Unheralded sides CFR Cluj and Anorthosis Famagusta earned valuable points on Wednesday in their unlikely quest to qualify for the knockout rounds of the Champions League.
Cluj, who had opened their Champions League group campaign with a stunning win over AS Roma, held English Premiership side Chelsea to a 0-0 draw in Romania while Anorthosis walloped Greek giants Panathinaikos 3-1.
Chelsea’s former handler Jose Mourinho, endeavoring to deliver Inter Milan Champions League glory in his first campaign in charge, had to make do with a 1-1 draw against in-form German outfit Werder Bremen.
Other underdogs also went close to famous wins as Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk led Barcelona 1-0 till three minutes from time but the 2006 champions bit back through a double from Argentine maestro Lionel Messi.
French side Bordeaux, humiliated 4-0 by Chelsea in their opening match, also looked well in control of their clash with AS Roma leading 1-0 until Brazilian central defender Henrique was harshly red-carded in the 36th minute for an alleged elbow.
From there on the Italians ran the show ending up 3-1 winners thanks to a double by former Real Madrid and Arsenal striker Julio “The Beast” Baptista.
Liverpool, though, kept the estalished order in top spot with a commanding 3-1 win over Dutch side PSV Eindhoven, Robbie Keane scoring a first goal for the club since signing from Spurs while longtime servant Steven Gerrard notched up his century of goals for the team with a stunning effort.
Cluj may have ridden their luck at several points in Transylvania but the side made up largely of South American unknowns left their owner beaming with pride.
“It is an important point,” said Cluj owner Arpad Paszkany. “No matter who the team they would find it difficult to get a point off Chelsea.”
Anorthosis’ Georgian coach Temur Ketsbaia said afterwards: “This is an historic day ... my players gave everything they had, we also had some luck on our side but we didn’t allow them to create chances.”
Messi was delighted to have been the provider of Barcelona’s remarkable victory over Shakhtar.
“It is an important win,” Messi said. “It was not one of our better performances, but we showed that we are a team that continues to try things when the match is not going well.”
Roma coach Luciano Spalletti did not believe that Henrique’s sending-off was crucial to the ultimate result against Bordeaux. “In my opinion, we deserved the victory,” he said. “We didn’t play that well for the first hour while Bordeaux were playing good football and they even scared us a bit.”
Bordeaux counterpart Laurent Blanc disagreed as he saw not only Henrique expelled but he also had to take off attacking midfielder Jussie when he suffered a hamstring injury at the same time.
“From then on the match became more difficult, and there were still 50 minutes left to play 10 against 11,” said the former stalwart French international central defender. “Would we have done better at 11 against 11? I think yes, of course.”
In other matches Sporting Lisbon beat Swiss side Basel 2-0, while at the Vicente Calderon Atletico Madrid were 2-0 winners over Olympique Marseille.