Lionel Messi marked his first start after injury with a goal in Barcelona’s 1-1 draw at AC Milan in the Champions League on Tuesday, while Fernando Torres got two as Chelsea thumped Schalke 04 and Atletico Madrid’s charge continued.
Robert Lewandowski got the 82nd-minute winner as Borussia Dortmund put the brakes on Arsenal’s campaign with a 2-1 win in London which, along with SSC Napoli’s 2-1 victory at Olympique de Marseille, put three teams on six points in Group F.
There is a clear leader in Group G, where Atletico made it three wins from three with a 3-0 victory at Austria Vienna, which left them a point away from the 10 that are usually enough to send teams into the last 16 of Europe’s elite club competition.
With Diego Costa scoring twice, including a stunning solo effort, they went five points clear of second-placed Zenit St Petersburg, who made the most of the sixth-minute sending off of Porto’s Hector Herrera — the competition’s fastest ever dismissal from two yellow cards — to beat their hosts 1-0.
In Group E, Chelsea moved level on six points with Schalke at the top with a 3-0 win in Germany, where Torres celebrated his 100th start for the club with the fifth-minute opener and another after 69 minutes, before Eden Hazard added a late goal.
The top two are clear of third-placed Basel, who have four points ahead of Steaua Bucharest on one, after those two teams shared the spoils in a 1-1 draw in Romania.
Celtic got their first points in Group H after a James Forrest penalty on the stroke of halftime and a deflected shot by Beram Kayal early in the second half helped them to a 2-1 win over Ajax, who got a consolation in added time.
Barca are in charge of that group with seven points, while Milan — who had gone ahead through Robinho’s ninth-minute opener before Messi leveled after 23 minutes — have five points. Celtic are on three points with Ajax bottom on one.
The day’s biggest statement of intent came from last year’s European champions Chelsea, who have now made amends for the home defeat by Basel in their opener with two away victories.
Spaniard Torres, so often uninspired in domestic competition, once again shone on the big stage with two goals and could easily have had a hat-trick as he smashed a header against the bar from just inside the area.
He, like Messi, had just returned from injury and his lively contribution came at just the right time for his club.
“If you do garbage [against Basel] then you have to clean it up and we cleaned it up,” Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho told Sky Sports. “We’ve got two matches at home, so now we are in good condition to qualify and we’ll try to finish top. It’s an important victory for us.”
The glamor match at the San Siro, where seven-time European champions Milan hosted four-time winners Barcelona, fizzled out in the second half after a frantic opening period of pressure from the Italians.
Milan took an early lead through Robinho following a smart exchange with Kaka after nine minutes, but with Barca then dominating possession, it was a matter of time before they made it count.
Andres Iniesta found Messi — making his first start after a three-week layoff — in space on the right and the Argentine kept his cool under pressure from Kevin Constant and Riccardo Montolivo to find the bottom right corner to equalize.