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Man U, A C Milan ease into last 8

February 26, 2003 12:06 IST
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Manchester United and AC Milan secured their places in the last eight of the Champions League with two matches still to play in the second phase on Tuesday with convincing away wins over Juventus and Lokomotiv Moscow.

Defending champions Real Madrid, though, left it late to avoid a defeat at Borussia Dortmund that would have dented their hopes of advancing. They still have plenty of work to do after drawing 1-1 but at least have their fate in their own hands.

United crushed Juventus 3-0 in Turin to become the first club in Champions League history to reach seven successive quarter-finals. An appearance in the European Cup final in their Old Trafford stadium on May 28 looks a real possibility.

"Without question this was another great performance by us," said United manager Alex Ferguson. "The experience they've picked up in European football was there in evidence tonight."

United also completed the double over the Italian champions following their 2-1 home win last week to maintain their 100 percent record in Group D with 12 points from four matches.

Juventus and Deportivo Coruna, who beat Basel 1-0 in Spain, are second and third on four points, with the Swiss side still in contention with three points.

Milan also won their fourth successive match in Group C to ensure their berth in the last eight with a 1-0 win at Lokomotiv Moscow, a repeat of their victorious scoreline over the Russians in Milan last week.

"I'm very happy that we won and booked ourselves a place in the quarter-finals with two games to spare," said Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti.

"I think we played real well in the first half and Lokomotiv were a bit better in the second, but I don't want to single out any players on our team," he added. "Everyone played well, but I was especially pleased with our defence tonight."

Milan have yet to concede a goal in the second phase so far.

But Real needed a stoppage time goal to draw 1-1 at Dortmund in the same group and stay in second place.

Milan top the Group C table with 12 points, followed by Real (5), Dortmund (4) and Lokomotiv (1).

GIGGS INSPIRATION

United's stunning 3-0 win in Turin -- where Juve had kept a clean sheet for seven successive Champions League matches -- was inspired by Ryan Giggs, an eighth minute substitute for the injured Uruguayan striker Diego Forlan who damaged an ankle.

The injury will keep Forlan out of Sunday's League Cup final against Liverpool while Giggs, who injured a thigh, is doubtful.

Giggs, whose form has suffered in recent weeks and who has been the subject of transfer speculation linking him with a move to Inter Milan at the end of the season, opened the scoring after a great build-up by his team mates after 15 minutes.

He then scored a superb solo goal after dribbling from the halfway line in the 41st minute to set up only United's second-ever win in Italy. The first came when they won 3-2 at Juventus in a semi-final, second leg in 1999.

Striker Ruud van Nistelrooy, who replaced the injured Giggs early in the second half, made it 3-0 after 63 minutes to take his tally in the competition proper this season to 10 -- and 12 overall including the qualifying round.

He also joined Alessandro Del Piero of Juventus and Patrick Kluivert of Barcelona on 28 goals -- the joint second-highest scorers in the competition's history.

BLANK RAUL

Raul of Real Madrid is the highest scorer with 39 goals -- but he drew a blank on Tuesday as Real needed a late-late goal from Javier Portillo to steal a point in Germany.

Real, who only picked up one point from their opening two group games, moved up from last place to second after beating Dortmund last week in Madrid and looked like heading out of the qualifying positions again after Jan Koller struck with a fierce angled shot after 22 minutes to give the German side the lead.

Last week Koller also scored Dortmund's opener against Real, but the champions came back to win 2-1. This time Real left their comeback until two minutes into stoppage time when Portillo struck the equaliser.

AC Milan got a red-letter day in Champions League history underway with an early kickoff in Moscow where Rivaldo scored the only goal from the penalty spot after 34 minutes.

The four matches on Tuesday took the number of games in the competition to 1,000 and it was fitting that United, who produced the best performance and result, are now top of the all-time Champions League points table.

Another record-setter was Milan captain Paolo Maldini, who broke Giuseppe Bergomi's Italian record for appearances in European competition when he took his overall UEFA club competition appearance record to 118 games, breaking the old mark set by the former Inter Milan defender.

The competition continues on Wednesday with matches in Groups A and B.

In Group A Inter Milan face Barcelona and Newcastle United play Bayer Leverkusen, while the Group B games are Ajax Amsterdam v Arsenal and Valencia v AS Roma.

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Source: REUTERS
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