The Malta Independent 21 August 2019, Wednesday

UEFA Champions League: Red Star beat Liverpool 2-0 in big shock, Inter hold Barcelona to draw

Associated Press Tuesday, 6 November 2018, 22:37 Last update: about 11 months ago

Red Star Belgrade produced one of the biggest upsets of this season's Champions League by beating Liverpool 2-0 on Tuesday, reviving memories of its time as one of Europe's top soccer teams.

Milan Pavkov scored in the 22nd and 29th minutes as the Serbian champions earned a first win in their debut appearance in the Champions League group stage. They last played in the European Cup in 1991 as holders, when beating the likes of Liverpool would not have been regarded as such a surprise.


Back then, eastern European teams were genuine contenders for club football's biggest prize — Steaua Bucharest of Romania was European champion in 1986 — and Red Star had some of the world's best players like Robert Prosinecki and Dejan Savicevic.

Nearly three decades on, Red Star doesn't have a household name in its squad and needed to qualify for the group stage through the playoffs. It was also thrashed 4-0 by Liverpool at Anfield in the previous round when the gulf between the sides was huge.

Two weeks later, Red Star — playing in front of a loud and passionate home crowd — kept Liverpool's fearsome attacking unit quiet and, in Pavkov, had its own star striker.

He leapt highest at a corner to head in a right-wing delivery from Marko Marin and put Red Star ahead. Pavlov then showed another side of his game, shrugging off Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum to get the ball onto his right foot and smash a fierce shot past goalkeeper Alisson from 25 meters.

Daniel Sturridge, who started up front for Liverpool in place of Roberto Firmino, sidefooted over the bar from close range in the first half and Mohamed Salah saw his shot strike the post after halftime. A deflected cross from Liverpool left back Andrew Robertson also bounced onto the crossbar after the break.

The English club has now lost both of its away games in the group stage, having been beaten 1-0 at Napoli last month. It arrived in Belgrade in first place in the group but has ceded the initiative and will be overtaken by either Napoli or Paris Saint-Germain, who meet in Naples later Tuesday.

Red Star moved onto four points, two behind Liverpool, and its home form means it still has a chance of a top-two finish. Red Star drew 0-0 with Napoli in its previous home game.

Liverpool finishes the group with a trip to PSG and a home game against Napoli.

"You can't give teams that start," Liverpool midfielder James Milner said. "The crowd is big for them and it's been a long time since they've been in the Champions League. Napoli found it tough when they came here and we knew it was going to be a tough place to come.

"We need to win our games, it's on our shoulders ... it's in our hands but we will have to play better than we did tonight."


Struggling Monaco loses 4-0 at home against Brugge

Monaco was handed a humiliating defeat on Tuesday that all but ended the club's Champions League campaign as Thierry Henry once again failed to secure a maiden win as coach.

Monaco, a semifinalist in 2017, slumped to a 4-0 home loss to Club Brugge, which registered its first win in four Group A matches.

Hans Vanaken scored twice for the Belgian team, Brazilian forward Wesley made it 3-0 and captain Ruud Vormer completed the rout.

Winless in its last 15 matches in all competitions, Monaco will be eliminated if Atletico Madrid beats Borussia Dortmund in the group's other match.

Henry was hired last month as a replacement for Leonardo Jardim but has yet to secure a win in five matches, with his team stuck in the relegation zone in the French league. The former World Cup winner is in his first managerial job after working as an assistant to Belgium coach Roberto Martinez.

With his team depleted with injuries, Henry opted for a 4-3-3 system with Sofiane Diop and Moussa Sylla on the wings and Radamel Falcao upfront.

The strategy worked well in the early stages as Monaco created a couple of good chances but Brugge took the lead against the run of the play after only 12 minutes when Vanaken made the most of a cross from Mats Rits at the near post that Kamil Glik and Youssef Ait Bennasser failed to clear to beat goalkeeper Diego Benaglio.

