| Wednesday, December 11, 2002 17:20 EST
Arsenal, Valencia settle for scoreless draw
LONDON -- Inter Milan and Ajax Amsterdam
secured tense victories, while 10-men Valencia held firm at
Highbury to earn a 0-0 draw against Arsenal on a cold, wet night
of Champions League action on Tuesday.
Inter survived a late scare against Bayer Leverkusen to hang
on for a 3-2 win at the San Siro and take command of Group A and
Ajax was a 2-1 winner over AS Roma in Amsterdam, lifting the club
level with Arsenal on four points at the top of Group B.
Rain in Spain denied Barcelona the chance to make history as
its clash with Newcastle United was postponed until Wednesday
after a downpour before kickoff swamped the Nou Camp.
Inter can enjoy the break before the resumption of the
Champions League second phase in February but the team was made to
sweat by Leverkusen on a poor San Siro pitch.
Luigi Di Biagio, with a deft header and a thumping volley,
put Inter two goals to the good within 27 minutes.
A half-volley by Boris Zivkovic just past the hour halved
the deficit for the Germans, losing finalists last season.
But Inter seemed to have made sure when Leverkusen
goalkeeper Jorg Butt diverted a cross into his own net under
pressure from striker Hernan Crespo with 10 minutes left.
Leverkusen was not finished, though. Francoalda Franca made
it 3-2 in the final minute and the visitors would have grabbed a
point if Bernd Schneider's effort had not been ruled out for
Barcelona's bid to equal AC Milan's Champions League record
of 10 straight wins by beating Newcastle will have to wait for
24 hours, so Inter tops Group A with six points out of six.
Barcelona has three points with Leverkusen in real trouble
on zero points, the same as Newcastle.
Group B is very tight with Valencia probably finishing the
happier of the two sides after a scrappy game at a freezing
The Spaniards, losing finalists in 2000 and 2001, were
without injured captain and goalkeeper Santiago Canizares but
his replacement Andres Palop proved more than adequate.
The Valencia keeper denied in-form striker Thierry Henry in
the first half and produced even better stops to keep out a
Freddie Ljungberg shot and a header by Dennis Bergkamp in the
Valencia had to play the last 17 minutes with 10 men after
Miguel Angel Angulo needlessly lashed out at Pascal Cygan to
earn a red card, but either side could have snatched victory
with efforts cleared off the line in stoppage time.
Arsenal stayed on top of the group with four points, the same
tally as Ajax, with Valencia on two.
Roma suffered a second damaging defeat after their 3-1 loss
to Arsenal when Ajax proved too good for them in frosty
Amsterdam despite a batch of injuries and suspensions.
Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic gave Ajax a flying start
with an 11th-minute goal after Roma goalkeeper Francesco
Antonioli fumbled a simple shot.
The Dutch side, the last of whose four European Cup wins
came in 1995, made it two through Finnish substitute Jari
Litmanen after 66 minutes.
Argentine striker Gabriel Batistuta ensured a nervy finish
with an 89th-minute header for Roma, but they face an uphill
task having lost both their opening encounters.