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Thursday, Sept. 16, 2010

Messi dazzles again

Barcelona kicks off Champions League with rout

LONDON (AP) Lionel Messi scored twice but his penalty kick was saved as Barcelona opened the Champions League with a 5-1 win over visiting Panathinaikos on Tuesday night.

Messi, the reigning FIFA player of the year, has six goals in five games for Barcelona this season after scoring 47 last term, when he led the Champions League with eight. He failed to score for Argentina during the World Cup.

David Villa, Pedro Rodriguez and Daniel Alves also had goals for Barcelona, which rallied after Sidney Govou scored for the Greek champions in the 20th minute. Alexandros Tzorvas stopped Messi's penalty kick.

Defending champion Inter Milan was held to a 2-2 tie at the Netherlands' Twente as the first round opened, and Manchester United played a 0-0 draw against Rangers. United winger Antonio Valencia sustained a serious leg injury.

Schalke lost 1-0 at Lyon, while Tottenham, in its Champions League debut, wasted a two-goal lead in a 2-2 tie at Werder Bremen.

In other games, Valencia won 4-0 at Turkey's Bursaspor; Benfica defeated visiting Hapoel Tel Aviv 2-0, and Copenhagen beat visiting Rubin Kazan of Russia 1-0.

In Barcelona, the Spanish champions rebounded from a 2-0 loss at home to Hercules in the Spanish League last weekend.

"They are unstoppable and can walk it all the way to the final," Tzorvas said. "It's hard to compare them with anyone else."

Messi tied the score in the 22nd minute, and Villa scored from Sergio Busquets' flick-on in the 33rd. Messi made it 3-1 in the 45th after an impressive buildup through the middle of the field. Tzorvas denied Messi a hat trick by saving the penalty kick in the 54th. Pedro tapped in the fourth goal in the 78th after Messi's shot hit the far post, and Messi fed Alves with a perfect lob pass on the game's last play.

"Things worked out well and it's always nice to start the Champions League with a victory," Pedro said. "We knew we had to win."

In Enschede, Wesley Sneijder tapped in a rebound in the 13th minute after goalkeeper Nikolay Mihaylov failed to hold on to Diego Milito's shot. But Theo Janssen's curling free kick beat goalkeeper Julio Cesar in the 20th and Milito's own goal from Janssen's corner kick put Twente ahead in the 30th. Samuel Eto'o made it 2-2 in the 41st.

"A draw against Inter is a good result for us," Twente coach Michel Preud'homme said. "We could have won the match. I think we should be satisfied with the way we played today."

In Manchester, Valencia was hurt in an innocuous second-half collision with Rangers defender Kirk Broadfoot. Valencia was taken to a hospital and may miss the rest of the season.

"It looks as though it's a dislocation and a fracture," United manager Alex Ferguson said. "He seemed to dig his toe in the turf. Unfortunately, it's a bad one."

United started forward Wayne Rooney and nine others who didn't start at Everton in the Premier League on Saturday.



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