Copenhagen join the big boys

Copenhagen became the latest side to advance to the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League when they beat Panathinaikos at home on Tuesday evening. The Danes now join Chelsea, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Valencia, Bayern Munich, Schalke 04, Lyon, Marseille, Inter Milan and AC Milan in the hat for the Round of 16.

The three remaining places will be filled on Wednesday, with Roma, Shakhtar Donetsk and Arsenal the favourites to claim them.

Match of the day
Manchester United 1-1 Valencia
Goals: Anderson 62 (Manchester United); Pablo Hernandez 32 (Valencia)

Although the only issue at stake at Old Trafford was which of the two teams would finish top of Group C, it did not prevent the pair from serving up a high-quality encounter that could have gone either way. The Spaniards took the lead when Alejandro Dominguez dispossessed a hesitant Michael Carrick in midfield before teeing up Pablo Hernandez for a smart cross-shot finish, the first time the United rearguard had been pierced in the group.

Wayne Rooney led the home fightback, striking the bar with a superb drive before Anderson knocked in a second-half equaliser, the Brazilian reacting quicker than anyone after Vicente Guaita could only parry Ji-Sung Park’s 25-yard drive. Though chances continued to flow at either end, the score remained unchanged, leaving Sir Alex Ferguson’s men sitting proudly atop the section.

The other matches
Tottenham reinforced their reputation as the great entertainers of this season’s competition when they earned a pulsating 3-3 draw at Twente, with Jermain Defoe scoring twice for the Londoners. The result took Spurs’ Group A goal tally for their six games to 18, more than any other side in the tournament.

The point also helped them win the section ahead of Inter, who could have edged them had they won at bottom-placed Werder Bremen. The injury-hit reigning champions were forced to field a much-weakened side, however, and proved no match for the Germans, who stormed to an impressive 3-0 win despite already being out of contention for the UEFA Europa League berth, which went to Twente.

Schalke 04 made sure of first place in Group B with a fine 2-1 defeat of Benfica in Lisbon. The visitors took an early lead through Jose Manuel Jurado, who fired home after Raul had cleverly chested the ball into his path. Benedikt Howedes added a second for the Germans nine minutes from time, and though Luisao pulled one back, it was too little too late for the Portuguese, who only just secured the Europa League slot. Hapoel Tel Aviv looked poised to claim it when they led 2-1 at Lyon with just two minutes remaining. Alexandre Lacazette’s late pinpoint strike levelled the match, however, and brought the Israelis’ European season to an agonising close.

In the other game in Group C, Europa League qualifiers Rangers were held to a 1-1 draw at Bursaspor, who finally recorded their first Champions League point at the sixth attempt.

In Group D an experimental Barcelona side had too much for Rubin Kazan at the Camp Nou, chalking up a routine 2-0 win to end four points clear at the summit. Andreu Fontas made the most of his brief promotion from the Barcelona B team by putting the hosts ahead just after the restart, with Victor Vazquez completing the scoring late on in his second appearance in the competition. Already assured a place in the Europa League, the vanquished Russians would have had no chance of joining Barça in the next round.

That was because Copenhagen cantered to a 3-1 win at home to Panathinaikos to secure the only last-16 ticket available on the night. Martin Vingaard and the evergreen Jesper Gronkjaer scored either side of the break for the Danes, with Djibril Cisse putting through his own net prior to Cedric Kante’s late consolation for the Greeks.

The stat
11 -
The number of goals conceded by Inter Milan during the group phase, two more than in the whole of their victorious campaign last season.

Goal of the day
Copenhagen 1-0 Panathinaikos, Martin Vingaard 26

Finding himself in plenty of space as he collected a pass from Christian Bolanos, Martin Vingaard controlled the ball with his left and struck a precise looping drive with his right, leaving Alexandros Tzorvas clutching at thin air as it nestled in the bottom corner of the net.

What’s next?
The draw for the knockout rounds of the Champions League takes place at UEFA headquarters in Nyon (Switzerland) on Friday 17 December. Among those attending the event will be Manchester United great Sir Bobby Charlton.

The first-leg matches in the Round of 16 will be played over four separate matchdays next February (on 15 and 16 February, and 22 and 23 February), with the second legs taking place the following month (on 8 and 9 March, and 15 and 16 March).

Have your say
Do teams playing the second leg at home really have an advantage?