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Wednesday , March 3 2021

Leo bags hat-trick as Barca hit Celtic for 7, Bayern set record – Atletico win, Napoli make perfect start; Wasteful PSG held by Arsenal

Besiktas’ Atiba Hutchinson (right), goes for the ball as Benfica’s goalkeeper Ederson (left), tries to stop him during the Champions League Group B soccer match between Benfica and Besiktas at the Luz Stadium in Lisbon, on Sept 13. The match ended 1-1. (AP)
Besiktas’ Atiba Hutchinson (right), goes for the ball as Benfica’s goalkeeper Ederson (left), tries to stop him during the Champions League Group B soccer match between Benfica and Besiktas at the Luz Stadium in Lisbon, on Sept 13. The match ended 1-1. (AP)

BARCELONA, Sept 14, (RTRS): Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar combined to devastating effect as Barcelona swatted Celtic aside 7-0 at the Nou Camp to lay down a marker in Champions League Group C.

Messi produced a stunning display, hitting a record sixth hat-trick in the competition to hand the 1967 winners their heaviest European Cup defeat.

He smashed home a pass from Neymar in the third minute and the Argentine maestro struck again in the 27th after Celtic’s Moussa Dembele had a penalty saved by goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

Neymar curled in a free kick to stretch Barca’s lead in the 50th minute before crossing for Andres Iniesta to volley the fourth.

Messi then grabbed his third goal, overtaking Real Madrid greats Alfredo Di Stefano and Ferenc Puskas to reach six European Cup trebles.

Neymar laid on the sixth for Suarez and the Uruguayan completed the rout with his second strike in stoppage time, capping Barca’s biggest win in the competition.

Luis Enrique reverted to an almost full-strength team after his rotation policy backfired in Saturday’s shock 2-1 La Liga defeat at home to Alaves.

The hosts quickly asserted themselves as Neymar slid the ball into Messi’s path following a short corner and the Argentine took a touch in the area before scoring.

Barca continued to exert early pressure but were almost undone when Ter Stegen tripped visiting striker Scott Sinclair.

Despite scoring a hat-trick against arch-rivals Rangers at the weekend, the 20-year-old Dembele looked short of confidence when he took the penalty and Ter Stegen dived to his right to beat his shot away.

The German international has now saved three out of four penalties in the Champions League for Barca.

Luis Enrique’s men showed no mercy with their next attack, Neymar and Messi cutting Celtic’s defence to ribbons.

Neymar played a one-two with Messi before cutting the ball back for the Argentine to score.

Neymar got the goal his superb display warranted early in the second half, fizzing a free kick beyond Celtic’s helpless goalkeeper Dorus de Vries.

Bayern 5, Rostov 0

In Munich, Germany, Bayern Munich crushed Champions League newcomers Rostov 5-0 with two goals from youngster Joshua Kimmich to kick off their Group D campaign and set a competition record with their 13th consecutive home victory.

The 21-year-old Germany midfielder struck twice in the second half after striker Robert Lewandowski converted a 28th-minute penalty and Thomas Mueller added another goal on the stroke of halftime to kill off any chance of a Russian comeback.

Kimmich’s two goals in eight minutes confirmed his fine scoring form after he grabbed his first league goal last week having netted in Germany’s World Cup qualifier earlier this month. Juan Bernat swept home Bayern’s fifth in the 90th minute.

The Russians, making their first group stage appearance, defended well for the first 20 minutes but were eventually overrun by the Germans, who beat Manchester United’s previous record of 12 consecutive home victories in the competition.

Bayern, who gave new coach Carlo Ancelotti a winning start in the competition, next play Atletico Madrid, who beat them in last season’s semi-finals and then PSV Eindhoven in their group.

The Bavarians dominated possession from the start but the Russian newcomers were disciplined at the back.

Operating with five defenders, Rostov forced the hosts to pass the ball outside the box looking for gaps and made them wait 21 minutes before the first chance fell to Lewandowski.

The Pole was awarded a penalty minutes later, sending Soslan Dzhanaev the wrong way to put his team ahead.

The Rostov goalkeeper came to the rescue 11 minutes later, denying Bayern a second goal when he punched away a point blank header by Mats Hummels.

Dzhanaev was helpless, however, when birthday boy Mueller, who turned 27, charged into the box to connect perfectly with a David Alaba cross in first half stoppage time.

The Germans picked up where they left off after the break with Kimmich, who was picked to start ahead of Xabi Alonso, timing his run to perfection and tapping in Douglas Costa’s cutback to kill off the game early in the second half.

The diminutive youngster, who enjoyed a meteoric rise last season to earn a spot in Germany’s Euro 2016 team, then rose high to head in substitute Bernat’s cross on the hour.

The Spaniard then turned scorer, slotting home in the final minute to complete a dominant performance by the Germans, who are bidding for their sixth European Cup.

Atletico 1, PSV 0

In Eindhoven, Saul Niguez scored a fine first-half volley as Atletico Madrid rode their luck to secure a 1-0 victory at PSV Eindhoven in their Champions League Group D clash.

PSV had a goal disallowed, missed a penalty and had two further strong shouts for a spot-kick waved away by the officials as last year’s runners-up Atletico got their campaign off to a fortuitous start.

The Dutch champions thought they had taken the lead inside the opening six minutes when captain Luuk de Jong headed home from close range. Referee Martin Atkinson, however, ruled that there was a push in the build-up by PSV defender Hector Moreno.

