Inter outwitted by Spurs
The chinks in Inter Milan's armour were exposed again as Tottenham Hotspur beat the holders 3-1 in Champions League Group A and all three teams able to secure last-16 qualification flopped on Tuesday.
Like Inter, 2009 winners Barcelona only needed a win to go through with two games to spare but drew 1-1 at FC Copenhagen in Group D while Olympique Lyon's three-match winning streak came to a halt in an enthralling 4-3 defeat at Benfica in Group B.
Manchester United were the only group leaders who could not guarantee qualification this week but they took a big leap towards the first knockout round thanks to goals by Darren Fletcher, Gabriel Obertan and Bebe in a 3-0 win at Bursaspor.
Valencia prevailed 3-0 against Rangers to leapfrog their opponents into second in Group C.
Image: Tottenham Hotspur's William Gallas (left) and Inter Milan's Wesley Sneijder get into an aerial duel during their Champions League match on Tuesday
Bale gets into the act again
Rafael van der Vaart, suspended when Inter beat Spurs 4-3 two weeks ago, sent White Hart Lane mad in the return with a first-half goal after good work by Luca Modric but the Dutchman was substituted at the break with a nagging injury.
Peter Crouch made sure it was an unhappy return to England for his former Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez when he slid in for the second on 61 minutes after Gareth Bale, hat-trick hero at the San Siro, again showed stunning speed to whip in the cross.
Red-hot Samuel Eto'o bagged his seventh goal of the group stage but Roman Pavlyuchenko converted another Bale pass a minute from time as Tottenham went top on head-to-head record.
Image: Tottenham Hotspur's Roman Pavlyuchenko (right) celebrates with teammates Gareth Bale (centre) and Jermaine Jenas after scoring against Inter Milan on Tuesday
Barcelona held by steely Copenhagen
Barcelona missed a chance to qualify for the last 16 when they were held to a 1-1 draw by a well-organised and aggressive FC Copenhagen in Champions League Group D on Tuesday.
Barca's prolific Argentina forward Lionel Messi put the La Liga giants ahead in the 31st minute in the Danish capital, netting his fifth of the competition with a rare right-foot shot that Johan Wiland could only palm on to a post and in.
The hosts were level a minute later when Wiland's opposite number Victor Valdes deflected a Jesper Gronkjaer cross into the path of Claudemir and the midfielder volleyed into the net with the ball taking a slight deviation off defender Eric Abidal.
Barca came agonisingly close to securing the win that would have sent them through when substitute Pedro hit the post with a curled effort from the corner of the penalty area in stoppage time.
They top the group on eight points and Copenhagen are second on seven with four of six matches played. Rubin Kazan and Panathinaikos, who drew 0-0 in Russia earlier on Tuesday, have three and two respectively.
Image: Barcelona's Lionel Messi celebrates with teammate David Villa after scorong against FC Copenhagen on Tuesday
'It was a very hard match'
"It was a very hard match -- they are an extremely physical side," Barca captain Carles Puyol said in an interview with Spanish television.
"They equalised very quickly which was unfortunate but I think we played a good match overall," he added.
"It was our objective to win and we went after the match from the start as you saw but now we have to look forward to the next game."
A motivated Copenhagen made a bright start at their chilly Parken Stadion arena and maintained their intensity throughout the match, preventing the 2009 winners from settling into their usual dominant passing game.
The dangerous Messi had several decent chances to add to his tally but the home players worked tirelessly to restrict his space around the centre of the pitch.
At the other end, Copenhagen striker Dame N'Doye caused problems for the Barca defence with his pace and strength despite sustaining a fearful-looking blow to the head in a clash with Valdes in the 11th minute.
Barca's best early chance came in the 22nd minute when Andres Iniesta sent Spain teammate David Villa clear.
The striker's angled shot almost beat Wiland but the keeper got his fingertips to the ball and managed to push it on to a post and away.
Image: Barcelona's Xavi Hernandez (left) goes past Copenhagen's Martin Vingaard during their Champions League match on Tuesday
Soldado making his mark for Valencia
Striker Roberto Soldado again showed why Valencia signed him as David Villa's replacement with a double in a 3-0 win over Rangers on Tuesday that boosted the Spanish side's hopes of a Champions League last 16 place.
