November 23, 2011
CL roundup: Barca escapes in Milan
By Sports Network
Barcelona clinched the top spot in Group H of the Champions League with a 3-2 win over AC Milan at the San Siro on Wednesday.
Both teams were already assured a spot in the knockout round, but with the title of group-winners up for grabs, all was left to play for in Milan.
Barcelona took those honors with an early own goal from Mark van Bommel, a penalty from Lionel Messi, and a second-half strike from Xavi. AC Milan twice equalized over the course of the match with goals from Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Kevin-Prince Boateng.
Van Bommel gifted the reigning European champions the lead in the 14th minute, redirecting a cross from Seydou Keita into his own net. But Milan responded quickly, as Ibrahimovic took a pass from Clarence Seedorf and slid a first- time shot under Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes.
Messi converted a penalty kick in the 31st minute, giving the visitors an advantage heading into the break.
AC Milan pulled level again thanks to a brilliant goal from Boateng in the 54th minute. The Ghanaian controlled a failed clearance and penetrated into the box with a back-heel flick before ripping a shot past Valdes at his near post.
But Barcelona showed their class once again, as Messi threaded a ball through four Milan defenders to find Xavi, who calmly slipped a shot into the back of the net to give the visitors the win.
The victory sees Barcelona maintain its unbeaten season in the Champions League, as the Catalans lead Group H with 13 points. AC Milan trails by five points.
Play will conclude on Dec. 6 with Barcelona hosting BATE and AC Milan traveling to Viktoria Plzen.
Arsenal 2, Borussia Dortmund 1
London, England - Arsenal secured first place in Group F of the Champions League on Wednesday, dispatching of Borussia Dortmund with 2-1 win at the Emirates to reserve a spot in the knockout round.
Robin van Persie continued his rich vein of form, bagging a second-half brace to see the Gunners claim all three points. The Dutchman tallied goals in the 49th and 86th minutes.
Shinji Kagawa made for a nervy finish for the home side as he pulled one back for the German club late on, but it proved to be nothing more than a consolation goal.
Despite managing to score just six goals through five games in group play, Arsenal has accumulated 11 points to clinch the top spot in the group. It will head to Greece to face Olympiacos on Dec. 6, while Borussia Dortmund will host Marseille at Signal Iduna Park.
Olympiacos 1, Marseille 0
Marseille, France - Olympiacos kept its hopes of advancing to the knockout stage alive, earning a dramatic 1-0 win over Marseille on Wednesday to inch closer to the coveted runners-up finish in Group F.
Ioannis Fetfatzidis provided the telling goal in the 82nd minute, seeing the Greek club pull to within a point of second-place Marseille.
The French side, on seven points in the group, will advance to the knockout round with a win over Borussia Dortmund on Dec. 6.
Olympiacos, sitting third with six points, will host Arsenal the same day.
Bayer Leverkusen 2, Chelsea 1
Leverkusen, Germany - Chelsea surrendered a second-half lead in Group E action on Wednesday, falling to Bayer Leverkusen, 2-1, at the BayArena to see its Champions League hopes hit a slight speed bump.
Didier Drogba put the visitors in front with a goal in the 49th minute, but Leverkusen battled back, equalizing through Eren Derdiyok in the 73rd minute before Manuel Friedrich notched a late winner to see the home side move into first place in the group.
Chelsea, deadlocked with Valencia with eight points apiece, faces a tough task when it hosts in-form Spanish side on the final match day of the group stage.
Bayer Leverkusen, with nine points, can cement its place in the knockout round with just a draw at Genk on Dec. 6.
Valencia 7, Genk 0
Valencia, Spain - Valencia topped Genk in resounding fashion on Wednesday, earning a 7-0 win over the Belgian side at the Mestalla to move level with Chelsea in Group E of the Champions League.
The home side was powered by a first-half hat trick from Roberto Soldado, who now sits one goal shy of the Champions League scoring lead with five goals. Soldado struck in the 13th, 36th, and 40th minutes after Jonas provided the opener in the 10th minute.
Refusing to rest on its laurels, Valencia hit for three more in the second half, as Pablo Hernandez, Artiz Aduriz, and Ricardo Costa each scored to complete the rout.
Valencia now faces a stern task in its final match of the group stage, needing a win at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea to qualify for the knockout round. Winless Genk will host Bayer Leverkusen.
Zenit 0, APOEL 0
St. Petersburg, Russia - With a 0-0 draw at Zenit St. Petersburg on Wednesday, APOEL clinched a top-two finish in Group G to become the first team from Cyprus to ever qualify for the knockout round of the Champions League.
The match was momentarily suspended in the second half when supporters hurled lit flares onto the pitch, but after a cooling-off period, play resumed.
Zenit applied a great deal of pressure after the restart and came close to scoring on two occasions, but APOEL kept the home side at bay to earn a precious point.
APOEL leads Group G on nine points, followed closely by Zenit with eight points and FC Porto with seven point. APOEL will host Shakhtar Donetsk on Dec. 6, while Zenit will need to pick up at least a draw in Porto in order to qualify for the next round.
FC Porto 2, Shakhtar Donetsk 0
Donetsk, Ukraine - FC Porto netted two late goals in the second half against Shakhtar Donetsk, preserving its chances of advancing to the knockout round of the Champions League with a 2-0 win in Group G action on Wednesday.
After a scoreless 78 minutes, Hulk scored his fourth goal of the Champions League campaign to secure the win for Porto. Razvan Rat conceded an own goal for Shakhtar to put the result beyond any doubt.
The win sets up an appetizing fixture to conclude the group stage on Dec. 6, as Porto will host Zenit with both teams vying for a second-place finish and a spot in the next round.
Shakhtar can still play the role of spoilers, as a win over APOEL on the final match day could see the Cyprus club finish runners-up, an invitation to be drawn against a European giant in the next round.
Viktoria Plzen 1, BATE 0
Barysaw, Belarus - Marek Bakos helped Viktoria Plzen to its first Champions League win in Group H on Wednesday, as the Czech Republic side defeated BATE 1-0.
The match held little meaning as European giants Barcelona and AC Milan had already clinched berths in the knockout round, but Bakos ensured that Plzen would win the consolation match with his goal in the 42nd minute.
Plzen will host AC Milan on Dec. 6 to wrap up its Champions League campaign, while BATE will play for its first win in the group when it faces Barcelona at Camp Nou.