|Atletico Madrid (right) began the defence of its Europa League title with a defeat at Aris Salonika [AFP]|
Juventus were astonishingly held to a 3-3 home draw by Lech Poznan as the Europa League group stage kicked off while holders Atletico Madrid began the defence of their crown with a 1-0 defeat at Aris Salonika.
Manchester City won 2-0 at Salzburg in a clash of two big-spending clubs who had been aiming for the Champions League but had to settle for the second-tier competition on Thursday.
None of Italy’s four representatives won a game between them while three of the four Spanish teams were beaten.
Juve’s Brazil World Cup villain Felipe Melo gave away an early penalty as the Italians fell two goals behind with Artjoms Rudnevs grabbing a hat-trick for the visitors including a stoppage-time equaliser in their Group A match.
Felipe Melo, who enhanced his reputation for reckless tackling by getting sent off in Brazil’s World Cup quarter-final defeat by Netherlands, produced a familiarly clumsy challenge in the 13th minute and Rudnevs opened his account from ths spot.
The Latvian was on target again on the half hour, snapping up a rebound, but Juve equalised when defender Giorgio Chiellini scored either side of halftime before Alessandro del Piero put them ahead in the 68th minute with a superb left-foot strike.
However, the Poles left Italy with a point when Rudnevs equalised in the second minute of added time. Aris’s Spanish forward Javito scored just before the hour against Atletico in Group B, running onto a flicked pass by Carlos Ruiz and firing a powerful shot into the corner, as they preserved an unbeaten home record in European competition.
Spain forward David Silva and Brazilian striker Jo scored in each half to give the world’s richest club Manchester City a 2-0 win at wealthy Austrian champions Salzburg in Group A.
City failed to make the Premier League top four last season while Salzburg, bought by the Red Bull soft drinks company in 2005 amid protests by fans, have lost in the Champions League qualifying rounds four times in the last five seasons.
Liverpool cruised to a 4-1 win over Steaua Bucharest in a Group K meeting of two former European champions. Joe Cole put the hosts ahead in the first minute only for Cristian Tanase to level 12 minutes later. Liverpool striker David Ngog scored twice in the second half, including a penalty, with Brazilian midfielder Lucas notching the other goal.
Aleksandr Kerzhakov hit a first-half hat-trick as 2008 UEFA Cup winners Zenit St Petersburg won 3-1 at Anderlecht in Group G.
Patrick Helmes also scored a treble to help Bayer Leverkusen, missing injured captain Michael Ballack, a 4-0 win over Rosenborg in Group B while Stefan Reinartz scored the other. The other two German teams also won.
VfB Stuttgart, bottom of the Bundesliga with no points from three games, beat Young Boys 3-0 in Group H and Borussia Dortmund scored twice in the last five minutes as they came from behind to beat Ukraine’s Karpaty Lviv 4-3.
Paraguay World Cup striker Lucas Barrios levelled in the 87th minute and Mario Goetze scored in the second minute of added time for his second of the night in the Group J match.
Italian troubles continued as Palermo lost 3-2 at Sparta Prague in Group F and Napoli were held 0-0 at home by Utrecht in Group K while Sampdoria were denied a win in the last seconds.
Barasz Dzsudzsak scored a 90th-minute goal to give PSV Eindhoven a 1-1 draw at home to Samp, who had led with Fabrizio Cacciatore’s 25th minute effort in Group I.
Getafe restored some Spanish pride by beating Odense 2-1 with an 81st minute winner from Pedro Rios in Group H.
But Villarreal lost 2-0 at Dinamo Zagreb in Group D and Sevilla, deprived of a Champions League place after losing to Braga in a playoff, were beaten 1-0 at home by Paris St Germain with Brazilian Nene getting the winner in their Group J match.