News24

Messi saves Barcelona

2012-09-19 22:50

Barcelona - Lionel Messi started his and Barcelona's Champions League campaign with a bang when he struck twice to secure a 3-2 comeback win for the favourites at home to Spartak Moscow in their Group G opener on Wednesday.

Barca were flirting with a first home defeat in 17 European games when Spartak took a shock 2-1 lead in the 59th minute at the Nou Camp before Messi, top scorer in the competition the past four seasons, levelled 19 minutes from time.

The Argentine World Player of the Year was set up by Cristian Tello, scorer of the home side's opener, in the 71st minute and then headed in the winner in the 80th minute from a cross by substitute Alexis Sanchez.

It was an impressive comeback from the La Liga side, bidding for a third European crown in five years, and ensured a winning debut in the competition for new coach Tito Vilanova.

"We deserved to win but it was a really tough game," Messi told Spanish television.

"It's not easy when they defend so deep and you can't find the spaces," added the 25-year-old, who has now scored 109 goals in his last 100 official matches for Barca.

"They were comfortable defending in their penalty area and they have very strong and quick forwards and can break quickly.

"Things got complicated but we kept pressing and we managed to turn it around."

Spartak were level 15 minutes after Tello's 14th minute opener without even having to shoot on goal when fullback Dani Alves turned the ball into his own net.

The visitors' ultra-defensive tactics frustrated Barca and they snatched a shock breakaway goal in the 59th minute when Brazilian midfielder Romulo shrugged off Adriano's challenge and finished low past Victor Valdes.

However, Messi again made the difference and ensured Spartak's Spanish coach Unai Emery, a former boss at La Liga sides Almeria and Valencia, is still seeking his first win against Barca after 13th attempts.

Barcelona's night was partly spoiled by an injury to centre back Gerard Pique. The Spain international was forced off in the 12th minute after bruising his left foot, joining fellow defender Carles Puyol on the injury list.

Champions League results on Wednesday:

Group E

Shakhtar Donetsk (Ukraine) 2, Nordsjaelland (Denmark) 0
Chelsea (England) 2, Juventus (Italy) 2

Group F

Lille (France) 1, BATE Borisov (Belarus) 3
Bayern Munich (Germany) 2, Valencia (Spain) 1

Group G

Barcelona (Spain) 3, Spartak Moscow (Russia) 2
Celtic (Scotland) 0, Benfica (Portugal) 0

Group H

Manchester United (England) 1, Galatasaray (Turkey) 0
Braga (Portugal) 0, CFR Cluj (Romania) 2

Tuesday:

Group A

Dinamo Zagreb (Croatia) 0, FC Porto (Portugal) 2
Paris Saint-Germain (France) 4, Dynamo Kiev (Ukraine) 1

Group B

Montpellier (France) 1, Arsenal (England) 2
Olympiakos (Greece) 1, Schalke (Germany) 2

Group C


Malaga (Spain) 3, Zenit St. Petersburg (Russia) 0
AC Milan (Italy) 0, Anderlecht (Belgium) 0

Group D

Borussia Dortmund (Germany) 1, Ajax (Netherlands) 0
Real Madrid (Spain) 3, Manchester City (England) 2

Reuters