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Ronaldo lifts United, Barcelona slumps in Champions League

By AP Updated: Sep 30, 2021 9:48 pm

Geneva, Sep. 30 (AP): While Cristiano Ronaldo is keeping up his record-setting Champions League level to the end, Barcelona has become barely recognizable as a European power.

Ronaldo struck deep into stoppage time to lift Manchester United to a 2-1 come-from-behind win over Villarreal — his record-extending 136th goal in a new competition-best 178th game.

That goal moved United off the bottom of Group F as five-time European champion Barcelona stayed dead last in Group E with another 3-0 loss.

Barcelona finished with 10 men in a humbling defeat at Benfica two weeks after being swatted aside at home by Bayern Munich.

Bayern eased clear atop the group by routing Dynamo Kyiv 5-0 with Robert Lewandowski scoring twice in the first half for the 2020 champion.

Title holder Chelsea lost 1-0 at Juventus after being caught cold with a goal about 12 seconds into the second half.

Atalanta also won 1-0 at home in Italy, against Young Boys, and also leads its group, one point ahead of United before they meet next at Old Trafford on Oct. 20.

Ronaldo, late and great

United was having another tough evening in this Champions League campaign where underdogs are thriving.

Villarreal led in the 53rd minute from PacoAlcácer’s goal in a rematch of the Europa league final in May won by the Spanish club.

United got a spectacular leveler in the 60th when defender Alex Telles struck a volleyed shot from a Bruno Fernandes pass.

It was a goal after five minutes of stoppage time that sent United to a 2-1 loss at Young Boys two weeks ago. This time, the goal went its way.

Ronaldo got the ball back from substitute Jesse Lingard in the penalty area and fired it in before running off to celebrate shirtless with a frenetic crowd that included longtime fan Usain Bolt.

It was Ronaldo’s fifth goal in five games back at the club he left after losing the 2009 final to Barcelona.

Barcelona slumps

Barcelona has lost the aura it had before letting Lionel Messi leave to join Paris Saint-Germain last month.

“There’s no point in comparing this with Barcelona teams of years gone by,” said coach Ronald Koeman, who scored the goal that won the club its first European title in 1992. “That’s as clear as water.”

Benfica had not beaten Barcelona in six attempts since winning the 1961 final and led within three minutes through Darwin Núñez. The Uruguay forward had a shot strike the post before he also scored from a penalty in the 79th. Rafa Silva had made it 2-0 in the 69th.

Barcelona defender Eric Garcia was sent off in the closing minutes for a second yellow card.

Euro heroes

Italy’s run to the European Championship title in the summer was fueled by key goals from Federico Chiesa of Juventus and MatteoPessina of Atalanta.

Both were on target Wednesday to give their table-topping teams 1-0 wins.

Chiesa broke through the Chelsea defense almost immediately after the second half started, and Pessina struck midway through the second half to defeat Young Boys.

Juventus’ second win built a three-point lead over Zenit St. Petersburg, which beat Malmö 4-0 in one of the early kickoffs.

The Russian champion was already two goals ahead in the 53rd when Malmö defender AnelAhmedhodzic was sent off for a handball.

Penalty shootouts

Group G has been all about the penalty kicks awarded. Lots of them.

Salzburg is top after KarimAdeyemi scored both of his spot kicks in a 2-1 win at home against Lille.

Adeyemi, the 19-year-old Germany forward, had missed one of Salzburg’s three penalties given against Sevilla two weeks ago in a game that finished 1-1.

Sevilla again drew 1-1 on Wednesday, at Wolfsburg, and again relied on a penalty converted by Croatian veteran Ivan Rakitic.

Rakitic scored in the 86th — after Wolfsburg midfielder Joshua Guilavogui was sent off for the foul — to level a 49th-minute opener from Renato Steffen.

By AP Updated: Sep 30, 2021 9:48:02 pm