Roma draws Barca in Champions League opener

Lionel-Messi

Lionel Messi of Barcelona. (Riccardo De Luca/AP)

ROME — Alessandro Florenzi scored an incredible goal from more than 60 metres as Roma held defending champion Barcelona to a 1-1 draw in Group E of the Champions League on Wednesday.

There was also some questionable conduct from Luis Suarez in an entertaining match at the Stadio Olimpico.

After an opening goal from Suarez, Florenzi’s equalizer came just after the half-hour mark.

Two strides after dribbling past the centre line on the right flank, Florenzi saw goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen far out of his goal and launched a shot over the German’s head that went in off the post.

Suarez, who gained notoriety for biting Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini at last year’s World Cup, later appeared to kick Roma goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny in the chest after being denied by the Poland international.

It was a nervous start for Roma as Messi made his presence known immediately with a warning shot four minutes in that went a whisker over the bar.

Roma showed composure as Dzeko evaded two defenders near midfield and dribbled all the way into Barca’s area before coughing the ball up directly to a defender.

Suarez may have had a case for a penalty when Szczesny made contact with the centre forward in the 24th, but the referee ruled to play on.

With the sold out crowd coming to life after Florenzi’s goal, Roma was more energized and just before halftime Salah raced on to a long ball and beat two defenders, but shot off mark.

Messi, Suarez and Neymar each produced chances for Barcelona in the second half, and an inspired Florenzi missed a good opportunity in the 76th.

Messi’s shot off the bar came two minutes later, with an expert volley after the ball bounced off the thigh of defender Antonio Rudiger.

De Sanctis did the rest, saving a dangerous effort from Sergi Roberto in added time, seconds after Kostas Manolas headed away danger.

CHELSEA 4, MACCABI TEL AVIV 0
LONDON — Chelsea eased to a 4-0 victory over Maccabi Tel Aviv in its opening Group G match in the Champions League at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.

After Eden Hazard blazed a penalty over in the fifth minute, Willian put Chelsea ahead in the 15th.

His free kick from the left evaded his teammates in the penalty area but bounced beyond the reach of goalkeeper Pedrag Rajkovic.

Oscar doubled the lead on the stroke of halftime, replacing Hazard on penalty duties and converting from the spot after Diego Costa was felled by ex-Chelsea defender Tal Ben Haim.

Substitute Costa then settled the match in the 58th, brilliantly turning in a cross from Cesc Fabregas off the underside of the crossbar, before Fabregas scored from close range on 78 minutes.

DINAMO ZAGREB 2, ARSENAL 1
ZAGREB, Croatia — Dinamo Zagreb swept to a surprising 2-1 victory over 10-man Arsenal in the Champions League on Wednesday as the Londoners’ made a dismal start to their campaign in Group F.

A goal by Josip Pivaric in the 24th minute and a sending-off for Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud after a second yellow card in the 40th swung the game Dinamo’s way.

Chilean forward Junior Fernandes headed Dinamo’s second goal from a corner in the 58th.

Though substitute Theo Walcott pulled a goal back for Arsenal in the 79th minute, it was too little too late for Arsene Wenger’s side.

Dinamo had never beaten a Premier League side before and had gone 15 matches without a victory in the competition, including qualifiers.

DYNAMO KYIV 2, PORTO 2
KIEV, Ukraine — Vitaliy Buyalskiy scored an 89th-minute goal as Ukraine’s Dynamo Kyiv salvaged a 2-2 draw with Porto in Group G of the Champions League on Wednesday.

Porto seemed set for victory thanks to two goals from Vincent Aboubakar before 22-year-old substitute Buyalskiy struck. A free-kick bounced back off the wall and Serhiy Rybalka hit the ball high, Buyalskiy connecting with the header.

Buyalskiy was onside, but other Dynamo players were not and Porto goalkeeper Iker Casillas appeared to protest they had interfered with play.

Dynamo held the lead for just three minutes in the first half when Oleh Husev opened the scoring from close range in the 20th. But Porto fired back quickly, Aboubakar heading in Miguel Layun’s cross before scoring again in the second half.

