Barcelona, Atletico into Champs League last 16
LONDON - Reuters
On a good night for La Liga rivals, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid punch the tickets in the last 16 of the Champions League. It was a good night for Messi in particular, since the World Player of the Year, ended a brief jinx with a twogoal performance against Milan. AFP PhotoBarcelona and Atletico Madrid led a Spanish Armada into the Champions League last 16 with home wins on Nov. 6.
Barça met seven-time winner Milan at Camp Nou but the stock of the faltering Italians has fallen so much that even an average display sealed a 3-1 win in Group H, Lionel Messi scoring a penalty and a cheeky third.
La Liga rival Atletico put on a better display in a 4-0 cruise past Group G whipping boys Austria Vienna to glide into the knockout stages after four wins from four with two matches to spare.
Miranda grabbed Atletico’s opener after 11 minutes before Raul Garcia rose to head home the second, with Filipe Luis making it three for this term’s potential surprise packages on halftime. Diego Costa missed a penalty but added a fourth goal on 82 minutes as Diego Simeone’s men made sure of top spot and equalled their biggest Champions League win in reaching the knockout stages for the first time since 2008/09.
“We knew it was very important to win today because of the result between Zenit and Porto. The team was great today and we deserved to reach the round of 16,” the forward told reporters.
Zenit St Petersburg stayed as favorite to take second place and qualify after Hulk scored the equalizer but also missed a spot kick in a 1-1 home draw with his former side Porto.
Chelsea’s first goal in a 3-0 home win over Schalke 04 was hardly a classic in contrast, with keeper Timo Hildebrand blasting his clearance against Samuel Eto’o and the ball flying in.
The Cameroonian slotted in a cool second after the break and Demba Ba also scored to put the Group E leaders on the verge of qualification, with the Germans second and Basel third after a late equaliser in a 1-1 home draw with Steaua Bucharest.
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said he had told Eto’o to close down the keeper. “I know the keeper from Portugal and Spain because he was there and we know Schalke likes to play back passes and play from the back with the keeper so Samuel was clever in the way he closed him down,” he said.
Barça took the lead on the half hour after Ignazio Abate clumsily pulled back Neymar and Messi did the rest from the spot.
Sergio Busquets then headed in Xavi’s free kick and he was left totally unmarked by a woeful Milan defence which severely pales in comparison to the great back lines marshalled by Paolo Maldini and Franco Baresi.
Milan is 11th in Serie A and the pressure on coach Massimiliano Allegri will now intensify, although Gerard Pique’s own goal from Kaka’s cross and a couple of sniffs for substitute Mario Balotelli gave them hope.
World Player of the Year Messi snuffed them out when the Argentine ran through on 83 and finished with a deft chip. Despite the Nou Camp defeat, Milan remained second in Group H after Ajax beat Celtic 1-0.