Chelsea Faces Champions League Elimination; Barcelona Advances
Defending champion Chelsea’s loss dropped it to third place in Group E behind Juventus with one game remaining. The Blues must beat Nordsjaelland and have Shakhtar Donetsk, which advanced last night, defeat Juventus to avoid becoming the first titleholder to exit at the group stage.
“Before the game we had our destiny in our own hands, but not anymore,” Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech told ITV. “Now we have to do our bit to win and hope destiny will be kind to us.”
Barcelona clinched the top spot in Group G by beating Spartak Moscow 3-0, while Bayern Munich and Valencia both advanced from Group F after a 1-1 draw. The top two teams in each of the eight groups move into the knockout rounds in Europe’s elite club competition.
Group E leader Shakhtar progressed after beating Nordsjaelland 5-2. Manchester United, which had already won Group H, lost 1-0 at Galatasaray. Celtic was denied a spot in the next round by a 2-1 loss at Benfica, Cluj defeated Braga 3-1 and Lille beat BATE Borisov 2-0.
Among tonight’s eight matches, Manchester City faces elimination as it hosts record nine-time European champion Real Madrid, while Arsenal takes on Montpellier at home.
Chelsea, which would have advanced with a win last night in Turin, Italy, fell behind in the 38th minute as Fabio Quagliarella redirected Andrea Pirlo’s low drive past Cech with the goalkeeper moving the other way. Chelsea defender Ashley Cole then cleared Stephan Lichtsteiner’s close-range attempt off the line a minute later.
Juventus made it 2-0 in the 61st minute as Arturo Vidal’s shot deflected off Ramires past Cech, who was again moving in the direction of the original effort. Sebastian Giovinco then sealed the win in stoppage time as he poked the ball past the onrushing Cech from just outside the penalty area.
“We had to give our best to beat the European champions and we did it,” Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci said. “We are not a team that was built to defend, so we will try to get the three points in the last game of the group, even if we know that a draw could be enough for us to qualify.”
Shakhtar sealed a place in the round of 16 for the second time in three seasons as Luiz Adriano scored three goals and Willian added the other two in the victory in Denmark.
Barcelona took a step toward its fourth European Cup title in eight seasons with the win at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium.
Lionel Messi scored twice to tie for the competition lead with five goals. The Argentine now has 80 goals in 2012, five away from the record for goals scored in a calendar year set by former Bayern Munich and Germany striker Gerd Muller in 1972.
Dani Alves also scored for Barcelona, which is guaranteed first place in its group after Benfica’s win against Celtic.
Ezequiel Garay’s goal in the 71st minute gave Benfica the win in Lisbon that left it tied with Celtic for second place. Ola John opened the scoring for Benfica in the seventh minute before Georgios Samaras’s 32nd-minute header tied the game.
Celtic will advance if it gets a better result in its final game against Spartak than Benfica does against Barcelona.
“I was disappointed with the lack of composure about us and the nervousness on the ball,” Celtic manager Neil Lennon told Sky Sports. “However, we have one more crack at it and know what we have to do.
Bayern Munich, last season’s runner-up, moved on with 10- man Valencia after their draw in Spain.
Valencia’s Antonio Barragan was sent off in the 33rd minute for his second yellow card. The Spanish club took the lead in the 77th minute on a goal from Sofianee Feghouli, and Bayern’s Thomas Muller tied the score five minutes later.
Djibril Sidibe and Gianni Bruno scored as Lille beat BATE in the group’s other game for its first win. Sidibe was sent off after getting his second yellow card in the 74th minute.
Burak Yilmaz’s second-half goal lifted Galatasaray into a tie for second place with Cluj, which beat Braga 3-1 on a first- half hat trick from Rui Pedro. Galatasaray is at Braga and Cluj visits United in the final group matches.
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