Madrid, Oct 20 (efe-epa).- A trio of heavyweights kicked off their Champions League campaigns with victories on Tuesday, with FC Barcelona and Juventus beating lesser squads and Manchester United going on the road and surprising 2019-2020 runner-up Paris Saint-Germain.
Barcelona had something to prove after their participation in last season’s tournament ended at the quarterfinal stage in a humiliating 8-2 defeat on aggregate to eventual champion Bayern Munich.
Their 5-1 rout of visiting Hungarian side Ferencvaros began when Argentine superstar Lionel Messi converted a penalty opportunity in the 27th minute to become the first player in the history of Europe’s leading club competition to score in 16 consecutive editions.
Messi, who has played his entire career with the Catalan club, has now scored against 36 different teams in Champions League play.
Ansu Fati and Philippe Coutinho later scored a goal apiece to stretch Barcelona’s lead to 3-0 before the one-hour mark of the behind-closed-doors match at Camp Nou.
Pedri and Ousmane Dembele also added to their overmatched rival’s misery with goals in the 82nd and 89th minutes, respectively.
But despite the romp Barcelona suffered a big blow when central defender Gerard Pique was shown a direct red card for a foul in the area on Ferencvaros’ Tokmac Nguen that led to a penalty goal by the visitors off the foot of Ihor Kharatin. He now will be ineligible for next week’s blockbuster clash against Juventus in Turin, Italy.
Barcelona are currently tied atop Group G with Juve, who defeated Dynamo Kiev 2-0 Tuesday in Kiev despite having to make do without Cristiano Ronaldo.
Spanish striker Alvaro Morata scored twice to make up for the absence of the Portuguese superstar, who is currently in quarantine after testing positive for Covid-19.
Elsewhere, Manchester United pulled off the day’s biggest coup by defeating Paris Saint-Germain 2-1 in Group H action at Parc des Princes in the French capital.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s well-organized side held Neymar Jr., Kylian Mbappe and company in check and took advantage of scoring opportunities when they presented themselves.
Bruno Fernandes converted a penalty chance in the 23rd minute to open the scoring. Although PSG tied the match on an own-goal by Anthony Martial in the 55th minute, Man United had the last word when Marcus Rashford blasted a shot just inside the far post in minute 87.
Thomas Tuchel’s men are off to a poor start in a difficult group that also includes Bundesliga side Leipzig, who reached the semifinals of last season’s Champions League and began their current campaign with a comfortable 2-0 victory Tuesday over Turkish club Istanbul Basaksehir.
Both Group E games on Tuesday ended in draws, with LaLiga club Sevilla and Premier League side Chelsea finishing their match at Stamford Bridge knotted at 0-0 and visiting Russian club Krasnodar and Ligue 1 side Rennes playing to a 1-1 draw.
In Group F, star forward Erling Haaland scored in Bundesliga club Borussia Dortmund’s 3-1 loss to Serie A side Lazio, who got goals from Ciro Immobile and Jean-Daniel Akpa Akpro and also scored on an own-goal by goalkeeper Marwin Hitz.
Belgian side Club Brugge also has three points after a goal by Charles De Ketelaere in second-half stoppage time gave them a 2-1 away victory Tuesday over Zenit Saint Petersburg. EFE-EPA