Manchester United FC and Real Madrid CF were the most emphatic winners as the UEFA Champions League group stage got under way tonight.
Superb first half
United scored four of their five goals against Panathinaikos FC in the first half, while Real Madrid CF took time to dazzle after falling behind to Olympique de Marseille. Italy's two representatives, the holders AC Milan and S.S. Lazio, also savoured victories along with Chelsea FC and Rangers FC.
After qualifying for the quarter-finals for a record seventh time last season, United signalled their intent with an imperious performance at Old Trafford. Mikaël Silvestre scored the first goal of the group stage with Quinton Fortune, Ole Gunnar Solskjær and Nicky Butt also on target for United before Eric Djemba-Djemba capped the 5-0 victory with his first Champions League goal. Rangers rallied to beat VfB Stuttgart 2-1 in the other Group E fixture.
Two for Ronaldo
Madrid have opened up an early advantage in Group F following a 4-2 success at the Santiago Bernabéu and a 1-1 draw between FK Partizan and FC Porto. Didier Drogba struck first for the French challengers, though Marseille's lead lasted just three minutes as Roberto Carlos drilled in the equaliser. Ronaldo then scored twice and Luis Figo added another from the penalty spot prior to Daniel Van Buyten's late consolation.
Filippo Inzaghi continued his superb run of goals for Milan by scoring the only goal against AFC Ajax in a tense match at the San Siro. That was his 28th Champions League goal in all and his sixth in four games. RC Celta de Vigo were denied a victory in their first ever group stage fixture as nine-man Club Brugge KV fought back for a draw in Belgium, Juanfran's opening goal cancelled out by substitute Bengt Sæternes.
Gallas wins it
Chelsea dominated the headlines across Europe with their spending spree this summer, and their huge investment paid dividends at AC Sparta Praha, where defender William Gallas scored the only goal with five minutes remaining. Lazio controlled much of their game against Besiktas JK after Jaap Stam opened the scoring in the 37th minute. Stefano Fiore made it 2-0 40 minutes later to ensure a share of top billing in Group G.
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