Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham and Dortmund make it to the Round of 16 / Ajax eliminated
In a closely fought encounter in alpine Austria between FC Red Bull Salzburg and Liverpool, goals from Naby Keita and Mohammed Salah separated the two sides. Jurgen Klopp’s men who need only a point to progress into the next round were at the receiving end for most of the first half. But Naby Keita’s headed goal from a Sadio Mane cross in the 57th changed the tide of the game. Salah doubled the lead with one of the most remarkable goals of the tournament. After missing out on a host of opportunities to score, the Egyptian struck one in from a very acute angle, five yards from the bye-line and that, too, with his weaker right foot. With a defender and the goalkeeper between him, Salah still found a way to sneak the ball into the far post. Liverpool went on to top the Group E with 13 points while Napoli were the other team to qualify after they pummelled Genk 4-0 and moved to 12 points.
After Lille striker Victor Osimhen negated Tammy Abraham’s early strike for Chelsea in the 33rd minute, it was Willian’s excellent second-half volley in the 77th that broke the deadlock at Stamford Bridge and took Frank Lampard’s men into the Round of 16. Meanwhile Valencia pulled off the impossible when they stunned last year’s semi-finalists Ajax 0-1 at the Johan Cruyff Arena in Amsterdam. For the Spanish visitors a win was a must while Ajax just needed a draw to qualify. Rodrigo scored the only goal midway through the first half as he blasted into the roof of the net from a Ferran Torres pass. Ajax desperately pushed for the equaliser they needed with Lisandro Martinez and Hakim Ziyech forcing late saves from Valencia keeper Jaume Domenech. A disqualified Ajax were without their supreme stars of the previous season Frenkie de Jong and Matthijs de Ligt both of whom left for Barcelona and Juventus respectively. Quite deservingly, Valencia cruised to the top of the Group H with 11 points while Chelsea with similar points but with a weaker goal difference, had to be content with the next spot of the cluster.
After having crushed Tottenham Hotspur 1-7 in London a couple of months ago, Bayern Munich again won the return game against the English club 3-1 at home. Bayern having qualified earlier, won all their Group games while Tottenham’s mere 10 points from their 6 outings was enough to take them to the knock-out stage.
Borussia Dortmund needed a win over Slavia Praha at the Signal Iduna Park to take them through to the next round. Which is what the Bundesliga club achieved when they coasted past the Czech club 2-1 on the back of goals from Jadon Sancho and Julian Brandt and moved to the second spot of the Group F cluster with 10 points. Barcelona who had qualified earlier overpowered Inter Milan 1-2, knocking out the latter who ended their tournament with only 7 points from their 6 games.
Red Bull Leipzig and Lyon played out a 2-2 in France and ensured that both qualify from Group G mustering 11 and 8 points at the end of their cluster games.
Italian club Atalanta made a stunning entry into the their first ever UEFA Champions League knock-out stage when they shocked hosts Shakhtar Donetsk 0-3 away in Ukraine on Wednesday night. Shakhtar who are such a difficult side to beat at home were cut to pieces by the Serie A visitors with second-half goals coming from Timothy Castagne, Mario Pasalic and Robin Gosens. Atalanta were 2 points behind the Ukrainian club’s 6 before the game began and desperately needed a win. The Italian side finished with 7 on the Group C table next to Manchester City’s 14.
The sixteen teams that qualified for the knock-out stages are as follows