Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Shakhtar Donetsk and Valencia reached the knockout stage of the Champions League on Tuesday, while Chelsea is on the verge of becoming the first titleholder to fail to make it out of the group stage.
Already under pressure in the Premier League after a four-game winless run, Chelsea lost 3-0 at Juventus to drop to third in Group E behind Shakhtar and Juve and place manager Roberto di Matteo under increasing pressure.
"At the moment I'm still here and I think I will be in the future. We'll have to see what happens," said said Di Matteo, who spent more than an hour with his players in the dressing room. "I'm responsible for the result, I'm responsible for the performance and tonight was negative. If anyone has to take the blame it's me. I select the team."
Fabio Quagliarella and Arturo Vidal — both on target for Juventus in the 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge — again scored against a Chelsea team without the dropped Fernando Torres and injured John Terry. Substitute Sebastian Giovinco capped the victory with a goal in the final minute.
"It's a big disappointment," Di Matteo said. "It's been a difficult evening for us, for the team, for the club. So there was a lot of reflection."
Shakhtar showed it is a force to be reckoned with after a crushing 5-2 win over FC Nordsjaelland, with Luiz Adriano scoring a hat trick and Willian grabbing two goals.
Chelsea has to beat Nordsjaelland and hope for Shakhtar to defeat Juventus to go through at Juve's expense.
"It's mathematically still possible. And you always try while there's still hope," Di Matteo said. "Who says Juve are not going to lose against Shakhtar?"
Juventus assistant coach Angelo Alessio insists the players will not settle for a draw in Ukraine because "we're not used to playing for a point, we want to win."
In Copenhagen, Nordsjaelland took the lead but Shakhtar equalized two minutes later in a contentious moment that enraged the crowd.
Willian kicked downfield after an uncontested drop ball toward the opposing box because of an injury to a Nordsjaelland player. The hosts' defenders walked slowly to the ball, only to watch in amazement as Adriano raced through to score.
Barcelona advanced for the ninth straight season after defeating Spartak Moscow 3-0 in Group G with Lionel Messi scoring another two goals to close to within five of Gerd Mueller's single-year record of 85.
"Messi is a perfect player, maybe the best player in the world right now," Spartak coach Unai Emery said.
Daniel Alves put Barca ahead and Messi pounced twice before halftime to continue a remarkable season that includes 17 league goals and another five in the European Cup. He has 56 Champions League goals in his career, tying Ruud Van Nisterooy for second place and trailing only Raul Gonzalez's tally of 71.
Two weeks after beating Barcelona at home in one of its best ever European performances, Celtic lost 2-1 at Benfica to remain level on seven points with its Portuguese opponent.
At first glance, Celtic would seem to have the odds slightly in its favor when it hosts Spartak and Benfica travels to Barcelona on Dec. 5. But if both matches end in a draw then the Portuguese club will advance.
Argentine defender Ezequiel Garay volleyed home in the 71st to give Benfica the win it needed to stay in the tournament following a 32nd-minute equalizer from Greek forward Giorgos Samaras. Dutch striker Ola John gave Benfica an early lead with his first goal for the club.
Bayern, last year's finalist, and Valencia both advanced from Group F after drawing 1-1 in Spain, extinguishing Belarusian side BATE Borisov's slim chances of qualifying.
Valencia went down to 10 men in the 33rd minute after right back Antonio Barragan was sent off but went ahead thanks to midfielder Sofiane Feghouli's goal in the 77th. Thomas Mueller equalized five minutes later with a shot that grazed Feghouli.
"We put in a huge effort and did the best we could because they are a great team, so we are really very happy," said Feghouli.
Lille salvaged some pride from a miserable campaign by winning 2-0 at BATE, its first win of the competition. But the French club failed to score enough goals to stand a chance of qualifying ahead of BATE for the Europa League.
Already-qualified Manchester United lacked firepower in losing 1-0 at Galatasaray after fielding an under-strength team.
United, which left key players at home after losing 1-0 at Norwich in the Premier League at the weekend, was unable to respond to Burak Yilmaz's header at the start of the second half. Yilmaz has scored all five goals for Galatasaray in Group H.
"Parts of the game were good but the area in which we were worried about — set-pieces — we suffered," United coach Alex Ferguson said. "That was always going to be a worry for us."
The Turkish side remains in second place ahead of CFR Cluj on head-to-head record. Both sides have seven points with one game remaining. Cluj remains in the hunt for a knockout berth after beating Braga 3-1 following a hat trick from Rui Pedro.
In the last round of matches in two weeks, Cluj visits United while Galatasaray travels to eliminated Braga.
Published Date: Nov 21, 2012 09:18 am | Updated Date: Nov 21, 2012 09:23 am