Thu, Sep 14, 2006 - Page 20 News List

Barca and Valencia off to a flying start

GOAL-FEST The reigning champions swept aside their Bulgarian opponents in driving rain with some slick play, while Valencia put four past Olympiakos

AFP , PARIS

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.

Scoreless

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."

Reverse philosophy

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.

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