Paris: English champions Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain of France, Real Madrid of Spain, Inter Milan of Italy, and Sporting Lisbon of Portugal qualified for the last-16 stage of the UEFA Champions League with a round to spare.
Last season’s finalists City came up with a dominant display to quell the attacking prowess of Lionel Messi, Neymar, and Kylian Mbappé to emerge 2-1 winners against Paris Saint-Germain in a Group A clash on Wednesday night as both teams advanced to the next stage — City topping the group with PSG finishing runners-up.
Real Madrid thrashed Sheriff Tiraspol 3-0 in an away match to seal their place from Group D; Inter defeated Shakhtar Donetsk 2-0 at the San Siro in Milan in the same group while Sporting got the better of Germany’s Borussia Dortmund 3-1 in Lisbon in a Group C encounter as all three joined City and PSG in the last-16 stage.
In other matches on Wednesday, Germany’s Leipzig routed Club Brugge 5-0, Liverpool defeat3d Porto 2-0 in a clash of former champions, La Liga winners Atletico Madrid went down 1-0 to AC Milan while Dutch club Ajax Amsterdam overcame Besiktas 2-1 in Istanbul.
The clash of the night however was played in Manchester with City overcoming PSG in a star-studded encounter.
A cool 76th-minute finish from substitute Gabriel Jesus ensured Manchester City go through as Group A winners, with Paris qualifying as runners-up. After dominating the first half, City were caught out by a slick interchange involving the visitors’ attacking trio of Lionel Messi, Neymar, and Kylian Mbappé, culminating in the France striker firing his side ahead five minutes after the break on his 50th UEFA Champions League appearance.
Raheem Sterling prodded the hosts level, however, and Neymar missed a golden chance to restore Paris’s lead wide two minutes before Jesus’s eventual winner.
This was PSG’s only loss in their last 22 Champions League group stage matches, of which they won 16.
In another match in Group A played in Burges, Belgium, Leipzig win despite the absence of several players. the visitors were nevertheless on top from the first whistle and had already gone close twice by the time Christopher Nkunku tapped in for his sixth goal of the group phase.
Emil Forsberg swiftly doubled the advantage from the penalty spot before André Silva’s towering header made it three and Forsberg scored from distance with the final kick of the first period. Leipzig crowned their biggest European win, and one that takes them third in Group A when Nkunku turned in in the final seconds.
In England, Two superb second-half goals helped Liverpool make it five victories out of five in Group B. Porto had the better of the first-half openings, not least when Otávio sliced a gilt-edged opportunity wide.
Liverpool were sparked into life by a brilliant Thiago Alcántara strike soon after the interval. Mohamed Salah then added a fine solo effort as the Reds coasted to another win, though Porto’s fate is still in their own hands thanks to Milan’s defeat of Atlético in Madrid.
In Group B, AC Milan remain in contention for a place in the last 16 after a goal three minutes from the end by Champions League debutant Messias Junior gave them their first win of this campaign.
The 30-year-old’s header from a delightful Franck Kessié cross took the Rossoneri off the bottom of the group – with Atlético replacing them – and they are within a point of Porto with one game to go.
Key stat: This was Milan’s first away victory in the competition for almost exactly eight years, since a 3-1 win at Celtic in November 2013.
In Group C, Sporting sealed their last-16 spot with a Pedro Gonçalves-inspired 3-1 triumph over ten-man Dortmund in Lisbon. The visitors controlled possession but were made to pay for moments of lax defending, not least when Pedro Gonçalves was allowed to nip in to poke home the opener. The 23-year-old made it back-to-back Champions League doubles with a brilliant curler before half-time.
Dortmund’s own qualification hopes imploded with Emre Can’s late red card, before Pedro Porro nodded in the rebound from Gonçalves’s missed penalty. Donyell Malen’s added-time reply was only a consolation.
In Istanbul, substitute Sébastien Haller’s brace ensured Ajax came from behind to clinch the top spot in Group C. The forward, introduced at half-time with the visitors trailing to Rachid Ghezzal’s 22nd-minute spot-kick, took just nine minutes to pull his side level, converting Nicolás Tagliafico’s unselfish pass from close range.
The competition’s joint-leading scorer this season bagged a second with 21 minutes left to keep Ajax’s perfect record intact.
In Group D, the Merengues weathered early pressure that must have raised fears of a repeat of September’s shock home loss to the Moldovan champions, as they claimed their place in the last 16 with a game to spare.
David Alaba’s deflected free-kick and a sweet strike from Toni Kroos opened up a 2-0 lead by the interval, and Karim Benzema added a third soon after the restart to cap an impressive performance by Carlo Ancelotti’s men.
In another match in the group, Inter Milan advanced to the knockout stage for the first time in a decade thanks to two second-half goals from Edin Džeko.
The Nerazzurri were left frustrated after failing to reap the reward from a dominant first half, but the pressure valve was released when Džeko finished expertly from the edge of the penalty area just after the hour. He headed in a second six minutes later to rubber-stamp the win.