Chelsea had Didier Drogba sent off in controversial circumstances as they were beaten at Barcelona, while another blunder from Roy Carroll enabled Milan to claim victory over Manchester United. Elsewhere, Lyon had a comfortable 3-0 win at Werder Bremen, while Inter Milan claimed a 1-1 draw at Porto.
Jose Mourinho took his patched up squad to Barcelona more in hope than expectation and they performed with credit, but were undone by a second half fightback from Frank Rijkaard’s side and a dubious decision from Anders Frisk.
Portuguese tactician Mourinho made the brave decision to field Damien Duff despite doubts over his fitness and it proved a masterstroke as the Irishman’s cross on 33 minutes forced Juliano Belletti to turn the ball into his own net, with Joe Cole lurking with intent.
Drogba then missed a glorious opportunity to score a crucial second for Chelsea two minutes later, firing wide with only Valdes to beat after good work by Claude Makelele.
The Blues came under real pressure, but appeared to be holding on quite comfortably until Drogba was controversially dismissed on 56 minutes by Frisk.
Drogba appeared fully entitled to challenge Barca keeper Victor Valdes for the ball, but Frisk viewed different and sent the Ivory Coast striker from the field.
Barcelona made an instant change, sending on Andres Iniesta for Demetrio Albertini.
And Iniesta almost struck seven minutes later, firing inches wide with Cech beaten.
The dismissal rocked Chelsea to the core and they were undone 23 minutes from time when another substitute Maxi converted following slick interplay involving Ronaldinho and Samuel Eto’o.
Maxi turned provider seven minutes later, as his cross-shot found its way to Eto’o and he rifled home to light up Camp Nou.
The game ended in controversy with managers Jose Mourinho and Frank Rijkaard involved in a row about an alleged halftime “incident” on Wednesday.
Mourinho refused to make any public comments after the game and stopped his players doing interviews. His spokesman Simon Greenberg told reporters Chelsea would make a report to UEFA.
A costly mistake from Roy Carroll handed Milan the advantage in their tie with a narrow win at Old Trafford.
Carroll spilled Clarence Seedorf’s strike late in the game and Hernan Crespo converted from short range.
Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti had signalled his intentions by naming two playmakers – Kaka and Rui Costa – in his starting line-up to support lone forward Crespo.
Seedorf grazed the United bar in the first half, while Paul Scholes missed from 12 yards and Quinton Fortune hooked the ball just wide.
The visiting team improved as the match wore on and United took on a ragged and desperate look as they searched for an equaliser.
The visitors came within a whisker of scoring after just eight minutes with Seedorf’s vicious free-kick.
A superb run from Fortune – cutting in from the left and breezing past Alessandro Nesta – created an opportunity from which Scholes should have scored.
But the midfielder, unmarked 12 yards from goal, uncharacteristically snatched at his shot and missed the target.
Fortune himself came within inches of scoring eight minutes before the break, hooking the ball past Dida but just wide of the post after a lightning break from Ronaldo had caught Milan short at the back.
The pace of the match intensified after the break, with Milan’s superior passing stretching the United defence, while the home team squandered possession too easily in the middle of the park.
Sir Alex Ferguson introduced Van Nistelrooy for his first appearance since 27 November in an effort to wrestle the initiative back from Milan and the Dutchman almost equalised with a header late on.
But still it was Milan who seemed more incisive and Wes Brown had to make a good block to thwart Crespo.
The Argentine had a further chance to score after collecting a superb pass from Kaka but he smashed his shot over the crossbar.
But he finally found his way on to the score sheet with a simple tap-in after Carroll’s error.
Kaka might have made it worse for United but he drilled a shot wide close to full-time, while Van Nistelrooy might have salvaged a draw but could not keep his header on target after a good cross from Gabriel Heinze.
The match winner Crespo was quick to warn his team mates that the tie isn’t over just yet.
“We shouldn’t think that we are already through,” said the Argentine. “It was an important goal but it hasn’t decided anything yet, the win was just a good first step.
“In games like these it can be fatal if you stop concentrating,” said the striker.
Lyon are all but in the quarter finals of the UEFA Champions League following a 3-0 win over Werder Bremen at the Weserstadion.
The French champions rode their luck at times in the first half after seeing off immense pressure after taking the lead through Sylvain Wiltord.
