Big boys march on

PARIS. — Holders Real Madrid and Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus were among seven teams to reach the last 16 of the Champions League soccer on Tuesday night while late equalisers sent both Manchester sides through.

Bayern Munich thumped Benfica 5-1 to book their place and ease the pressure on coach Niko Kovac.

“It’s a convincing win and that’s exactly what we needed at the moment,” Arjen Robben said after he netted twice.

Roma will also play in the knockout phase despite losing 2-0 to Real while former European champions Ajax won 2-0 in a violence-hit game against AEK Athens to book their last-16 ticket after riot police clashed with Dutch fans.

Marouane Fellaini’s 91st minute winner against Young Boys saw Manchester United squeak through after they had laboured against the Swiss at Old Trafford.

After Fellaini’s low shot went in, United manager Jose Mourinho picked up and threw over a pack of bottles in relief at a result that lifts some of the gloom over the club.

Real and Roma secured their spot in the knockout stages even before the Spaniards’ 2-0 victory in the Italian capital after Group G rivals CSKA Moscow fell to a 2-1 defeat at home to Viktoria Plzen.

Gareth Bale scored one and supplied the cross that led to another as Lucas Vazquez wrapped up a clinical 2-0 win at the Stadio Olimpico that was a world away from Real’s 3-0 Liga defeat to Eibar at the weekend. “It was important to bounce back quickly,” said Real coach Santiago Solari. “We are very happy.”

Real are three points clear of Roma going into their final Group G match against CSKA Moscow next month.

Mario Mandzukic booked Juventus’ ticket for the knockout phase with a simple tap-in after a sublime piece of skill and cross from Ronaldo as Juventus beat Valencia 1-0. The Italians have 12 points, two more than United but both are home and dry because Valencia only have five.

In Lyon, City took a point from a pulsating match after David Cornet scored two second-half goals including an outstanding long-range effort only for the French side to be pinned back each time.

City’s French defender Aymeric Laporte equalised first and then Sergio Aguero outjumped taller defenders to head home and spark wild celebrations from manager Pep Guardiola. Lyon are left needing a draw against Shakhtar Donetsk in their final Group F game next month to go through after the Ukrainian club stunned Hoffenheim 3-2 away to stay in contention.

Greek riot police wielding batons entered the stands at the Athens Olympic Stadium to separate fighting fans, leaving 11 Ajax supporters injured, police said.

Some Dutch fans were left with blood streaming down their faces.

Meanwhile Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City maybe sweeping all before them again in the English Premier League but the Spanish coach acknowledged on Tuesday night that they perhaps still have some way to go if they are to win the Champions League soccer title for the first time.

City had to come from behind twice to draw 2-2 at Olympique Lyonnais and often found themselves on the back foot against the only side to have defeated them this season, with the French club winning 2-1 in the first Group F match in September.

The English champions still secured their progression to the last 16 for the seventh straight season but Guardiola conceded his team were finding it much tougher in Europe than back home.

“Today the Champions League showed me again that it’s a different competition,” he said. “The players are better. Here when you press they don’t lose the ball. The demand is so high.

“When people say it’s easy in the Champions League you cannot imagine how confused they are about that. We’ll be there again in February: one more year for City is good news.”

City won the Premier League with a record 100 points last season, scoring more than 100 goals, but were eliminated from the Champions League in the quarter-finals by Liverpool. They still have to avoid defeat against Hoffenheim next month to secure top spot in group F and a more favourable draw for next year’s knockout stage.  But Guardiola was relieved more than anything that domestic duties can take precedence again.

“Tonight we showed personality, we got the point that we needed. Qualifying for the last 16 means we can now play the Premier League and the cups and prepare ourselves for (the knockout stage in) February,” he said.

While City were playing in France, their English League Cup quarter-final opponents were decided as Leicester City defeated Southampton on penalties in a re-arranged fourth round clash.

City will visit Leicester on December 18.

Source :

Check Also

Zimbabwe: As a Football Nation, We’re Our Worst Enemies

OPINION By Lloyd Chigove INSPIRED by talismanic captain, Knowledge Musona, our Warriors are going for …

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

This function has been disabled for Zimbabwe Today.