CLeague: Wasteful Barca down Plzen; Last gasp win for Gunners
A spot of Andres Iniesta magic and a late David Villa strike lifted profligate Barcelona to a 2-0 home win over competition newcomers Viktoria Plzen in Champions League Group H on Wednesday.
Playmaker Iniesta netted for the holders as early as the 10th minute at a balmy Nou Camp arena but in the face of near-constant pressure on their goal the visitors somehow managed to hold firm until Villa scored eight minutes from time.
World Player of the Year Lionel Messi had a frustrating night, twice hitting the post and several times being denied by last-ditch tackles after typically breathtaking runs.
The Czech champions, making their debut in Europe's elite club competition, did not muster a shot on goal while Barca had 18 attempts -- although only four on target -- and more than 70 percent of possession.
Image: Barcelona's Andres Iniesta (left) is congratulated by teammates after scoring against Viktoria Plzen
'We found it tougher to decide the match than usual'
The victory, which extended Barca's unbeaten run to 19 in all competitions, lifted them to seven points after three of six games, level with Italian side AC Milan who beat BATE Borisov of Belarus 2-0.
Plzen and BATE, who lost 5-0 at home to Barca on matchday two, each have one point.
"We found it tougher to decide the match than usual but we are pleased to have the win and to make progress," Villa said in an interview with Spanish television.
"When you are only 1-0 ahead things can get difficult because it's only a narrow lead but typically we would convert at least one of our chances."
Iniesta's goal came after a trademark quickfire passing move that left the visiting defenders in disarray.
He twice exchanged passes with Messi before dinking the ball around his marker and sidefooting narrowly inside the near post from close range.
Image: Barcelona's Daniel Alves (left) is challenged by Viktoria Plzen's Marek Bakos
'The Barca players are the best in the world'
Villa made sure of the three points when he followed up after a Messi effort and swept the ball high into the net.
Messi had earlier curled a long-range free kick on to the inside of an upright and flicked the ball on to the post after a dazzling run early in the second half.
Plzen's failure to muster a shot was only the second time that has happened in a Champions League game in the last five seasons after English Premier League side Arsenal suffered the same fate against Barca last term.
Plzen coach Pavel Vrba was under no illusions about the overwhelming superiority of his side's opponents and said Barca were "in a league of their own".
"I watched the last few games Barca played and it's always the same story with them totally dominating possession," he told a news conference.
"The Barca players are the best in the world and I would say they are perfection, there is no other way to define it.
"I said yesterday it would be a miracle if we were able to stop those players but we were not able to manage it."
Image: Barcelona David Villa celebrates after scoring against Viktoria Plzen
Torres shines as Chelsea destroy feeble Genk
Fernando Torres struck twice as Chelsea equalled their biggest Champions League win by brushing aside injury-hit Belgian champions Racing Genk 5-0 at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.
Torres shone in a one-sided contest that was effectively all over by the 11th minute after Chelsea had established a 2-0 lead with goals from Raul Meireles and Torres.
The Spanish striker, in the middle of a domestic suspension for his sending-off against Swansea City, added a superb second goal with a header after 27 minutes and he could have scored four times.
Torres might not be back to the lethal goal shark he was at Liverpool, but he played an important role in Chelsea's biggest home win in the competition which equalled their best ever, 5-0 over Galatasaray in Turkey 12 years ago.
Victory was completed with further goals from Branislav Ivanovic and substitute Salomon Kalou and Genk were lucky to go home conceding only five.
Image: Chelsea's Fernando Torres celebrates after scoring against Genk
Photographs: Getty Images
'We are able to choose from the best'
Chelsea will face far tougher sides than Genk this season, but on this performance Torres is far from the spent force some were predicting after the miserable start to his Chelsea career which had brought just three goals since his 50 million-pounds($79.15 million) move from Liverpool last January.
Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas praised the Spaniard.
"Fernando found scoring positions, but we like to promote collective performance as well as individual performance," he said.
"We are able to choose from the best. The choice fell to Fernando today and he performed very well."
Torres almost put his side ahead in the seventh minute but hit a post with only goalkeeper Laszlo Koteles to beat, but a minute later Chelsea took control when Meireles scored with a long-range shot.
