Bayern, Inter Advance in Champions League Soccer; Manchester Clubs Misfire
Bayern Munich and Inter Milan advanced to the Champions League round of 16, while Benfica secured its spot with a 2-2 draw at Manchester United that left the English club’s further participation in doubt.
Bayern is assured of winning Group A after Franck Ribery got two goals in last night’s 3-1 home victory against bottom club Villarreal. Inter will finish atop Group B after tying 1-1 at Trabzonspor.
“We started this campaign with a home defeat so we did very well to qualify with a game to spare,” Inter coach Claudio Ranieri said in comments on UEFA’s website. “It wasn’t easy.”
Six of the 16 spots in the next phase of European soccer’s elite club competition are now decided. Record nine-time champion Real Madrid, Barcelona and AC Milan had advanced after the previous round of games.
Also yesterday, Napoli beat Manchester City 2-1, Real Madrid defeated Dinamo Zagreb 6-2, Lyon and Ajax tied 0-0, Lille beat CSKA Moscow 2-0 and Basel won 3-2 against Otelul Galati.
United gave up a 2-1 lead at Old Trafford last night and will need to avoid defeat at Basel on Dec. 7 to take a place in the next phase for a sixth straight season.
United recovered from an early own goal by Phil Jones and led Benfica after 59 minutes, only for the Portuguese team to score 80 seconds later and secure its qualification.
Dimitar Berbatov tied the game after 30 minutes with his second goal of the season, heading into the net from Nani’s cross. Darren Fletcher tapped in to give United the advantage, then in the game’s next attack Pablo Aimar scored off a rebound.
Benfica and United have nine points, with Basel on eight. Benfica is guaranteed a top-two finish because of its better head-to-head record against its rivals. Otelul suffered its fifth straight defeat, even after rallying with two late goals.
Bayern, which last won the European Cup in 2001, kept its unbeaten record to hand Villarreal a fifth straight loss.
Ribery and Mario Gomez put the hosts two goals up at halftime, before Jonathan De Guzman replied for Villarreal early in the second half. Bayern took advantage of a defensive mistake to steal the ball after 69 minutes, with Ribery rounding the goalkeeper to score.
City had a number of chances, especially in a period of attacking pressure in the final minutes, while Marek Hamsik hit a post for Napoli.
Bayern has 13 points and Napoli eight, while City is on seven points. City hosts Bayern, with Napoli visiting Villarreal on Dec. 7.
“Everything is not finished, never say never,” City coach Roberto Mancini told Sky Sports. “We didn’t deserve to lose this game.”
Inter, which in 2010 ended a 45-year wait for the title, was guaranteed a last-16 spot after Lille won at CSKA earlier in the day. The Italian team then sealed first place by avoiding defeat in Turkey. Ricardo Alvarez put Inter ahead before Halil Altintop replied for Trabzonspor.
An own goal from CSKA defender Vasili Berezutsky and a strike by Moussa Sow gave Lille a first victory that puts it level with the Russians on five points, one behind Trabzonspor. Inter has 10 points.
Real Madrid Wins
Real Madrid is guaranteed to finish atop Group D after its win. Karim Benzema and Jose Maria Callejon both got two goals at the Bernabeu, with Gonzalo Higuain and Mesut Ozil also scoring. Zagreb scored twice in the final 10 minutes, the first goals allowed by Madrid in the competition this season.
Ajax and Lyon played out a scoreless draw for the second time, maintaining the Dutch team’s three-point advantage. Lyon must win at Zagreb in the next round of games to have a chance of progressing.
The other four groups play their second-to-last pool games today.