London: The Champions League quarter finals feature a glittering array of Europe’s most successful clubs after the last three berths were filled on Wednesday.
Valencia, Ajax Amsterdam and Inter Milan all clinched their places in the last eight after a heart-thumping night of action that means seven of the eight clubs remaining have won the European Cup, while Valencia were runners-up in 2000 and 2001.
Valencia proved to have too much pedigree for Arsenal, whose French manager Arsene Wenger was convinced his side was one of the best in Europe, as they beat the English champions 2-1 in Spain to emerge at the head of the tightly-bunched Group B.
Ajax, who won the last of their four European Cups in 1995, became the first Dutch team through to the quarter finals since 1997. They drew 1-1 at AS Roma on Wednesday to sneak into second place in the group.
Valencia, who ensured their victory with two goals from Norwegian striker John Carew, topped the table with nine points, ahead of Ajax (8), Arsenal (7) and Roma (5).
A late goal or two in either match could have changed the Group B picture entirely and there was a nervous five minutes of stoppage time played in Valencia before the Spanish champions took their place alongside already-qualified domestic rivals Barcelona and Real Madrid.
With Barcelona already secure as Group A winners, the only issue to be decided in that section was whether Inter or Newcastle United went through with them. But the matter was more or less settled in a 25-minute period during which both Inter and Barcelona scored.
Once Inter went ahead at Bayer Leverkusen through reserve Nigerian teenage striker Obafemi Martins after 36 minutes, there was only one winner.
When Barcelona took the lead through Patrick Kluivert after 60 minutes at Newcastle the die was more or less cast.