City win group despite penalty miss, Spurs denied by VAR decision
Celtic fail to make Europa League, Rangers on the brink of elimination
Europe – Manchester City confirmed top spot with a game to spare, Chelsea and Liverpool sealed progression to the knockout phase. Tottenham are a point away from progressing while Celtic bow out and Rangers need a miracle.
Chelsea ended Red Bull Salzburg’s 40-match unbeaten home record to seal qualification for the knockout stages of the Champions League.
In a high intensity match, the visitors had the better of the first half and went a goal up on 23 minutes when Mateo Kovacic smashed in from 18 yards. Chelsea could have had further goals but they found Saltzburg goalkeeper Philipp Kohn in great form.
It looked as though Chelsea could live to regret the missed chances as Salzburg had more of the play in the second-half. They got off to a great start when Junior Adamu equalised on 48 minutes after a wonderful pass by Maximilian Wober. Chelsea reacted, and Jorginho then had a header brilliantly cleared off the line by Adamu. Then Kai Havertz hit a fantastic curling finish to regain the lead before Thiago Silva was forced to clear off the line from Strahinja Pavlovic.
Chelsea have 10 points from five games in Group E, four ahead of second-placed Red Bull Salzburg with one match to go, their progress to the last 16 assured.
Chelsea started their Champions League campaign with Thomas Tuchel in charge and a 1-0 defeat in Croatia against Dinamo Zagreb on 6 September. But his replacement Graham Potter is now unbeaten in nine matches in charge. Chelsea’s final group game is at home to Dinamo Zagreb on 2 November.
Celtic 1 Shakhtar Donetsk 1
Celtic’s hopes of European football after Christmas were ended after being held to a draw by Shakhtar Donetsk. While their European campaign has featured some promising performances it has ultimately been a story of missed opportunities for Ange Postecoglou’s side.
Giorgos Giakoumakis fired in Celtic’s first home goal in the competition for over five hours, however, they could not add a second. This was to prove costly as Shakhtar’s exciting young forward Mykhaylo Mudryk cut into the box and smashed the ball into the top corner for a superb equaliser on 58 minutes.
Celtic pushed forward in an attempt to retake the lead but it was the visitors who came closest to finding a winner when Mudryk went through and played in Danylo Sikan, who couldn’t apply the finish with the goal at his mercy.
Shakhtar are now assured of third place, and could still qualify for the last 16 ahead of RB Leipzig, who they face next week. Celtic round off their campaign with a trip to the Bernabeu to face Real Madrid.
A goalless draw was enough to ensure that Manchester City finish top of Group G and that their hosts Borussia Dortmund qualify for the last 16.
Dortmund flooded the midfield in an attempt to stifle City and deny them space and this tactic proved to be extremely effective, with the German side also being dangerous on the break. City were awarded a penalty in the second half when Riyad Mahrez was fouled in the area by Emre Can. However, the Algerian saw his spot-kick saved by Gregor Kobel and City could add yet another spurned chance from the penalty spot to a lengthy list. City have failed to score 25 of their 80 penalties, excluding shootouts, since Pep Guardiola was appointed in 2016.
Jude Bellingham has been attracting plenty of headlines for his superb displays recently, and while the 19-year-old England midfielder was not outstanding, he had his moments and was very much part of a solid and disciplined performance by the home side. Mats Hummels had a superb game, keeping former teammate Erling Haaland, who was withdrawn at half-time, quiet and 20-year-old Karim Adeyemi worked extremely hard on Dortmund’s right, providing defensive cover and creating a number of chances.
Ultimately it is a result which suits both teams, who go into the final group game assured of their positions in the group.
Liverpool reached the knockout stages with a three-nil win over Ajax. In the end it was a comfortable win from Jurgen Klopp’s side, however, they were second best to an energetic and creative home side for the first 40 minutes. Ajax’s high press and fast movement hustled Liverpool into errors and had a number of opportunities. Liverpool, in a slightly different shape with Roberto Firmino behind the front two, struggled to find their rhythm and rarely threatened until Mohamed Salah clipped home on 42 minutes. They should have had a second soon after when Darwin Nunez hit the post from close range.
However, the former Benfica forward was on target shortly after the interval, powering in a header from Andy Robertson’s corner. Harvey Elliott added the third on 51 minutes, running onto Salah’s reverse pass and crashing the ball into the roof of the net. The game was then over as a contest. Liverpool host Napoli next week, assured of a place in the next round but unlikely to win the group. Ajax are three points ahead of Rangers and only a heavy defeat in their tie with the Scottish side will see them fail to make the Europa League.
Napoli 3 Rangers 0
Rangers were outclassed by an impressive Napoli and suffered their fifth consecutive Champions League defeat. A double from Giovanni Simeone had the hosts two-nil up on 16 minutes and the Serie A leaders added a late third through Leo Ostigard.
Rangers have a slim chance of finishing third and making the Europa League but they would have to better the four-nil score-line Ajax recorded against them in Amsterdam in next Tuesday’s match at Ibrox.
Giovanni van Bronckhorst will be pleased that his side showed resolve and kept the score down to three against a Napoli side who look capable of mixing it with the best in Europe.
Tottenham were denied a dramatic last-minute win over Sporting Lisbon when VAR ruled out Harry Kane’s strike for offside. England captain Kane fired home from Emerson Royal’s header to prompt wild celebrations, however, VAR adjudged the Spurs striker to be in an offside position. The match finished in a one-one draw and furious Spurs boss Antonio Conte was sent off for his protestations over the decision. A win would have taken Spurs through and they now need a point in their final group game in Marseille to seal qualification.
Former Spurs youngster Marcus Edwards gave Sporting a deserved 22nd-minute lead with a low shot. Conte’s side had been poor in the opening period and the half-time whistle brought auditable jeers from the home fans.
Spurs were much improved after the break but Sporting still had chances with Hugo Lloris saving from Nazinho, who also hit another chance wide. Sporting were made to pay for those misses when Rodrigo Bentancur leapt to head home from a corner on 80 minutes. Both sides had chances in a frantic finale and Kane thought he had grabbed victory only to be denied by VAR.
The UEFA Champions League group stage concludes on Tuesday November 1 and Wednesday November 2.
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