Arsenal and Chelsea claim big Champions League wins
Chelsea and Arsenal routed newcomers on Wednesday as the two London clubs took a first small step towards the European Champions League final in their home town, dpa reported.
Cesc Fabregas was on target twice and set two more as Arsenal clobbered Sporting Braga of Portugal 6-0. Chelsea triumphed 4-1 at Slovakia's Zilina, with Nicolas Anelka getting two goals and an assist.
This season's Champions League final is on May 28, 2011, at Wembley.
Record nine-time champions Real Madrid defeated Ajax Amsterdam 2-0 in a perfect start for new coach Jose Mourinho while new hiring Zlatan Ibrahimovic was the two-goal hero for seven-time winners AC Milan in their 2-0 over French side Auxerre.
The 2010 runners-up Bayern Munich also won 2-0, over Roma, from World Cup heroes Thmoas Mueller and Miroslav Klose.
Arsenal took nine minutes to go on top at the Emirates from Cesc Fabregas' penalty after Marouane Chamakh was brought down by Braga goalkeeper Felipe in the GRoup G game.
The Spanish World Cup winner Fabregas set up Andrey Arshavin for the second on the half-hour mark before Chamakh found the net three minutes later for 3-0 to complete a beatiful one-two with Jack Wilshere.
One-way traffic continued after the break with Arshavin returning the favour and crossing accurately for Fabregas to head the Gunners' fourth. Arshavin and Fabregas then set up substitute Carlos Vela for the remaining goals in the 66th and 84th, respectively.
Captain Dario Srna scored on a curling freekick as Shakhtar Donetsk beat Partizan Belgrade in the other group game. The Premier League champions and leaders Chelsea needed less than half an hour for their first three goals in Zilina, the first Slovakian club in the elite event.
Michael Essien fired a low shot for the opener in Group F off Anelka before the French forward doubled the lead in the 24th and poked home the third in the 28th.
Daniel Sturridge got the fourth in the 48th before Tomas Oravec got the consolation goal in the 54th after Petr Cech, who had earlier fumbled a freekick, missed a corner kick.
"We used the speed of our strikers on the counter-attack. It was a very important win for us. We are doing very well at the moment," said Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti.
Spartak Moscow won the other game 1-0 at Olympique Marseille when Dmitry Kombarov's shot was deflected into the net by OM defender Cesar Azpilicueta with seven minutes left.
Real, Ajax and Milan combine for 20 European titles in the big-name group F which saw two home wins.
Gonzalo Higuain was denied by the bar early on but then pressured Vurnon Anita to an own goal after a corner kick in the 31st. The Argentine Higuain poked home the second in the 73rd after good work from new German hiring Mesut Oezil against harmless Ajax.
"I am happy, because we have started out well," said Higuain. "(But) we created so many chances but did not finish them. We will have to improve in that aspect, but we have time to do so."
Milan almost fell behind when Auxerre's Sourmaila Coulibaly headed against the bar but got the full three points thanks to Ibrahimovic, who came from Barcelona in summer.
The Swede flicked home from short range in the 66th in made it 2-0 later with a low shot, with another former Barca player, Ronaldinho, involved in both goals.
In Group E, Munich left it even later than Milan after Roma goalkeeper Julio Sergio had first frustrated Toni Kroos, Mueller and Klose. The World Cup top scorer Mueller finally broke the deadlock with a curling shot in the 78th and Klose clinched victory from short range five minutes later.
"They only wanted to defend. But we moved the ball well and got our chances in the end when they tired," said Mueller.
Cluj led 2-0 against Basel after 13 minutes from Tomat Rada and Lacina Traore and held on to win although Valentin Stocker pulled one back at the stroke of half time.