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Inter, Manchester United, Barcelona Advance in Champions League

Former winners Inter Milan, Manchester United and Barcelona were among seven teams advancing last night to the round of 16 in soccer’s Champions League.

Tottenham, Valencia, Schalke and Lyon also qualified for the next round of Europe’s top club competition with one game remaining. The top two teams in each of the eight four-team groups move into the knockout stage.

“Every big club wants to be in the Champions League playing against the best teams in the world,” Tottenham’s Peter Crouch said in a televised interview after his team beat Werder Bremen 3-0. “It’s our first experience in the Champions League. It’s a great achievement.”

Defending champion Inter Milan beat FC Twente 1-0 to advance from Group A with Tottenham, while Barcelona won 3-0 at Panathinaikos to secure the top spot in Group D.

Manchester United beat Rangers 1-0 and Valencia routed Bursaspor 6-1 to progress from Group C, while Schalke defeated Lyon 3-0 to send both teams through from Group B.

Hapoel Tel-Aviv beat Benfica 3-0 in Group B and Rubin Kazan defeated Copenhagen 1-0 in Group D in yesterday’s other matches.

Esteban Cambiasso scored in the 55th minute and Inter Milan ended a five-match winless run in all competitions. Inter and Tottenham are tied in the group with 10 points heading into the final round of games.

Younes Kaboul, Luka Modric and Crouch scored the goals that qualified Tottenham in its first Champions League appearance.

“We showed we can compete in the Champions League,” Spurs manager Harry Redknapp said. “It is fantastic for us to get through.”

Rooney Returns

Wayne Rooney returned to the Manchester United lineup to score the winning goal against Rangers in Glasgow.

The striker converted an 87th-minute penalty kick after being sidelined since October with an ankle injury. It was just his second goal of the season.

The win keeps United atop Group C with 13 points, three more than Valencia, which scored four goals in the first half in easily beating Bursaspor.

“We want to go and win the group,” United manager Alex Ferguson told ITV. “We got Valencia at home, we can look forward to that.”

Pedro Rodriguez scored two goals and Lionel Messi added one as Barcelona secured first place in Group D. Rubin Kazan kept its hope of advancing alive by beating Copenhagen 1-0 on Cristian Noboa’s penalty kick just before halftime.

Copenhagen is second in the group with seven points, one more than Rubin. Copenhagen hosts Panathinaikos and Rubin visits Barcelona in the final group matches.

Klaas-Jan Huntelaar had two goals and Jefferson Farfan scored one as Schalke beat Lyon to advance from Group B. Lyon then also qualified when Hapoel Tel-Aviv upset Benfica behind two goals from Eran Zahavi.

AC Milan, Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Marseille and Real Madrid earlier secured places in the round of 16, leaving four spots up for grabs in the final group games Dec. 7 and 8.

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