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UEFA Champions League Round Up

Roberto Firmino had an eye for goal just when Liverpool needed a winner against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League.

Liverpool had thrown away a two-goal lead at Anfield on Tuesday, with Kylian Mbappe striking an 83rd-minute equalizer, but the French World Cup star’s carelessness at the other end proved costly for PSG in stoppage time.

Mbappe was dispossessed by James Milner, giving Liverpool a final chance to attack the visiting goal. Firmino, who only came on in the second half after scratching his eye in Saturday’s victory at Tottenham, found the space to weave through the PSG defense and strike the ball low into the net to seal a 3-2 victory.

For his celebration, the Brazilian covered his left eye as teammates leapt on him.

It made for painful viewing for PSG coach Thomas Tuchel, who had seen similar scenes before. As Borussia Dortmund coach, Tuchel’s side also conceded in the first minute of stoppage time at Anfield to go out of the Europa League in the quarterfinals in 2016.

The stakes weren’t as high this time. This was only the opening game in Group C of the Champions League and PSG has five games to secure one of the top two places to advance to the round of 16.

But four months after losing last season’s final, Liverpool showed they might be capable of challenging for the title once again by finding a way to tame Neymar and Mbappe for much of the game.

An emphatic start saw Daniel Sturridge score the opener in the 30th minute and Milner double the lead from the penalty spot six minutes later. But having failed to turn its dominance into more goals, Liverpool conceded before halftime when Thomas Meunier sliced into the net.

And Liverpool was left reeling when Mohamed Salah misplaced a pass that allowed Neymar to carry the ball forward and Mbappe to produce the equalizer.

Salah was brought off two minutes later, and found his own curious way to celebrate Firmino’s winning goal.

 

 

Inter Milan scored two late goals, including a stoppage-time winner, to mark its return to the Champions League with a 2-1 comeback victory against Tottenham on Tuesday.

Inter’s first game in the competition since 2012 looked set to end in disappointment when Tottenham playmaker Christian Eriksen’s shot took a lucky deflection and looped into the net in the 53rd minute. But Mauro Icardi equalized with a perfectly struck volley in the 86th and Vecino headed in the winner in injury time to send the San Siro wild.

Tottenham fell to its third straight loss in all competitions despite taking the lead somewhat against the run of play. Eriksen’s initial shot was parried by Samir Handanovic but the Inter defense failed to clear the danger. The ball came back to the Denmark international and his second attempt took a huge deflection off Joao Miranda and floated over Handanovic.

However, Icardi pounced four minutes from time with a powerful volley into the bottom corner from 20 yards out. That inspired Inter and they poured forward. After earlier chances to snatch the winner, a corner was nodded on to Vecino who headed in in the second minute of stoppage time.

Meanwhile, Harry Kane’s post-World Cup struggles continued. Kane was the top scorer at the tournament in Russia with six goals in England’s run to the semifinals, but the 25-year-old has not found the back of the net since a 3-0 victory over Manchester United last month.

He went closest in the 37th minute as he sprung the offside trap to meet Eriksen’s ball over the top but Handanovic forced the England forward wide and he couldn’t find the angle to shoot.

Kane also had another chance at the end of the first half but was denied by Handanovic.

Tottenham goalkeeper Michel Vorm had been criticized after Sunday’s 2-1 defeat to Liverpool but he did well to prevent Inter from equalizing immediately, getting down smartly to deny Ivan Perisic. Vorm, who is deputizing for the injured Hugo Lloris, also prevented an own goal in the first half with a flying save as Davinson Sanchez’s diving header appeared to be heading into the back of his own net.

 

 

 

Barcelona fans can stop worrying. Lionel Messi is just fine. Three days after a rare poor performance in the Spanish league, Messi came back to normal on Tuesday, scoring a hat trick in a 4-0 win over PSV Eindhoven in the teams’ Champions League opener.

Ousmane Dembele also scored for Barcelona, which was already 3-0 up when it was reduced to 10 men as defender Samuel Umtiti was sent off with a second yellow card for a hard foul in the 79th.

The Group B result extended Barcelona’s unbeaten run at home to 27 matches in UEFA competitions. The Catalan club has won 25 games and drawn only two during the streak.

Messi had struggled in the team’s league win at Real Sociedad on Saturday, a worrying sign just ahead of the team’s important Champions League opener. But he put that behind him with a beautiful free kick in the 32nd minute to open the scoring at Camp Nou Stadium. He curled the ball over the PSV wall from 25 meters (yards) out into the top corner beyond the reach of goalkeeper Jeroen Zoet.

“Messi makes extraordinary things look routine,” Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said. “The free kick goal came just when we needed to break the game open. It was masterful.”

Dembele added to the lead with a well-placed shot from outside the area in the 75th, and Messi sealed the victory with goals in the 77th and 87th minutes. Dembele used a nifty move to get past two defenders before making a run toward the goal and striking his long-range shot into the far corner. It was the fifth goal of the campaign for Dembele, surpassing his total from last season.

Messi’s second goal came after he received a perfect pass by Ivan Rakitic inside the area and calmly sent a low shot into the far corner. He completed his first hat trick of the season after Luis Suarez set him up on a counterattack.

PSV forward Hirving Lozano had a goal disallowed for offside in the 83rd, after Umtiti was sent off after a foul on Lozano while trying to stop a breakaway.

