| Arsenal’s Robert Pires (left) and Fredrick Ljungberg look for an opening in front of the Roma goal during their Champions League match at Highbury in London Tuesday. (AP/PTI)
London: Barcelona beat Bayer Leverkusen 2-0 to reach the Champions League quarter finals on Tuesday but Inter Milan missed their chance to join them from Group A after drawing 2-2 at home with an inspired Newcastle United.
No team qualified from Group B after Arsenal were embarrassingly held 1-1 at Highbury by an AS Roma side down to 10 men for nearly 70 minutes and Ajax Amsterdam also drew 1-1 at home with Valencia in their second-phase clash.
Barcelona, who have won 12 and drawn one of their 13 Champions League games this season, became the third club to seal their place in the quarter finals after AC Milan and Manchester United.
Goals in each half from Javier Saviola and Frank de Boer against a Leverkusen side who have lost all five second-phase games ensured the Catalan club a smooth passage to the last eight.
Inter, on eight points, or Newcastle, on seven, will follow them after the final round of matches — with the Italians travelling to Leverkusen, on zero points, and Newcastle hosting manager Bobby Robson’s former club, Barcelona.
Inter’s match at San Siro was soured by racist taunts from the home supporters directed at Newcastle’s black players, while a flare was thrown from the second tier on to the visiting fans below. The racist taunts came just a week after Uefa launched a new anti-racism initiative in London.
On the pitch, Inter needed to draw on all their experience to cope with a determined display from Newcastle, who were twice ahead through close-range finishes from skipper Alan Shearer.
But Christian Vieri scored his first goal in Europe since December 2001 and Inter’s Colombian defender Ivan Cordoba headed a second equaliser in the 61st minute to send their qualifying hopes down to the wire next week.
Inter had crushed a 10-man Newcastle 4-1 in November but the return from suspension of Shearer and his strike-partner Craig Bellamy, who was red-carded in the match at St. James’ Park, transformed Robson’s team.
Group B is wide open with all four teams still able to qualify for the last eight. Ajax and Arsenal have seven points, while Valencia are on six and Roma on four.
Arsenal take their hopes to Valencia, while Roma are at home to Ajax in next week’s final matches of the second phase.
Among the wealth of possible permutations, the key for Ajax and Arsenal fans is that their teams need only a draw to be sure of qualifying, while Valencia and Roma both need to win.
Victory looked to have been a racing certainty for Arsenal Tuesday after skipper Patrick Vieira headed them into an early lead and Roma skipper Francesco Totti was shown the red card on 22 minutes for raising his arm in an aerial challenge on defender Martin Keown. But Antonio Cassano levelled in first-half stoppage time after some woeful defending by an Arsenal side who have not won at home in the Champions League since September.
Arsenal then squandered a host of chances as the scoring touch deserted Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp, Robert Pires, Francis Jeffers and Nwankwo Kanu, while Roma nearly snatched a win through substitute Vincenzo Montella in a late break.
Ajax needed a second-half equaliser from Petri Pasanen to earn a draw in a free-flowing match at the Amsterdam Arena. Valencia, who reached the finals of the Champions League in 2000 and 2001 took a first-half lead when Kily Gonzalez converted from the penalty spot. (Reuters)