Barca, Manchester Utd. Rally to Stay Perfect in Champions League

Barcelona and Manchester United came from behind to maintain their perfect records in soccer’s Champions League, while Chelsea lost 2-1 at Shakhtar Donetsk.

Jordi Alba’s goal in the fourth minute of stoppage time gave Barcelona a 2-1 win over Celtic last night. Javier Hernandez scored twice as United fought back from two goals down to beat Braga 3-2.

“Gutted is the word,” Celtic defender Kelvin Wilson said in an interview with Sky Sports. “We defended with our lives all game and it looked like we’d done it. It’s never over until the final whistle with Barca and they proved it.”

Barcelona and United have won all three of their games to lead their respective groups, where the top two advance to the round of 16 in Europe’s elite club competition.

Chelsea, last season’s winner, was beaten in Ukraine on goals from Alex Teixeira and Fernandinho, while Italian champion Juventus tied 1-1 at Nordsjaelland. Bayern Munich beat Lille 1-0, Valencia won 3-0 at BATE Borisov, Spartak Moscow defeated Benfica 2-1 and Galatasaray drew 1-1 with Cluj.

Among tonight’s eight games, Manchester City visits Ajax, Real Madrid travels to Dortmund in a matchup of Spanish and German champions and Schalke is at Arsenal.

Celtic took the lead at the Camp Nou stadium in the 18th minute as Georgios Samaras’s header from Charlie Mulgrew’s free kick went in off Barcelona defender Javier Mascherano.

Messi Denied

Barcelona tied the score just before halftime on a goal from Andres Iniesta and dominated play in the second half only to be denied by Celtic goalkeeper Fraser Forster, who twice stopped close-range shots from Lionel Messi.

David Villa hit the post for the home side in the 90th minute, before Alba won it by tapping in Adriano’s cross.

“I’m bitterly disappointed for the players, but proud as well,” Celtic manager Neil Lennon told Sky Sports. “This is the best team in the world and to come here and play like that. Some people had written us off, but it didn’t surprise me.”

Barcelona, seeking its fourth European Cup in eight seasons, tops Group G with nine points, four more than Celtic. Spartak Moscow has three points after its 2-1 win over Benfica in Russia.

Manchester United also has nine points in Group H following its comeback at Old Trafford.

Braga jumped out to a 2-0 lead as Alan scored twice in the opening 20 minutes. Hernandez scored with a header in the 25th minute, then had a goal disallowed for offside.

Jonny Evans made it 2-2 in the 62nd minute and Mexican striker Hernandez headed home Tom Cleverley’s cross with 15 minutes left for the victory.

Rescue Act

“It’s been the story of our season at home, starting badly and conceding goals, but we’ve rescued games,” United manager Alex Ferguson said in an interview with ITV after his team fell behind for the eighth time this season.

It was the second time United had won a Champions League game after trailing by two goals, the first coming in a 3-2 win at Juventus in 1999, according to Infostrada Sports.

United leads the group by five points over Cluj, which drew 1-1 at Galatasaray.

Shakhtar Donetsk moved atop Group E with seven points following its win over Chelsea, which has four points.

“We didn’t play well,” Blues defender David Luiz told Sky Sports. “I’m shocked by the performance.”

Shakhtar took the lead after three minutes as Teixeira put a shot past Petr Cech. The Ukrainian club doubled its lead in the 52nd minute when Fernandinho scored and held on for the win after Oscar’s tap-in with two minutes.

Juventus is a point behind Chelsea after rallying for a 1-1 tie with Nordsjaelland in Denmark. Mikkel Beckmann’s free kick gave the Danish champion the lead five minutes after halftime and Mirko Vucinic answered with nine minutes remaining.

Roberto Soldado’s hat trick gave Valencia a 3-0 win over BATE Borisov that left the teams tied with Bayern Munich in Group F with six points. Thomas Muller’s first-half penalty kick gave Bayern the victory at Lille.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bob Bensch in London at bbensch@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christopher Elser at celser@bloomberg.net

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