The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Nine-in-a-row for Barcelona
- Henry’s hattrick makes it a night to remember for Arsenal

London: Barcelona made it nine out of nine and Thierry Henry three out of three, while Inter Milan’s 11 were too strong for Newcastle United’s 10 in the Champions League on Wednesday.

Barcelona opened their second phase campaign with a 2-1 win at Bayer Leverkusen and Inter won 4-1 at Newcastle United in the night’s other game in Group A.

Arsenal are the early leaders in Group B after winning 3-1 at AS Roma, while Valencia drew 1-1 with Ajax Amsterdam in the group’s other match on a miserable night for home teams.

Barca’s win at Leverkusen was their ninth successive European victory this season and came courtesy of an 88th minute goal from Dutch substitute Marc Overmars. Dimitar Berbatov had given Leverkusen a 39th minute lead, but Javier Saviola equalised early in the second half before Overmars sealed the points.

After two wins in the qualifying phase, Barcelona won all six matches in the opening group stage and Wednesday’s victory made it nine out of nine.

Overmars’ former club Arsenal also had a night to remember with an Henry hattrick giving them a 3-1 win at AS Roma after the home side went ahead in the fourth minute at the Olympic Stadium.

Antonio Cassano fired AS Roma in front with a shot that came off one post and bounced into the goal just inside the far one, but Henry levelled two minutes later with a fine curling shot — and struck twice late in the game to give Arsenal victory.

His second was an opportunist strike through the legs of goalkeeper Francesco Antonioli after Roma failed to clear a cross, but his third was outstanding as he lashed home a direct free kick from 20m that the goalkeeper never saw.

Quickfire Inter

Inter Milan scored even quicker than Roma in their match at St James’ Park, but unlike the Italians they held onto their lead and went on to beat Newcastle 4-1 on a night to forget for the home side, who had Craig Bellamy dismissed after five minutes.

Newcastle were already trailing to a goal scored by Domenico Morfeo after just 65 seconds when Bellamy was sent off for an off-the-ball punch on Marco Materazzi. Bellamy, who missed three first-phase matches for a head-butt when Newcastle played Dynamo Kiev, was the hero with two goals against Feyenoord two weeks ago — but now is cast in the role as villain again and faces another ban.

His red card severely affected Newcastle who were out of it by halftime as Matias Almeyda (35) and Hernan Crespo (45) put Inter 3-0 ahead. Unsettled Peruvian Nolberto Solano gave Newcastle a slight chance with a 72nd minute goal, but Alvaro Recoba settled matters with Inter’s fourth after 81 minutes — 20 seconds after coming on as a substitute.

Late Valencia

In contrast to the quick goals at Newcastle and Rome, the scoring came in the last few minutes in Valencia where Ajax took the lead after 88 minutes through substitute Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the home side levelled when Miguel Angel Angulo scored in injury time.

Valencia, European Cup runners-up in 2000 and 2001 and tipped by many to do well again this season, dominated much of the match but appeared to be heading for defeat when Ibrahimovic stole into the box to convert a pass from Rafael van der Vaart.

But Angulo saved a point for the Spaniards when he finally beat Ajax goalkeeper Joey Didulica, who had been the outstanding player on the pitch.

The competition continues in two weeks’ time.

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