Champions League round-up: Chelsea await their fate as Messi equals goal-scoring record
Chelsea were left waiting for their place in the last 16 of the Champions League - after coming from behind to draw 1-1 away to Maribor early Thursday morning (Nov 6).
Jose Mourinho’s side squandered a gilt-edged chance for victory after the Slovenian side threatened to pull off the shocker in this season’s competition.
Premier League leaders Chelsea had thrashed Maribor 6-0 at Stamford Bridge only a fortnight earlier.
But this time, they fell behind to Agim Ibraimi’s 50th-minute goal in the Group G clash.
Chelsea drew level when Nemanja Mati struck from close range after good work by John Terry.
Chelsea could have won the match late on but Handanovic made excellent saves to deny both Hazard and Diego Costa.
But Maribor had their chances to seal what would have been a stunning win - if striker Marcos Tavares didn't shoot wastefully wide from the edge of the box with 10 minutes left.
Then came the penalty chance and, on a night of surprises, none was greater than Hazard’s failure to make it 2-1.
Had Chelsea – the 2012 Champions League winners – beaten Maribor and other results gone their way, they would have qualified for the last 16 with two games to spare.
All about Messi
Barcelona manager Luis Enrique has labelled Lionel Messi as the ‘best’ player he has seen - after the Argentine forward spurred a 2-0 victory over Ajax Amsterdam.
The result secured the Spanish side a place in the Champions League knockout stages.
Messi equaling Raul's Champions League record on Thursday. Photo: AFP
Messi grabbed both goals for Barcelona as they struggled at Amsterdam Arena.
“Is Messi the best player of all time? Absolutely. He is the best player I have ever seen as a player or as a coach” - Enrique said after the game.
Messi’s brace drew him level with Spanish great Raul for the most number of Champions League goals. His goals, a 36th-minute header and a 76th-minute tap-in, added to the 71 tally and made the difference in the match.
“There was a big difference between the first half and the second”, Enrique said at a media conference.
“At certain moments Ajax managed to put us under pressure really well. After the break we tried to win the ball as far from our own goal as possible.”
Meanwhile, Bayern Munich confirmed both their place in the Champions League knock-out phase and status as Group E winners with two games to spare after Wednesday’s 2-0 win over Roma.
Goals by France winger Franck Ribery and Germany’s Mario Goetze sealed the win, which put the Bavarians into the last 16 with a perfect 12 points so far.
Bayern collected their fourth straight win to give them an unassailable eight-point lead before their remaining group matches at bottom side Manchester City and home to CSKA Moscow next month.
Paris Saint- Germain (PSG) eased into the knockout stage of the Champions League for the third season running with an unspectacular 1-0 win against Cypriot side APOEL at the Parc des Princes.
Edinson Cavani required a mere 57 seconds this time, ‘keeper Urko Pardo allowing his shot to cross the line for PSG’s fastest ever Champions League goal.
The home side should have won by a greater margin but coach Laurent Blanc will be pleased that they got the job done, as they extended their unbeaten record this season and made it five victories in a row in all competitions.
Other teams that qualified for the last 16 are Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund and Porto.
Full results from the games played on Thursday morning:
Athletic 0 Porto 2
Bayern 2 Roma 0
Sporting CP 4 Schalke 04 2
Man City 1 CSKA Moscow 2
PSG 1 Apeol Nicosia 0
Maribor 1 Chelsea 1
Shakhtar 5 BATE 0
Ajax 0 Barcelona 2
Sources: Reuters, AFP, Twitter