Things soon got worse for Monaco as defender Antonio Barreca was penalized for a handball in the box and Vanaken converted from the spot with a well-taken penalty down the middle for his second goal in the space of six minutes.

Monaco pushed hard to reduce the gap but left its defense wide open. Brugge took advantage and made it 3-0 in the 24th when Wesley concluded a swift counterattack with a 20-meter strike into the net. Vormer slotted home Brugge's fourth goal with five minutes left with a low shot.

Monaco has now failed to keep a clean sheet during its last 18 Champions League matches.


Messi-less Barcelona draws 1-1 at Inter after late goals

Lionel Messi once again watched from the sidelines and Barcelona's attack struggled without him as the Spanish side drew 1-1 at Inter Milan in the Champions League on Tuesday despite dominating for large periods of the match.

Messi had traveled with the team to Milan but Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde opted not to risk the star forward, who hasn't played since fracturing his arm last month. The visitors still nearly managed to win the match when substitute Malcom netted with seven minutes remaining, moments after coming off the bench. But Inter has made a habit of scoring late goals and did so again as Mauro Icardi leveled in the 87th.

Barcelona could have secured qualification for the knockout stages with a victory but a combination of wayward finishing and fine saves by Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanovic means it will have to wait until the final two group matches.

It remained top of Group B, three points ahead of Inter and six ahead of Tottenham which beat PSV Eindhoven 2-1.

Messi injured his arm in a Spanish league match against Sevilla on Oct. 20 and missed the 2-0 victory over Inter in the last round, but had been training with the team in recent days.

However, Messi wasn't even on the bench at San Siro.

Luis Suarez has made up for Messi's goals domestically — with five in his past two matches — but has yet to score this season in the Champions League.

The Uruguay forward went close on a number of occasions, and almost gave Barcelona an early lead with an audacious flick that flew narrowly over the bar.

Barcelona dominated and had 65 percent of the possession, with 27 shots to Inter's 10.

However, Handanovic was equal to everything the Catalan club threw at him until Valverde brought Malcom on with nine minutes remaining.

And just two minutes later, Malcom had his first goal for the club, curling a shot between two Inter players and into the back of the net.

But Icardi turned in from close range after Lautaro Martinez's cross had been twice deflected.


Kane's late double gives Tottenham 2-1 win over PSV

Harry Kane boosted Tottenham's chances of advancing from its Champions League group by scoring two late goals in a 2-1 win over PSV Eindhoven on Tuesday.

Tottenham looked in danger of heading out of the competition after just four games when the host went behind after just 61 seconds at Wembley.

Instead, Kane's goals — in the 78th and 89th minutes — gave the English team a glimmer of hope of a top-two finish in Group B with matches still to come at home to Inter Milan and away to Barcelona. Tottenham is in third place, three points behind second-place Inter.

PSV is in last place on one point.

The Dutch team had defended stoutly after Luuk De Jong's opening goal, a header from a corner, but was finally breached when Kane met a lay-off from substitute Fernando Llorente with a left-footed shot into the corner.

The England striker had a stroke of fortune with the winner, his header from eight meters out deflecting into the net off PSV defender Trent Sainsbury.

It was Tottenham's first win in the group.


Champions League: Atletico wins to join Dortmund at the top

Atletico Madrid rebounded from a heavy loss to Borussia Dortmund with a convincing 2-0 win over the German team on Tuesday, a result that left both teams tied atop Group A in the Champions League.

Dortmund routed Atletico 4-0 last month at home in what was the Spanish team's worst loss under coach Diego Simeone.

Dortmund started well again at Wanda Metropolitano Stadium, but Saul Niguez put the hosts ahead near the end of the first half and Antoine Griezmann sealed the victory in a breakaway near the end.

The victory left Atletico and Dortmund with nine points each. The teams couldn't secure a spot in the knockout stage with two rounds left because Club Brugge routed Monaco 4-0 earlier Tuesday and has four points. Monaco, with one point, was eliminated.

Dortmund could have sealed first place in the group had it beaten Atletico again. It hadn't been defeated in 15 competitive matches under new coach Lucien Favre.

