By Mark Bennett in Bruges
An 84th-minute goal rescued a 1-1 draw for nine-man Club Brugge KV in Group H and prevented RC Celta de Vigo from making a flying start to their first-ever UEFA Champions League campaign at the Jan Breydelstadion.
The Spanish side looked in control from the moment Andrés Mendoza was sent off during added time at the end of the first half. Juanfran duly opened the scoring shortly after the interval but appeared to get the last touch on Bengt Sæternes' mazy goalwards run late on to inadvertently level the scores. Brugge held on to the point, even after Sandy Martens was sent off in the dying moments.
Despite Brugge coach Trond Sollied going into the match with an attacking 4-3-3 formation, it was the visitors who created the first opportunity. With just six minutes on the clock, Gustavo López slipped his defender and latched on to a long ball only to find his shot from inside the penalty area stopped by Brugge goalkeeper Tomislav Butina.
It took a quarter of an hour for the home side to find their feet, Mendoza collecting the ball after some untidy defending by the Spanish side, but his 18-metre effort failed to trouble José Manuel Pinto in the Celta goal.
Midway through the first half Celta went close when Savo Milosevic connected with Juanfran's cross but sent his glancing header narrowly wide of target. Butina was a relieved man again on 29 minutes when Juanfran's cross took a cruel deflection off Gert Verheyen to leave the keeper stranded - but the ball hit the side-netting.
Sollied made a change on the half-hour mark when Alin Stoica took a knock, bringing on Gaetan Englebert in the playmaker's place, and the coach was forced into another reshuffle before the break. After being brought down by Eduardo Berizzo, Mendoza hurled the ball down angrily, striking José Ignacio Sáenz. Referee Georgios Kasnaferis showed him the red card and Brugge were suddenly faced with an uphill battle.
Only four minutes into the second half the visitors cashed in on their numerical advantage. Juanfran picked up the ball on the left side of the penalty area and his deflected shot left Butina stranded to give Celta their first-ever Champions League goal.
The Belgian champions refused to concede defeat despite being both a goal and a player down and launched a string of furious attacks. However, some sloppy passing at key moments prevented the home side creating any genuine opportunities until Philippe Clement launched a searching ball from midfield towards Martens, whose header just went over the bar.
In the later stages of the game Brugge looked to the long ball in their desperate attempt to salvage at least a point. However, it took a neat piece of work from substitute Sæternes to finally do the trick. The Norwegian slipped two tackles before his shot took a deflection off an outstretched leg and trickled over the line.
Martens followed Mendoza to the dressing room prematurely after picking up his second yellow card but Brugge were able to hold on for a precious point that had, at one stage, seemed so unlikely.