Six more spots in the Champions League knockout stage have been filled. It was a good day for English sides, while several others – including the darlings of last season’s tournament – will be ruing their failures. Here’s a rundown of what happened in Europe’s premier club competition on Tuesday.
It ended up being more stressful than Liverpool fans would have liked, but in the end, the reigning champions marched on to the knockout stages of the tournament courtesy of an entertaining 2-0 win over Red Bull Salzburg.
Liverpool, who looked susceptible defensively in the opening half against an up-tempo Salzburg side that needed to win to advance, spurned multiple chances themselves before Naby Keita and Mohamed Salah scored within a minute of each other early in the second half to cement top spot in the group.
Elsewhere in the quartet, Napoli snapped their harrowing nine-match winless run by hammering Genk at the San Paolo. Arkadiusz Milik scored three times in the opening half, and Dries Mertens added a second-half penalty to secure second place for the Italian club.
Salzburg now drop into the Europa League, while Genk are headed home.
Barcelona arrived in Milan knowing that first place was already in the bag, and Ernesto Valverde used Tuesday’s clash with Inter to rotate his squad, affording several regulars – Lionel Messi chief among them – some rest.
Inter, then, had a golden opportunity to reach the round of 16; a win would confirm Antonio Conte’s men a place in the knockout stages. Instead, they folded. The Nerazzurri lost 2-1 at the San Siro and were condemned to third place in the group by virtue of Borussia Dortmund’s concurrent win over Slavia Prague.
The battle for second place behind Barca was always going to be a roller-coaster, and so it proved right down to the end. Inter had two Lautaro Martinez goals ruled out for offside in the second half and conceded the dagger to Ansu Fati in the 86th minute.
Depending on how Conte approaches the Europa League, Inter will now be considered among the favorites to win the competition.
RB Leipzig had already clinched their spot in the last 16 heading into Matchday 6, and locked up first place with a 2-2 draw against Lyon. The French side trailed 2-0 at the interval but battled back in the second half to earn a vital draw through goals from Houssem Aouar and Memphis Depay.
That single point was enough for Lyon to pip Zenit St. Petersburg to second place, as the Russian club crumbled in Portugal, conceding three times in the second half en route to a 3-0 loss against Benfica. Despite getting off to a rough start in the group stage, the Portuguese side did just enough to earn a spot in the Europa League.
The biggest shock of the tournament thus far came in Group H, as Ajax, who were within seconds of reaching last season’s final, got dumped from the competition on Tuesday.
A 1-0 loss to Valencia in Amsterdam was enough for the Spanish side to top the quartet, while Chelsea picked up a 2-1 victory over already-eliminated Lille to join Los Che in the next round.
Heading into Wednesday’s matches, only two knockout spots remain up for grabs, with second place in both Group C and D undetermined. The draw for the round of 16 is slated for Monday.