Wednesday’s Champions League games settled Groups E-H. They also gave us 24 goals, 28 yellow cards and 4 reds.
Ajax v Bayern Munich
Poland striker Robert Lewandowski scored twice as Bayern Munich sealed the top spot in Group E with an enthralling 3-3 draw at Ajax, in which both sides ended with 10 men.
The Dutch hosts came from behind to lead through Dusan Tadic‘s double and looked set to claim top spot before a frantic finale in which Bayern edged in front only for Nicolas Tagliafico to equalize for the home side deep into stoppage time.
Lewandowski, who has 21 goals in as many games across all competitions this season, grabbed an equalizer from the penalty-spot before Kingsley Coman stuck what seemed an excellent late winner for the German side.
The home team lost Austrian defender Maximilian Wober who was given a straight red for a wild lunge on Bayern’s Thomas Muller, who got sent off just seven minutes later for another dangerous tackle.
The thrilling finish was set up by the hosts when defender Tagliafico‘s effort found the back of the net, but the visitors were able to see out the reaming seconds and go into the second round draw as one of the seeded sides.
Both teams finished the group unbeaten with the Germans on 14pts and Ajax on 12.
Ajax v De Graafschap – Sunday, December 16th (8:30am)
Hannover v Bayern – Saturday, December 15th (9:30am)
Benfica v A.E.K. Athens
Benfica finished its Champions League campaign with a 1-0 win over AEK Athens on Wednesday.
Both teams could not advance to the knockout stage and Benfica had already secured third place and a spot in the round of 32 of the Europa League. Alex Grimaldo scored the winner in the 88th minute with a well-struck free kick.
With nothing at stake in Lisbon, both teams took risks to make it an entertaining match at the Estádio da Luz. The sides created several chances back-and-fourth in the second half, with the hosts coming closest to scoring.
Haris Seferovic hit the crossbar with a header in the 70th minute, and roughly 10 minutes later Gedson Fernades entered the area free from markers but had his attempt saved by AEK keeper Vassilis Barkas.
The Greek side went a man down in the 86th minute when Kostas Galanopoulos pulled Fernandes‘ jersey and was shown his second yellow. Coach Marinos Ouzounidis was sent off minutes later for excessive complaining.
Marítimo v Benfica – Sunday, December 16th (12:30pm)
Larissa v AEK – Sunday, December 15th (10:15am)
Manchester City v Hoffenheim
Man City manager Pep Guardiola said their qualification for the knockout stage was an “incredible success” as they finished top of Group F with a 2-1 victory over Hoffenheim.
Leroy Sane scored both goals to help last year’s quarter-finalists reach the knockout round for the sixth successive season.
The hosts created most chances in an entertaining encounter, but only came to life after the Germans took the lead through Andrej Kramaric‘s 16th minute penalty.
Before Sane‘s equalizer Gabriel Jesus and Nicolas Otamendi hit the post with headers, whilst John Stones had one beautifully saved by Olive Baumann. The equalizer came when Sane fired home a 25 yard free-kick in the stoppage time of the first half. His second of the game and eight of the season came just after the hour mark when he finished off a swift counter-attack.
City are the only one of the four qualified English teams to win their group, and as a result can only draw one of four teams in the last 16 – Atletico Madrid, Schalke, Roma or Ajax.
Man City v Everton – Saturday, December 15th (7:30am)
Hoffenheim v Mönchengladbach – Saturday, December 15th (9:30am)
Shakhtar Donetsk v Lyon
Lyon earned the point they required to secure their place in the Final 16 but needed Nabil Fekir‘s equalizer to salvage a 1-1 draw away to Shakhtar Donetsk.
The Ligue 1 side fell behind to a goal from Junior Moraes midway through the first half and looked in danger of being overtaken in Group F by the Ukrainian side. Fekir‘s curled shot from just inside the box meant they drew for the fifth time in the group to finish as runners-up to Man City.
Lyon had never lost against Ukrainian opposition in five previous European encounters and came into the game in good form, having only lost twice in 17 matches this season. They were the better team for most of the match but suffered some hair-raising moments in the final periods of the game as the Turks threw everything forward in search of a goal that would have taken them through and relegated Lyon to the Europa League.
In the end it was the hosts’ inability to keep a clean sheet that cost them dearly, this was their eighth European match in a row where they’ve conceded at least one goal.
The result sees Shakhtar finish third and go into the Europa League knockout stage.
Ukrainian Premier League
Shakhtar v Oleksandriya – Saturday, February 23rd (TBD)
Lyon v Monaco – Sunday, December 16th (7am)
Real Madrid v CSKA Moscow
The reigning champions suffered their biggest ever home defeat in Europe as they were beaten 3-0 by CSKA Moscow, who are eliminated from the competition, luckily for Madrid they had already won Group G.
