PICS: Bayern oust Barca; Liverpool, Porto, Inter advance

A round-up of Wednesday’s action in the UEFA Champions League.

Goals by Sadio Mane, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and Benjamin Pavard earned Bayern Munich a 3-0 win at already-eliminated Barcelona on Wednesday as the German giants clinched a spot in the Champions League Round of 16 as group winners.

Bayern top Group C on 15 points, five ahead of Inter Milan, who also reached the knock-out stage after a 4-0 win at Viktoria Plzen earlier on Wednesday, a result that eliminated Barcelona in the group stage for the second year in a row.

With Barcelona having nothing riding on their game, it did not take long for Bayern to open the scoring through Mane 10 minutes into the first half after receiving a brilliant long pass from Serge Gnabry.

Mane beat Spanish defender Hector Bellerin in a 50-metre race and scored with a tidy finish.

Bayern doubled their lead in similar fashion 21 minutes later, catching the Barca defence sleeping and out of position.

Joshua Kimmich passed to Gnabry who, from the edge of the box, set up Choupo-Moting to score his sixth goal in the Champions League this season.

Barca thought they had a penalty after a clash between Dutch defender Matthijs de Ligt and Polish striker Robert Lewandowski but the referee, after a VAR check, ruled that there had been no foul.

Bayern took their foot off the gas after the break and had a Gnabry goal ruled out for offside in the 56th minute.

Pavard scored the third goal in the very last play of the game, with a close-range strike from a corner.

Barcelona looked stale and went the full 90 minutes without a single strike on target.

Since winning the Champions League title for the last time in 2015, Barca have reached the semi-finals only once, in 2019. They lost 8-2 to Bayern in the 2020 quarter-finals, were knocked out in the round of 16 by PSG in 2021, and failed to make it past the group stage in the last two editions.

Last year, Barca’s exit at the group stage came after the departure of Lionel Messi to Paris St-Germain and the financial crisis that led to the resignation of the entire club board.

This season, however, following the big-money signings of Lewandowski, Raphinha and Jules Kounde, a better outcome had been expected.

They have won only one of their five games in the group so far and will go into the second-tier Europa League after ending up third in the group for the second year in a row.

Inter Milan rout Viktoria Plzen, seal last-16 berth

Inter Milan sailed into the Champions League last 16 after an Edin Dzeko double fired them to a 4-0 home win over Viktoria Plzen in Group C, a result that eliminated Barcelona and relegated them to the Europa League.

The Italians moved up to 10 points with the win, six clear of Barca who were hosting Bayern Munich later on Wednesday.

Even if Barca beat the Germans and win their final group game against Plzen, Inter will still qualify with a better head-to-head record against the Catalans.

A lively opening yielded early chances for Inter but they were thwarted by Plzen goalkeeper Jindrich Stanek who pulled off a superb double save in the 25th minute before Henrikh Mkhitaryan put the hosts ahead 10 minutes later.

The former AS Roma midfielder turned in Alessandro Bastoni’s looping cross and veteran Dzeko then put Inter in total command when he tapped home after Federico Dimarco had latched on to Nicolo Barella’s excellent cross-field pass.

Plzen, winless in this year’s competition, offered little offensive threat and were sliced open again in the 66th minute as Dzeko added to his tally when he swept in Lautaro Martinez’s pass inside the area.

Romelu Lukaku marked his long-awaited return from injury with a goal as he completed the rout after slotting past Stanek following a perfectly weighted through ball from Joaquin Correa.

Liverpool progress with easy win at Ajax

Liverpool overcame a slow start to beat hosts Ajax Amsterdam 3-0, ensuring a top-two finish in Group A and progress into the knock-out stage of the Champions League.

Mohamed Salah put Liverpool ahead against the run of play three minutes before half-time and they then took command after the break with two quick goals from Darwin Nunez and Harvey Elliott to claim a convincing triumph.

The victory kept them three points behind leaders Napoli, who won 3-0 at home to Rangers to make it maximum points from their five group games.

Napoli visit Anfield on Tuesday to decide top place, when Liverpool would need at least a 3-0 win to edge the Serie A leaders on the head-to-head after losing 4-1 in September.

Ajax needed to win by two goals on Wednesday to keep up their slim Champions League hopes but will now be battling with Rangers in Glasgow next week for a Europa League spot.

The Dutch club have three points while Rangers are yet to open their account.

Steven Berghuis crashed an early effort against the upright as Ajax began in lively fashion and with an unexpectedly physical approach that unsettled Liverpool’s defence.

It ensured some edgy exchanges between the players, indicative of what was at stake in the contest at the Johan Cruyff Arena.

