UCL Recap: Messi equals Raul, Arsenal capitulate, more

IMAGE, FCBARCELONA.COM

By MATTHEW LEVINE
Staff Writer

Lionel Messi is now tied for the Champions League goal-scoring crown. His brace leveled him with current New York Cosmos’ star Raul on 71 as Barcelona secured a 2-0 win over Ajax.

More importantly, the win sees Barcelona move to the Round of 16 as they can shift focus to trying to get the top spot.

Messi’s first and Barcelona’s opener came in the 36th minute. After his free kick attempt was saved by Jasper Cillessen, Barcelona was able to maintain possession and Marc Batra sent in a cross that was headed into the back of the net by Messi.

Ajax was eventually reduced to ten men in the 71st minute when Joel Veitman was sent off with his second yellow. It took just five minutes for Barcelona to capitalize. He played the ball wide to Pedro, continued his run and with his slide to receive the return pass found the back of the net for the milestone goal.

Messi could very well break the record in his next Champions League game as he has Cristiano Ronaldo right on his heels to reach the milestone as well with 70 in his career in the competition.

Other Champions League Results

1. Anderlecht’s spirited comeback– Arsenal won late in Belgium and Anderlecht returned the favor at the Emirates.

The Gunners were well in front, but let a three goal lead slip away as the Belgians were given a lifeline. The Gunners could have booked their place in the next round had they held onto the lead, but are still five points clear of Anderlecht.

Anthony Vanden Borre‘s double led the charge for the fightback. While there was a shade of offside, Vanden Borre headed in from close-range from Andy Kawaya‘s cross in the 61st minute. Only 12 minutes later, he scored his second, slotting home from the penalty spot. Alexsandr Mitrovic then completed the come back with a header as he beat Per Mertesacker to the ball from Andy Najar‘s cross.

The Gunners had taken the lead through their own penalty kick through Mikel ArtetaAlexis Sanchez doubled the advantage with a volley. His initial free kick was blocked, but smashed the follow up through the wall for the goal. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain made it a three-goal advantage three minutes from Vanden Borre’s first. After Anderlecht lost the ball, the winger raced into the box and fired to the far post of the goal.

2. Man City, the Champions League strugglers– Manchester City just can not find a victory in the group stage. They fell at home 2-1 to CSKA Moscow.

Seydou Doumbia gave the visitors the lead in the 2nd minute, heading in from close-range after connecting with Bebras Natcho‘s free kick. However, the lead was short-lived with Yaya Toure leveling the score six minutes later. The City midfielder beat Igor Akinfeev with a curling free kick from just outside the box.

However, Doumbia would find another goal in the first half. On 34 minutes, his low shot beat Joe Hart at the near post as Natcho picked up his second assist of the match.

City would eventually finish the game with nine men as Fernandinho was sent off with a second yellow and Toure was dismissed for a straight red.

With the win Moscow moves in front of City in Group E and puts them in a position to challenge for second place in the group. City isn’t out of the reckoning yet, but aren’t playing like a side that will advance.

3. Bayern down Roma once more– After dismantling Roma 7-1 in their first meeting in Group E, the second meeting was decidedly closer. However, Bayern Munich will move on in the Champions League and do so in top spot by way of their 2-0 win over Roma as they remain perfect in the group.

Franck Ribery opened the scoring in the 38th minute. Daniel Alaba pulled the ball back from the byline and Ribery slotted home off of the post.

Bayern were in front by two goals four minutes after the hour mark. Robert Lewandowski sent in a cross from the left and Mario Gotze got a touch to it to find the back of the net over Roma goalkeeper Lukasz Skorupski.

4. Doing the double– Son Heung-Min bagged a brace for Bayer Leverkausen in their 2-1 victory over Zenit St. Petersburg in Russia.

He scored the first of his goals in the 68th minute The visitors worked a great free kick routine with Hakan Calhanoglu‘s playing the ball to Karim Bellarabi, who laid the ball off for Heung-Min to curl into the top corner. Five minutes later the lead was doubled. A swift counter attack saw Lars Bender play Heung-Min through on goal an he slotted the ball from the edge of the area into the back of the net.

Zenit pulled one back in the 89th minute as Jose Rondon flicked the ball over Leverkausen goalkeeper Bernd Leno‘s head after Alexsandr Ryazantsev‘s lofted pass.

5. Olympiakos lets lead slip– Olympiakos had already beaten Juventus once and were poised for a second win, but were undone shortly after taking a lead in the game.

Roberto own goal in the 65th and Paul Pogba move Juve in front with a second effort after his initial attempt on goal was blocked. Delvin N’Dinga had put Olympiacos ahead just five minutes prior to Pogba’s goal. After a free kick was cleared, Giannis Maniatis whipped in a cross for N’Dinga nodded in.

Arturo Vidal then missed a penalty kick deep into stoppage time as he was denied by Roberto.

Andrea Pirlo scored the opener with a wonderful free kick in the 21st minute. However, it took three minutes for the Greek side to equalize through Alberto Botia‘s header.

With the win for Juve, they are now equal on points with Olympiakos in second as the Greek side will rue their missed opportunity to go level on points with Atletico Madrid in Group A.

