City crash out as six clubs progress
Paris St Germain, Schalke, Arsenal, AC Milan, Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund all booked their tickets for the knockout stages during the concluding part of Matchday 5 of the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday.
These teams join Porto, Malaga, Shakhtar Donetsk, Valencia, Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Manchester United in the draw for the next round. The three remaining berths will be decided during the final round of fixtures, scheduled to be played on 4 and 5 December.
FIFA.com looks back on an intriguing night of group-phase action.
The big game
Manchester City 1-1 Real Madrid
Goals: Sergio Aguero 73 pen (Manchester City); Karim Benzema 10 (Real Madrid)
Unable to handle Real Madrid’s pace, and guilty of clumsiness within an altered defensive set-up, Manchester City found themselves under severe pressure in the opening half-an-hour of this much-anticipated encounter.
Incisive up front and commanding in midfield, Real were in complete control, and opened the scoring after ten minutes through Karim Benzema, who escaped his marker to slot home a deep Angel Di Maria cross. The Spanish champions created four further gilt-edged chances during the opening exchanges before the match gradually began to even out.
In the second half, City, propelled by Sergio Aguero and David Silva, came to life. Real goalkeeper Iker Casillas, who was making his 644th appearance for Los Blancos, made two crucial stops, but there was nothing he could to prevent the equaliser, an Aguero spot kick awarded for a foul by Alvaro Arbeloa, who was consequently red-carded.
The game gained in intensity, with the pendulum swinging this way and that. In the end, Madrid managed to hold on, obtaining a result that not only qualified them for the Round of 16, but simultaneously eliminated their English opponents.
The other games
Porto 3-0 Dinamo Zagreb
Dynamo Kiev 0-2 Paris St Germain
Porto overcame possibly Dinamo Zagreb’s best performance in the tournament thus far to record a 3-0 triumph that featured a trio of excellent goals, with Lucho Gonzalez’s half-volley arguably the pick of the bunch.
PSG, meanwhile, had their big-name stars to thank for their victory over a Dynamo team that struggled to piece together meaningful attacks. The opening goal was the perfect illustration of this, as Zlatan Ibrahimovic played in Ezequiel Lavezzi, who finished with aplomb.
Arsenal 2-0 Montpellier
Schalke 1-0 Olympiacos
Olympiacos ’keeper Roy Carroll held out for 77 minutes in Germany, making a handful of eye-catching saves, before being caught out by a low long-range effort by Schalke’s Christian Fuchs. The Gelsenkirchen side, who have racked up three victories and two draws so far and lead Arsenal by a point, booked their passage to the last 16, but the identity of the actual group winner will not be decided until the sixth and final matchday. The Greeks drop into the UEFA Europa League.
In London, Jack Wilshere, via an Olivier Giroud knock-down, and Lukas Podolski helped the Gunners to pick up three points and ensure their qualification in the process.
Zenit St Petersburg 2-2 Malaga
Anderlecht 1-3 AC Milan
Malaga coach Manuel Pellegrini rested several players for the game with Zenit, but that did not prevent his charges going 2-0 up after just nine minutes of play. In the end, Los Boquerones had to settle for a point in St Petersburg, but that was still enough for the Spanish outfit to secure an historic berth in the next round as well as top spot in the section.
Milan also wrapped up their qualification, for the tenth consecutive season. Their success in Brussels was founded on collective experience and the individual talents of rising star Stephan El Shaarawy, who scored a fine goal and set up Alexandre Pato for another.
Ajax 1-4 Borussia Dortmund
Mario Gotze dominated Dortmund’s clash with Ajax, netting once and registering no fewer than three assists, one for compatriot Marco Reus and two for Polish striker Robert Lewandowski. Curiously, Ajax were on top for much of the first half, but the Germans’ excellent technique and clinical use of the ball proved decisive over the 90 minutes. The win sees Die Schwarzgelben claim first place in Group D.
Malaga’s Diego Buonanotte became the tenth player to score on his Champions League debut this season, and the second Argentinian to achieve the feat after PSG’s Javier Pastore. The diminutive 24-year-old, who won a gold medal at the 2008 Olympic Football Tournament, fulfils the role of playmaker at Estadio La Rosaleda. On 26 December 2009, Buonanotte sustained serious injuries in a fatal car accident in Argentina, but has since made a full recovery.
Goal of the night
Anderlecht 0-2 AC Milan, Philippe Mexes 71
AC Milan defender Philippe Mexes, positioned on the right-hand edge of the box, controlled a floating free kick with his chest and, with his back to goal, looped a perfectly executed overhead kick into the top corner of the Anderlecht net. The superb goal, worthy of some of the greatest centre-forwards in the world, put the Italians in the driving seat, and they would go on to win the match 3-1.
4 – The number of goals scored within a week by Stephan El Shaarawy, who has emerged this season as a viable replacement for Zlatan Ibrahimovic at AC Milan. He found the net in Italy’s 2-1 home defeat by France a week ago, followed that up with a brace for Milan in their 2-2 draw with Napoli, and capped off a productive seven days by scoring and setting up a goal against Anderlecht in the Champions League on Wednesday evening.
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