Lionel Messi and record-breaker Mohamed Salah converted coolly taken penalties to seal 3-2 wins for Paris Saint-Germain and Liverpool amid a goal rush on a wild night in the Champions League.
Thirty-five goals were scored across eight group games on Tuesday — at an average of nearly 4.4 per match — as Real Madrid and Manchester City grabbed five each. There was also another goal for the competition’s surprise top scorer, Sebastien Haller, in a big win for Ajax.
Messi is saving his goals for the Champions League in his first season at PSG. The Argentina star rescued the French club in its 3-2 win over Leipzig, equalizing in the 67th and then producing a cheeky “Panenka” penalty down the middle to complete PSG’s comeback.
Messi, whose only other goal for PSG came in a Champions League win over Man City last month, even passed up the opportunity for a hat trick when PSG was awarded another penalty in stoppage time. Kylian Mbappe took it instead — and smashed it over the crossbar.
Salah became the first player in Liverpool’s 129-year history to score in nine straight games, netting an early deflected goal and then stroking in a 78th-minute penalty to clinch a 3-2 victory at Atletico Madrid.
There was more late penalty drama in that game, too, with Atletico — down to 10 men following the red card to Antoine Griezmann after his two goals — seeing a spot kick awarded and then overturned after a referee check on the pitchside monitor.
Liverpool is one of two teams on a maximum nine points from three games and already on the verge of advancing. The other is Ajax, which overwhelmed Borussia Dortmund in a 4-0 win in Amsterdam with Haller heading in the fourth goal for his sixth of the competition.
Vinicius Junior, a 21-year-old Brazilian, inspired Madrid's 5-0 win at Shakhtar Donetsk with two goals — one coming from a wonderful, slaloming solo run — and an assist. Another of the world’s brightest young talents, Phil Foden, was behind City’s 5-1 win at Club Brugge.
There was mixed fortunes for the Milan clubs, with Inter beating Moldovan upstart Sheriff 3-1 for a first win of the group stage and AC Milan losing 1-0 at Porto to stay winless.
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Steve Douglas, The Associated Press