Bremen threw everything forward with the hope of getting back into the game, but two late goals from Mahamadou Diarra and Juninho Pernambucano settled the contest.
The home side began the better of the two teams and came close to opening the scoring when Johan Micoud shot from Nelson Valdez’s cross, but Gregory Coupet palmed out the effort for a corner.
After nine minutes the visitor’s broke away and hit Bremen with a sucker punch. Sidney Govou had the chance but scuffed his shot in the middle from Pierre-Alain Frau’s layoff. Luckily for the French side the ball ran straight to Wiltord at the back post and he smashed the ball home past the home ‘keeper Andreas Reinke.
Falling behind halted the home side’s progress, however they were soon back in their stride and creating goalscoring opportunities. Tim Borowski fired into the side netting at the near post from Paul Stalteri’s right wing cross, while Coupet was called into action after 27 minutes to deny Miroslav Klose with a header.
Bremen continued to dictate the game, but were unable to equalise. Johan Micoud was the instrumental for the home side, but he fired wide before his corner was header over by Valerien Ismael.
Fabian Ernst, who was deputising as captain, had the first shot after the interval, but blazed his right footed volley over Coupet’s bar.
Klose was inches from equalising after 65 minutes after Micoud cleverly dummied the ball, but the Germany international’s low shot was kept out by Coupet’s legs.
Substitute Jeremy Clement teed up Diarra to lash a superb right-footed strike after 78 minutes before a magical free kick from Juninho added a killer third.
From 35 yards out the Brazilian playmaker struck the ball superbly that swerved late in the air leaving Reinke in the home goal with the best view in the ground of the goal.
Lyon would have been delighted with a 1-0 win in Germany, but their late double salvo means they are firmly in the driving seat for the return leg at Stade de Gerland.
Lyon manager Paul Le Guen was understandably delighted with his sides showing
“We were very brave tonight and I am delighted with this result,” he said
“Our superior Champions League experience was of real benefit in this match.”
Porto are clinging on to their Champions League crown with the skin of their teeth. After being five minutes from elimination in the group stages, the Portuguese side again displayed their resolve with an equaliser late on at home to Inter Milan.
Defender Ricardo Costa punished the latest goalkeeping blunder of the Champions League knockout stages – this time from Francesco Toldo – to give Porto hope for the second leg in Milan.
But Inter, who extended their remarkable unbeaten run under Roberto Mancini, remain the favourites and justified that billing with a well-constructed opening goal in the 23rd minute.
Obafemi Martins was the scorer but his was the simplest contribution in a superb move. From Giuseppe Favalli’s perfectly placed pass, Dejan Stankovic outpaced Georgios Seitaridis and from the Serb’s square pass, the Nigerian had an easy finish.
Ivan Cordoba was marshaled the Inter defence expertly, restricting Porto to long-range shots – though they had many, all of them were hit over the bar. Only Maniche, with a sharp half volley in the 25th minute, and Benni McCarthy, heading Costinha’s cross, drew a save from Toldo.
After Inter scored they opted to sit on their lead, giving Costinha the chance to play a more progressive role in the Porto midfield. When Maniche’s deep cross was fumbled by Toldo, Costinha cut the ball back for Costa to tap in.
The physical Luis Fabiano, introduced within the first half-hour for Porto, came closest to completing their comeback with a winner. But Inter, stirred from their slumber, re-emerged as an attacking force.
Adriano embarked on solo run, but shot straight at Baia. It proved the prelude to an eventful finale for the Porto goalkeeper, who blocked brilliantly from Martins and flung himself at Esteban Cambiasso’s close-range volley from the subsequent corner.
It ensured that Porto preserved parity for the second leg and escaped defeat in their first Champions League match under Jose Couceiro. They may not have the team or the success that his namesake and more famous predecessor enjoyed, but his side showed a similar spirit.
Inter boss Roberto Mancini. was happy enough with his sides display
“Inter played very well tonight even could have won,” said the Italians’ coach.
“We could have won 2-1 but I say ‘bravo’ to Vitor Baia. They have a good team.”
Porto coach Jose Couceiro conceded that the Italians will be favourites in the second leg.
“Inter have the advantage but we still have a chance of qualifying,” he said.
“They defended well and scored from an error on our part. We had control of the match but we played with the heart and not with the brain.”