It is time for Last-16 action in this season’s UEFA Champions League. After Group-stage games ended on Match-Day 6 on December 6 and 7, winners and runners-up from 8 Groups have progressed to two-legged matches that will throw up the quarterfinalists. Some games on last Match-Day produced new winners but in the most talked about game, Porto thrashed Group G winners Leicester city 5-0 to hand them their worst defeat in a European game. Arsenal topped Group-A with a superb 4-1 win over Basel while Paris Saint-Germain had to remain content as runners-up after a 2-2 home draw with last-placed Ludogorets. In the uncertain Group-B, Napoli finished as winners with a 2-1 victory over Benefica, who were runners-up. FC Barcelona finished as Group-C winners and handed a 4-0 thrashing to Borussia Monchengladbach while Manchester City finished second. In Group-D, Bayern Munich defeated Atletico Madrid 1-0 but still finished runners-up to the Spanish side. In Group-E, Monaco had already assured the top finish but lost 0-3 to runners-up Bayer Leverkusen on Thursday. Borussia Dortmund finished as Group-F winners after drawing 2-2 with Real Madrid. Juventus topped Group H with a 2-0 victory over Dinamo Zagreb and Sevilla finally made it to last 16 by holding Lyon to a goalless draw.
A happy Arsene Wenger saw his team Arsenal topping Group A with a 4-1 away-win over Basel. For Arsenal, Lucas Perez emerged as the hat-trick hero with goals in 8th, 16th, and 47th minutes while Alex Iwombi scored another in 53rd. The home team cut the deficit in 78th minute through substitute Doumbia. In this Group, Paris Saint-Germain drew 2-2 with Ludogorets and lost their chance of topping the Group. In Group-B, the winner and runners-up were both decided on Match-Day 6. Italy’s Napoli topped the Group with two goals scored by Jose María Callejon (60th minute) and Dries Mertens (79th minute) against Benefica, who reduced the deficit in 87th. But Benefica’s second place could only be decided after Dynamo Kiev thrashed Besiktas 6-0 later on the same day. In Group C, winners Barcelona routed Borussia Moenchengladbach 4-0. After Messi put his side ahead in 16th minute, an excellent Arda Turan became another Match-Day 6 hat-trick hero with goals in 50th, 53rd and 67th minutes. The second place in Group C was taken by Manchester City, who drew 1-1 with Celtic.
In Group D, Atletico Madrid finished as winner despite losing 0-1 to Bayern Munich, who ended Atletico’s hopes of a clean sweep. For Bayern, Robert Lewandowski produced an amazing 25-meter free-kick in 28th minute. Similarly in Group E, Monaco, who had already guaranteed themselves the top-finish, 0-3 to second-placed Bayer Leverkusen. Germans’ stylish finish came from goals by Vladlen Yurchenko (30th minute) and Julian Brandt (48th minute). The third goal was a gift as an 82nd minute penalty by Leverkusen’s Wendell first hit the bar’s underside and then it struck Monaco goalkeeper De Sanctis before rolling into the goal. In Group F, Borussia Dortmund disappointed Real Madrid at Bernabeu with two second-half goals that drew their match 2-2. Earlier, Karim Benzema had scored from a beautiful pass by Carvajal in 28th minute and doubled his and Madrid’s tally in 53rd. Just when the home side looked like finishing as Group winners, Dortmund’s spirited play first cut the deficit through Aubameyang in 60th minute and 2 minutes from fulltime, they drew, when Reus chipped in with another goal to take Dortmund to the top. Group G provided the most amazing outcome, where FC Porto scored a rousing 5-0 win over Leicester city. It was the EPL side’s worst defeat in Champions League. For Porto, it was a must-win game to advance to the Last-16 but did it in style. After Andre Silva headed home in 6th minute, a stunning volley from Jesus Corona in 26th minute made it 2-0. The third goal was a brilliant effort from Yacine Brahimi, who back-heeled Maxi Pereira’s cross in 44th minute. It became 4-0, when Diogo Jota ran almost solo in 77th minute to finish on target. Porto earned a 64th minute penalty that allowed Silva to double his tally and complete Leicester city’s rout. But Leicester still finished as Group winners. In Group H, Juventus finished as winners with a 2-0 victory over Dinamo Zagreb. Gonzalo Higuain scored the opener in the 52nd minute and Daniele Rugani scored in 73rd minute. By drawing 0-0 with Lyon, Sevilla finished second.
Now the teams wait for the last-16 draw on December 12 at Nyon. The Group winners will be matched against runners-up with a condition that no teams can play a club from their own Group or any sides from their own associations. That precludes the possibility of another El Clasico so soon because belonging to the same association, Group C winners Barcelona cannot play against Group F runners-up Real Madrid. Regardless, the draw is curiously awaited as it could still reveal interesting two-legged duels in the third and fourth weeks of February 2017 and in first fortnight of March 2017.
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