Easy for big guns

  • Other Sport
  • Thursday, 18 Sep 2008

MANCHESTER: European heavyweights Liverpool, Barcelona, Chelsea and Inter Milan opened their Champions League campaigns with victories on Tuesday.

But the most striking results on the first night of the group stage came from the competition’s newcomers on the road, with CFR Cluj upsetting AS Roma 2-1 and Anorthosis Famagusta holding Werder Bremen 0-0.

Chelsea, who lost May’s final on penalty kicks, crushed Bordeaux 4-0; five-time champions Liverpool rallied to win 2-1 at Marseille; 2006 winners Barcelona overcame Sporting Lisbon 3-1 and Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan beat Panathinaikos 2-0.

Atletico Madrid end­ed their 11-year absence with a 3-0 win at 1988 champions PSV Eindhoven, while Shakh­tar Donetsk won 2-1 despite FC Basel scoring a late goal.

Star of the night: CFR Cluj's Juan Culio (left) celebrates with Gabriel Muresan (centre) and Alvaro Daniel Pereira after scoring his second goal against AS Roma on Tuesday. Cluj won 2-1.-AP

Fernando Torres was back spearheading Liverpool’s attack after recovering from injury as Liverpool were given a tougher test than last year’s visit to the Stade Velodrome when they left with a 4-0 victory.

Marseille went ahead in the 23rd when Benoit Cheyrou lofted the ball over and Lorik Cana sidefooted past goalkeeper Pepe Reina.

The flares were still being launched when Steven Gerrard struck within three minutes with a rasping shot that looped into the net from 25m.

“It was amazing. It was a fantastic goal, it shows the quality he has,’’ Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez said.

Gerrard put Liverpool ahead in the 31st from the penalty spot at the second attempt after Ronald Zubar had tripped Ryan Babel. It was Gerrard’s 99th career goal.

“We played well in the first half, but in the second they pinned us in and put us under a lot of pressure,’’ Gerrard said. “They’ve got small guys who are really quick and can pass around you.’’

Atletico hadn’t played in the Champions League this century, but Sergio Aguero scored twice and Maniche added another to give the Spaniards a winning start at PSV.

Aguero sliced in Luis Garcia’s cross in the ninth minute. Substitute Florent Sinama Pongolle set up Aguero for the second goal in the 36th, before Maniche converted Garcia’s pass to make it 3-0 in the 54th to ensure a lead over Liverpool over Group D on goal difference.

Chelsea began the new European campaign emphatically, with Frank Lampard scoring and playing provider.

He powered in a header in the 14th on Jose Bosingwa’s cross, before his inviting cross allowed Joe Cole to nod in at the near post in the 30th after rising above Alou Diarra.

Florent Malouda put the match beyond doubt in the 82nd when put clear by Lampard’s well-timed backheel. Nicolas Anelka added a fourth in injury time.

But Chelsea’s Group A rivals, CFR Cluj, stole the headlines by stunning Roma on two goals from Argentine midfielder Juan Culio.

A 24-year-old journeyman playing his first Champions League match, Culio scored in the 27th and 49th minutes after Christian Panucci had put Roma in front at the Olympic Stadium, which will host this season’s final on May 27.

Panucci headed in a pass from Daniele De Rossi in the 17th minute for his 13th goal in 99 European matches.

But Culio equalised six minutes later, splitting two defenders with a diagonal shot from the edge of the area, and he struck again in the 47th, volleying in a loose ball from the centre of the area.

Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola will hope the victory over Sporting has an impact on his team’s domestic form and their worst start in 35 years.

Defender Rafael Marquez headed in Xavi Hernandez’s corner in the 21st and Samuel Eto’o doubled the lead on the hour from the penalty spot.

Tonel stabbed home a cross in the 72nd to pull a goal back before Xavi scored in the 87th to secure Guardiola’s first win of the season.

Shakhtar began their Group C campaign with a win courtesy of two Brazilians scoring - Fernandinho with a free-kick in the 25th and Jadson on the stroke of half-time. David Abraham added a consolation goal for the Swiss team.

Inter took an early lead in Group B after Amantino Mancini and Adriano scored in manager Mourinho’s first European game with the Italian club.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic beat three defenders to set up Mancini, whose left-footed shot beat goalkeeper Mario Galinovic in the 27th.

Ibrahimovic also inspired the second goal, finding Adriano for an easy finish past Galinovic in the 85th.

The other Group B result was more unexpected with Anorthosis Famagusta, the first Cypriot team to enter the Champions League, drawing 0-0 at Werder Bremen. - AP

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