The game turned suddenly, and firmly, in Liverpool’s favour when skipper Jordan Henderson’s outstanding pass, delivered with the outside of his boot, was met with an equally proficient finish from Salah, who lofted the ball expertly over Ajax goalkeeper Remko Pasveer as he rushed out of goal.

It might have been 2-0 within 120 seconds as Nunez squandered an easy tap-in at the back post after an unselfish pass from Roberto Firmino, striking his effort against the upright.

Nunez made amends four minutes into the second half with a strong glancing header from a corner and the contest was over two minutes later when Elliot scored.

He thrashed a powerful shot into the roof of the net from an acute angle after being set up by a perfectly-weighted pass from Salah.

Napoli ease to victory over Rangers, make club history

Napoli strolled to a 3-0 win over Rangers in the Champions League to set a club record of 12 consecutive victories in all competitions.

Argentine striker Giovanni Simeone scored twice in the first half to put Napoli in charge at the Stadio Diego Maradona while Norwegian defender Leo Ostigard extended the lead with a thumping header from a corner in the 80th minute.

The result saw Serie A leaders Napoli surpass their previous longest run of consecutive wins stretching back to 1986, when Argentina great Maradona was their talisman.

Napoli, who had already qualified for the knockout stage, lead Group A with 15 points from five matches, three ahead of second-placed Liverpool, who they visit next week in their final group game.

Napoli will finish top of the group if they avoid defeat at Anfield by three goals or more.

Rangers, who were already eliminated, are bottom with no points and will miss out on the Europa League unless they beat Ajax Amsterdam, in third on three points, by at least five goals when they host the Dutch side, who were thrashed 3-0 at home to Liverpool.

Napoli coach Luciano Spalletti praised his team after overseeing yet another win despite making six changes to the team who beat AS Roma 1-0 in Serie A on Sunday.

Spalletti said he expected an exciting final match against Liverpool despite both teams already qualifying for the last 16.

Striker Simeone, son of Atletico Madrid coach Diego, was one of the beneficiaries of Spalletti’s squad rotation and opened the scoring in the 11th minute by running behind the defence and slotting into the far corner of the net.

He struck again in the 16th with a header while midfielder Tanguy Ndombele almost added a third midway through the first half with a venomous shot from outside the area which rattled the crossbar.

Napoli dropped their intensity in the second half but still increased their lead through Ostigard’s header, ensuring they replicated the 3-0 scoreline from their previous match with Rangers at Ibrox in September.

It was the team’s 20th goal in five Champions League matches, more than any other side in this season’s competition.

Porto through after big win over leaders Club Brugge

Porto advanced to the knock-out phase of the Champions League when they got a 4-0 win at Group B leaders Club Brugge and group rivals Atletico Madrid failed to beat Bayer Leverkusen.

Porto won in an early match at the Jan Breyel Stadium to move to within one point of Club Brugge in the standings and were guaranteed a top-two finish when Atletico later drew 2-2 at home to the German club to crash out of contention.

Mehdi Taremi put Porto into a first-half lead before their goalkeeper Diogo Costa saved a twice-taken penalty to deny the Belgian hosts a way back into the game early in the second half.

Evanilson, Stephen Eustaquio and Taremi added three more goals in quick succession to give Porto revenge after they lost 4-0 at home to Club Brugge in mid-September.

Porto could now go on and take top place in the group as they host Atletico on Tuesday while Club Brugge are away at Leverkusen.

The game brought Brugge’s impressive run to an abrupt halt, after they had won three of their first four group games. They had not conceded a goal in Group B before Wednesday.

They looked defensively fragile and made mistakes as Porto swept to a convincing third successive victory in the group after losing their opening two matches.

Taremi missed two good early chances before tucking away the opener in the 33rd minute after a perfectly weighted through ball from captain Otavio.

Brugge won a penalty three minutes into the second half when defender David Carmo was caught by the VAR needlessly kicking out at Brugge defender Bruno Mechele as Porto cleared a corner.

Costa, who had saved two successive penalties in the Champions League, stopped Hans Vanaken’s shot but the VAR found he had moved off his line before the kick and a retake was ordered by English referee Michael Oliver.

Dutch international Noa Lang was then entrusted with the kick but Costa repeated his heroics, making a one-handed stop to keep his side’s lead intact.

Porto then carved apart the Brugge defence with Evanilson snapping up a missed clearance to make it 2-0 in the 57th minute and Eustaquio added the third three minutes later.

Taremi got his second goal of the game in the 70th minute after being unselfishly teed up by Otavio.

Atletico exit after dramatic draw with Leverkusen

Atletico Madrid missed a stoppage-time penalty in a 2-2 draw at home to Bayer Leverkusen which ended their hopes of reaching the Champions League knock-out stage.