They doubled their lead when Torres slotted home from a Frank Lampard pass three minutes later, and the Spaniard scored the best goal of the night with a glancing header after 27 minutes from a perfectly placed Meireles cross.
Image: Raul Meireles celebrates after scoring against Genk
Photographs: Getty Images
'It is no shame to lose to Chelsea'
Ivanovic then headed in a rare goal three minutes before the break from a Florent Malouda free kick to make it 4-0 and at that stage it seemed as though Chelsea might equal Liverpool's all-time Champions League record 8-0 win over Besiktas in 2007.
However, Chelsea took their foot of the gas after halftime with Genk, missing three defenders and influential skipper David Hubert, offering little in the way of resistance.
Indeed the Belgian's most memorable contribution to the occasion was their vivid cerise kit which stopped them fading out of sight altogether.
"It is no shame to lose to Chelsea because they have too much quality and play at a different level from where we are," said Genk coach Mario Been.
"We were missing a lot of players so we weren't in the best shape."
Chelsea, who have now beaten four Belgian sides at the Bridge without conceding a goal, stayed top of Group E with seven points, one ahead of Bayer Leverkusen with Valencia on two and Genk on one.
Image: Branislav Ivanovic celebrates after scoring
Photographs: Getty Images
Ramsey strikes late to secure win for Arsenal
Substitute Aaron Ramsey struck in stoppage time to secure Arsenal a 1-0 victory at Olympique Marseille in an uninspiring Champions League Group F encounter on Wednesday.
Welsh international midfielder Ramsey fired home in the second minute of time added on in a disappointing game at the Stade Velodrome to leave Arsenal well placed to reach the knockout stage.
Arsenal have seven points from three games in Group F, one more than Marseille who conceded for the first time in this season's competition. Olympiakos have three with Borussia Dortmund on one.
"We left it very late because we had a difficult start, we lost many balls in the first half," Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger, who was back on the bench after a two-match Champions League suspension, said.
"I don't think Marseille were dangerous in the second half. In fairness they defended well but we were rewarded because we kept going.
"We made a little step forward but we have to be humble because we are a team that has to continue to grow. The next game at home against Marseille will be very important."
Image: Aaron Ramsey celebrates after scoring against Olympic Marseille
'It is a huge disappointment'
Both sides, who have been struggling in their domestic leagues this season, failed to create many chances. The hosts wasted their best opportunity when Lucho Gonzalez met Mathieu Valbuena's low cross but could only direct his effort wide across goal in the first half.
Arsenal went close after the break when Theo Walcott slipped through but was denied by the legs of keeper Steve Mandanda who was then beaten by Ramsey at the death having just kept out Robin van Persie's low drive.
"I'm angry, but I've calmed down a little bit. It is a huge disappointment," Marseille coach Didier Deschamps said.
"It's infuriating, especially since we had been warned two minutes before the goal with Van Persie's chance."
The Gunners had made a shaky start with Alex Song being shown a yellow card after only four minutes for an ill-timed challenged on Loic Remy.
Image: Olympique Marseille's Andre Ayew (right) challenges Arsenal's Mikel Arteta
'The penalty was obvious'
In the 15th minute, right back Carl Jenkinson appeared to handle a cross in the penalty area but referee Damir Skomina waved play on, with Andre Ayew booked for complaining.
"The penalty was obvious. Too bad the referee did not see it, it could have changed a lot of things," said Deschamps.
The hosts then had a let off when Souleymane Diawara cleared Van Persie's header off his line as Arsenal increased the pressure.
The visitors, however, lacked composure at the back.
Remy saw off Per Mertesacker and Jenkinson in the box, only for the France striker's right-footed angled attempt to be deflected just wide.
Remy then beat the offside trap but a superb tackle by Laurent Koscielny denied him a shooting opportunity.
Jenkinson, who seemed to struggle in the first half, was replaced just after the hour mark by Johan Djourou as defensive injury problems keep piling up for Wenger.
Arsenal were offered a great opportunity to take the lead in the 64th minute when Nicolas Nkoulou lost out to Walcott, only for Mandanda to save from the England winger with his left foot.