6. And the rest– Brendan Rodgers received flak for leaving several regulars out against Real Madrid. Despite a valiant effort in the Santiago Bernabeu, the Red still lost and hurt their advancement chances. Madrid on the other hand is already through as the top side in Group B with a perfect record so far. Karim Benzema also continued his perfect scoring record in the group with his 27th minute tally. Marcelo‘s cross picked out the Frenchman, who struck past Simon Mignolet.

Shakhtar Donetsk hammered BATE for the second time in Group H. After a 7-0 win previously, Shakhtar nearly reached that mark once more with a 5-0 victory. Darijo Srna‘s shot deflected off Mikhail Gordeychuk in the 19th minute for the opener. Anri Khagush was sent off picking up two yellow cards in quick succession just before halftime and his dismissal eventually opened up the floodgates.

Alex Teixera turned in a shot from Srna’s pass in the 48th minute and then Luiz Adriano took over, much like he did in the previous game. He went on to score a second half hat-trick. His first came from the penalty spot in the 58th minute and scored his second as he finished off Douglas Costa‘s cross in the 83rd minute. He completed his hat-trick in the third minute of stoppage time as he slotted the ball home.

Dortmund sealed their place in the Round of 16 and inched closer to securing top spot in Group D. They scored four past Galatasaray in a 4-1 victory. Marco Reus grabbed the lead for the home side in the 39th minute after latching onto a long through ball from Lukasz PiszczekSokratis Papastathopoulos scored on a half-volley in the 56th minute, marking his first Champions League goal.

Hakan Balta pulled one back for the Turks with a header from Wesley Sneijder‘s corner in the 70th minute. Ciro Immobile pushed Dortmund’s lead to two once more, finishing off a deadly counter attack and Semih Kaya‘s own goal gave the German side their fourth.

Schalke had a chance to close the gap on Chelsea for the top spot in Group G, but were defeated by Sporting Lisbon in Portugal. The win gave the home side a chance to get out of the group, now only a point back behind the German club. Sporting went down a goal early through Islam Slimani‘s own goal in the 17th minute as he deflected a free kick into his net. However, it took just nine minutes for an equalizer. Naby Sarr nodded in Jefferson‘s free kick. Jefferson than scored a goal of his own with a low shot past Schalke goalkeeper Ralf Fahrmann in the 52nd minute.

Nani added a goal in the 72nd minute before Schalke pulled one back through Dennis Aogo as he fired the ball into the top corner in the 88th minute. However, Slimani redeemed himself for the own goal restoring Sporting’s two-goal advantage in the first minute of stoppage time.

FC Basel took control of second in Group B with a resounding 4-0 victory over Ludogorets after losing to the Bulgarian side in their previous meeting in the group stage. Breel Embolo gave the home side the lead in the 34th minute after chesting down a Fabian Frei chipped past and then slotting into the back of the net. Seven minutes later it was a two-goal advantage as Derlis Gonzalez finished a Frei pass in similar fashion to the opener.

The lead was three just before the hour mark. Embolo turned provider as Shketzhan Gashi finished off his cross at the back post. In the 65th minute, Marek Suchy finished off the fourth, poking the ball over the goal line after a Basel corner fell to his feet.

Atletico Madrid moved one step closer to advancing from Group A, while also putting one foot out of the door for Malmo. A goal in either half saw Atleti win in Sweden to remain the top side in the group. Koke opened the scoring with a back-heel in the 30th minute from a Juanfran cross. The lead was doubled in the 78th minute on Atleti’s first shot on goal in the second half. Raul Garcia scored on a half-volley after a failed Malmo clearance.

Porto remained on top of Group H with their 2-0 win and effectively knocked Athletic Bilbao out of the Champions League. Jackson Martinez hit the crossbar from a penalty kick just before halftime, but made amends by giving the Portuguese club the lead. He bundled the ball over the line after some impressive work from Yacine Brahimi to beat three defenders and send in the cross in the 56th minute. Brahimi then scored a goal of his own after bad luck from Bilbao. A pass back to goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz took a poor bounce off the pitch, over his foot and allowed Porto’s winger to tap into an empty goal.

Chelsea remained in to spot in Group G despite their shock draw to Maribor. The Slovenian side took the lead in the 5oth minute. Agim Ibraimi beat Petr Cech with a curling effort from the top of the box. However, Chelsea would eventually equalize to save their blushes. Nemanja Matic finished off a Cesc Fabregas corner at the back post after John Terry helped it on. The Blues should have left Slovenia with a come back victory, but Eden Hazard‘s penalty kick was saved in the 85th minute.

Paris St. Germain advance to the next round and will now set their sights on finishing atop Group F after their 1-0 win. It took less than one minute for PSG to take the lead and the only goal they needed. Edinson Cavani beat Urko Pardo with his shot, despite the APOEL goalkeeper getting his hands to the ball.

Benfica was sitting at the bottom of Group C, with a point from one game. While they are still currently at the bottom, they’ve given themselves a chance to advance with a 1-0 win over Monaco. The lone goal came late, but is certainly a lifeline. In the 82nd minute, Talisca was unmarked at the back post and fired in after a corner was flicked on.