After a week dominated by news of an altercation that rekindled the image of English soccer stars as out-of-control boozers, Liverpool stunned defending champion Barcelona, 2-1, Wednesday in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League round-of-16 series.
Liverpool's goalscorers were Craig
Bellamy and John-Arne Riise,
who were at the center of the controversy surrounding the Reds' stay in
the Portuguese resort of Vale do Lobo. Bellamy, who allegedly
threatened to attack Riise with a golf club while drunk after a night
on the town in Vale do Lobo, celebrated his goal against Barca with an
imaginary golf swing. (British bookmakers are paying off on 100-1 bets
that Bellamy would score and celebrate with an imaginary golf swing.)
Liverpool came from behind to beat Barcelona, becoming the first
English club to win at the Camp Nou stadium since 1976. Bellamy scored
on a diving header to equalize two minutes before the
break, and Riise won the game 16 minutes from time after the suspect
Barca defense failed to clear a shot by Dutchman Dirk Kuyt. Portuguese midfielder Deco scored for Barcelona.
"It was destiny," Riise said. "It's all over, it's behind us, and we
have to look to the future now." Bellamy added that there is no problem
between he and Riise. "If there was a
big problem," he said, "then I wouldn't have been here, but there isn't
Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez, who
was reported to have fined 15 players almost $300,000 for missing
curfew after their night
out in Vale do Lobo, said the training camp in Portugal was very
helpful for his players.
"The commitment of the players was good before and after the problems,"
he said. "The atmosphere was always very good and it would have been
good even if
the events hadn't happened. It was a bit of a coincidence to see
Bellamy and Riise scoring the goals and I'm really pleased for them."
Chelsea escaped from Oporto with a tie thanks to Andriy Shevchenko's equalizer to
counter a goal by midfielder Meireles
put Porto ahead shortly after Chelsea captain John Terry was injured. Terry,
just back in the lineup after missing eight weeks with a bad back, is
sidelined for Sunday's English League Cup final
against Arsenal after damaging his ankle against Porto. With no other
central defenders available on the bench, Terry's replacement was
winger Arjen Robben, but the
Dutchman later hobbled off with a muscle strain because he had
inadequate warmup before entering on short notice. With Khalid Boulahrouz having gone out
with a dislocated shoulder last Saturday, Chelsea is down to one
central defender. Midfielder Michael
Essien will join Ricardo
Carvalho in the middle of the backline against Arsenal.
INTER MILAN-VALENCIA (2-2).
Inter, winner of 16 straight Serie A matches, twice blew leads against
Valencia and had to settle for a tie at the San Siro stadium. David Villa scored the first
Valencia goal with a superb free kick, and David Silva scored on a 20-yard free
kick for the second equalizer. Argentine Esteban Cambiasso and Brazilian Maicon
scored for Inter, which was considered the best Italian hopeful for
this year's Champions League title but must probably now have to win in
Spain to reach the final eight.
ROMA-LYON (0-0). The game
was marred by 11 yellow cards -- tying the Champions League record for
most cautions in a game. As evidence of the ineptitude of both teams,
the closest either came to scoring came in in the seventh minute, when
Roma midfielder Daniele De Rossi
headed a Juninho free kick
against his own post.
Return Legs: March 6-7.