A hat-trick from in-form Filippo Inzaghi inspired Milan to a stunning 4-0 away win at Deportivo La Coruna to put the Italian side in pole position in arguably the most competitive first phase group.
Inzaghi’s hat-trick took his tally of goals in European competition to 40, one more than the former Italian record set by Inter striker Alessandro Altobelli.
Clarence Seedorf scored a fourth for Carlo Ancelotti’s side in a Milan performance reminiscent of their glory days under Fabio Capello and Arrigo Sacchi.
“All my players were good, but my attackers interpreted the flow of the game particularly well,” said Ancelotti afterwards.
Meanwhile, Depor coach Javier Irureta offered a frank assessment of his team’s performance.
‘We found it difficult to cope against such a great opponent,” he said. “We tried to get the initiative in the early stages but Milan were too good.”
In Group G’s other game Lens held Bayern Munich to a 1-1 draw, a result which does little to quellanxieties in the Bayern camp about their ability to qualify for the second phase. Linke opened the scoring for Bayern midway through the first half but his effort was cancelled out by a John Utaka strike 13 minutes from time.
In Group F, an Ayegbeni Yakoubu’s hat-trick enabled unfancied Maccabi Haifa to beat Olympiakos 3-0. The Israeli side were expected to struggle in the wake of their 5-2 hammering at Old Trafford last week, but the Nigerian forward grabbed a hat-trick to revive their chances of reaching the next phase.
The result was a massive disappointment to the majority of fans in Nicosia’s GSP stadium, who had come in the hope of seeing the Greek side maintain the form that saw them thrash Bayer Leverkusen 6-2 in the group’s opener.
In the group’s other match, Manchester United enjoyed a relatively straightforward win at Bayer Leverkusen. Two goals from Ruud Van Nistelrooy, gave Sir AlexFerguson’s side a 2-0 half-time cushion and although Bayer pulled one back through Berbatov on 52 minutes, the United rearguard, with Rio Ferdinand in outstanding form, held firm.
“It is always hard to win away from home and always hard to win in Germany,’ said Ferguson afterwards.
“We had to sweat because we weren’t playing well going forward and therefore we had to defend well. But we dealt with the pressure well and only allowed them three real chances in the whole game. ”
The only sour note for United came with a hamstring injury to Van Nistelrooy which saw the Dutch striker withdrawn at half-time.
In Group E, Juventus crushed Dynamo Kiev 5-0. Marcelo Lippi’s side were always in command against a disapppointing Dynamo side. Marco di Vaio put Juve ahead on 14 minutes, heading home an Alessandro del Piero corner. Eight minutes del Piero added a second before Di Vaio made it three just after half-time. Edgar Davids and Pavel Nedved completed the rout.
In the group’s other match, Newcastle’s poor start to the competition continued when they followed up last week’s loss to Dynamo Kyiv with a disappointing defeat at home to Feyenoord. A fourth minute goal from Sebastian Paedo earned the points for the Dutch side and although Newcastle went close several times, Bert Van Marwijk’s side held on for what could prove to be an important three points.
In Group H, Barcelona took a huge step towards qualifying for the next phase when they overcame Galatasaray 2-0 in Istanbul.
Goals from Patrick Kluivert and Luis Enrique gave Barcelona the points to give Louis Van Gaal’s side a maximum return from their opening two matches.
The only game of the night to end goalless was the disappointing encounter between Lokomotiv Moscow and Club Bruges. Moscow captain Dmitry Loscov was sent off six minutes from time, but the Russians held on for a 0-0 draw.