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Friday, Sep. 21, 2012

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Collision course: Juventus midfielder Claudio Marchisio (left) and Chelsea defender David Luiz battle for the ball at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday. AFP-JIJI

Chelsea throws away lead; Messi rescues win for Barcelona


PARIS — Chelsea opened the defense of its Champions League title by throwing away a commanding lead to draw 2-2 against Italian champion Juventus, while Barcelona needed two late goals from superstar Lionel Messi to win 3-2 against Spartak Moscow.

Brazilian midfielder Oscar marked his first start for Chelsea with two long-range goals, but Arturo Vidal pulled a goal back close to halftime and substitute Fabio Quagliarella equalized late on.

"We are disappointed and a little bit deflated to get in a great position to win the game and come away with only a draw," Chelsea manager Roberto di Matteo said. "We should have closed the game."

Oscar scored his first when he received a short pass from Eden Hazard and arrowed in a shot that took a looping deflection off Leonardo Bonucci and flew past goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon.

His second goal less than two minutes later had no element of luck about it, beating Andrea Pirlo to the ball and executing a flick before curling a delightful effort into the top corner from just outside the area.

"It's great to see we have a player like him in our ranks," Di Matteo said.

Shakhtar Donetsk's comfortable 2-0 win against Danish debutant Nordsjaelland took the Ukrainian side top of Group E, with Armenian forward Henrik Mkhitaryan scoring in each half with excellent finishes.

In Group G, four-time champion Barcelona had Messi to thank as the Argentina forward took his season tally to 10 goals in seven games courtesy of a devastating 10-minute spell at the Nou Camp.

"To talk about Messi is to talk about excellence in football," Spartak coach Unai Emery said. "It is very tough to stop him."

Cristian Tello opened the scoring for Barca in the 14th minute, before Dani Alves' own goal in the 29th and Romulo's strike in the 59th gave the visitors an unexpected advantage.

But Messi, who scored 14 goals in last season's campaign, tapped in Tello's pass in the 71st and headed in Alexis Sanchez's cross in the 80th to keep Barcelona undefeated in its last 17 home games in Europe.

Last April, Messi's failure to finish in the semifinal against Chelsea left him distraught and cost Barcelona a place in the final.

For a while, Spartak looked like giving him more cause for disappointment, but he dug deep to give Tito Vilanova an enjoyable European debut as Barcelona coach since taking over from Pep Guardiola.

"I think this game will do us good. It is easy to think that since we are Barcelona we will win with ease," said Vilanova, who helped Barcelona win the trophy in 2009 and 2011 as Guardiola's assistant. "We were able to come back and win and that shows that the team still has the desire to win."

In the other group match, there was far less excitement as Celtic created little at Parkhead in a 0-0 draw with Benfica.

Manchester United made a good start following midfielder Michael Carrick's seventh-minute goal, but failed to impress in a 1-0 win against Galatasaray. Portugal winger Nani missed a second-half penalty as United struggled to get going at Old Trafford.

The Turkish side can consider itself unlucky, hitting the goal-frame three times, having two penalty appeals rejected and forcing a couple of good saves from David de Gea.

"I think we expected a tough game. Galatasaray have a lot of experience," United manager Alex Ferguson said. "There was a lack of concentration at times and it's unusual for us to be as frivolous with the ball."

Although Shinji Kagawa and Robin van Persie returned to boost the attack, it was Carrick who settled the early nerves. He was tripped by Fernando Muslera as he rounded the Galatasaray goalkeeper, but still slotted the ball into the net while trying to regain his feet.

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