Barcelona, which leads the Spanish league with four wins from four matches, dominated possession and was in control throughout the match, with PSV threatening only a few times on counterattacks. The Dutch club gained some momentum halfway through second half but wasn’t able to capitalize on its brief dominance.

“With the score at 1-0, it was dangerous every time they attacked,” Valverde said. “But after the second goal we played better, even with 10 men.”

Succeeding in the Champions League is one of Barcelona’s main goals this season after struggling in the European competition in recent years. The Catalan club won the European title in 2015 but was eliminated in the quarterfinals the last three seasons in a row. Last year it relinquished a three-goal advantage from the first leg against Roma.

PSV, back in the Champions League after a one-year absence, is winless in seven matches at the group stage of the European competition.

The game was one of two early kickoffs, a change meant to maximize television audiences. Another six games started simultaneously at 1900 GMT, 15 minutes later than in previous seasons.

PSV is coached by Mark van Bommel, who won the Champions League as a player with Barcelona in 2006. PSV is in the group stage for the 16th time but the Dutch club’s only success in the continental competition came before the inception of the Champions League when it lifted the European Cup in 1988.

 

Christian Pulisic celebrated his birthday by scoring on his return from injury to give Borussia Dortmund a late 1-0 win at Club Brugge in the Champions League on Tuesday.

The 20-year-old American, who hadn’t played since Aug. 26 due to muscular problems, came on with around 20 minutes remaining and scored in the 85th when Matej Mitrovic’s attempted clearance rebounded off his shin and looped in over Brugge goalkeeper Karlo Letica.

Pulisic had missed two Bundesliga games for Dortmund and the U.S. friendlies against Brazil and Mexico.

Mario Goetze made a rare start for Dortmund but was unable to provide much of a spark against the spirited hosts.

Brugge was back in the Champions League group stage after a 13-year absence and created the better chances before Pulisic’s goal.

Neither of the Group A hosts won on Tuesday with Atletico Madrid beating Monaco 2-1.

Red Star holds Napoli to 0-0 draw in Champions League<

Belgrade: Red Star Belgrade used a bit of luck to come away with a point against Napoli in its long-awaited return to the Champions League on Tuesday as it held the Italian club to a 0-0 draw.

Napoli forward Lorenzo Insigne hit the crossbar early on, Red Star goalkeeper Milan Borjan did well to stop an effort from Arkadiusz Milik, and defender Milan Rodic cleared an attempt from Napoli’s Jose Callejon off the line midway through the second half.

Red Star was making its first appearance in the Champions League group stage, having last played in the European Cup group in 1991 as holders. The Serbian champion came through four qualifying rounds to reach the group stage.

Napoli was last season’s Serie A runner-up.

Schalke goalkeeper Ralf Faehrmann saved one penalty but was beaten by another as Porto salvaged a 1-1 draw in their Champions League-opening game on Tuesday.

Brazilian midfielder Otavio scored the equalizing penalty with 15 minutes remaining, despite complaints from the home side that Moussa Marega fell under minimal contact from Naldo.

The Schalke defender was also at fault for the first penalty after a hand-ball in the 12th minute.

However, Faehrmann guessed correctly, diving to the right to push Alex Telles’ spot kick around the post.

Schalke’s Breel Embolo put his team ahead in the 64th, slotting the ball inside the far post after some good work from Nabil Bentaleb and Weston McKennie.

But the home side was left ruing referee Jesus Gil Manzano’s decision to award the second penalty.

Galatasaray returned to the Champions League in style on Tuesday, beating Lokomotiv Moscow 3-0.

After spending two seasons outside Europe’s premier club competition, the Turkish champion beat its Russian counterpart with high-tempo tactics and swift counterattacks in the Group D game.

Garry Rodrigues gave Galatasaray the lead in the ninth minute with a low hard shot from just outside the penalty area. In a stadium famously hostile to visiting teams, with the crowd roaring, Lokomotiv ‘keeper Guilherme got a hand to the ball, but couldn’t stop it.

Eren Derdiyok doubled Galatasaray’s lead in the 67th when he curled a free kick around the Lokomotiv wall. Only Guilherme’s outstretched hand stopped Rodrigues making it 3-0 on a breakaway in the 75th.

Galatasaray midfielder Badou Ndiaye was sent off in the 87th after earning a second yellow card for a late tackle on Anton Miranchuk.

Selcuk Inan scored Galatasaray’s third from the penalty spot in stoppage time after Guilherme brought down Emre Akbaba on a counterattack. It was Galatasaray’s first home win over a Russian club, and its first Champions League victory since beating Benfica in October 2015.

Lokomotiv is back in the Champions League group stage for the first time in 15 seasons. In the other Group D game, Porto and Schalke drew 1-1.

“We were probably too nervous in the beginning,” Lokomotiv left back Bryan Idowu said. “Their goals came out of nowhere. We managed to take the game under our control for some time but it didn’t last long.”

There were some positives for the Railwaymen, especially in the first half. Lokomotiv pressed Galatasaray high up the field and especially in the first half forced errors to exploit with its smart set-piece routines. Lokomotiv’s costliest summer signing, forward Fyodor Smolov, was suspended for the game.

The Russian team came closest in the 20th when Galatasaray goalkeeper Fernando Muslera needed lightning reactions to keep out Jefferson Farfan’s header off a cross from Alexei Miranchuk, who also tested Muslera with a hard shot from distance in the 50th.

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