Barcelona buoyant, Marseille make hay
The real surprise of the night came from APOEL Nicosia, however, the Cypriot hopefuls frustrating Shakhtar Donetsk in Ukraine to move clear at the top of Group G on four points. Overall, just as on Tuesday, 23 goals found the back of the net in eight matches.
The big game
Valencia 1-1 Chelsea
Goals: Roberto Soldado 87pen (Valencia); Frank Lampard 57 (Chelsea)
The high-profile Group E meeting at the Mestalla lived up to all its promise despite a tight first half, the match exploding into life after the break as both goalkeepers suddenly found their work cut out. Diego Alves was especially impressive as he kept Chelsea at bay during a 20-minute spell of pressure, only to finally be beaten when Frank Lampard drilled low inside the near post. With that, the pattern of the game changed and it was Petr Cech who needed to show his worth, the Czech international providing a solid obstacle at the back until he was unable to keep out Roberto Soldado’s late penalty. The inspired No1s at both end of the pitch kept down a scoreline that could easily have read 3-3, though Cech will be the happier of the two as his side held on to top spot in the section.
The other games
Leverkusen 2-0 Genk
The Bundesliga contenders found the going tough for 91 minutes against the tenacious Belgian champions, looking vulnerable to an equaliser after Lars Bender had lit the route to victory with the opening goal. Michael Ballack’s entrance with ten minutes to go allowed Bayer to finally take a grip on proceedings and they eventually gave themselves breathing space two minutes into added time when the veteran midfielder controlled with his chest and volleyed in with his right foot.
Marseille 3-0 Borussia Dortmund
Despite their troubled Ligue 1 form, Marseille continue to shine on the European stage, Didier Deschamps’s men making the most of their chances to negate a superb display from visiting provocateur Mario Gotze. Andre Ayew, the son of Ghana legend Abedi Pele, helped himself to his first Champions League double and Loic Remy was also on target as OM pounced on the counter-attack to stay top of the group courtesy of a second straight win.
Arsenal 2-1 Olympiacos
The Gunners owed their success to a scintillating start as they scored two goals from their first two genuine chances. Aged just 18 years and 44 days, debutant Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain registered the first with eight minutes gone to become the youngest English scorer in the competition, dethroning team-mate Theo Walcott (18 and 221 days), but his side struggled to put the game to bed. With forward Marouane Chamakh still looking low on confidence at one end, the hosts’ defence appeared far from secure at the other, particularly from set-pieces.
Zenit St-Petersburg 3-1 Porto
Having made a promising start and broken the deadlock through Colombian winger James Rodriguez, Porto gradually ceded control of the encounter to their Russian opponents. Rocked by an injury to Kleber and a red card for Jorge Fucile, the Dragons were ultimately undone by two well-worked Roman Shirokov strikes and a third for influential Portuguese schemer Danny, who lay at the heart of everything Zenit did well.
Shakhtar Donetsk 1-1 APOEL Nicosia
Under pressure for the whole game, APOEL were nonetheless able to frustrate Shakhtar and escape with a hard-earned point. The Cypriot side even took the lead just after the hour mark thanks to an excellent effort from FYR Macedonia forward Ivan Trickovski, but three minutes later the scores were levelled as Jadson buried a fine cross from William, who once again proved a dynamic presence on the wing. That was the only goal Shakhtar could muster, however, leaving APOEL at the top of the standings.
BATE Borisov 0-5 Barcelona
The European champions served up another lesson in one-touch football as they swept aside their valiant but overrun hosts. Josep Guardiola’s men were even able to find the net with headers from Lionel Messi and Pedro Rodriguez, the latter becoming the first Spaniard to do so for the club at this level since a match against Galatasaray on 13 November 2002.
AC Milan 2-0 Viktoria Plzen
It took a penalty for Milan to finally edge ahead against a well-organised Plzen side, who began the match with no fewer than nine Czech players in their line-up. Zlatan Ibrahimovic it was who finished from the spot with 53 minutes gone after having been kept out several times by the excellent Marek Cech. I Rossoneri then doubled their advantage through Antonio Cassano in the closing stages, the 2,000th goal of the Silvio Berlusconi era at Milan. Barcelona and Milan are now joint leaders of the section.
Daniel Miguel Alves Gomes – better known as Danny – gave his compatriots a superb reminder of his talent with a starring role in Zenit’s 3-1 win over Porto. Born in Venezuela to Portuguese parents but having spent the last six years in Russia, the former Sporting Lisbon and Dynamo Moscow playmaker is a tireless worker who can also lead the line. He has won 23 caps for Portugal since 2008 and finished top scorer in the Russian Premier League in 2006 and 2010.
Save of the night
Valencia 1-1 Chelsea
Jose Bosingwa swung in a cross to the far post for Fernando Torres to angle a fantastic header that seemed destined to ripple the net. Just as the Spanish international readied himself to celebrate a scoring return to his homeland, though, Diego Alves leapt at full stretch and pulled off an outstanding save on his line. It was an intervention just as important as any goal and one of eight decisive stops Alves carried out during the encounter.
23 – The number of consecutive Champions League matches in which Barcelona have scored at least once. The Catalan giants have set a new benchmark in the competition, outstripping the run of 22 games in which Bayern Munich found the net between 1998 and 2000.
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