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Roma hang on for draw despite first-half sending-off

Tempers flared at the Dragao stadium where Porto could only draw against 10-man Roma

AS Roma clung on for a 1-1 draw away to Porto despite having Thomas Vermaelen sent off on his debut before halftime in their Champions League playoff first leg on Wednesday.

Porto defender Felipe gifted Roma the lead with an own goal but the Serie A side had Vermaelen dismissed for a second bookable offence in the 41st minute and Andre Silva replied for the twice European champions with a second-half penalty.

A superb individual goal by midfielder Bernardo Silva gave Monaco a 2-1 win away to Villarreal in another of Wednesday’s five ties while much-travelled Brazilian Alexandre Pato scored on his debut for the hosts.

Leigh Griffiths scored twice to help Celtic thrash Hapoel Beer Sheva 5-2 in Glasgow, although the Scottish champions suffered a scare as their 3-0 halftime lead was at one point reduced to 3-2 by the Israeli visitors.

Polish champions Legia Warsaw won 2-0 away to Irish counterparts Dundalk and Bulgaria’s Ludogorets Razgrad beat Viktoria Plzen 2-0 in a meeting of the Bulgarian and Czech league winners.

The Champions League playoffs are among the most awkward matches of the season for coaches.

With places in the group stage at stake, defeats can cost millions of euros, yet teams are often playing their first competitive game of the season as Roma and Villarreal were on Wednesday.

Serie A sides, who seem to struggle more than most, have lost in the playoffs in the last two seasons and Roma looked determined to avoid a similar fate as they tore into Porto from the start.

They already had two shots cleared off the line when an outswinging corner caught hapless Porto defender Felipe in the penalty area and bounced into the net.

Iker Casillas made a triple save to deny Roma a second but their dominance ended after Belgian international Vermaelen was sent off for a high tackle on Andre Silva.

Porto fought back, had a goal disallowed for offside and finally levelled in the 61st minute when Silva converted a penalty after a harsh handball decision against Roma substitute Emerson Palmieri.

In the evening’s other top tie, Fabinho put Monaco ahead with a third-minute penalty before Brazilian Pato, whose injury-plagued career has already taken him to Internacional, AC Milan, Corinthians, Sao Paulo and Chelsea, pounced on a scramble to equalise for the Spanish side.

Portuguese midfielder Silva, who missed Euro 2016 through injury, won the game in style for Monaco with a superb diagonal run across the pitch which ended with him firing a left-foot shot into the far corner.

Celtic, who last reached the group stage three seasons ago, raced to a 3-0 halftime lead after Tom Rogic struck early and Griffiths scored twice in six minutes late in the first half.

Lucio Maranhao and Maor Melikson scored two quickfire goals for the visitors, but Moussa Dembele and then Scott Brown restored Celtic’s three-goal lead.

Second-half goals from Nemanja Nikolic, from a penalty, and Aleksandar Prijovic gave Legia a 2-0 win which has almost ended Dundalk’s hopes of becoming the first Irish team to reach the group stage.

Cosmin Moti, from a penalty, and Virgil Misidjan gave Ludogorets an important win at home to Plzen.


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