| Juventus’ Edgar Davids gets the better of a challenge from Newcastle’s Andy O’Brien during their Champions League Group E match at St James’ Park on Wednesday. (AFP)
London: Manchester United, AC Milan and Barcelona eased into the second phase of the Champions League on Wednesday while 2001 winners Bayern Munich, quarter finalists in their previous six campaigns, are clinging on by their fingertips after another defeat.
Goals by midfielder Serginho and striker Filippo Inzaghi, his 10th in Europe this season, gave Milan a 2-1 San Siro win and a superb double over Bayern in Group G to move to 12 points.
The Germans remain on one point but are not yet out thanks to RC Lens’s surprise 3-1 win over Deportivo Coruna. Deportivo have six points with Lens on four.
Frank de Boer’s 76th minute goal was enough for Barcelona to beat Lokomotiv Moscow 1-0 in the Nou Camp, their fourth win in Group H. Club Bruges beat Galatasaray 3-1 to leapfrog their victims into second place on five points to the Turks’ four.
Manchester United, champions in 1999, also have a maximum 12 points thanks to a 3-2 away win over Olympiakos Piraeus in Group F, although they needed a late Paul Scholes goal after throwing away a 2-0 lead.
Last year’s runners-up Bayer Leverkusen continued their recovery with a second successive victory over Maccabi Haifa, 2-1 this time, to go second behind United on six points.
The German fans were unimpressed, booing their team after an uninspiring display that was settled by goals for Marko Babic and Juan either side of Nenad Pralija’s 53rd minute goal for the Israelis.
Olympiakos and Maccabi both have three points and remain in contention.
Juventus saw their lead in Group E wiped out as they lost 1-0 at Newcastle United after defender Andy Griffin got the English club’s first goal and first points of the competition. Juve remain on seven points along with Dynamo Kiev, 2-0 home winners over Feyenoord. The Dutch have five points with Newcastle on three.
Group G always looked as if it would be the tightest of the first phase but Milan have stormed through.
The new Serie A leaders went ahead in the 11th minute through Serginho, defender Michael Ternat equalising 12 minutes later.
Bayern, playing at the stadium where they lifted the trophy two seasons ago, made most of the running before they were caught out by the prolific Inzaghi in the 64th minute.
To get through Bayern now need to beat Deportivo away and Lens in Germany and hope Milan beat both.
Bayern coach Ottmar Hitzfeld refused to admit his side were out but accepted Franz Beckenbauer’s pronouncement that they needed ‘something close to a miracle’.
“But we still have a chance and we will give everything we can,” said Hitzfeld. “Our position in the group is certainly not equal to our performances. We have lost twice to Milan and to Deportivo but we had a lot of chances in those games and we played much better tonight.”
Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti admitted he was surprised to have qualified from such a tough group with two games to spare.
“No-one expected that in a group like this,” he said. “But we have done some great work since we got together on July 1 and it has gone well in both Europe and the League.”
Deportivo would have also been through with a win and looked on course to get it when they took an early lead at Lens through striker Roy Makaay.
However, three second-half goals by Adama Coulibaly, Daniel Moreira and Olivier Thomert turned the match round and earned the Frenchmen their first victory of the campaign.
Manchester United were cruising in Athens after shots by central defender Laurent Blanc and midfielder Juan Sebastian Veron had them 2-0 up after an hour.
Manager Alex Ferguson felt comfortable enough to take off David Beckham and Ryan Giggs, only to see Olympiakos quickly draw level with goals by Lampros Choutos and Predrag Djordvevic.
Midfielder Scholes spared his manager’s blushes with a stinging winner six minutes from time.
“I thought we were superb until that period when we lost the two goals,” said Ferguson.“It was a bit careless of us really.”
Barcelona manager Luis van Gaal refused to criticise his players after their lacklustre display against Lokomotiv.
“We deserved to win and there are not a lot of sides who can say they have won all their games in the Champions League,” said the Dutchman.