The first two places in the Round of 16 of the UEFA Champions League were claimed on Tuesday evening, as holders Barcelona and seven-time champions AC Milan got the results they needed to take the two qualification slots in Group H.
Also making the news were Group E leaders APOEL Nicosia, who continued their stunning campaign with a late 2-1 win over Porto in Cyprus. FIFA.com rounds up those stories and the rest of the news from Tuesday’s eight games.
The big game
APOEL Nicosia 2-1 Porto
Goals: Ailton 42 pen, Gustavo Menduca 90 (APOEL); Hulk 89 pen (Porto)
Making light of an average age of 29 years and 46 days, APOEL Nicosia's old stagers continue to spring the surprises in Group E, this time edging out a disappointing Porto side that failed to pack much of a punch up front.
Taking the lead through Ailton’s penalty just before the break, the Cypriot upstarts seemed to have the game well under control, easily containing their opponent’s rare attacks. Hulk, who carried what threat the Portuguese could muster, had other ideas and looked to have spoiled the hosts’ night when he equalised from the spot with just one minute remaining.
Finding time for one last attack, APOEL then snatched the three points in the dying seconds, Gustavo Menduca arriving unmarked at the far post to drive in Esteban Solari’s first-time centre, extending the Cypriots’ unbeaten run in all European competitions to nine games and keeping them firmly on top in the section.
The other games
Valencia 3-1 Bayer Leverkusen
Genk 1-1 Chelsea
Chelsea and Bayer Leverkusen’s hopes of wrapping the section up came unstuck on a frustrating evening for both sides. The Londoners found their Belgian hosts full of running, and after taking the lead through Ramires, who smashed home a fine lofted pass from Fernando Torres, and then missing a penalty through David Luiz, they were pegged back when Jelle Vossen rounded off a classy Genk move.
Valencia stayed alive with their first win, getting the better of Bayer Leverkusen with an energetic display. Caught cold by Jonas’ speedy strike, the Germans levelled before the break when Stefan Kiessling headed in Michael Ballack’s inch-perfect cross. The Spaniards won the midfield battle in the second half, however, claiming the points thanks to Roberto Soldado’s cute flick and Adil Rami’s glancing header.
Borussia Dortmund 1-0 Olympiacos
Arsenal 0-0 Marseille
Kevin Grosskreutz’s thunderous early strike gave a superior Dortmund side a fully deserved first win in the section, while Marseille claimed a valuable point at the Emirates to keep the pool wide open.
Zenit St Petersburg 1-0 Shakhtar Donetsk
The narrow scoreline did not reflect Zenit’s superiority in a game in which Shakhtar keeper Olexandr Rybka was the outstanding performer with another string of excellent saves. Yet, there was little he could do to stop Belgian defender Nicolas Lombaerts’ firm near-post header, as the Russians made themselves comfortable in second place behind APOEL.
BATE Borisov 1-1 AC Milan
Viktoria Plzen 0-4 Barcelona
With their minds no doubt on the convalescing Antonio Cassano, who fell ill three days ago, the Italians let victory slip through their fingers in Belarus, but still did enough to check into the next round. Zlatan Ibrahimovic fired the visitors in front midway through the first half, before Renan Bressan made them pay for failing to kill the game, equalising from the spot to put BATE in with an excellent chance of taking the UEFA Europa League berth.
Lionel Messi made sure Barcelona will join Milan in the hat for the last 16 with yet another hat-trick, Cesc Fabregas stooping to head in Barça’s other goal in their latest exhibition of free-flowing, attacking football.
27-year-old Brazilian striker Ailton Jose Almeida is the man who makes APOEL Nicosia tick, as Porto can vouch for. A more than capable playmaker, the influential Ailton has been making the most of the chances coming his way in Group G, scoring his side’s goal in the 1-1 draw in Portugal two weeks ago and then forcing and converting the penalty that put the Cypriots ahead in Tuesday’s return game.
Goal of the night
Valencia forward Jonas set his side on the road to victory with the second-fastest goal in the history of the competition. Latching on to a mishit clearance by Bayer keeper Bernd Leno, he swept the ball into the back of the net from the edge of the box. Coming after just 10.6 seconds, the Brazilian’s strike clocked in just three tenths of a second behind Roy Makaay’s opener for Bayern Munich in their 2-1 defeat of Real Madrid in March 2007.
200 - The number of goals Lionel Messi chalked up for Barcelona in scoring his first of the night in Prague, and the number of official matches coach Josep Guardiola has now presided over in the Barça dugout. A remarkable 144 of those games have ended in victory, 39 in draws and a mere 17 in defeat. Putting the icing on the cake was Victor Valdes, who beat the club’s goalkeeping record of 824 minutes without conceding a goal, set by Miguel Reina, the father of Liverpool keeper Jose Reina, back in 1973.
Have your say
Can Porto still make it through after their fruitless night in Cyprus?