Barca and Arsenal hit by late equalisers

Holders Barcelona and English side Arsenal both saw victory elude them in their opening matches of the Champions League group stages on Tuesday as late goals left them with draws.

A superb second-half free kick by David Villa looked to have secured Barca the three points after they had dominated the match with AC Milan, despite Alexandre Pato’s early goal, only for Thiago Silva to head home in the third minute of time added-on to make it 2-2.

Arsenal looked to have secured a much-needed morale boosting win away against German champions Borussia Dortmund until a stunning volley by Ivan Perisic two minutes from time saw the match end in a 1-1 draw.

Arsenal’s Premier League rivals Chelsea had no such problems as they won 2-0 against another German side Bayer Leverkusen—for whom Michael Ballack started against one of his former clubs.

Pato showed that the extra rest he’d been permitted by Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri after returning from the Copa America had paid off as he opened the scoring virtually from the kick-off.

The Brazilian—who is engaged to AC Milan owner and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s daughter—broke the Barcelona offside trap to run on and slot the ball past goalkeeper Victor Valdes.

His 24-second strike was the fifth fastest goal in Champions League history.

Late equaliser
Barca, though, forced an equaliser late in the second-half as Lionel Messi somehow managed to outstrip two Milan defenders in the box and get in his low cross, which Pedro put away after running in unmarked at the far post.

The hosts, though, suffered a blow in the 39th minute as Andres Iniesta had to go off injured to be replaced by the in-form Cesc Fabregas, but it didn’t stop their domination of the match and Villa’s sublime free kick gave them a deserved lead only to be pegged back right at the end.

Arsenal struck just before the break after an evenly fought first-half as van Persie played a neat 1-2 with Theo Walcott and finished it off in style but Dortmund got a deserved draw thanks to Perisic.

Chelsea and Leverkusen both had goals ruled out in the first-half but the London side got on the board in the second-half through David Luiz with a brilliant effort.

Recent Spanish signing Juan Manuel Mata added a second in time added-on.

Chelsea boss Andres Villas-Boas’s former side Porto, the club he guided to the Europa League trophy last season, came from behind to beat last season’s Champions League quarterfinalists Shakhtar Donetsk 2-1.

Shakhtar, winners of the now defunct Uefa Cup, took an early lead away with Brazilian Luiz Adriano scoring.

Porto, though, fought back and leading striker Hulk levelled before half-time while Pinheiro Kleber stroked in the winner in the second-half.

Marseille have yet to win in the French league this season but they shrugged off that form to win away 1-0 at Olympiakos, a goal by Argentinina star Lucho Gonzalez proving the difference.

Czech Republic side Plzen marked their first appearance in the group stages by taking the lead at home to Belarus outfit BATE Borisov, Marek Bakos scoring in the first-half, but Renan Bressan equalised in the second period to force a 1-1 draw.

Injured
Barcelona said midfielder Andres Iniesta will miss approximately four weeks after injuring his leg in Tuesday’s game.

The Spanish international tore a muscle in his left thigh as he dribbled past defender Ignazio Abate in the 38th minute at the Camp Nou stadium. Iniesta pulled up after the run and leant against the advertising boarding behind the goal line before signaling to the bench he could not play on. He was replaced by Cesc Fabregas.

Barcelona is already without forward Alexis Sanchez and defender Gerard Pique because of injuries.

Barcelona and Milan both have one point in Group H.—AFP, Sapa-AP

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Pirate Irwin

Pirate Irwin

Pirate Irwin is a journalist with Agence France Presse , who has been based in Paris for 16 years having initially arrived for just a six month summer stay. Born in Ireland in 1965 and educated at Eton and Institute for Foreign Students in Tours after missing out on University by a large margin. His first name is a gift from his grandfather inspired by Radio Caroline but not appreciated by a Roman Catholic priest at christening.  Read more from Pirate Irwin

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