There was nothing the France keeper could do, though, when Ramsey was well positioned to gather a flick on by fellow substitute Gervinho and cooly fired home.
Image: Olympique Marseille's Mathieu Valbuena (left) challenges Arsenal's Andrey Arshavin
Erratic Milan stutter past Borisov
Erratic AC Milan missed a hatful chances and survived several scares before running out 2-0 winners over rank outsiders BATE Borisov in the Champions League on Wednesday.
An opportunist strike from Zlatan Ibrahimovic and a spectacular effort from midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng left Milan with seven points from three games after a wildly unpredictable Group H match.
Milan could have had a hatful of goals, yet should have found themselves behind against the side whose full name is Borisov Automobile and Tractor Electronics and who have still to win a Champions League match in nine attempts.
With Milan alternating moments of inspiration and sloppiness, the game turned on a one-minute spell in the first half.
A dreadful defensive slip-up by Milan left Borisov playmaker Renan Bressan with a clear run on goal in the 32nd minute but the Brazilian took too long over his shot and Christian Abbiati was able to turn it wide.
Image: Zlatan Ibrahimovic of AC Milan celebrates after scoring
Photographs: Getty Images
'Have to make most of chances against teams like Milan'
"You have to make the most of those chances, you only get one against teams like Milan," Bressan told reporters.
One minute later, Milan went ahead when Ignazio Abate's dangerous low cross was only partially cleared and Ibrahimovic raced in to rifle home a first-time shot.
The volatile Swede had nearly given Milan a spectacular start when he saw goalkeeper Aleksandr Gutor off his line and tried to catch him out from 40 metres, his effort going just over.
He also wasted another chance when he nonchalantly side-footed over the bar after Antonio Cassano's floated cross found him on the right.
Alberto Aquilani also hit the foot of the post in a lively Milan opening.
The goal seemed to make Milan overconfident as Ibrahimovic tried to flick the ball over a defender's head and missed another chance when he clipped the ball delicately across the face of the goal from Cassano's incisive pass.
Image: AC Milans's Kevin-Prince Boateng (centre) celebrates with his teammates Taye Taiwo (left) and Daniele Bonera
Borisov controlled the match briefly in the second half
Borisov, who finished with three draws and three defeats in their only previous Champions League campaign in 2008-09, were glad to hear the halftime whistle.
The Belarus champions for the last five seasons came out with renewed hope and they briefly controlled the match early in the second half, the ineffective Mateja Kezman wasting their best chance on the break when his shot was blocked.
Milan, who had 24 shots but only five on target, continued to perform in fits and starts.
Ibrahimovic seemed to sum it all up just before the hour when he did everything right, cutting inside and making space for his shot, only to sky a wild effort high into the stands.
Robinho's introduction for Cassano gave Milan more life and he nearly made an immediate impact, cutting inside and firing wide.
Milan finally settled the game when a long crossfield pass found Boateng and the Ghanaian -- who somehow escaped a yellow card for kicking an opponent who was on the ground -- scored with a rasping 25-yard shot which went in off the underside of the crossbar.
Image: AC Milan's Kevin-Prince Boateng is challenged by Aleksandr Volodko of Borisov
Photographs: Getty Images
Struggling Shakhtar held by Zenit
Ukraine's Shakhtar Donetsk were held to a 2-2 draw by Zenit St Petersburg at Donbas Arena on Wednesday in a Champions league Group G clash labelled as a former Soviet derby.
Shakhtar, quarter-finalists last season, struggled to rediscover their form and stayed bottom of the standings with two points from three matches despite leading twice.
Brazilian Willian fired Shakhtar ahead after 15 minutes with a classy curling shot and his compatriot Luiz Adriano put them ahead again after Roman Shirokov had levelled for Zenit but Viktor Faizulin made sure the points were shared.
Russian league leaders Zenit would have been happier with the draw as they moved into second spot on four points, one behind surprise group leaders APOEL.
Defeat in St Petersburg in two weeks would leave Shakhtar struggling to emerge from the group into the knockout phase.