Soldado had big shoes to fill at Valencia after Villa left for Barcelona in the close season but he has quickly made his mark after his move from Getafe.
The striker, who also netted against Bursaspor earlier in the group stage, scored at a corner after 33 minutes and then raced away to seal the win in the 71st. Tino Costa added a third at the end.
Valencia moved up to second in the group behind Manchester United with seven points from four games, going two ahead of third-placed Rangers with two left to play.
"It was a vital game. We knew it was important we won this one to put our future back in our own hands," Soldado told Spanish television.
"It was difficult because of their style of play and we knew it would be tough to score a goal. The first came after a bit of a rebound at a corner. That allowed us to play our own game, and encouraged them to come out a bit because they had to win."
A high-tempo start saw both sides go close to breaking the deadlock with Juan Mata being denied for the hosts after only four minutes.
Image: Valencia's Roberto Soldado celebrates after scoring against Rangers on Tuesday
'Our objective now is to be first in the group'
Scotland midfielder Naismith streaked away from the halfway line on a counter-attack soon after, and cutting in off the left flank let fly with a fierce drive which came back off the far post in the eighth.
Allan McGregor saved from Mata, who should have done better in the 12th minute, but the game settled down with Rangers camped in their own half until Soldado scored.
McGregor was unable to get to a corner under the bar and Soldado pounced on the loose ball, squeezing a shot inside the near post.
Valencia continued to dominate and McGregor went full length to keep out an Aritz Aduriz header early in the second period, but he was unable to stop Soldado's effort after a swift one-two with Mata on a break.
Rangers struggled to chase the game, though Naismith found himself in space only to head against the post near the end, and substitute Costa volleyed in off the post in the final minute condemning the Scots to their first defeat this season.
"Our objective now is to be first in the group, to beat Bursaspor at home and then get a win in Manchester," Valencia coach Unai Emery told Spanish television.
Image: Valencia's Joaquin (foreground) is challenged by Rangers' Steven Naismith during their Champions League match on Tuesday
Martins inspires Benfica to win over Lyon
Midfielder Carlos Martins created four goals as Benfica survived a late fightback to beat Lyon 4-3 in their Champions League Group B match on Tuesday, reviving their hopes of reaching the next round.
Martins's tense free kick into the crowded Lyon box allowed striker Alan Kardec to tower over the defence to head in for the Portuguese champions' opening goal on 20 minutes. He then fed Fabio Coentrao for the second after a flowing counterattack.
Martins, who has been on fine form this season and made a return to the Portugal squad, was also involved in the third, his corner to the first post allowed Javi Garcia to head in three minutes before the break.
From another counter attack Martins sent Coentrao through and he scored with a delightful lob in the 67th minute before Yoann Gourcuff and substitutes Bafetimbi Gomis and Dejan Lovren pulled three back for the French side.
Image: Benfica's Alan Kardec celebrates his goal against Olympique Lyon on Tuesday
Lyon still lead standings
Benfica's main creative force, Argentine playmaker Pablo Aimar, was ruled out moments before kickoff, but his replacement Eduardo Salvio looked dangerous throughout.
He forced Hugo Lloris to block away a left-footed shot from outside the box on 12 minutes and called the keeper into action again in the 39th minute after a fine run on the right wing.
Lyon, missing their regular striker Lisandro Lopez through injury, looking disjointed going forward and rarely threatened.
Barring two early disallowed goals from Jimmy Briand, their only clear chance in the first half came on 28 minutes, when the striker's overhead kick from a cross from Anthony Reveillere went wide.
Gourcuff's goal with a crisp shot from near the penalty on 75 minutes, Gomis's tap-in 10 minutes later and Lovren's headed goal deep into injury time came too late for Lyon.
Lyon, however, still lead the standings with nine points followed by Schalke 04 on seven and Benfica on six.
