Real, Bayern, Chelsea through, Jose laughs last
Madrid: Real Madrid scored seconds from time to force a 2-2 draw at AC Milan, secure a place in the last 16 of the Champions League and leave coach Jose Mourinho with a smile on his face on his return to the San Siro on Wednesday.
Real went through to the knockout stage along with Bayern Munich and Chelsea, although Arsenal, who could also have qualified with two matches to spare, lost 2-1 at Shakhtar Donetsk and will have to wait.
Real`s point at the San Siro, where the Spaniards have failed to win in 14 matches dating back to 1956, coupled with Auxerre`s 2-1 win over Ajax Amsterdam means the nine-time European champions will definitely finish in the top two in Group G and, after four straight wins, probably win it.
Mourinho, bidding to become the first coach to lift the European Cup with three different clubs, told Sky Sports afterwards: "Overall I am not too happy with the result because we should have killed them, we had chances to kill the game.
"But at the same time when you are losing 2-1 in the last minute and you equalise you cannot say you are sad because you`ve had a little bit of luck to score the goal."
"We have qualified, we didn`t lose, and we keep going."
Real went ahead with a Gonzalo Higuain goal just before halftime before two second half goals from 37-year-old substitute Filipo Inzaghi put Milan 2-1 ahead.
But a strike four minutes into stoppage time from Pedro Leon salvaged the draw with almost the last kick of the game.
That goal was the 32nd and final one on the highest scoring Champions League night for eight years and brought a huge smile of relief to Mourinho, who, despite leading Inter Milan to a treble last season, was never fully accepted in Italy.
Before the match he gave a three-finger salute to the Milan fans in the stadium representing, he said, the treble he won with their arch-rivals Inter, explaining: "three fingers, three titles with Inter last season, the treble -- a little bit of pepper before the game."
Bayern, beaten by Mourinho`s Inter in last season`s Champions League final in Madrid, certainly peppered CFR Cluj in a 4-0 win in Romania to maintain their perfect start in Group E and take them into the last 16 on the back of a Mario Gomez hat-trick.
Chelsea also racked up four goals with a 4-1 win over Spartak Moscow at Stamford Bridge with defender Branislav Ivanovic, scoring twice.
Nicolas Anelka and Didier Drogba added the others as Chelsea maintained their perfect start in Group F.
Chelsea were not the highest scorers in their own group though as Olympique Marseille thrashed a weak Zilina 7-0 in Slovakia -- the highest away win since the competition began in 1992-93 and only one short of Liverpool`s overall record 8-0 victory over Besiktas three years ago this week.
Andre-Pierre Gignac led the way with a hat-trick while Argentina playmaker Lucho Gonzalez scored twice with Gabriel Heinze and Loic Remy adding the others.
While Real, Bayern, Chelsea and Marseille were all celebrating, Arsenal let their chance slip and will have to wait to qualify.
Arsenal took the lead at Shakhtar Donetsk with a superb goal on the run from Theo Walcott, but Donetsk struck back to win 2-1 with Dmytro Chygrynskiy`s deflected header and a second from former Arsenal player Eduardo as Arsenal dropped points for the first time.
Defeat means Arsenal stay top of the group and should still go through but Donetsk are now level with them on nine points with Braga, who won 1-0 at eliminated Partizan Belgrade, on six.
Arsenal`s next match is at Braga on Nov. 23 and Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger will not want another slip-up then.