There were no tears from Lionel Messi as he left the Camp Nou pitch after this Champions League game – just that familiar smile after another multiple-goal performance that secured a come-from-behind victory.
In Group G, Messi scored a late brace on Wednesday to bring Barcelona back to win 3-2 over Spartak Moscow and successfully launch their campaign for a fourth European title in eight seasons.
The Argentina forward walked off that same pitch in tears after his last Champions League game, when Barcelona was eliminated by Chelsea in the semifinals last season. For a while, it looked like Spartak would spring another upset at Camp Nou, as Spartak fought back after Cristian Tello’s 14th-minute opener to lead 2-1 in the second half.
The Russian club levelled through Dani Alves’ own goal in the 29th and Romulo then struck in the 59th to give the visitors an unexpected advantage.
|Champions League Group Stage Results|
Wednesday September 19
Barca 3-2 Spartak Moscow
But Messi, who equalled a European Cup record with 14 goals in the last campaign, tapped in Tello’s pass to make it 2-2 in the 71st and headed in Alexis Sanchez’s cross in the 80th to keep Barcelona undefeated in 17 straight home games in Europe.
Celtic drew 0-0 with Benfica in the other Group G game on Wednesday.
Michael Carrick’s first Champions League goal in three years gave Manchester United an unconvincing 1-0 victory over Galatasaray and a winning start to their Group H campaign at Old Trafford.
England midfielder Carrick finished a neat move by rounding keeper Fernando Muslera, keeping his balance and slotting home in the seventh minute.
But United could not build on their lead, and Galatasaray, appearing in the Champions League for the first time in six years, were unlucky not to leave with a point after hitting the woodwork three times through Nordin Amrabat, Hamit Altintop and Selcuk Inan.
Nani made United work harder for their win when Muslera saved the Portuguese winger’s feeble 53rd-minute penalty
following a foul on Brazilian defender Rafael.
Alex Ferguson’s side failed to reach the Champions League knockout rounds last season – the first time since 2005-06 they had fallen at the group stage – and they won just one game at Old Trafford in two dismal European campaigns.
Subsequently Ferguson has made a point of challenging his players to eradicate their complacency and defensive
United are joint top of Group H with CFR Cluj-Napoca who recorded a 2-0 win over Braga.
Oscar winning performance
Fabio Quagliarella scored a late equaliser as Juventus came from two goals down to draw 2-2 with defending champions Chelsea.
The Italy forward’s 80th-minute goal came only six minutes after coming off the bench, completing the Italian champions’ comeback after falling behind to a quickfire double from Oscar in the first half of the Group E match.
Arturo Vidal reduced the deficit in the 38th for Juventus, who were making their return to the competition after a three-year absence. Chelsea are trying to become the first team to retain the Champions League since its inception in 1992.
“Of course it’s always dangerous when it’s 1-0. The second goal was very important for us”
Munich’s Bastian Schweinsteiger
Shakhtar Donetsk took the lead of Group E after defeating FC Nordsjaelland 2-0.
Toni Kroos’ powerful long-range strike ensured Bayern Munich made a winning start in the Champions League with a 2-1 victory over Valencia.
Kroos let fly to the top left corner with 14 minutes remaining, just as a defensive Valencia side had threatened to equalise Bastian Schweinsteiger’s 38th-minute opening strike.
“Of course it’s always dangerous when it’s 1-0. The second goal was very important for us,” Schweinsteiger said.
Belarusian champion BATE Borisov won 3-1 at Lille in the other Group F match.