Friday, August 19, 2011

Milan, Marseille march on

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AC Milan goalkeeper Christian Abbiati (2nd right) jumps to make a save during a Champions League Group G match against AJ Auxerre at Abbe Deschamps stadium in Auxerre on Tuesday. Milan won 2-0 to advance to the last 16.

Ibrahimovic scores a double for former champion; Real, Chelsea win

LONDON - Striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic hit the target for AC Milan yet again on Tuesday as the former winner took its place in the last 16 of the Champions League along with an inspired Olympique Marseille.

The pair qualified with a game to spare by taking runner-up spots in their groups after Milan won 2-0 at Auxerre and Marseille thrashed Spartak Moscow 3-0 to reach the knockout stages for the first time since it won the trophy in 1993.

Arsenal's hopes of joining them were put on hold after the North Londoners, needing only a point to qualify, suffered a late collapse and lost 2-0 to Braga in Portugal.

Holder Inter Milan can secure a place in the knockout phase at home to Twente Enschede on Wednesday, with former champions Manchester United and Barcelona also set to progress.

AC Milan had Ibrahimovic to thank once more as it beat Auxerre to go through from Group G, with the in-form Swede opening the scoring with his fourth goal in five group games.

"We tried our hearts out. It was a difficult match, a difficult venue. We can relax a bit in the last game", he said.

The Italian side secured the runner-up spot behind rampant Real Madrid, the nine-time European Cup winner which triumphed 4-0 at Ajax Amsterdam thanks to a brace from Cristiano Ronaldo and goals from Karim Benzema and Alvaro Arbeloa.

Real finished with nine men after Xabi Alonso and Sergio Ramos picked up a second booking for time-wasting late on.

Arsenal stumbles

Marseille's win in Moscow assured it of second place in Group F behind Chelsea, now the only team with a 100 percent record in this season's competition after beating Slovakia's MSK Zilina 2-1 with a young-looking side at Stamford Bridge.

Spartak had failed to beat French opponents in Moscow in five previous attempts in the Champions League, and its hopes of success in the sixth had already faded before it lost Brazilian striker Welliton to a red card in the 64th.

While the Russians caved in, Zilina gave Carlo Ancelotti's depleted Chelsea side an early scare.

The visitor, with just one goal in its previous four group matches and with 15 against, took the lead after 19 minutes through Babatounde Bello and kept the London side waiting until Daniel Sturridge equalized in the 51st.

Florent Malouda made it 2-1 four minutes from time.

"It was important to win and move on," said Ancelotti.

"We have now had 60 shots at goal in our last two games but only scored twice. We have been unlucky not to score more, but the young players have had some good experience tonight and showed the quality they can bring to the team."

Arsenal needed only a point to join its already qualified Premier League rival but imploded against an opponent it had beaten 6-0 in its group opener. Brazilian Matheus scored both goals for Braga in the last seven minutes.

Shakhtar Donetsk seized the opportunity to push Arsene Wenger's men off the top of Group H with a 3-0 win at Partizan Belgrade that left the Ukrainians on the verge of going through and condemned the Serbians to a fifth straight loss.

"We have to win the next match," said the Arsenal manager. "With these results, Shakhtar become favorites to win the group".

Roma rebounds

Already qualified Bayern Munich lost 3-2 to Roma at the Stadio Olimpico and lost its 100 percent record despite Mario Gomez scoring with two quick-fire strikes in the 33rd and 39th to send it in 2-0 up at halftime.

Booed off at the break, Roma fought back with goals from Marco Borriello, Daniele de Rossi and substitute Francesco Totti, who converted an 84th minute penalty for the winner.

"We gave the match away like a present," Bayern coach Louis van Gaal told German TV. "It is unbelievable. We were so dominant, then our concentration was gone. This defeat is not good for our self-esteem."

FC Basel kept alive its slim hopes of getting out of Group E with a 1-0 win over Romania's CFR Cluj.

The Swiss champion needs a win at Bayern in its final game while hoping Roma loses at Cluj, which is already eliminated.


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