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Rediff.com  » Sports » CL PHOTOS: Messi magic returns; Eto'o helps Chelsea close in on last 16

CL PHOTOS: Messi magic returns; Eto'o helps Chelsea close in on last 16

Last updated on: November 07, 2013 10:32 IST

Messi magic returns to Camp Nou

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The familiar sound of his name echoing around the Nou Camp signalled the end of a mini goal drought as Lionel Messi scored twice in a 3-1 win over AC Milan that put Barcelona through to the Champions League last 16 on Wednesday.

He grabbed his first with an emphatic strike from the penalty spot on the half hour, prompting the Barca fans inside the giant arena to begin the chants of ‘Messi, Messi, Messi’.

An unmarked Sergio Busquets nodded in Xavi's free kick 10 minutes later but Gerard Pique turned the ball into his own net moments before the break to make it 2-1 and give Milan hope.

The Italian side looked more threatening after Mario Balotelli replaced Robinho at halftime before Messi made a trademark dash between the defenders and dinked the ball over goalkeeper Christian Abbiati for his second seven minutes from the end.

It was the 26-year-old's sixth goal in three games in Europe this season and his 65th in 82 Champions League appearances and firmly put to bed concern he might have lost his cutting edge after a couple of brief injury absences.

Barca's comfortable victory lifted the Group H leaders to 10 points from four matches and put them through to the knockout round with two matches to spare.


Image: Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona duels for the ball with Nigel de Jong of AC Milan during the UEFA Champions League Group H match at Camp Nou in Barcelona on Wednesday
Photographs: David Ramos/Getty Images

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'I think we played a good first half and the own goal right at the end was a pity'

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Milan, struggling in both domestic and continental competition, have five points in second and Ajax are third on four after they won 1-0 at home to Celtic in Amsterdam.

"Mission accomplished," Busquets said in an interview with Spanish television broadcaster Canal Plus.

"I think we played a good first half and the own goal right at the end was a pity," added the Spain international.

"We suffered a bit in the second but we had chances for a third and when it came everything was much easier.

"It was only a matter of matches and in front of goal Messi is always a machine. Today he has scored two and I hope he can continue in the same vein."

Barca quickly settled into their customary rhythm, with Xavi and Andres Iniesta pulling the strings in midfield and Messi, Neymar and Alexis Sanchez roving up front.

Alexis came close to an opener in the 21st minute when he just failed to get enough on a Neymar centre to turn it into the net before the referee ruled Ignazio Abate had hauled the Brazilian down in the area.

Messi smashed the penalty straight down the middle and was engulfed by his team mates, obviously delighted their talisman was back on the scoresheet.


Image: Sergio Busquets (left) of FC Barcelona celebrates with teammate Xavi Hernandez after scoring his team's second goal during their UEFA Champions League Group H match against AC Milan at Camp Nou in Barcelona on Wednesday
Photographs: David Ramos/Getty Images

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'We wanted to earn points tonight but I think we played a good game anyway'

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Milan captain Riccardo Montolivo clipped a swerving shot narrowly wide five minutes later but the visitors' was caught napping when an unmarked Busquets headed into the net from Xavi's free kick.

An impressive Kaka surge down the left wing led to Milan's goal when his low centre skewed off Pique's foot and past goalkeeper Victor Valdes.

Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri brought Italy forward Balotelli on for Robinho at halftime and his physical presence lifted the visitors.

They enjoyed a lot more possession without really threatening and Messi brought the supporters to their feet when he exchanged passes with substitute Cesc Fabregas and finished with his usual aplomb to put the game beyond the seven-times European champions.

"We knew we were facing a great team which keeps possession well and make it tough for their opponents," Milan midfielder Andrea Poli said on UEFA.com.

"However, I think we played well especially when we were 2-1 down and we created a few chances to equalise," he added.

"We wanted to earn points tonight but I think we played a good game anyway. I think we could do better on the counter attack. Now we have to focus on the next two decisive games."

In the next round on November 26, Barca play at Ajax and Milan are at Celtic before Barca host the Scottish champions and Milan are at home to Ajax on December 11.


Image: Neymar of FC Barcelona duels for the ball with Ignazio Abate of AC Milan during their UEFA Champions League Group H match at Camp Nou in Barcelona on Wednesday
Photographs: David Ramos/Getty Images

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Perfect Atletico top group, cruise into last 16

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Atletico Madrid cruised to their fourth consecutive victory with a 4-0 win at home to Austria Vienna on Wednesday, securing top spot in Champions League Group G and a place in the knockout rounds.