Image: Shakhtar Donetsk's Luiz Adriano celebrates after scoring against Zenit St. Petersburg
'Today the goalkeeper is man of the match'
"We should be happy to have snatched a point as it was Zenit who deserved a victory," Shakhtar coach Mircea Lucescu told reporters.
"They managed to impose their will on the game overwhelming us in physical shape and dedication. I cannot recollect a match when I thought the goalkeeper was the best player but today he was the man of the match. It is a good lesson to our Brazilians who should understand that it is not enough to rely solely on their technical flair.
"Character and dedication also matter. This point has made our hopes of going into the next round even more uncertain."
It was an entertaining clash in the Donbass Arena and Zenit should have gone in front after 10 minutes but Shirokov missed a penalty after a foul by Dmytro Chygrynskiy on Faizulin.
Image: Shakhtar Donetsk's Darijo Srna (centre) fights for the ball with Zenit St. Petersburg's Viktor Fayzulin (left)
'I would like to congratulate myself for working with such great players'
Zenit had another great chance when Danny's close-range shot was stopped in stunning fashion by Olexandr Rybka.
They were then caught cold when Willian curled a perfect shot into the top corner.
Zenit's persistence was rewarded after 33 minutes when turned into a well-deserved equalizer on 33 minutes when Shirokov latched on to an incisive pass by Alexandr Bukharov, rounded the keeper and scored from an acute angle.
The visitors looked the more likely to score the next goal but Mircea Lucescu's Shakhtar side again struck against the flow of the game in the dying minutes of the first half.
Razvan Rat crossed low into the area from the left and Luiz Adriano finished off calmly.
Shakhtar could not hold the lead though and they gifted Zenit a second equaliser when Olexandr Chyzhov slipped and Faizulin stole in to lob Rybka.
"I would like to congratulate myself for working with such great players. They had an outstanding game tonight. Not so many teams create so many goal scoring chances in Donetsk," Zenit coach Luciano Spalletti said.
Image: Zenit St. Petersburg's Viktor Fayzulin (front) celebrates with teammate Evgeni Bashkirov after scoring against Shakhtar Donetsk
Leverkusen stage comeback to beat Valencia 2-1
Bayer Leverkusen scored twice in four minutes to beat Valencia 2-1 in the Champions League on Wednesday and tighten their hold on second spot in Group E.
Valencia led at the interval with a goal by Jonas but Andre Schuerrle levelled with a thundering drive in the 52nd minute and Sidney Sam snatched the winner in the 56th to secure Leverkusen's first win over a Spanish side in the last eight attempts.
The result leaves the 2002 Champions League finalists in second spot on six points, one behind leaders Chelsea who crushed Belgium's Racing Genk.
Valencia, who had dominated in the first half and have only themselves to blame for not having led by more goals, are third on two points.
Image: Bayer Leverkusen's Sidney Sam celebrates his goal against Valencia
Valencia threatened to take lead early
The game, seen by both coaches as key for a top two finish that secures qualification to the knockout stage, got off to a frantic start with Valencia dominating possession and threatening with a powerful Roberto Soldado shot.
The Spanish forward was then fortunate to see the ball deflected into his path in the 20th minute but his close-range effort was off target.
Soldado was involved again five minutes later when he benefitted from some confusion between defenders Stefan Reinartz and Omer Toprak, cut into the area and set up Brazilian Jonas to tap in for his first Champions League goal.
Soldado should have added another a little later but failed to keep his header from six metres down before Leverkusen keeper Bernd Leno made a spectacular double save as the Spaniards went on a full frontal attack.
Image: FC Valencia's Jonas celebrates his goal against Bayer Leverkusen
Frustration showed on Dutt's face
Frustration showed for Leverkusen coach Robin Dutt, who was pacing up and down, barking orders.
His shouts awakened his players with Schuerrle forcing a good save from keeper Diego Alves who then palmed a point-blank Michael Ballack header wide just before the break.
Germany international Schuerrle was on target seven minutes after the restart, firing in a powerful left-footer from a Michal Kadlec cross before Sam added another in an unexpected turnaround, sprinting to chase down a deep pass and beat Alves.
Image: Bayer Leverkusen's coach Robin Butt