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Catalans ‘two’ good for Benfica

Catalans ‘two’ good for Benfica
Barcelona continued their imperious form this season as they retained top spot in Champions League Group G with a 2-0 victory away to Benfica.

Alexis Sanchez struck after six minutes and Cesc Fabregas added a second following the break to leave Barca with a 100 per cent record from their opening two games while Celtic are on four points following their earlier win away to Spartak Moscow.

Sergio Busquets was sent off with two minutes to go after a clash with Maxi Pereira.

Tito Vilanova arrived at the Camp Nou over the summer looking to win back the Champions League, which they have lifted twice out of the last four years, and the domestic league title.

 Now Vilanova’s men turn their attention to the small matter of the El Clasico on Sunday against Real Madrid - but they will be without Carles Puyol, who fell heavily on his arm and was stretchered off with 15 minutes remaining.

The home side began at a blistering pace with a well-worked move seeing Bruno Cesar cracking a left-foot shot from the edge of the area that was too central and keeper Victor Valdes parried.

But Benfica found themselves behind after Barcelona’s first attack of the match as with Pereira pressing forward from right-back, Leo Messi found space on the left of the area and crossed for Sanchez to slide the ball home and end a barren spell which had seen him not hit the back of the net since last April.

Benfica quickly returned to the offensive and Puyol and Javier Mascherano were being run ragged while they received little protection from their midfield. Rodrigo Lima burst through and Valdes saved well with his feet and then after 16 minutes Osvaldo Gaitan volleyed over from 15 yards.

Benfica brought the more attack-minded Carlos Martins into midfield but Barca started to dominate in the second half and got their second goal through an in-form Cesc. He latched onto a Messi pass and finished clinically on his left foot past Artur.

Benfica went close with headers from Jardel Vieira and Nemanja Matic but Barca were in control and did justice to the good start in this year’s campaign.    


UNITED PIP CLUJ, CHELSEA WIN, BAYERN LOSE

Robin van Persie put the bite on Romanian minnows CFR Cluj in Transylvania as the Manchester United striker’s double clinched a 2-1 win in Champions League Group H on Tuesday.

Juan Mata scored twice as Chelsea belied an off-key performance to win 4-0 at competition debutants FC Nordsjaelland on Tuesday and record the first victory of their Champions League title defence.

Meanwhile, BATE Borisov beat hapless Bayern Munich 3-1 to lead group E. BATE was 2-0 up with 12 minutes left as Franck Ribery pulled back a consolation goal in added time, but a brilliant Renan Bressan goal from a counter-attack in the 94th minute gave the hosts victory.

Juventus came from behind to earn a 1-1 draw against Shakhtar.
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