Sunday, February 25, 2024

Champions League: Chelsea, Roma in last 16

Chelsea, Roma and Panathinaikos won their final group matches today to claim the remaining three spots in the last 16 of European soccer’s Champions League.
Last season’s runner-up Chelsea beat Cluj 2-1 to finish second in Group A behind Roma after the Italian team defeated Bordeaux 2-0. Panathinaikos won 1-0 against Anorthosis Famagusta to join Inter Milan in advancing from Group B.
“If we want to go all the way we have to really up our game,” Chelsea captain John Terry told ITV. “We are through to the knockout stages now so we have to be on the ball home and away.”
Inter finishes second to Panathinaikos after suffering a 2-1 loss at Werder Bremen and will now face a winner from one of the other seven groups in the Dec. 19 draw. The 13 other qualifiers were decided before today. Barcelona and Sporting Lisbon go forward from Group C, while Liverpool and Atletico Madrid advance from Group D.
First-place Barcelona lost 3-2 at home to Shakhtar Donetsk, Sporting won 1-0 at Basel, Liverpool tops its pool following a 3- 1 win over PSV Eindhoven and Atletico was held 0-0 by Marseille. The group stage concludes tomorrow. Record nine-time winner Real Madrid, Arsenal, Manchester United, Villarreal, Bayern Munich, Lyon, Porto, and Juventus are the qualifiers from that half of the draw.
Chelsea, which has never failed to reach the knockout rounds in the Champions League, advanced after extending its unbeaten home run in the competition to 15 matches.
Romania’s Cluj, only able to finish bottom of the four-team group, had chances to upset the Blues at Stamford Bridge. Terry was forced to hack the ball away when goalkeeper Petr Cech could only parry from Alvaro Pereira, while John Mikel Obi cleared off the line under pressure from Ricardo Cadu. Chelsea took the lead five minutes before halftime. Salomon Kalou finished from close range as the visiting defense failed to clear Deco’s free kick.
Cluj tied the game after 55 minutes as Yssouf Kone headed in, then Joe Cole was denied an opportunity to restore Chelsea’s advantage a minute later when Nuno Claro smothered his shot. Chelsea manager Luiz Felipe Scolari introduced Didier Drogba for Kalou in the 65th minute and the Ivorian striker took seven minutes to score, firing a low effort past Claro.
Roma secured its third straight win on second-half goals from Matteo Brighi and Francesco Totti against Bordeaux. It finishes on 12 points, one ahead of Chelsea. Bordeaux takes third spot to qualify for the second-tier UEFA Cup.
Giorgos Karagounis’s 70th-minute strike gave Panathinaikos a last 16 spot for a first time in seven seasons. The Greek club finishes ahead of Inter after Bremen got its first win of the group stage.
Claudio Pizarro and Markus Rosenberg put Bremen two goals up after 81 minutes, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic replying for Inter. Pizarro, on loan from Chelsea, was signed by Inter manager Jose Mourinho while he was in charge of the Blues.
Bremen’s victory takes third spot off Famagusta. Panathinaikos tops the standings with 10 points, Inter has eight, one ahead of Bremen, with Famagusta on six.
Barcelona was already assured of top spot in its group. Oleksandr Gladkyy got two goals, while Fernandinho also scored to inflict the Spanish team’s first loss. Sylvinho and Bojan Busquets replied for the home team at the Nou Camp.
Yannick Djalo’s 19th-minute goal gave Sporting the victory over Basel.
Liverpool jumped ahead of Atletico to top Group D after rallying to defeat PSV. Danko Lazovic put PSV ahead, with Ryan Babel replying for Liverpool just before half time. Albert Riera and David Ngog then got second-half goals.
Atletico was unable to score at third-place Marseille and dropped to second.

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