Arsenal, Juventus on course for group stages; Liverpool held

Other News Materials 14 August 2008 04:09 (UTC +04:00)

Arsenal, Juventus and Barcelona took giant strides towards the group stages of the Champions League as they recorded convincing wins Wednesday in the first legs of their third-round qualifiers, dpa reported.

Five-time champions Liverpool will need to beat Standard Liege in the second leg after they laboured to a goalless draw in Belgium against Standard Liege.

English club Arsenal were well below their best but still won 2-0 at Twente Enschede of Holland, while Italian giants Juventus put on an exhibition in Turin as they routed Artmedia Petrzalka of Slovakia 4-0, and Barcelona cruised to a 4-0 victory over Wisla Krakow of Poland.

Olympiakos of Greece have a mountain to climb after they lost 3-0 at Anorthosis Famagusta, while other first-leg winners included former champions Marseille, Schalke and Dynamo Kiev.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger had admitted that the pressure was on his side as they travelled to Holland to play Twente Enschede, managed by former England coach Steve McClaren. And the Gunners, with teenager Aaron Ramsey making his Champions League debut in midfield, struggled, but second-half goals from captain William Gallas and striker Emmanuel Adebayor were enough to put them well on course for a place in the group stages.

Goalless at the break, Dutchman Robin van Persie's free-kick was not dealt with by the Twente defence and Gallas scrambled the ball over the line. Adebayor finished neatly after good work from Theo Walcott late on.

"We were so young in the middle of the park for a game of that level and you could be worried," Wenger said, "but I have confidence in them."

Liverpool began their match against Belgian champions Standard Liege with captain Steven Gerrard on the bench after a thigh strain.

New signing Robbie Keane and Fernando Torres were paired in attack, while Xabi Alonso, linked with a move away from the club this summer, started in midfield, which means he will be cup-tied should he leave.

Despite the presence of some big names, Liverpool were rusty and were thoroughly outplayed on the night by the Belgians, who saw Marouane Fellaini's early header rebound off the post.

The home side were awarded a penalty for a foul by Dossena after 22 minutes, but Dante Bonfim's spot-kick was easily saved by Jose Reina.

Liverpool created little of note all night, and even the introduction of Gerrard 20 minutes from time could not force a goal, with manager Rafael Benitez admitting his side had been fortunate.

"I think we were lucky not to concede," Benitez said. "Clearly we didn't play well. The performance was poor, but the result was good. We didn't concede away from home, which is always important, and to play the second-leg at Anfield could prove to be a massive difference."

Former Arsenal striker Thierry Henry was on the scoresheet as Barcelona breezed to a 4-0 win over the Poles of Wisla Krakow in Spain.

The Frenchman, who started the match - suggesting he will be staying at the club despite rumours he could leave - scored the third goal five minutes after halftime after Samuel Eto'o (17) and Xavi Hernandez (24) had put them in complete control. Eto'o completed the scoring with his second after 64 minutes.

On their return to European competition two years after being sent down to Serie B because of allegations of match-fixing and bribing officials, Juventus were never troubled by the Slovaks of Artmedia Petrzalka.

Mauro Camarenesi put them ahead after just seven minutes, and veteran forward Alessandro Del Piero, starting up front alongside David Trezeguet, doubled their lead (26).

They were up 3-0 at halftime after Giorgio Chiellini scored six minutes before the break, and Nicola Legrottaglie rounded off the win with the fourth in injury time.

Despite the margin of victory, Juventus manager Claudio Ranieri warned of complacency going into the second leg.

"We have done something important, but we must still be concentrated," he said. "But it was a good match."

Atletico Madrid will have to overturn a deficit in the second leg after they were beaten 1-0 at German side Schalke, for whom Christian Pander scored the only goal on the half hour.

A back-heel by Benoit Cheyrou five minutes before halftime was enough to give former champions Marseille a 1-0 win at SK Brann Bergen, while Ismael Bangoura and Artem Milevskiy both scored twice to help Dynamo Kiev to an impressive 4-1 win at Spartak Moscow.

Turkish side Galatasaray found themselves down 2-0 inside 12 minutes against Steaua Bucharest in Turkey.

Dairo Moreno and Banel Nicolita had them in real trouble, but a double-strike from Shabani Nonda rescued the draw, though they will need a good performance away in the second leg if they are to progress.

Their compatriots Fenerbahce will be more satisfied with their 2-2 draw at Partizan Belgrade, while FC Basle were held to a goalless draw at Guimaraes of Portugal.

Greek side Panathinaikos won 2-1 at Sparta Prague, Shakhtar Donetsk beat Dynamo Zagreb 2-0, and BATE Borisov pulled off a shock with a 1-0 win at Levski Sofia, thanks to Vladimir Rzveksky's first- half header.

The result was too much for Levski coach Velislav Vutsov, who immediately resigned after the defeat.

AAB Aalborg beat FKB Kaunas 2- 0 in the night's other match.