Manchester United, City Exit as Basel, Napoli Advance in Champions League
Manchester rivals United and City exited soccer’s Champions League as Basel and Napoli qualified for the round of 16 at the expense of the English teams.
Basel won 2-1 at home last night against three-time champion United to finish second in Group C. Napoli beat Villarreal 2-0 to take the runner-up spot in Group A, one point ahead of City, which beat Bayern Munich 2-0.
United, the 2008 champion and runner-up to Barcelona last season, hasn’t exited at the group stage since 2005-06 and was a finalist in three of the past four years.
“It’s a big blow,” United manager Alex Ferguson told the website of tournament organizer UEFA. “The last few years have been outstanding and it’s a loss because it’s the best tournament in the world.”
The top two teams in each of the eight groups qualified for the knockout rounds of the continent’s top club competition. United and City are among the third-place teams who dropped into the second-tier Europa League.
Lyon and CSKA Moscow also reached the next round on the final night of group play. Lyon routed Dinamo Zagreb 7-1 to finish runner-up in Group D, while CSKA took second place in Group B by beating Inter Milan 2-1.
Real Madrid completed a perfect run through group play by beating Ajax 3-0, Benfica defeated Otelul Galati 1-0 and Lille and Trabzonspor tied 0-0 in the other games.
Needing to draw in Switzerland to ensure it reached the round of 16, Manchester United found itself a goal behind after nine minutes, when Marco Streller scored for the home team.
“Losing the early goal was a big blow,” Ferguson said. “When you’re away from home and 1-0 down you have a job to do and we didn’t take our chances.”
Basel defender Markus Steinhofer came close to giving United a goal in the second half when his attempted clearance of Nani’s cross hit the crossbar.
Alexander Frei then made it 2-0 in the 84th minute, before Phil Jones scored for United four minutes later.
United then pressured for the tying goal and finished with a 21-11 shot advantage without being able to beat Sommer again.
“It’s crazy, we beat Manchester United,” Basel goalkeeper Yann Sommer said on the Champions League website. “We are a Swiss team against Manchester United. We believed in ourselves and fought to the end.”
Benfica’s home win over Otelul Galati gave it the top spot in Group C. Oscar Cardozo scored for the Portuguese club, which had already qualified for the next round.
Napoli Edges City
Manchester City needed to beat Bayern, which had already clinched first place in the group, and have Napoli fail to win in Villarreal to secure a place in the next round.
City led 2-0 in its game and appeared poised to advance before Napoli scored twice in the final 25 minutes to win in Spain.
“Nobody gave us a chance,” Napoli forward Ezequiel Lavezzi said on the Champions League website. “To be in a group that was so difficult and to get through is really beautiful.”
Gokhan Inler scored after 65 minutes and Marek Hamsik added a goal 11 minutes later to guarantee Napoli’s advancement. Premier League leader City got goals from David Silva and Yaya Toure.
“We’re obviously disappointed but I must say well done to Napoli,” City defender Vincent Kompany said on the Champions League website. “They’re a good team and the biggest mistake anyone could make would be to underestimate them.”
Lyon began the final round of group games three points behind Ajax and needing to overcome a goal difference of seven.
Fastest Hat Trick
The French team scored six times in the second half to rout 10-man Dinamo Zagreb and claim second place in Group D from the Dutch club, a four-time European champion.
Bafetimbi Gomis got three of his four goals in an eight- minute span of the first and second halves for the fastest hat trick in Champions League history.
Dinamo’s Jerko Leko was sent off in the 28th minute after receiving his second yellow card.
“We believed we could do this,” Gomis said on the Champions League website. “We believed we could do this miracle, we worked for that.”
Ajax saw its chances crushed at home as Real Madrid became the fifth team, and the first since Spanish rival Barcelona in 2002-03, to win all its group matches.
“This is a huge setback,” Ajax’s Christian Eriksen said on the Champions League website. “We would never have expected Lyon to win 7-1. We will need a few days to recover from this.”
Vassili Berezoutski’s 87th-minute score gave CSKA Moscow the victory over Group B winner Inter Milan. The result lifted the Russian team, which began the game last in the group, to eight points, one more than Trabzonspor and two ahead of Lille, who missed out on their chance to qualify after playing to a goalless draw.
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE ROUND OF 16 ---------------------------- AC Milan, APOEL Nicosia, Arsenal, Basel, Barcelona, Bayer Leverkusen, Bayern Munich, Benfica, Chelsea, CSKA Moscow, Inter Milan, Lyon, Marseille, Napoli, Real Madrid, Zenit St. Petersburg TEAMS ENTERING EUROPA LEAGUE ROUND OF 32 ---------------------------------------- Ajax, Manchester City, Manchester United, Olympiacos, Porto, Trabzonspor, Valencia, Viktoria Plzen