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regular-article-logo Saturday, 24 February 2024

Arsenal hits six and advances in Champions League

Arsenal’s 6-0 rout of Lens on Wednesday ensured second-placed PSV Eindhoven also advanced from Group B to the round-of-16

AP/PTI, Reuters Geneva Published 01.12.23, 08:23 AM
Representational image.

Representational image. File picture

Arsenal scored six to advance in the Champions League as group winners and Manchester United stayed last in their group despite again scoring three times away from home.

Arsenal’s 6-0 rout of Lens on Wednesday ensured second-placed PSV Eindhoven also advanced from Group B to the round-of-16. PSV’s second-half rally to win 3-2 at Sevilla was clinched by US forward Ricardo Pepi in stoppage time.

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There are now 12 confirmed teams in the round-of 16-draw on December 18 and Man United are in serious danger of missing out.

The three-time European champions led by two goals after 18 minutes at Galatasaray and 3-2 early in the second half but was pegged back again in a wild 3-3 draw.

United only do topsy-turvy road games in Europe this season after 4-3 losses at group winners Bayern Munich and second-places Copenhagen.

A hat-trick of three-goal games on their travels has brought just a single point back for Ten Hag’s players, who need to beat Bayern at Old Trafford in two weeks’ time.

Only four other Champions League teams this season have scored more than United’s 12-goal total and they all top their groups and have advanced to the knockout phase.

Real Madrid are one of them after a 4-2 win over second-placed Napoli ensured the record 14-time champions will finish atop Group C.

Teams that top their standings are seeded in the round-of-16 draw on December 18 and avoid other group winners like defending champions Manchester City. Teams also cannot be drawn against opponents from their own country.

Bayern drew 0-0 with Copenhagen, one of two games with no goals on a night when the other six games delivered 31. Real Sociedad were held 0-0 by Salzburg to set up a last-game showdown with second-placed Inter Milan at San Siro for the top spot in Group D. Both Sociedad and Inter already advanced three weeks ago.

Inter produced the night’s other second-half fightback in a 3-3 draw at Benfica, who wasted a three-goal lead at half-time earned by Joao Mario’s hat-trick against his former club.

Braga drew 1-1 with Union Berlin and can still advance by winning at Napoli on December 12.

Gift to football

Jude Bellingham was a standout again for Real Madrid in what is becoming the 20-year-old England star’s routine excellence this season.

Bellingham scored Madrid’s second goal against Napoli to make it four goals in four Champions League games for his new club and provided an assist for Joselu in stoppage time.

It was Bellingham’s 15th goal in 16 games in all competitions for Real this season, making him the first player in the club’s history to score in each of his first four European Cup games.

The Englishman has outdone last season’s tally of 14 in 42 games with Borussia Dortmund and has surpassed the achievements of Real heroes Cristiano Ronaldo, Alfredo Di Stefano and Pruden Sanchez, who scored 13 goals in their first 15 games, and Ferenc Puskas, who had 11.

“Bellingham is a gift to football, not just this club,” Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti said. Rodrygo and academy player Nico Paz, 19, also scored.

Goals galore

Arsenal took the lead in the 13th minute with a scrappy goal from Kai Havertz, before Gabriel Jesus doubled the lead.

Bukayo Saka drove the knife in with a third in the 23rd minute and Gabriel Martinelli twisted the knife with a curled shot that left Lens goalkeeper Brice Samba diving at thin air.

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