Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund ease into Champions League last 16
Holders Real Madrid and 2013 finalists Borussia Dortmund eased into the last 16 of this season`s Champions League with two group games to spare on Tuesday.
Paris: Holders Real Madrid and 2013 finalists Borussia Dortmund eased into the last 16 of this season`s Champions League with two group games to spare on Tuesday.
Madrid recorded their fourth win in four Group B games, and their 12th consecutive victory in all competitions, beating Liverpool 1-0 at the Santiago Bernabeu thanks to a first-half Karim Benzema goal.
Meanwhile, Dortmund shrugged aside their dreadful domestic form to maintain their perfect record in Group D, crushing Galatasaray 4-1 in Germany.
Elsewhere, Atletico Madrid and Bayer Leverkusen won to close in on qualification for the last 16 while Juventus, Basel and Benfica all recorded precious victories but Arsenal threw away a three-goal lead to draw 3-3 with Anderlecht in London.
Carlo Ancelotti`s Madrid utterly outclassed Liverpool in winning 3-0 at Anfield two weeks ago and a similar outcome appeared on the cards when visiting manager Brendan Rodgers named a side missing regulars such as captain Steven Gerrard and Raheem Sterling.
However, in the end the only goal of the game came in the 27th minute, Benzema converting a Marcelo cross at the back post.
That meant Cristiano Ronaldo remains on 70 Champions League goals for now, one short of the competition record still held by Madrid great Raul.
"I think we played well, albeit the tempo wasn`t that high," said Ancelotti, while Rodgers praised Liverpool`s display.
"I thought we were very unfortunate not to get something from the game. You see many teams come here and the game is over after 20 minutes. For our attitude and courage to play I thought we could have got at least a draw," he said.
Liverpool are now three points behind second-placed Basel, who crushed Ludogorets Razgrad 4-0 in Switzerland with Breel Embolo, Derlis Gonzalez, Shkelzen Gashi and Marek Suchy on target.
Dortmund followed up a 4-0 win away to Galatasaray in Turkey two weeks ago by defeating the same team 4-1 in the return fixture with Marco Reus, Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Ciro Immobile all finding the target before a Semih Kaya own-goal late on, with Hakan Balta grabbing a consolation for the visitors.
"That was very disciplined, the team had things under control from the first minute," said Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp, whose team will guarantee first place in their group with a draw at Arsenal in three weeks.Arsenal should also have clinched their place in the last 16 on Tuesday as a Mikel Arteta penalty and strikes by Alexis Sanchez and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain put them 3-0 up at home to Anderlecht.
However, the Belgian champions produced a remarkable comeback in the last half hour to rescue a draw, Anthony Vanden Borre scoring twice, including once from the penalty spot, before Aleksandar Mitrovic equalised in the last minute to keep them in the competition.
"We had some bad luck, the first goal (for Anderlecht) was offside but we had a lack of concentration and thought the game was won," Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said.
In Group A, last season`s runners-up Atletico closed in on qualification with a 2-0 win over Malmo in Sweden, Koke and Raul Garcia finding the net.
Meanwhile, there was drama in Turin, as Juventus came from behind to beat Olympiakos 3-2 to give their own hopes of going through a shot in the arm.Andrea Pirlo marked his 100th Champions League appearance with a trademark free-kick to put Juve ahead, but Alberto Botia and Delvin N`Dinga scored to swing the game in the Greek champions` favour.
A Roberto own-goal restored parity and Paul Pogba grabbed what proved to be the winner in the 65th minute, although Juve may yet come to regret seeing Arturo Vidal have a late penalty saved if goal difference plays a part in deciding who goes through to the last 16.
Leverkusen are in control of Group C thanks to an impressive 2-1 triumph against Zenit St Petersburg in Russia as South Korean star Son Heung-Min scored a second-half brace before substitute Jose Rondon`s consolation.
And Portuguese champions Benfica revived their European campaign by defeating Monaco 1-0 in Lisbon with a late Talisca strike.
The action continues on Wednesday, when Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona, Chelsea and FC Porto could all clinch their last-16 spots.