Fedor Chalov curled home CSKA’s opener against the run of play and Georgy Schennikov volleyed home their second after Mario Fernandes‘ shot was saved. Icelandic teenager Arnor Sigurdsson completed the convincing win with a strike from the edge of the box.
Gareth Bale was brought on at half time to try and change the game for the La Liga giants, the Welshman then suffered an ankle injury. Although he was able to play the rest of the game after receiving treatment, he wasn’t the same.
The hosts were booed off at the final whistle as they suffered their first home Champions League defeat in nine years.
Despite the victory the Russian club, whose only two group wins came against Real Madrid, are out of Europe after Viktoria Plzen beat Roma 2-1 to finish third and clinch a Europa League spot.
Real Madrid v Rayo Vallecano – Saturday, December 15th (12:30pm)
Russian Premier League
Arsenal Tula v CSKA – Sunday, March 3rd (TBD)
Viktoria Plzeñ v AS Roma
The hosts beat the struggling Roma 2-1 on Wednesday to earn a Europa League spot.
Tomas Chory scored the winner with a diving header after Cengiz Under‘s goal had canceled out Jan Kovarik‘s opener – with all three goals coming over a 16 minute period in the second half.
The victory means that Plzen finished third in Group G, had they lost they’d have been eliminated thanks to a shock 3-0 defeat to Real Madrid at the hands of CSKA Moscow. Although both teams finished with 7pts, Plzen advanced to the Europa League courtesy of a better head-to-head record with the Russian side, the Czech hosts had to match CSKA’s result to avoid elimination.
Injury-plagued Roma, who were semifinalists last season, extended their winless streak in all competitions to five. Edin Dzeko, Daniele De Rossi, Lorenzo Pellegrini and Stephan El Shaarawy were all out injured. When Roma hosted the Czechs earlier in the season, Dzeko scored a hat trick in a 5-0 victory.
The Italians ended with 10 men after substitute Luca Pellegrini picked up to yellows.
Czech First League
Plzeñ v Karviná – Sunday, December 16th (9am)
Roma v Genoa – Sunday, December 16th (2:30pm)
Valencia v Manchester United
Manchester United fell to a limp defeat in Valencia after Paul Pogba‘s glaring miss and Phil Jones‘ own goal ensured they passed up the chance to win Group H.
The Red Devils had already qualified for the knockout stages but a win would have taken them above Juventus, who were surprisingly beaten by the same scoreline against Young Boys of Switzerland.
Jose Mourinho’s side put in a dire performance and were well beaten by a team, 15th in La Liga, who named an experimental line-up as they were already certain of finding third and securing the Europa League position.
Carlos Soler pounced on Jones‘ headed clearance to strike home a low finish amid poor marking for Valencia’s opener. Jones was also badly at fault for the second as he diverted a through ball past Sergio Romero from outside his own box, when the United keeper had left his line to claim the ball.
Three bright second half substitutes combined to earn a late consolation, as Marcus Rashford headed home Ashley Young‘s cross after Jesse Lingard kept the ball in play. Juan Mata almost grabbed an equalizer but fired a volley wide from inside the box.
Defeat means United will play a group winner in the knockout stage, which will be either Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund, PSG, Porto, Real Madrid or Bayern Munich.
Had United finished top, they would have faced Atletico Madrid, Roma, Schalke, Ajax or Lyon.
Eibar v Valencia – Saturday, December 15th (2:45pm)
Liverpool v Manchester United – Sunday, December 16th (11am)
Young Boys v Juventus
Two goals from Guillaume Hoarau led Young Boys to a shock 2-1 victory over the already-qualified Juventus, handing the Serie A side their first away defeat in a competitive match for over a year.
Cristiano Ronaldo missed several first half chances and hit the post, while Paulo Dybala, who had pulled Juve back into the game with an 80th minute goal, had a stoppage-time goal disallowed for offside amid angry Juve protests.
Ronaldo saw a shot cleared off the line and then drilled an effort inches wide of the far post before the Swiss side went ahead with a penalty on the half hour mark. Alex Sandro, who had just replaced the injured Juan Cuadrado, lost possession to Nicolas Moumi Ngamaleu in the penalty area and then hauled down the Cameroonian. Juve’s goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny got his hand to Hoarau‘s penalty but it went in off the post. The Portuguese captain then missed again, firing the rebound narrowly wide after Federico Bernardeschi‘s free kick hit the wall.
Despite the defeat, Juve finished top of Group H with 12pts, two ahead of Man United who lost by the same score to Valencia.
The Swiss side finished bottom and were eliminated despite notching their first-ever win in the Champions League Group Stage.
Swiss Super League
Neuchâtel Xamax v Young Boys – Sunday, December 16th (10am)
Torino v Juve – Saturday, December 15th (2:30pm)
Advancing to the Knockouts
Relegated to the Europa League
ALL TIMES U.S. EASTERN
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