Lively PSV forward Luciano Narsingh wanted a penalty for a shove in the box midway through the first half and looked to have a case.

Yet it was Atletico who took the lead on 43 minutes when Saul volleyed home at the second attempt as PSV failed to clear his initial shot following a corner. As the ball rebounded to him on the edge of the box, he skilfully steered his effort into the goal.

PSV did get a penalty three minutes later, but in keeping with their night, could not capitalise. Narsingh was adjudged to have been fouled in the box by Atletico’s Uruguayan defender Jose Gimenez, but Andres Guardado saw his penalty superbly saved by visiting goalkeeper Jan Oblak in first half stoppage time.

PSV had much of the ball in the second period but should have fallen further behind when Kevin Gameiro found himself in space in the box, but the Atletico forward fired wildly over the bar.

The home side were incensed not to get another penalty with 15 minutes remaining, claiming a handball by Diego Godin, but did have a golden chance to rescue a point late on.

Uruguayan forward Gaston Pereiro, however, could only direct his free header straight at a grateful Oblak.

Napoli 2, Kiev 1

In Kiev, Polish striker Arkadiusz Milik scored twice in the first half as Napoli came from behind to snatch a 2-1 away win over 10-man Dynamo Kiev at NSC Olimpiyskiy in the Champions League Group B opening round.

Dynamo Kiev fought tenaciously from the start and put the technically gifted Italian side under pressure with a 26th-minute opener from Denys Garmash before Milik headed in twice to take advantage of shoddy defending in the air.

The 18-year-old Viktor Tsygankov, a surprise Dynamo Kiev debutant, headed the ball into Garmash’s path to set up the opening goal before Milik volleyed over stranded keeper Olexandr Shovkovskiy to equalise.

On the stroke of halftime Milik scored the winner, nodding the ball into an empty net after centre back Evhen Khacheridi had weakly cleared the ball from under the crossbar.

Kiev were reduced to 10 men on 68 minutes following a second yellow card for Serhiy Sydorchuk for simulation.

PSG 1, Arsenal 1

In Paris, Paris St Germain wasted the chance to ignite their stuttering start to the season when they were held to a 1-1 home draw by Arsenal in their Champions League Group A opener.

The hosts enjoyed a dream start when Edinson Cavani put them ahead in the first minute but PSG squandered numerous opportunities and paid dearly when Alexis Sanchez swept in an equaliser late in the second half.

Cavani headed home after just 44 seconds but PSG gradually let Arsenal fight their way back into the game until Sanchez fired home from just inside the box in the 78th minute.

Both sides ended with 10 men after Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud and PSG’s Marco Verratti were shown red cards for an innocuous off-the-ball incident in stoppage time.

French champions PSG, who took only one point from their last two Ligue 1 games, next travel to Ludogorets while Arsenal will host Basel on Sept 28. Basel and Ludogorets also drew 1-1.

PSG were boosted by the return of centre back Thiago Silva who made his first appearance of the season after a hip injury.

Grzegorz Krychowiak started in midfield alongside Adrien Rabiot and Marco Verratti while Blaise Matuidi was fielded in an unusual position on the left wing to contain Hector Bellerin.

For Arsenal, Giroud started on the bench with Sanchez up front and Alex Iwobi on the right wing.

Cavani benefited from some loosing marking by the Arsenal centre backs to glance home Serge Aurier’s cross.

Angel Di Maria proved a constant threat, finding Rabiot in the box with a superb backheel and forcing Arsenal keeper David Ospina to a spectacular save direct from a corner.

Cavani missed a sitter in the 35th minute, shooting wide in front of an empty goal after going around Ospina.

Arsenal relied mainly on counter-attacking but started the second half by applying some pressure but lacked presence in the box with their fans chanting Giroud’s name.

Benfica 1, Besiktas 1

In Lisbon, Brazilian substitute Anderson Talisca scored a stunning stoppage-time free kick against his own club to earn Besiktas a 1-1 draw at former European Cup winners Benfica in their Champions League Group B match on Tuesday.

The 22-year old forward, loaned to the Turkish title holders by their Portuguese rivals during the close season, replaced Oguzhan Ozyakup at halftime and silenced the home crowd when he cancelled out a 12th-minute opener by Franco Cervi.

Benfica were punished for a late miss by winger Eduardo Salvio, who shot straight at Besiktas keeper Tolga Zengin minutes before Talisca equalised.

Benfica, who won successive titles in Europe’s flagship club competition in 1961 and 1962, looked totally in control after Cervi pounced to sweep home a close-range rebound after Tolga could only parry a stinging low shot by Salvio from a tight angle.

The closest Besiktas came in the first half was a swerving Ricardo Quaresma free kick in the 30th minute before the busy Tolga palmed away a ferocious Andre Horta piledriver from 30 metres at the other end.

Benfica left back Alex Grimaldo briefly lost consciousness in the second half after Portugal winger Quaresma knocked him down with a thundering volley which crashed into the defender’s head. Grimaldo recovered quickly.

Besiktas midfielder Atiba Hutchinson forced an acrobatic save from Benfica keeper Ederson as stoppage time approached and just when it seemed the hosts would hang on for a laboured win, Talisca curled his shot around the wall and left Ederson clutching thin air.

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