.
Manchester United 3-2 Braga
Galatasaray 1-1 Cluj
For just the second time in their history, Manchester United succeeded in reversing a two-goal deficit in the UEFA Champions League. 2-0 down after 20 minutes, Alex Ferguson’s men subsequently launched countless attacks in the direction of the Portuguese goal. A magnificent pair of headers from Mexican forward Javier Hernandez plus a goal by defender Jonny Evans helped to turn the match around, generating a collective sigh of relief around Old Trafford in the process.
In the pool’s other match, Galatasaray dominated Cluj for the majority of their duel in Istanbul, but the Turks were forced to content themselves with a draw, and will likely harbour regrets about Felipe Melo’s missed first-half penalty. The Romanians now sit in second place in Group H, while Galatasaray lie fourth.
A highly popular player in his adopted land of Portugal, Brazil-born Alan Osorio da Costa Silva, also known as Alan, had to wait until the age of 33 to find the net on the European stage, but he chose a fitting venue to break his duck, scoring twice – with a fine header and a clinical near-post finish – in the opening twenty minutes at Old Trafford and giving Manchester United fans a real fright in the process.
Having come through the ranks at Brazilian outfit Ipatinga, Alan arrived in Portugal in 2001, spending four seasons with Maritimo, before enjoying spells with Porto and Vitoria Guimaraes. The winger-cum-forward then joined Braga in 2008, where he has since become one of the first names on the teamsheet.
Goal of the night
Barcelona 1-1 Celtic, Andres Iniesta 45
Slotting the ball through a scrum of flailing Scottish legs, Lionel Messi found Iniesta on the edge of the box. The Spain international transmitted the ball to compatriot Xavi, who returned the favour instantly. Continuing his run, Iniesta burst between two Celtic defenders to direct the ball into the bottom right-hand corner of the net, sending the expectant Catalan crowd into raptures.
17 – The number of Champions League matches in which Chelsea have scored at least one goal. The London club are the seventh participants in the competition to achieve such a feat, but the ongoing overall record of 29 – held by Barcelona – will likely take quite some time to surpass.
Will Juventus qualify from Group E?