Barcelona and Atletico Madrid Reach Champions League Round of 16Bob Bensch
Barcelona and Atletico Madrid won to reach the Champions League round of 16 with two games to spare, as Arsenal and Chelsea defeated German clubs.
Lionel Messi scored twice as Barcelona beat AC Milan 3-1 last night to book a berth in the knockout stages for the 10th straight season. Atletico stayed perfect with a 4-0 win against Austria Vienna that guarantees it will finish atop its group.
The top two in each of the eight pools advance to the last 16 of European soccer’s elite club competition. Defending champion Bayern Munich and Manchester City became the first two teams to advance two nights ago.
“Mission accomplished,” midfielder Sergio Busquets, who got Barca’s other goal, said on tournament organizer UEFA’s website. “The victory leaves us in a very good position.”
Arsenal won 1-0 at Borussia Dortmund and is tied for the Group F lead with Napoli, which beat Marseille 3-2. Chelsea defeated Schalke 3-0 to take over the top spot in Group E.
Barcelona took the lead in the 30th minute as Messi scored with a penalty kick, ending a three-game goalless run. Busquets doubled the lead 10 minutes later before Gerard Pique’s own goal made it 2-1 just before halftime.
Messi clinched the victory with seven minutes left as he took a pass from Cesc Fabregas and chipped the ball over Christian Abbiati. Barcelona leads Group H with 10 points, five more than Milan. Ajax beat Celtic 1-0 to move into third place with four points.
Atletico advanced to the knockout phase for the first time since the 2008-09 season by guaranteeing a first-place finish in Group G. Miranda, Raul Garcia, Filipe Luis and Diego Costa scored in the rout of Austria Vienna as Atletico joined Bayern as the only teams with the maximum 12 points after four matches.
Zenit St. Petersburg remained second in the group, one point ahead of Porto after the teams drew 1-1 in Russia.
Arsenal avenged a late home loss to Dortmund in the last round of games to keep pace with Napoli in Group F.
The Gunners scored the only goal on a rainy night in Germany in the 62nd minute as Mesut Ozil lofted a ball into the Dortmund area. Olivier Giroud headed the ball back toward Aaron Ramsey, who nodded it past Roman Weidenfeller.
“We were very good defensively and we were also very patient,” Ramsey told Sky Sports after scoring his 11th goal of the season. “It was a great away performance.”
Arsenal and Napoli both have nine points, three more than last season’s runner-up Dortmund. Napoli got two goals from Gonzalo Higuain and one from Gokhan Inler in beating Marseille.
Samuel Eto’o scored twice as Chelsea rebounded from a Premier League loss to Newcastle last weekend to take a three-point lead over Schalke in Group E.
“It was a good win, a good response,” captain John Terry said on UEFA’s website. “We had a shaky first ten minutes, we were a little bit nervous, but the first goal settled us down and we started to play. We controlled the game”
Eto’o opened the scoring in the first half when he blocked an attempted clearing kick from Schalke goalkeeper Timo Hildebrand back into the net. The Cameroonian striker doubled the lead early in the second half and Demba Ba closed the scoring seven minutes from the end.
Basel moved within a point of Schalke as Giovanni Sio’s goal in stoppage time gave the Swiss club a 1-1 draw with Steaua Bucharest.