Barcelona became the first club to qualify for the knockout rounds of the 2018/19 UEFA Champions League after a 1-1 draw in Italy against Inter Milan assured passage into the Round of 16.
The result, coupled with Tottenham Hotspur’s come-from-behind win over PSV Eindhoven, sets up an intriguing finish in Group B – but no group is quite as tantalisingly poised as Group C, with Red Star Belgrade’s shock defeat of Liverpool leaving all four teams separated by just two points.
Napoli and PSG played out a second draw in as many weeks in the group’s other fixture, while Atletico Madrid were able to put behind the scars of a 4-0 thumping in Germany by downing Borussia Dortmund 2-0.
Barca Through, Kane Double Keeps Spurs Alive
Late drama was a common feature to the night’s two Group B clashes.
Still without the injured Lionel Messi, Barca scored the night’s first goal with only seven minutes left to play in Milan – summer signing Malcom netting his first competitive goal for the club – but their hopes of securing top spot along with qualification were halted through an 87th-minute goal from Argentine striker Mauro Icardi. The point ensures that Inter can reach the Champions League knockouts for the first time since 2012 with a draw against Tottenham Hotspur in their next fixture on 28 November.
Spurs relied on a late flourish from their captain, Harry Kane, to retain their slender hopes of qualification. Trailing 1-0 with 12 minutes left on the clock at Wembley to a 2nd-minute header from Luuk de Jong, the North Londoners were staring at a group-stage exit. But the World Cup Golden Boot winning forward had other ideas, and turned his team’s fortunes around with two goals in the space of 11 minutes.
Tottenham trail Inter by 3 points ahead of the Italians’ visit to London, and currently occupy third spot in the group with a win, a draw and two losses so far.
Red Star Leave Klopp’s Reds Red-Faced
Liverpool let slip an advantageous position in Group C – and, in fact, set up a nervy finish for themselves in the race for the knockouts by failing to find their gears on their trip to Serbia. Instead, Milan Pavkov’s twin strike in the space of seven first-half minutes provides a dramatic turn to events in the group. Jurgen Klopp’s Reds, while nowhere close to their best, weren’t aided by fortune either – the woodwork twice came to Red Star Belgrade’s rescue in the second half, where last season’s runners-up held 80% of the ball.
A second successive draw between Napoli and PSG means that while the Serbians still sit bottom of the group, they are only two points adrift of the top – presently jointly-held by Napoli and Liverpool.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side had been denied three points on their trip to Paris in October by a stoppage-time screamer from Angel di Maria, but this time around it was the Italians who snatched a point through Lorenzo Insigne’s second-half penalty after left-back Juan Bernat had put PSG ahead on the stroke of half-time.
Atletico Avenge Dortmund Demolition, Henry’s Monaco Out
In Group A, Atletico Madrid redeemed themselves after a 4-0 thumping at Borussia Dortmund – their heaviest defeat under Diego Simeone – by prevailing 2-0 as the in-form Germans came visiting at the Wanda Metropolitano in Madrid. Antoine Griezmann found the net on his 50th Champions League appearance to settle the tie ten minutes from the final whistle, following on from Saul’s early goal in the first half, to hand Bundesliga leaders Dortmund their first defeat across competitions this season.
Elsewhere, Monaco – managed by French legend Thierry Henry – were knocked out of the competition with a 4-0 mauling at the hands of Club Brugge. Neither side had won a single game in the competition so far, but the Belgians capitalised on a hapless Monaco to virtually assure a spot in the Europa League as the third-placed finisher from the group. 41-year-old Henry remains winless after five matches in-charge, with the 2016/17 French champions tasting defeat in three of them.
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