| Arsenal’s Thierry Henry (right) executes a bicycle kick to beat Ajax’s Cristian Chivu during their Champions League Group B match at Highbury in London Tuesday. The match was drawn 1-1. (Reuters)
Paris: Barcelona’s fluctuating fortunes this season continued Tuesday as they beat the previous Champions League record for successive victories downing Inter Milan 3-0 in a group A match for their 11th triumph in a row.
Barcelona’s victory lifted them above AC Milan’s record of ten set in 1992-93 and they need to beat Inter next week to overhaul Ajax’s all-time European competition record of 11 set in the Cup Winners Cup campaigns of 1986-87 and 87-88.
It was a red letter night for one of their former manager Bobby Robson as he celebrated his 70th birthday with Newcastle United’s 3-1 victory away at last season’s demoralised finalists Bayer Leverkusen in another group A clash.
Barcelona, whose League form has been mediocre at best, lead the group by three points from Inter —whose Uruguayan striker Alvaro Recoba will be missing the return fixture after being sent off. Newcastle have three points and Bayer none.
Fabio Capello’s Roma suffered another blow to their hopes of reaching the last eight suffering a freak 0-1 defeat at home to Valencia.
Like Leverkusen, Roma have no points after three matches and with Valencia joining Arsenal and Ajax — who drew 1-1 in London — on five points in group B, Capello’s learning of German may come in handy sooner than he thought.
Barcelona attacked with real verve from the first whistle and were rewarded as goals from Javier Saviola and Philip Cocu put them well clear inside the opening half hour. Patrick Kluivert added the third in the 67th minute.
The Catalans then showed unaccustomed resilience in defence as the Italians roared back, Michael Reiziger twice clearing off the line and Carles Puyol stealing the ball from Christian Vieri as he raced through on goal.
In Rome, a freak goal by Valencia striker John Carew left Roma’s prospects of reaching the quarter finals of the Champions League in tatters as the Italian side lost 0-1.
The winner arrived in the 79th minute when Norwegian Carew spotted Roma ’keeper Ivan Pelizzoli out of position and curled a harmless-looking ball into the area which slipped in at the near post.
It was a fitting finale to a scrappy match, which leaves Roma bottom of group B with no points after three games. Valencia join Arsenal and Ajax on five.
The home side — depleted by injuries to key players — had looked marginally the stronger in the opening stages, but were let down by poor finishing by striker Vincenzo Montella.
Captain Francesco Totti and midfielder Vincent Candela were both injured while defender Walter Samuel and midfielder Emerson were suspended.
In London, Arsenal missed the chance to take a giant step towards the quarter finals when they were held to a 1-1 home draw by an enterprising Ajax Amsterdam in a group B clash.
Sylvain Wiltord fired the English champions into a deserved fifth-minute lead but once Nigel De Jong equalised in the 26th it minute it was honours even.
The draw, Arsenal’s third in a row at home in the competition, left both sides with five points from three matches. Valencia, 1-0 winners over AS Roma, also have five, with the Italians yet to register.
Arsenal and Ajax, who both won their domestic league and cup double last season, will meet again in Amsterdam next Wednesday.
Arsenal started where they left off on Saturday at Old Trafford, roaring forward with pace and confidence. Dennis Bergkamp, rested from that FA Cup victory over Manchester United, was instantly into his stride and after five minutes the former Ajax favourite’s perfectly weighted pass put Wiltord in on the right.
The Frenchman cut in to the box and seemed to have gone too far before shooting through the legs of goalkeeper Bogdan Lobont. Arsenal continued to dominate but were caught by Ajax’s first attack of the match in the 17th minute.
Defender Tomas Galasek swept a 50 metre pass into the path of De Jong and the 18-year-old midfielder, one of only two Dutchmen in the starting line-up, curled a left-footed shot across England goalkeeper David Seaman and into the net.
Arsenal’s Robert Pires showed neat control to create a couple of openings but sent one wide and the other high into the stand, while Thiery Henry, below his best all night, forced a scrambling save from Lobont five minutes before the break.
Arsenal lost Seaman to a hip injury at the break, Stuart Taylor coming on for a rare game. Gilberto failed to get any weight behind a sidefooted shot six minutes after the break, allowing Lobont to smother but Arsenal found openings hard to come by.