Atletico spurned the chance to win the match when Leverkusen goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky saved Yannick Carrasco’s spot-kick before Saul Niguez’s follow up strike hit the crossbar.

The result ensured Porto go into next February’s knock-out stage, with the Portuguese side on nine points in Group B after a 4-0 win at leaders Club Brugge, already guaranteed a top-two finish on 10 points, earlier on Wednesday.

Atletico, without a win and goalless in their previous three Champions League outings, exit the competition at the group stage for only the second time in the past 10 years.

Leverkusen forward Adam Hlozek set up Moussa Diaby, who scored in September’s 2-0 home win over Atletico, for the France winger to blast a shot from a tight angle into the far top corner and put the visitors ahead in the ninth minute.

Atletico levelled in the 22nd through Belgian Carrasco’s low shot inside the near post from the edge of the box.

But determined Leverkusen went back in front seven minutes later when on-loan winger Callum Hudson-Odoi fired a shot down the middle past goalkeeper Jan Oblak.

Atletico once more came from behind to equalise five minutes into the second half through an impressive goal from substitute midfielder Rodrigo De Paul before their last-gasp penalty miss.

Atletico travel to Porto in their last group stage clash on Tuesday when Leverkusen host leaders Brugge as the Spaniards and Germans fight it out for a Europa League knock-out spot.

Spurs stay on course after draw against Sporting

Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Rodrigo Bentancur’s late header salvaged a 1-1 draw against Sporting to keep the London side in control of Champions League Group D but it could have been even better as Harry Kane’s late effort was disallowed on Wednesday.

Victory for Spurs would have booked their place in the last 16 with a game to spare and they thought they had sealed it with almost the last kick of the game when Kane fired in from close range after Emerson Royal’s header across goal.

It sparked wild celebrations but joy turned to frustration as a VAR check that lasted several minutes ruled the goal out for off-side — prompting a furious reaction from Spurs manager Antonio Conte, who was shown a red card in chaotic scenes.

The result left Tottenham top of a desperately tight group on eight points, with Sporting and Eintracht Frankfurt, who beat Olympique de Marseille, on seven. Marseille have six points.

Spurs will qualify for the last 16 if they avoid defeat in Marseille on Tuesday when Sporting host Frankfurt also needing a point to guarantee a place in the knock-out stage.

Sporting were by far the better team in the first half and took the lead in the 22nd minute through former Spurs player Marcus Edwards.

Tottenham were vastly improved after the break and peppered the Sporting goal in their search for an equaliser with keeper Antonio Adan making several saves to preserve his side’s lead.

Sporting substitute Flavio Nazinho spurned two great opportunities to make the points safe — the second an open goal – and in the 80th minute those misses looked even more costly as Tottenham levelled.

Ivan Perisic swung in a corner and midfielder Bentancur rose highest to head powerfully past Adan.

There was still more drama to come with Spurs keeper Hugo Lloris forced into a great to deny substitute Fatawu Issahaku before Kane’s disallowed effort meant that Sporting finished the game well in the hunt for a last 16 spot.

Frankfurt back in the mix with win over Marseille

Eintracht Frankfurt muscled their way to a 2-1 win over Olympique de Marseille to leave Champions League Group D wide open and boost their chances of advancing on the final matchday next week.

The win lifted the Europa League winners to seven points, one ahead of Marseille and level with second-placed Sporting. Tottenham are top on eight after drawing 1-1 against the Portuguese side.

Frankfurt travel to Sporting on Tuesday when Marseille host Tottenham. The top two teams qualify for the last 16.

In a fiery start, Frankfurt’s Daichi Kamada completed a superb passing move to put the hosts in front after three minutes with their first goal in a home game in the competition this season.

They should have added at least one more in a strong first half but Mario Goetze, making his 50th start in the competition, headed wide a little later while Christopher Lenz’s effort was blocked by goalkeeper Pau Lopez.

Marseille drew level with a Matteo Guendouzi close-range volley in the 22nd but their joy lasted only five minutes.

The France international turned from hero to villain, losing possession, and Goetze, whose performances this season have made him a candidate for Germany’s World Cup squad, played a perfect one-two with Kolo Muani, who slotted in the winner.

Frankfurt keeper Kevin Trapp did well to protect their one-goal lead on the stroke of half-time when he got his hands to an Amine Harit volley and tipped the ball wide.

In a far more subdued second half Marseille had the upper hand but struggled to create clear chances, with Eintracht working hard to close down any spaces.

Wins for Marseille and Frankfurt would put them in the last 16 while Spurs and Sporting will qualify if they avoid defeat.

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