Champions League Round-Up: Barcelona and Inter Milan Progress
With the European fate of England’s quartet of Champions League hopefuls already long since decided, all eyes instead fell on the drama in Group F as Barcelona and Inter Milan both edged their way into the knock-out stage.
Undoubtedly the tightest of groups in this year’s competition, all four teams in Group F started the final game with a realistic chance of qualification. Barcelona topped the table on 8 points ahead of a tricky away tie to Dynamo Kiev (5 points), while Inter Milan (6 points) knew that only a win would guarantee qualification when they entertained Russian champions Rubin Kazan (6 points).
However, the Group F pacesetters were behind after only the second minute in the Ukraine as Artem Milevsky put Dynamo ahead, the deficit lasting until the 33rd minute when Xavi levelled matters for Barca. A Lionel Messi free-kick on the 86th minute put the visitors ahead and they held their lead to top the group with 11 points.
That meant that Dynamo were condemned to finishing bottom of the group and the other tie between Inter and Rubin Kazan became a straight play-off for the runners-up spot. Inter manager Jose Mourinho had named an attacking line-up for his side’s final game, and it was a decision that reaped rewards as Samuel Eto’o scored on the half-hour mark and Mario Balotelli settled matters in the second half to ensure a 2-0 win.
In the evening’s other ties, Sevilla secured pole position in Group G by beating Rangers 1-0 and Stuttgart qualified as runners-up with a straightforward 3-1 win over Romanian side Unirea Urziceni. Liverpool’s miserable Champions League campaign ended in a 2-1 home defeat to Fiorentina, who topped Group E despite Lyon’s 4-0 thrashing of Hungary’s Debrecen - the French side having to settle for second place.
Already-qualified Arsenal fielded a reserve team away to Olympiakos and despite losing 1-0 on the night, progressed as group winners with the Greek side in second place. Belgian side Standard Liege, meanwhile, secured third spot in Group H and a Europa League position in dramatic fashion as goalkeeper Sinat Bolat headed home deep into stoppage time to rescue a 1-1 draw at home to AZ Alkmaar.