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Rediff.com  » Sports » Champions League: United close to knockout stage; PSG, Bayern cruise

Champions League: United close to knockout stage; PSG, Bayern cruise

Last updated on: November 01, 2017 10:20 IST

United close to knockout stage with 2-0 win over Benfica

Manchester United

IMAGE: Manchester United players celebrate. Photograph: MUFC/Twitter

Manchester United are almost certain to reach the knockout stage of the Champions League after they beat Benfica 2-0 at Old Trafford on Tuesday to make it a perfect four wins in Group A.

 

An own goal by Benfica's 18-year-old keeper Mile Svilar on the stroke of halftime and a Daley Blind penalty in the 78th minute were enough for United, who struggled at times to find their fluency.

Jose Mourinho's team now need just a point from their final two games in the group, against Basel and CSKA Moscow, to make absolutely certain of their place in the knockout stage for the first time in four years.

The result moved them six points clear at the top of the group, yet United, who qualified by winning the Europa League last season, were well below their best, labouring in midfield and sloppy at times at the back.

After the visitors started brightly, United could have taken the lead in the 14th minute when Anthony Martial went down under a challenge from Douglas but the Frenchman's soft spot kick was saved by Svilar.

Manchester United

IMAGE: United’s Daley Blind scores from penalty. Photograph: MUFC/Twitter

At the other end, David De Gea, was forced into the first of a series of saves - superbly reaching a powerful drive from Diogo Goncalves.

Romelu Lukaku then had two chances for United with Svilar pushing his low, left-foot shot wide in the 30th minute, before the Belgian headed over from a Martial cross.

When the goal came, just before halftime, it had a strong element of good fortune to it.

Svilar, the youngest keeper in Champions League history whose error had gifted United a 1-0 win when the teams met two weeks ago in Lisbon, could do nothing as a Nemanja Matic shot struck the post and bounced into the goal off his back.

Benfica had several good chances to draw level but United keeper De Gea was his usual reliable self.

The one time the Spaniard was beaten, Mexican forward Raul Jimenez's shot struck the outside of the post after he had intercepted a loose pass from Eric Bailly to Chris Smalling.

The introduction of Marcus Rashford for Martial injected some life into United's attack and it was the 19-year-old who created the second goal.

The winger burst into the area, skipping by two defenders before he was brought down by Andreas Samaris.

Lukaku looked set to take the kick, but after an apparent intervention from Mourinho, it was Blind who converted.

The result leaves United top of Group A on 12 points while CSKA Moscow and Basel each have six points with Benfica still without a point.

CSKA won 2-1 at Basel in Tuesday's other game in the group.

Bayern cruise into knockout stage after 2-1 win over Celtic

Bayern Munich

IMAGE: Bayern Munich players celebrate. Photograph: Bayern Munich FC/Twitter

Kingsley Coman and Javi Martinez fired Bayern Munich into the knockout stages of the Champions League, netting a goal each as they beat Celtic 2-1 in their Group B clash to make it two wins out of two against the Scottish champions.

The victory puts the German side on nine points after four games, three behind leaders Paris Saint Germain and six ahead of third-placed Celtic, and their superior record against the Scots guarantees them a top-two spot in the group.

Though the hosts started well, Coman broke the deadlock for Bayern in controversial fashion in the 22nd minute, appearing to handle a long ball from goalkeeper Sven Ulreich before firing home following a horrendous mix-up in the Celtic defence.

After creating the goal, Ulreich had to come to his side's rescue early in the second half, getting down smartly to steer Stuart Armstrong's shot behind for a corner.

Callum McGregor put Celtic back on level terms in the 74th minute, latching on to James Forrest's clever pass before sliding the ball between Ulreich's legs.

The lead lasted only three minutes as Martinez headed Bayern back in front, sustaining a nasty cut above his eye in a clash of heads with Celtic defender Nir Bitton in the process.

Celtic shifted to a three-man backline as they chased another equaliser but even with six minutes of time added due to the injuries to Martinez and Bitton, the Hoops could not fashion an equaliser.

In the other game in Group B PSG hammered bottom side Anderlecht 5-0 to make it four wins in four games for the French champions.

PSG sail into last 16 as Kurzawa nets hat trick in rout of Anderlecht

PSG

IMAGE: PSG players congratulate Layvin Kurzawa. Photograph: PSG/Twitter

Paris St Germain qualified for the Champions League last 16 in emphatic fashion when they extended their perfect Group B record with a 5-0 home win against Anderlecht, with fullback Layvin Kurzawa scoring a hat-trick.

Neymar, back in the team after being sent off during the French 'classic' against Olympique de Marseille nine days ago, scored the second goal on the stroke of halftime after Marco Verratti's opener, with Kurzawa completing the scoreline after the interval.

PSG have 12 points from four games and lead Bayern Munich, who beat Celtic 2-1 away, by three points.

Celtic have three points and Anderlecht have none, both clubs being eliminated from Europe's premium club competition.

PSG have scored 17 goals in the campaign and conceded none while Anderlecht have yet to net one.

Providing they each win their next game, PSG and Bayern will battle it out for top spot in the final round of matches in December.

"It's always a pleasure to score," said Verratti after his second goal in 40 Champions League appearances.

"After scoring the first goal we played more freely and managed to secure a nice team victory. Everybody contributed, with notably the strikers helping with the defensive tasks.

"We also managed to play fast, which is always important against teams who come here to sit back and wait."

"I scored thanks to my team mates' work. I needed that confidence boost," said Kurzawa. "Now I need to continue to work and further improve."

PSG dominated from the outset but Kylian Mbappe's early strike from inside the box was blocked by Frank Boeckx.

The France forward, however, found Verratti in the area on the half-hour for the Italy midfielder to fire the ball into the far corner.

It was a deserved lead for PSG, who doubled their tally four minutes into stoppage time in the first half when Neymar's 20-metre strike went past Boeckx.

Neymar's free kick bounced on to the post and into the path of Kurzawa, who poked home the ball seven minutes into the second half.

The fullback made it 4-0 with a diving header in the 72nd and added his personal third six minutes later with a low shot after being set up by Angel Di Maria.

PSG next take on Celtic while Bayern travel to Anderlecht on Nov. 22.

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