Champions League Round-Up GW6
The final fixtures of the 2022/23 UEFA Champions League group-stages provided an action- packed conclusion to the opening stages of the prestigious competition.
Holders of the trophy, Real Madrid thrashed Celtic 5-1 at the Bernabeu to top Group F. The first two goals of the game were both from the spot after two handballs, as Luka Modric and Rodrygo converted successfully from their spot-kicks to give Los Blancos a comfortable lead within 21 minutes. In the 34th minute, a third penalty was given, but this time for Celtic. However, it was met by the palms of Thibaut Courtois who kept his clean sheet intact. Marco Asensio added a third after the break after being found excellently by Dani Carvajal. Ten minutes later, Vinicius Junior got in on the act with a one-touch finish after Asensio turned provider by firing the ball across the face of goal. It became a rout when Federico Valverde made it 5-0 with a stunning effort from 20 yards out that rifled into the back of the net. Jota grabbed a consolation goal from a free-kick for the hoops, but the damning result confirmed their exit out of the tournament.
The other Scottish team in the competition, Rangers also finished their campaign at the foot of the table, as they succumbed to a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Ajax. After losing all six of their games and only scoring twice, they became statistically the worst Champions League side ever! Elsewhere in Group A, Liverpool handed Napoli their first loss of the campaign as the Reds left it late at Anfield. Darwin Nunez broke the deadlock with five minutes remaining, whilst Mohamed Salah doubled Jurgen Klopp’s side’s advantage in the eighth minute of stoppage time.
Manchester City maintained their unbeaten run in Europe as they came from behind to defeat Sevilla at the Etihad. Rafa Mir put the Spanish side ahead with a looping header into the far-corner from a corner. However, it was a real game of two halves in Manchester as the blue moon shone down brightly after the interval. Debutant, Rico Lewis made it a day to remember as he equalised in the 51st minute with an emphatic finish. Julian Alvarez then put City ahead in the 73rd minute after rounding the Sevilla ‘keeper. All eyes were on Kevin De Bruyne though, as the Belgian threaded the ball through the eye of the needle to find the forward. Alvarez then turned provider as he set up Riyad Mahrez to secure the three points for City.
Benfica topped Group H by the finest of margins after thrashing Maccabi Haifa 6-1, with all six goals coming from different players. The Portuguese giants claimed pole position via away goals scored after they matched PSG on several other deciding factors, as the two held an identical record in the competition. The Parisians defeated a disheartened Juventus side as the Old Lady’s fate had already been confirmed prior to kick-off. Kylian Mbappe and Nuno Mendes netted for the French side, whilst Leonardo Bonucci scored for Juve.
After the chaos in Group D last week, it was still all to play for as any of the four teams could qualify for the knock-out stages with a win. Tottenham travelled to Marseille after being denied a late winner last game-week, whereas Sporting Lisbon hosted Eintracht Frankfurt. Marseille took the lead on the stroke of half-time as Chancel Mbemba Mangulu headed home from a corner. Meanwhile, Sporting Lisbon were 1-0 up thanks to Arthur, meaning as it stood, Sporting Lisbon and Marseille were going through. After the interval, Spurs equalised through Clement Lenglet, who nodded in Ivan Perisic’s cross. A draw would be enough for Spurs as it stood. Frankfurt then equalised too, but the Germans needed a win as they had a worse goal difference than their opponents. They then achieved their aim thanks to Randal Kolo Muani who gave the German side the advantage in the 72nd minute. The goal meant Frankfurt were top of the group, with Spurs coming in at second place. However in the 95th minute, Antonio Conte’s side finished top of the table after Pierre-Emile Hojberg blasted the ball into the net from the edge of the box on the counter. It was heartbreak for Marseille and Sporting Lisbon, as Spurs and Eintracht Frankfurt progressed.
AC Milan qualified for the round of 16 in style by cruising to victory against RB Salzburg. Whoever won the tie would progress, but Milan dominated and marched on comfortably. Olivier Giroud opened the scoring with a free header inside the box from a corner, punishing the Salzburg defence for their sloppy marking. The Frenchman was involved again in the 46th minute as he set up Rade Krunic to double the hosts advantage. Giroud then completed a brace in the 57th minute to wrap up the three points for AC Milan. The striker tapped home from close range after brilliant work from winger Rafael Leao freed the former-Arsenal man in the box. Junior Messias then cut in from the left and curled the ball into the far-corner shortly after entering the field of play to make it 4-0.
Elsewhere, Borussia Dortmund and Copenhagen played out a 1-1 draw after the black and yellow had already qualified for the next round. Porto sunk Atletico Madrid 2-1 after the Spaniards were so close to qualifying last week. Bayer Leverkusen and Club Brugge were locked in a stalemate as the Belgians entered the round of 16. Bayern Munich made it six out of six by beating Inter Milan 2-0 at the Allianz. Barcelona returned to winning ways by beating Viktoria Plzen 4-2 away, however the Catalonians will be playing in the Europa League again. RB Leipzig thrashed Shakhtar Donetsk 4-0 to secure their place in the knock- out stages. Chelsea saw off Dinamo Zagreb at Stamford Bridge thanks to goals courtesy of Raheem Sterling and Denis Zakaria.
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