Miranda, Raul Garcia and Filipe Luis put La Liga's second- placed side three up before halftime and leading scorer Diego Costa netted the fourth late on after missing a second-half penalty.

A club record fourth consecutive win in Europe's elite club competition takes their form this season to 15 victories, two draws and only one defeat in all competitions.

Group G's second-placed side Zenit St Petersburg were earlier held to a 1-1 draw at home to Porto to move on to five points, seven adrift of leaders Atletico with two matches left to play.

"We are very pleased with the result today," Costa told Spanish broadcaster Canal Plus in a pitchside interview.

"We knew it was important to win because of the result between Porto and Zenit. There is still a long way to go but we deserve to be in the last 16."

Coach Diego Simeone played down his side's achievements.

"We are taking it one game at a time in the Champions League and staying humble," he said, once again avoiding talk of how far his club could go this season.

"We'll take it one step at a time but with the great enthusiasm that Atletico always have."

Vienna coach Nenad Bjelica, however, was prepared to go a step further.


Image: Atletico Madrid's Diego Costa celebrates with teammates Raul Garcia (left) and Juan Francisco Torres "Juanfran" (center) after scoring against Austria Vienna during their Champions League Group G match at Vicente Calderon stadium in Madrid on Wednesday
Photographs: Susana Vera/Reuters

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'Atletico are strong enough to go on and win this competition'

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"You need luck to win the Champions League but I see Atletico strong enough to go and win this competition. It's an advantage for them that they don't have any pressure to win it."

Atletico were soon on top at a half-full Calderon as Koke's corner from the right fell in the area and Miranda reacted quickest to stroke the ball into the corner of the goal after 11 minutes.

Atletico keeper Thibaut Courtois and his opposite Heinz Lindner both made sharp saves, from Daniel Royer and Costa respectively, but the hosts always looked the more dangerous side.

Costa beat his marker wide on the right after 25 minutes and crossed for Garcia to loop a header in for the second, and Lindner was soon in action again, palming away a Costa volley.

It was one-way traffic just before the break when Juanfran crossed, Adrian Lopez fired goalwards and Luis pounced to sweep Lindner's weak parry into the net.


Image: Atletico Madrid's Raul Garcia (left) fights to head the ball with Austria Vienna's Florian Mader (centre) and Manuel Ortlechner during their Champions League Group G match at Vicente Calderon stadium in Madrid on Wednesay
Photographs: Susana Vera/Reuters

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Vienna 'keeper Linder denied Costa late in the game

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The visitors rarely threatened in the second half when their fresh-faced 23-year-old keeper Lindner came to the fore.

He made a number of outstanding saves, palming away a long-range effort from substitute Cristian Rodriguez, who was later felled by Manuel Ortlechner for a penalty with 15 minutes remaining.

Lindner dived to his left to block Costa's weakly-hit spot kick, an act which clearly annoyed Atletico's burly frontman.

The Brazilian-born striker, who has declared his wish to play for Spain, threw his gloves to the ground in disgust and appeared determined to make amends.

Linder denied him with an out-stretched arm two minutes later, but in the 82nd minute he was finally breached by Costa when he smartly finished after Garcia's backheel.


Image: Atletico Madrid's Juan Francisco Torres "Juanfran" (left) and Austria Vienna's Marin Leovac vie for possession during their Champions League Group G match at Vicente Calderon stadium in Madrid on Wednesday
Photographs: Susana Vera/Reuters

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Eto'o pounces twice as Chelsea close on last 16

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Samuel Eto'o rolled back the years to score two different types of goal as Chelsea beat Schalke 04 3-0 at StamfordBridge on Wednesday to virtually guarantee their place in the knockout rounds of the Champions League.

Eto'o, 32, who has won most of the major honours in the game - including the Champions League with current Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho when they were at Inter Milan - gave his best Chelsea performance yet since his summer move from Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala.

He pounced on a mistake by Schalke goalkeeper Timo Hildebrand to put Chelsea ahead after 31 minutes and showed composure to add the second in the 54th minute. Demba Ba, who replaced Eto'o after 77 minutes, completed the scoring with a mis-hit volley six minutes later.

Chelsea need just one point from their final two Group E matches to reach the last 16. Schalke remain in second place with the knockout rounds still a realistic target.

Mourinho, who made six changes to the team, brought in Eto'o because Fernando Torres was injured.

"My favourite players are the players that win matches for me, not the ones that lose them, and Samuel worked with me in the best season of my career when we won everything. So he is in a good position," the Portuguese said.

"For two years he was playing without a big motivation, and when you play without motivation you train without motivation and you lose condition and sharpness and your appetite, so it was not a surprise for me that he arrived not in the best condition after two years in Anzhi.


