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Champions League Ties Finely Balanced

Rafael BenitezOn the first night of the Champions League playoffs, we did not get our usual blowouts, instead we got competitive matches that are all finely balanced heading into the second legs next week.

The headline match was Napoli v Athletic Bilbao in Italy and this tie could go either way as they head back to Spain tied 1-1. Athletic got on the scoreboard first when Iker Muniain scored four minutes before the break in Naples.

Napoli hit back after the interval as former Real Madrid striker Gonzalo Higuain fired a leveller on 68 minutes but the Basque outfit will fancy their chances of winning the second leg and progressing to the next stage.

There were five goals in the first half of action in the Danish capital as Bayer Leverkusen claimed a 3-2 win at FC Copenhagen. Stefan Kiessling and Zanka exchanged goals before Daniel Amartey nudged FCK ahead in the 13th minute. Bayer equalised through Karim Bellarabi on 31 minutes and, three minutes before the break, Son Heung-min grabbed what proved to be the winner for the Bundesliga giants.

Red Bull Salzburg will head to Sweden next week with their Champions League destiny in their own hands after Franz Schiemer and Jonathan Soriano scored in a 2-1 win over Malmo. The ambitious Austrians, who conceded a 90th-minute away goal thanks to Emil Forsberg, were a surprise package in the UEFA Europa League last season and look set to cause more shock waves this year.

Aaron Ramsey was sent off ten minutes from full-time as English Premier League club Arsenal laboured to a goalless draw with Besiktas in Turkey. Steaua Bucharest have the advantage in their pairing with Ludogorets of Bulgaria after Alexsandru Chipciu fired the Romanians to a 1-0 victory at the Stadionul Steaua.