Atletico won despite playing without key players like injured striker Diego Costa.


Porto on verge of qualifying after beating Lokomotiv

Porto all but secured a spot in the Champions League knockout stages after beating Lokomotiv Moscow 4-1 on Tuesday to end the Russian champion's qualifying hopes.

After scoring at Lokomotiv last month, Hector Herrera and Moussa Marega both netted again to help put Porto on 10 points at the top of Group D. With Schalke beating Galatasaray 2-0 in Tuesday's other game, Porto needs one point from its last two games to be sure of qualifying. Lokomotiv has lost all four games.

As a rainstorm blew in from the Atlantic Ocean, Porto scored inside two minutes. Marega darted in behind the static Russian defense and drew out goalkeeper Guilherme before cutting the ball back to Herrera, who tapped the ball into the empty net.

In the 42nd it was Herrera who set up Marega, flicking the ball over Benedikt Hoewedes' head for the Malian forward to run onto. Marega cut inside and left Guilherme no chance with a powerful finish between the keeper's legs.

Back from injury, Lokomotiv forward Jefferson Farfan came on a second-half substitute and, after missing a good chance from close range, scored with a 59th-minute header off Alexei Miranchuk's corner.

Jesus Corona — another scorer in Moscow last month — curtailed Lokomotiv's hopes of a comeback in the 67th, evading two defenders and scoring after Guilherme sent a goal kick straight to the opposition. Otavio added Porto's fourth with a powerful shot in stoppage time.

Lokomotiv could have challenged for its first Champions League win in 14 years if not for sloppy finishing. Miranchuk and Manuel Fernandes each missed the target with rushed shots from good positions, while Eder headed a promising chance straight at a defender.


Mbappe and Buffon can't beat Napoli in Champions League

After 180 minutes, Napoli and Paris Saint-Germain finished dead even.

Following a 2-2 draw in Paris two weeks ago, the teams finished 1-1 Tuesday in another riveting Champions League matchup.

While it was PSG which needed a last-gasp equalizer in the first meeting, this time Lorenzo Insigne's penalty for Napoli canceled out Juan Bernat's opener for the visitors.

Kylian Mbappe set up Bernat's goal and Gianluigi Buffon's impact with Jose Callejon earned Napoli its penalty, while Neymar was hardly a factor.

In an extremely tight Group C, last season's finalist Liverpool leads Napoli on goal difference with six points each.

PSG is next with five points and Red Star Belgrade, which stunned Liverpool 2-0 in Tuesday's other group game, is still in contention with four points.

Mbappe had been controlled by Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly before he finally broke free down the left flank and pulled back a cross for the advancing Bernat in first-half added time.

There was tension as the teams walked off the pitch at halftime as Koulibaly and Napoli midfielder Allan had to be separated from PSG midfielder Marco Verratti.

Napoli coach Carlo Ancelotti then went to protest to the referee, perhaps because he thought there was more than the single minute of announced added time.

However, it was a deserved advantage for PSG, which controlled for long stretches.

After the break, Buffon showed that he's still — at age 40 — one of the world's most skillful goalkeepers with a series of reflex saves.

First, Buffon deflected a dangerous angled effort from Dries Mertens. Then he made a leaping save to push another effort from Mertens over the bar with his fingertips.

However, Buffon couldn't stop himself from slamming into Callejon when the Spain winger got sandwiched between the goalkeeper and defender Thiago Motta.

Buffon guessed right on the direction of Insigne's spot kick but the Napoli striker's shot was struck precisely into the bottom corner.

Buffon was making his Champions League debut for PSG, having served a three-match ban for his comments about the referee at the end of Juventus' run last season.

Buffon was booed loudly on each touch for spending most of the last two decades with Napoli's domestic rival.

Insigne now has three goals in four Champions League matches this season and 10 in 14 games in all competitions this season.

Napoli captain Marek Hamsik made a record 512th appearance for the club.

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