Image: Olympique Lyon 's Bafetimbi Gomis (left) celebrates with teammate Alexandre Lacazette after scoring against Benfica on Tuesday
Twente strike late to floor wasteful Werder
Twente Enschede patiently soaked up wave after wave of Werder Bremen attacks before pouncing late in their Champions League game on Tuesday to win 2-0 and all but kill off the home team's hopes of advancing.
The Dutch league champions, who relied mainly on quick breaks, had goalkeeper Nikolay Mihaylov to thank for a clean sheet before going ahead after 81 minutes when Nacer Chadli's shot was deflected in.
Luuk de Jong then made sure of victory when he stooped low to head in a cross from Bryan Ruiz three minutes later.
"The players executed our tactical plan perfectly," Twente coach Michel Preud'homme said.
"We were also a bit lucky that Werder did not score but I am delighted to have won."
Twente are third in Group A with five points from four games. Bottom club Werder have two while Tottenham Hotspur and Inter Milan lead the way on seven points apiece.
Image: Twente Enschede's Nacer Chadli (on ground) celebrates with teammates after scoring against Werder Bremen on Tuesday
'We didn't use our chances'
Werder, who had captain Torsten Frings sent off in the 75th minute for bringing down dangerman Ruiz on the edge of the box, squandered a dozen good opportunities and hit the post late in the first half.
"We had so many chances and we did not use them and after Torsten was sent off we were hit on the break and suddenly it was 2-0," said striker Claudio Pizarro.
"We gave it everything we had but if you do not score then you cannot expect to win."
Portuguese striker Hugo Almeida missed three golden opportunities, including a one-on-one with Mihaylov. Pizarro, who hit the woodwork, also wasted a hatful of chances for the hosts.
The Dutch made some quick breaks in the first half but seemed to lose their spark in the second, their best chance coming when Chadli rattled the post on the hour.
Chadli's goal, though, completely took the wind out of Werder's sails and De Jong struck from close range to seal Twente's first Champions League win in their debut season.
Image: Werder Bremen's Torsten Frings (4th from right) receives a red card from referee Alain Hamer during their Champions League match against Twente Enschede on Tuesday
Rubin and Panathinaikos deadlocked again
Greek side Panathinaikos frustrated Rubin Kazan again with another scrappy 0-0 draw in Champions League Group D on Tuesday, two weeks after holding the Russian champions in Athens.
The two teams cancelled each other out, creating little danger in front of the goal for the first hour and spending most of their energy on trying to shut down the opposition.
Rubin midfielder Aleksandr Ryazantsev had the best chance to break the stalemate in the first half but his powerful header on the run was well saved by Panathinaikos keeper Alexandros Tzorvas five minutes before the break.
Ryazantsev also wasted a good opportunity midway through the second half when he could not control the ball after being sent clear on goal by Brazilian team mate Carlos Eduardo.
Rubin coach Kurban Berdyev went for broke with time running out, introducing speedy Turkish striker Gokdeniz Karadeniz and creative Nigerian forward Obafemi Martins, but the visitors withstood a furious late rally and twice cleared the ball off the line.
Image: Rubin Kazan's Salvatore Bocchetti (top) and Christian Noboa (background right) challenge Panathinaikos' Kostas Katsouranis during their Champions League match on Tuesday
'The draw was a fair result tonight'
At the other end, Panathinaikos substitute Lazaros Christodoupoulos could have snatched the points for the Greek champions against the run of play but twice missed the target in the last 10 minutes.
Berdyev was left to rue missed chances.
"We created enough chances to win but unfortunately could not put away any of them," he said.
"Martins and Karadeniz boosted our game significantly after coming on but still could not score."
The draw left both teams with only a slim chance of reaching the knockout round. Third-placed Rubin trail FC Copenhagen by four points after the Danish champions held group leaders Barcelona to a 1-1 draw in the other Group D match.
Panathinaikos remain bottom of the group with two points.
"The draw was a fair result tonight, just like it was in Athens," said Panathinaikos coach Nikos Nioplias.
"We still have a small chance of making the playoffs and we will fight for it to the very end."
Image: Panathinaikos' Stergos Marinos (front) challenges Rubin Kazan's Alan Kasaev during their Champions League match