Spanish duo titleholders Barcelona and Valencia swept to victory in their opening Champions League salvoes on Tuesday.
Barca blew away Levski Sofia 5-0 in a torrential downpour while Valencia recorded an impressive 4-2 away victory at Olympiakos with the rejuvenated Fernando Morientes scoring a hat-trick.
German giants Bayern Munich were also in an unforgiving mood, racking up a 4-0 home success over Spartak Moscow and Italian outfit AS Roma gave Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk a 4-0 walloping.
However not all the traditional favorites had it their own way as Serie A rivals Inter Milan -- champions by default after Juventus were stripped of the title for matchfixing -- went down 1-0 away at Sporting Lisbon with combative French midfielder Patrick Vieira having an early shower after being sent-off.
And if you wanted to see goals, then Group C was not the place to be as both matches between 2004 champions Liverpool and PSV Eindhoven and Galatasaray and Bordeaux ended 0-0.
Liverpool's bitter rivals Chelsea -- who went out to them in controversial fashion in the 2004 semi-finals -- got off to a bright start as they contemplate the possibility of another Champions League struggle with Barcelona with a 2-0 win at home to German powerhouses Werder Bremen.
However if they really believe they can topple Barca then the Catalan giants display against a hapless Levski will have given them more cause for doubt.
Seeking to become the first team to retain Europe's top club trophy since AC Milan achieved the feat in 1990, Barca tormented the Bulgarians with goals from Andres Iniesta, France's forgotten man Ludovic Giuly, Carles Puyol, Samuel Eto'o and Ronaldinho.
The touslehaired Puyol admitted that it had been a rewarding night.
"The first thing was to get the win, in the Champions League you have to respect every opponent. After that, yes, it was satisfying to score so many goals," Barcelona captain Puyol said.
Morientes was on fire in Athens and just as his goals propelled the unheralded French championship side Monaco to the final in 2004 -- where they lost to Porto -- so they gave Valencia victory in Greece for the first time in three visits.
However he and his team-mates will have a tougher task next match when they host Roma, who will be hoping they play more consistently than their Jekyll and Hyde performance against an unlucky Ukrainian outfit.
Rodrigo Taddei broke the stalemate at the Olympic stadium, before further strikes from Francesco Totti, Daniele De Rossi and David Pizarro rubbed salt into Shakhtar's wounds late in the match.
However whatever their lack of luck there were some stunned looks at Donetsk's Romanian coach Mircea Lucesu's view of the match.
"For me the result was a lie," said the Romanian, who has coached in Serie A.
"We were superior to them and had great chances, which we should have put away. We could have been 3-0 up at half time," he said.
There was no such rose tinted view from Inter's handler Roberto Mancini after watching his side go down to Sporting Lisbon and he hardly gave Vieira a ringing vote of confidence.
"We didn't play well at all," the former Italy international said. "In fact when we went down to 10 men we played far better."
However it was quite the reverse philosophy displayed by Chelsea's ever entertaining manager Jose Mourinho who launched a stunning defense of his England midfielder Frank Lampard, who has been subjected to severe criticism since his desperate displays at the World Cup finals and reached its nadir with him missing a penalty in the shootout defeat to Portugal.
"Something is happening with the English press and Frank Lampard. I think it is because you have never had a player like him in English football for the last 10 years," Mourinho said.
"He is guilty even though he scores so many goals, he is guilty even though he plays so many matches and always gives 100 percent. He plays well for Chelsea and England and has broken an unbelievable record for his consistency. I think you should give him more respect," he said.
Respect, like points, is hard-earned, but on Tuesday some found it easier than others to acquire both.
Chen Jifang hits the gym for at least two hours every day and has the physique to prove it. At nearly 70, she is being held up as a shining example as China orders its vast population to get fit and lose the bulge. The grandmother from Shanghai has become a minor celebrity in in the past few months after her newfound and unlikely love for working out made national headlines. After becoming a gym regular in December 2018, Chen lost 14kg in three months, and now sports the kind of flat stomach and toned muscles that people decades younger aspire to. She
’SO CONSISTENT’: The victory gave the world No. 1 and world No. 2 a 21-1 win-loss record and their fourth title of the season after successes in Brisbane, Dubai and Doha Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic on Sunday cruised to their fourth women’s doubles title of the season at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome in their first tournament back since the suspension of the WTA Tour due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The top seeds took just 63 minutes to complete a comprehensive 6-2, 6-2 victory over unseeded German-Romanian duo Anna-Lena Friedsam and Raluca Olaru at the Foro Italico. It was the Taiwanese-Czech pairing’s first outing since they won the Qatar Open in February. “After five months, you don’t know what to expect,” Strycova told the WTA Web site.
ANOTHER SCANDAL: Searches focused on several riders, including Dayer Quintana, a source said, while the two being held were reportedly a doctor and physiotherapist French police on Monday detained two people as part of an investigation into suspected doping in the Arkea-Samsic team at this year’s Tour de France, prosecutors announced. The probe is the first significant one in several years for the repeatedly scandal-hit tour, which on Sunday wrapped up in Paris with a victory for 21-year-old Tadej Pogacar, who became the youngest winner in more than a century. Prosecutor Dominique Laurens in Marseille said in a statement that an investigation was being carried out into a “small part” of France-based Arkea-Samsic, without specifying who had been placed in custody. Laurens added that the two
Former MLB pitcher Wang Wei-chung has signed the biggest contract with a local team in Taiwan’s professional baseball history, the Wei Chuan Dragons said yesterday. The 28-year-old left-hander signed a five-year US$2.08 million contract with the Dragons, team chairman Hsu Wen-fang told a news conference. It is the biggest contract in the CPBL’s 31-year history, surpassing a three-year, US$1.36 million deal Lin Chih-sheng signed in 2016 with the CTBC Brothers. Although the overall value of Wang’s deal set a new record, his average monthly salary of NT$990,000 (US$33,886) is lower than Lin’s pay of NT$1.2 million per month in 2017