Only four places remain in the Round of 16 of the UEFA Champions League after no fewer than seven teams won through from their groups on Wednesday.
Tottenham Hotspur, Inter Milan, Schalke 04, Lyon, Manchester United, Valencia and Barcelona were the magnificent seven in question, and will line up in the next round alongside the already qualified quintet of Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Marseille, Real Madrid and AC Milan.
The only issue not to be resolved on the night was the identity of the second qualifier in Barcelona’s section, where Rubin Kazan saw off Copenhagen to stay in the frame.
The big game
Inter Milan 1-0 Twente
Goal: Esteban Cambiasso 55
The reigning European champions’ profligacy in front of goal ensured they had an uncomfortable night despite dominating for long periods. Decimated by injuries and missing the reassuring presence of Walter Samuel in the centre of defence I Nerazzurri lacked the authority that carried them to the title last season, they still had the resources to conjure up 20 goal attempts before finally taking the lead ten minutes into the second half. Fittingly the goal was a scrappy one, as Wesley Sneijder’s partly blocked free-kick fell kindly for Esteban Cambiasso, who gleefully thumped home from ten yards out. Though captain Javier Zanetti continued to drive them forward at every opportunity, Inter failed to kill the game off, leading to some nervy moments before they could finally celebrate qualification to the next round.
The other games
Staying in Group A, Tottenham Hotspur made short work of Werder Bremen to join Inter in the next round. Younes Kaboul shot the north London side into the lead after six minutes, setting the tone for a one-sided match in which Spurs could even afford a second-half penalty miss, Gareth Bale the unlikely culprit. Luka Modric and Peter Crouch completed the scoring with well-taken goals either side of half-time.
Schalke 04 overpowered Lyon 3-0 to move top in Group B, the French side having now conceded seven goals in their last two outings in the competition. Taking advantage of a sluggish Lyon start, the Germans surged into a two-goal lead inside the opening 20 minutes through Jefferson Farfan and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, who rounded off the scoring in the closing stages. Les Gones owe their place in the next round to Benfica’s surprise defeat to Hapoel Tel Aviv by the same scoreline. Second-best for much of the night, the Israelis took what few chances came their way, taking full toll of some slack defending to score twice from set-pieces. Though the Portuguese can still pull level on points with Lyon, they have an inferior goal-difference in the two meetings between the teams.
Manchester United were rewarded for their patience against an obdurate Rangers side at Ibrox Park. Held at bay for 86 minutes, Sir Alex Ferguson’s finally broke the deadlock when the returning Wayne Rooney struck from the penalty spot.
That result means that United will win Group C if they can avoid defeat in the final match at home to Valencia, who ran riot at home to bottom club Bursaspor, scoring four goals in 20 first-half minutes en route to a 6-1 win. Dominant from start to finish, the Spaniards took the lead with a Juan Mata penalty, with Roberto Soldado hitting a brace and Aritz Aduriz, Joaquin and Alejandro Dominguez also getting in on the act.
Finally, Barcelona made sure of first place in Group D after seeing off Panathinaikos 3-0 in Athens. Pedro set the 2008 champions on the way when he latched on to Dani Alves’ pinpoint assist to rifle home from a narrow angle. Lionel Messi continued his scoring run by netting from close range to pull level with Rivaldo on 31 Champions League goals for the Catalan side. Pedro then scored his second of the night after another classy team move.
Earlier in the evening Rubin Kazan stayed in the hunt for second place when Christian Noboa struck from the penalty spot to give them a 1-0 win over Copenhagen. The Russians still face a tall order to qualify however, needing to collect at least a point in their final game at Barcelona and hoping that Copenhagen slip up at home to Panathinaikos, who are already out of Europe.
120 - The number of Champions League matches Manchester United’s Ryan Giggs has now played in, putting him level with Roberto Carlos but still some way behind Spanish veteran Raul, who played his 135th game in the competition on Wednesday.
Goal of the night
Tottenham 2-0 Werder Bremen (Luka Modric 45)
Luka Modric had plenty to do to fashion a goalscoring opportunity from Peter Crouch’s far-post header. Artfully controlling an awkwardly bouncing ball with his left foot and shaking off the attentions of his marker, the Croatian midfielder switched feet to lash a fierce volley past Werder keeper Tim Wiese.
Tuesday 8 December
Group A: Twente-Tottenham Hotspur, Werder Bremen-Inter Milan
Group B: Lyon-Hapoel Tel-Aviv, Benfica-Schalke 04
Group C: Manchester United-Valencia, Bursaspor-Glasgow Rangers
Group D: Barcelona-Rubin Kazan, Copenhagen-Panathinaikos
Have your say
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