The Cameroonian forward scored his second in the 81st minute after a period of pressure by Porto, hitting the ball into the unguarded net after Dynamo goalkeeper Oleksandr Rybka jumped for a punch but missed.

Deep into stoppage time, Artyom Kravets had a chance to win the game for Dynamo but hit the side netting.


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OLYMPIACOS 0, BAYERN MUNICH 3
PIRAEUS, Greece — Thomas Mueller scored twice and substitute Mario Goetze added another as Bayern Munich beat Olympiacos 3-0 in the Champions League on Wednesday, with the hosts falling apart late in the match that was marred by scuffles in the stands before kickoff.

The 26-year-old Mueller spotted goalkeeper Roberto off his line and expertly lobbed the ball home in the 52nd minute, laughing at the success of his opportunistic strike.

The Bundesliga side easily held onto their advantage in the second half. Goetze added the second a minute from time with a diagonal shot past Roberto before Muller struck again from close range in injury time.

In brief clashes before the Group F game, riot police used batons to confront a small group of Bayern fans.

VALENCIA 2, ZENIT ST. PETERSBURG 3
VALENCIA, Spain — Hulk scored twice before Axel Witsel got the winner as Zenit St. Petersburg edged Valencia 3-2 in a thrilling Champions League opener in Group H on Wednesday.

Zenit coach Andre Villas-Boas’ strategy to absorb Valencia’s pressure and threaten on the break was executed to perfection by his Brazil striker.

Hulk drove in his first goal on the run in the ninth minute, and bettered that with a ferocious drive from outside the area to stun Mestalla Stadium three minutes before halftime.

Valencia responded after the break and Joao Cancelo was helped by Yuri Lodygin’s poor goalkeeping to pull one back in the 54th before substitute Andre Gomes briefly equalized at 2-2 in the 73rd.

But three minutes later Witsel scored from long distance to restore the Russian’s advantage for good.

BAYER LEVERKUSEN 4, BATE BORISOV 1
LEVERKUSEN, Germany — Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez scored his first goal for Bayer Leverkusen as the German side began its Champions League campaign Wednesday with a 4-1 home win over BATE Borisov in Group E.

Admir Mehmedi opened the scoring with the outside of his boot in the fourth minute, nine minutes before Serbian defender Nemanja Milunovic drew the visitors level with a deflected header.

Hakan Calhanoglu restored Leverkusen’s lead with another deflected goal two minutes after the break, and Hernandez struck in the 59th. The Mexico striker ran onto Kevin Kampl’s ball forward and fired through the BATE goalkeeper’s legs for his first goal since switching from Manchester United.

Calhanoglu rounded off the scoring with a penalty in the 76th.

Defending champion Barcelona drew 1-1 at Roma in the other Group E game.

GHENT 1, LYON 1
GHENT, Belgium — AA Ghent came back from behind with a goal from Danijel Milicevic and survived being down to nine men in the closing stages to earn a 1-1 draw with Olympique Lyon on its Champions League debut Wednesday.

After midfielder Brecht Dejaegere was sent off for a high tackle in the 41st minute, the Belgian champion still got the equalizer in the 68th minute. Thomas Foket was then sent off for a foul in the area three minutes from time, but goalkeeper Matz Sels saved the penalty from Lyon star Alexandre Lacazette.

Lyon looked set for an easy victory in Group H when Christophe Jallet dipped in at the near post to head home a corner from veteran Mathieu Valbuena in the 58th minute when it was already a man up.

"It was so tough after the red card but we managed it," Ghent forward Laurent Depoitre said. "It was great to get a point. It feels like a victory considering."

FC Zenit beat Valencia 3-2 in the other Group H game.

In an open first half, Ghent had much the better of play, with Depoitre hitting the bar and seeing one goal disallowed for a marginal offside. It seemed the turning point came close to half time with the sending off of Dejaegere, yet the 20,000 fans at the Ghelamco Arena kept pushing their men forward and they continued to create chances.

After winning its first league title last year, Ghent has been struggling this year with only two victories in seven games, and it lags in seventh place in the standings.

Lyon is in sixth place after five games and was looking for a strong start in the Champions League to put its domestic frustration behind it.


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