Image: Samuel Eto'o of Chelsea celebrates with team manager Jose Mourinho after scoring the opening goal of their UEFA Champions League Group E match against FC Schalke 04 at Stamford Bridge in London on Wednesday
Photographs: Clive Rose/Getty Images

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Chelsea weathered an early storm

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"Now step by step he is good, and naturally he is a fit, slim guy, and he is intelligent and goals give you confidence. The first goal was a fox goal, the second is a very good collective goal, and Samuel's movement was brilliant."

Chelsea weathered an early storm after Schalke started the brighter, but the match tipped Chelsea's way when Eto'o pounced to score after Hildebrand took too long to clear, allowing Eto'o to stick a boot in the way of the ball, which shot past the keeper and into the net.

Eto'o made it 2-0 in the 54th minute with a well-taken goal after a swift break and a neat final pass from Willian before Ba wrapped it up.

Although Schalke continued to search for a goal after going two behind, they lost much of their impetus when their most dangerous player, Julian Draxler, was replaced after an hour with a knock.

Yet the Bundesliga side could have been three goals clear after 15 minutes, with Draxler and Adam Szalai both going close with fierce low drives that sped just wide of Petr Cech's goal.

Christian Fuchs also curled a shot just wide of the other post, and for much of the opening 30 minutes Chelsea were second best.

Chelsea lead the group with nine points from their four matches, followed by Schalke on six, FC Basel on five and Steaua Bucharest on two.


Image: Willian of Chelsea and Jermaine Jones of Schalke collide during the UEFA Champions League Group E match at Stamford Bridge in London on Wednesday
Photographs: Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

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Patient Arsenal beat Dortmund to lead group

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An Aaron Ramsey header gave patient Arsenal an important 1-0 win at last season's runners-up Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League on Wednesday, allowing them to take control of Group F with two games left to play.

Arsenal, who avenged a 2-1 loss to Dortmund in London last month, bided their time for more than an hour in pouring rain, soaking up Dortmund attacks before striking with their first effort on goal.

The visitors scored against the run of play with Wales international Ramsey sneaking into the box to head home in the 62nd minute.

The result lifts Arsenal to nine points from four games, ahead on goal difference of Napoli who beat Olympique Marseille 3-2. Dortmund drop to third on six.

"We were mature in our tactics, we made no major mistakes and had patience," Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger told reporters.

"We had problems creating chances and we had a brief difficult period early in the second half but then we scored and were not so much under pressure."

The hosts wasted half a dozen clear chances but failed to make their dominance count.


Image: Arsenal's Aaron Ramsey (centre) scores a goal past Borussia Dortmund's goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller during their Champions League Group F match in Dortmund on Wednesday
Photographs: Wolfgang Rattay/Reuters

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'We played good football and it was not boring'

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"I told my team what everyone saw today, that we got nothing for our effort. Losing was not in our plans," said Dortmund coach Juergen Klopp, back on the bench after a two-game suspension.

"Now it becomes more tense in the group. We still have all the chances to advance with two wins."

The hosts took the initiative from the start but found little space to launch their trademark quick breaks.

"We dominated, we worked, we had good runs and we did a lot of things right. We played good football and it was not boring," said Klopp.

"But we lacked the finish. We should have done more from our possession."

The two sides cancelled each other out early on with a tactical waiting game in midfield.

It was fittingly a defender -- Neven Subotic -- who carved out Dortmund's first chance after 17 minutes, drilling his shot from a Sven Bender header just wide.

Jakub Blaszczykowski's volley sailed over the bar a little later and Henrikh Mkhitaryan's curling left-footed drive whizzed wide as the Germans upped the tempo a notch midway through the first half.

Arsenal worked hard to stifle German attacks but were toothless in attack with keeper Wojciech Szczesny called into action straight after the break, first saving a Marco Reus header and then denying Blaszczykowski once more.

The visitors struck with their first effort on goal when Olivier Giroud headed on a Mesut Ozil cross and Ramsey beat Subotic to the punch and nodded in from close range.

The goal was a turning point with Arsenal gaining in confidence and coming close twice more through Ramsey and Per Mertesacker as Dortmund gradually ran out of steam in their desperate search for an equaliser.

"Dortmund had more chances, that's true, but we kept them at bay pretty well," Mertesacker said. "We did not want to be overrun by them as had happened in London and then just wait for the break. That is what made the difference."


Image: Borussia Dortmund's Robert Lewandowski is challenged by Arsenal's Laurent Koscielny (left) and Per Mertesacker (right) during their Champions League Group F match in Dortmund on Wednesday
Photographs: Wolfgang Rattay/Reuters

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