The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Celta, Sparta ensure berths
- CHAMPIONS LEAGUE - Nistelrooy equals Law’s 28-goal European scoring record for United

London: There were protests in Madrid and Gelsenkirchen but no-one was complaining in Vigo and Prague as four of the eight Champions League first-round groups ended on Tuesday.

Rejoicing Celta Vigo and Sparta Prague upset the odds to ensure their qualification for the knockout phase of the competition which starts at the end of February.

Vigo scored a memorable 2-1 win over European Champions AC Milan at the San Siro to grab second place in Group H and make the last 16 ahead of Club Brugge and Ajax Amsterdam. Jesuli (42) and Jose Ignacio (71) scored for Celta after Brazilian youngster Kaka had put a Milan side without seven regulars into a 41st-minute lead.

Brugge beat Ajax 2-1 to finish third and take a consolation Uefa Cup spot while Ajax crashed out.

Despite their second successive home defeat in the competition, Milan finished top with 10 points followed by Celta Vigo (nine), Brugge (eight) and Ajax (six). Sparta scored deep into stoppage time with a header from substitute Marek Kincl to beat Lazio 1-0 in Group G and edge Besiktas out of second place behind Chelsea.

Manchester United clinched first place in Group E with a 2-0 win at Old Trafford over VfB Stuttgart to finish with 15 points, three ahead of the German side who also progress.

Dutch striker Ruud van Nistelrooy headed the English champions’ opener in first-half stoppage time to equal Denis Law’s 28-goal European scoring record for the club. It was Van Nistelrooy’s 51st goal in his last 52 matches at Old Trafford.

Ryan Giggs ended a typical solo run on goal with United’s second after 58 minutes.

Chelsea, like Milan already sure of their place in the next round, beat Besiktas 2-0 in neutral Gelsenkirchen, Germany to leave the Turkish side with a Uefa Cup spot. Lazio finished last.

Chelsea finished on 13 points, followed by Sparta (8), Besiktas (seven) and Lazio (five).

Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Wayne Bridge — with his first goal for the club — scored for Chelsea in the last 13 minutes but the match at the AufSchalke Stadium, the venue for the final next May, was held up for six minutes at the start of the second half.

Angry Turkish fans in the 55,000-plus crowd rained toilet rolls, fax rolls, newspapers and other missiles on to the pitch in protest at Uefa’s decision to switch the match from Istanbul. Uefa decided on that move after a spate of bombings in Turkey left 61 people dead.

Swedish referee Anders Frisk was forced to delay the re-start, ordering the players back to the dressing rooms until the paper was cleared. Besiktas now face a Uefa fine for their fans’ behaviour.

There was also a protest at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid where Real Madrid and Porto, already qualified from Group F, played out a leisurely 1-1 draw after Santiago Solari scored early for Real and Derlei Silva equalised.

With the score at 1-1 and 10 minutes played in the second half, a man ran on to the pitch wearing a shirt emblazoned with the words ‘I want justice’ and chained himself to the goal.

The game was stopped for around a minute while security guards broke the chain with some heavy-duty wire cutters before bundling the protester off the pitch.

Real took first place with 14 points, followed by Porto on 11.

Olympique Marseille pipped Partizan Belgrade to the Uefa Cup spot in the same group after a 1-1 draw in Belgrade.

Panathinaikos won 3-1 at Rangers for their first victory in the same group but that was good enough to lift them above the Scottish team on their head-to-head record and into the Uefa Cup.

The first phase of the competition ends on Wednesday with the sixth and final matches in Groups A-D. The draw for the knockout stage is on Friday.

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