The parade of European powers qualifying for the knockout stage of the Champions League on Wednesday was disrupted by Sporting Lisbon who made a stunning turnaround to join them.
Manchester City and Real Madrid are back in the round of 16 after beating teams they lost to in September. Paris Saint-Germain also pass despite their 2-1 loss to City after leading when Kylian MbappÃ© scored early in the second half.
Madrid’s 3-0 win over Sheriff – avenging a 2-1 home loss to the Moldovan champion two months ago – included a goal for Karim Benzema on a day of legal trouble for the forward and made it possible Inter Milan also moved from Group D by beating Shakhtar Donetsk 2-0.
Three-time European champions Inter return to the round of 16 after a 10-year absence, although Sporting ended a 13-year wait by beating Borussia Dortmund 3-1. Pedro GonÃ§alves scored twice.
Sporting appeared to be outclassed in September when they were beaten at home by Ajax and then beaten in Dortmund, but three straight wins put the surprise Portuguese title winner ahead with one game to lose.
“The teams are growing,” said Sporting coach RÃºben Amorim. âIt’s great, good for the project, but we still have a lot to do.
Ajax and Liverpool extended their dominant campaigns in the group stage with a fifth consecutive victory.
Ajax’s 2-1 win at BeÅiktaÅ was due to two goals from record striker SÃ©bastien Haller, who came on as a substitute. Haller has now scored in his first five career Champions League appearances and is the fastest player to reach nine goals in the competition.
Liverpool clinched a 2-0 victory over Porto and took a 10-point lead over the Portuguese side in second place in Group B, which promises a tense final tournament on December 7.
AC Milan are still in contention after finding a goal in the 87th minute of a 30-year-old Champions League debutant to win 1-0 at AtlÃ©tico Madrid. Junior Messias’ goal left both teams with four points. Milan will then host Liverpool and AtlÃ©tico, last place, will travel to Porto.
Leipzig were missing American coach Jesse Marsch, who tested positive for COVID-19 but yet overwhelmed Club Brugge 5-0 in Belgium in their battle to finish third in Group A behind Man City and PSG .
Third-place teams in the Champions League groups earn a ticket to the Europa League second tier qualifiers in February. Dortmund and Sheriff will be among them.
UEFA holds knockout draws in all three European club competitions on December 13.
CITY AT THE SUMMIT
Lionel Messi, Kylian MbappÃ©, Neymar. PSG coach Mauricio Pochettino was able to choose his superstar attacking line to take on Pep Guardiola’s Man City without a typical center-forward or Kevin De Bruyne due to a COVID-19 infection.
City still had enough despite their inability to turn their domination in the first half into goals and their delay on MbappÃ©’s goal in the 50th.
Raheem Sterling scored with a classic City goal in the 63rd and, after Neymar lost a clear opportunity, Gabriel Jesus won it in the 77th with a scuffed shot that beat PSG keeper Keylor Navas.
Pochettino knocked out City from the Champions League in the same stadium as Tottenham coach three seasons ago, and there is speculation that he could be back in Manchester soon as United coach. Both Manchester teams have won their groups and will be seeded for the knockout stage draw.
INTER IN, MILAN SURVIVES
Inter Milan are heading to the knockout stage of the Champions League for the first time in 10 years.
AC Milan can still join their city rivals by extending their first Champions League campaign in eight years.
Milan went to AtlÃ©tico with just one point in four Group B games and were reportedly eliminated in a loss. Brazilian mate on loan Junior Messias’ late goal was “the biggest achievement of my life,” he said.
Inter had an easier time at San Siro against Shakhtar, with veteran striker Edin DÅ¾eko scoring twice in six minutes midway through the second half.
The Champions League top scorers this season are three superstars, a newcomer and an uncapped striker.
SÃ©bastien Haller, for his first season in elite competition at 27, joined Robert Lewandowski on nine by scoring Ajax’s two goals in BeÅiktaÅ.
The former Eintracht Frankfurt and West Ham forward is now the fastest to score nine goals at the start of his Champions League career. Haller has only played five games, two fewer than Erling Haaland needed in two seasons for Salzburg and Borussia Dortmund.
Christopher Nkunku also scored twice on Wednesday and now has seven this season for Leipzig, one more than Cristiano Ronaldo for Manchester United and Mohamed Salah for Liverpool.
It was an exceptional season at this level for Nkunku, who at 24 was not selected for the France team.
Haller was born in France, like Nkuku, and played for the Under-21s, but later changed eligibility to represent Ivory Coast.
Salah now has 17 goals in all competitions this season after scoring Liverpool’s second goal at Anfield against Porto.