x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Barcelona held by Stuttgart in Champions League

Defending champion Barcelona escaped from Stuttgart with a 1-1 draw while Michael Ciani headed Bordeaux to a 1-0 victory at Olympiakos.

Defending champion Barcelona needed an equaliser from Zlatan Ibrahimovic to escape from Stuttgart with a 1-1 draw, while Michael Ciani headed Bordeaux to a 1-0 victory at Olympiakos in the first leg of the Champions League knockout round. Barcelona fell behind after 25 minutes in Stuttgart, where coach Christian Gross has rejuvenated the German side with six wins in eight matches. Cacau, who scored four goals in Saturday's 5-1 Bundesliga victory at Cologne, jumped higher than Carles Puyol to meet a cross from Timo Gebhart and scored with a powerful header at the far post.

Barca almost equalised in the 40th when goalkeeper Jens Lehmann failed to hold Lionel Messi's shot but the ball hit the post. However, Ibrahimovic came up with an away goal that gives Barca a slight edge in the second leg at home. The lanky striker collected a header from Gerard Pique and, although his first shot was well blocked by Lehmann, the Swede followed up to prod the ball home. "You have to work hard, there are no easy matches at this level. It was tough," said Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola, who guided his team to six titles in 2009, including the Spanish league and domestic cup. Ciani turned home a free-kick from Yoann Gourcuff in first half injury time to give the French champion a useful lead to take home for the second leg, the defender heading downwards to beat goalkeeper Antonis Nikopolidis.

"I am very satisfied with this effort," Bordeaux coach Laurent Blanc said. "The players were very disciplined ... and that's the way you have to play away from home." After the game, stewards pushed back groups of Olympiakos fans who threw plastic chairs at Bordeaux supporters while police moved in to separate rival fans outside Karaiskakis stadium. The final two Champions League first legs are on today when Inter Milan coach Jose Mourinho takes on former club Chelsea at San Siro and CSKA Moscow hosts Sevilla. Last week, Manchester United won 3-2 at AC Milan, Lyon edged Real Madrid 1-0 at home, FC Porto beat Arsenal 2-1 and Bayern Munich gained a 2-1 first leg advantage over Fiorentina.

In a Europa League game Tuesday, Benfica outplayed Hertha Berlin in a 4-0 victory to reach the last 16. Oscar Cardozo scored twice and Pablo Aimar and Javi Garcia also hit the target in a game between the Portuguese league leader and the side which is last in the Bundesliga. The other 15 second legs are on Thursday. *AP