Competition-rusty champions Zenit St Petersburg braved minus 10ºC temperatures to beat VfB Stuttgart, St Etienne relived their glory days and AC Milan and Aston Villa drew as UEFA Cup action kicked off on Wednesday.
Zenit, fixtureless since Dec. 10, showed no sluggishness in beating Stuttgart 2-1 at home.
Szabolcs Huszti scored for St Petersburg after just two minutes and Anatoliy Tymoshchuk, who moves to Bayern Munich next season, hit the winner at the end of the first half, sandwiching Mario Gomez’s 15th minute equalizer.
Filippo Inzaghi’s record-equalling 66th goal in Europe, joining Real Madrid’s Raul, looked set to earn AC Milan victory at Werder Bremen, where they drew 0-0 in 1989 in the European Cup semi-final.
But Diego’s powerful shot past Brazilian keeper Dida near the end meant it ended 1-1.
Many of the 36,000-strong crowd had come to see AC Milan’s David Beckham, on loan from LA Galaxy, but the former England captain spent the majority of the game on the bench, coming on right at the end for twice former FIFA World Player of the Year Ronaldinho.
Aston Villa will be hoping it is less cold in Moscow than it was in St Petersburg on Wednesday for the return leg against CSKA Moscow following their 1-1 draw at Villa Park.
Martin O’Neill’s men welcomed back England midfielder Gareth Barry, suspended for last weekend’s FA Cup defeat to Everton.
On this showing however, the Premier League club have some way to go before they are ready to cut it with the best in Europe.
Norwegian striker John Carew, whose second half goal for Villa cancelled out Brazilian Vagner Love’s 14th minute opener, told Channel Five television: “European games are very difficult, and we were against a great team, so we can’t be disappointed.”
“It was a good game in the end but the away game will be more difficult, and cold, so we will have to prepare well and believe we can do it,” he said.
Paris Saint Germain and St Etienne flew the flag impressively for France. St Etienne ended Olympiakos’ 100 percent record in 16 matches in all competitions this season in claiming a 3-1 victory in Piraeus, reminiscent of their impressive glory days of reaching the 1976 European Cup final
PSG youngster Guillaume Hoarau scored twice in their 2-0 home victory against VfL Wolfsburg, no doubt earning presidential approval as French President Nicolas Sarkozy looked on at the Parc des Princes — and then paid them a visit in the dressing room.
Valencia drew 1-1 at 10-man Dynamo Kiev, David Silva scoring in the eight minute before a Raul Albiol second half own goal for Kiev off Florin Cernat’s freekick.
Denys Oliynuyk scored in the first half in Metalist Kharkiv’s 1-0 win over hosts Sampdoria.
Neither side was overly creative and both struggled to create chances.
Antonio Cassano attempted to pull the strings for Sampdoria, but he was well controlled by Kharkiv fullback Jonatan Maidana.
Kharkiv came to defend strongly and counterattack and achieved both aims with a disciplined display.
UEFA CUP round of 32 first-leg results on Wednesday:
• Sporting Braga 3, Standard Liege 0
• Aalborg 3, Deportivo La Coruna 0
• Bordeaux 0, Galatasaray 0
• PSG 2, VfL Wolfsburg 0
• NEC Nijmegen 0, Hamburg 3
• Sampdoria 0, Metalist KharkIv 1
• Werder Bremen 1, AC Milan 1
• Aston Villa 1, CSKA Moscow 1
• Olympiakos 1, St Etienne 3
• Zenit 2, VfB Stuttgart 1