Football Article

Champions League Group Stage Review

Champions League Group Stage Review Photo: TT

Ahead of Monday’s draw for the Champions League pre-quarter-finals, SportsPundit looks back on how the 16 teams progressed from the group stage and into the last 16.

Group A

Manchester United won the group without losing a single match. David Moyes’s side were largely convincing as they mustered 14 points from six matches, four of which ended in victories for the Red Devils.

Bayer Leverkusen pipped Shakhtar Donetsk to the runners-up spot, thanks to a final matchday win at Real Sociedad that helped them finish with 10 points but with a -1 goal difference.

Group B

Real Madrid are one of the firm favourites to win the Champions League this season and they proved just that by bagging Group B without looking troubled at all. 16 points from six matches meant that Carlo Ancelotti’s won the group with ease and with a goal difference of +15, with star forward Cristiano Ronaldo scoring nine goals – a new Champions League group-stage record.

Galatasaray and Juventus were left to fight for the second spot in Group B and in the end it was the Turkish giants who managed to edge their way into the last 16. It wasn’t without a dose of controversy, though, as on the final matchday the two teams’ had their game postponed from Tuesday evening to Wednesday afternoon because of hail in Istanbul. In the end a Wesley Sneijder goal five minutes from full time in a match played under atrocious conditions saw the Turkish outfit progress at the expense of the Italian champions.

Group C

Paris Saint-Germain made no mistake in wrapping up the winners’ spot in Group C, despite losing their final game 2-1 to Benfica in Portugal. By then Laurent Blanc’s side had already sealed their progress to the last 16, thanks to Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s eight goals. The Ligue 1 champions finished with 13 points from six matches and a goal difference of +11.

Olympiakos and Benfica both ended the group with 10 points, but it was the Greek heavyweights who find themselves in Monday’s draw for the knockout stages. Javier Saviola scored twice at home as they overcame the already knocked out eight-man Anderlecht 3-1 on Matchday 6, although the Athens side could have rued their two missed penalties. Benfica won 2-1 against PSG at home, but in the end it did not prove enough.

Group D

In the end just a goal proved to be the difference between first and second as Manchester City just failed to pip Bayern Munich to the pole position in Group D. Before Matchday 6, Bayern have 15 points from five matches, while Manuel Pellegrini’s side had 12. The Premier League giants had to win by at least two clear goals to win the group, which they narrowly failed as they registered a 3-2 comeback victory to inflict on Pep Guardiola’s team their first defeat in any competition all season.

Group E

Chelsea were expected to win Group E and they did just that, but it was far from convincing. The Blues scored 12 goals in six matches and conceded only three, but Jose Mourinho’s side still left more to be desired. A 1-0 victory over Steaua Bucharest at Stamford Bridge on the final matchday saw the 2012 European champions progress to the last 16 as group winners.

Schalke finished runners-up with 10 points, six goals scored and six goals conceded. The Bundesliga outfit welcomed Basel still uncertain of their place in the last 16 of the competition, but two goals in the space of seven second-half minutes against a 10-man Swiss side proved enough for them to book their spot in the next phase.

Group F

Borussia Dortmund, Arsenal and Napoli all finished Group F with 12 points from six matches, but the Italian outfit were knocked out of the Champions League and into the Europa League. Heading into the final matchday, Arsenal needed to lose 3-0 or more to Napoli in Naples to bow out of the competition, while Rafael Benitez’s hosts had to better the result that Borussia Dortmund would earn against Marseille in France.

When Napoli went 1-0 ahead against the Gunners at the Stadio San Paolo on 73 minutes, they were actually heading into the last 16 as 10-man Borussia Dortmund were being held 1-1 at Marseille. However, Kevin Grosskreutz put the German giants 2-1 up with three minutes left to play and that pretty much knocked the wind out of Napoli’s sails.

There was yet more drama in Italy, though, as Jose Maria Callejon scored in the final minute of injury time to make it 2-0 to Napoli, which meant that one more goal from the hosts would knock Arsenal out. However, Arsene Wenger’s side held on for the final few seconds of the contest to go through as Group F runners-up behind Dortmund, meaning that Napoli became the first team in the history of the Champions League not to qualify from the group stage despite bagging 12 points.

Group G

Zenit St Petersburg also created group-stage history but something that they might not be proud of. The Russian giants progressed to the last 16 with a record-lowest point tally of just six. Luciano Spalletti’s side endured a 4-1 drubbing by Austria Vienna away from home on the final matchday, but that still proved to be enough as Porto, the only other side in the group with a chance of going through as runners-up, went down 2-0 to Atletico Madrid in Spain.

Porto finished with five points – as many as Vienna, while Atletico won Group G with 16 points from six matches – five wins, a draw, 15 goals scored and just three conceded.

Group H

Barcelona had not won Group G when they took on Scottish champions Celtic at Camp Nou on Matchday 6, but they did triumph and in style. Summer signing Neymar scored a sensational hat-trick as the Spanish champions hammered the Glasgow club 6-1 to wrap up their group-stage campaign with 13 points from six matches.

AC Milan finished second but only just, ending with nine points – just one clear of Ajax in third. The Italian outfit had midfielder Riccardo Montolivo sent off in the first half and had to hold on for a goalless draw to edge past the Dutch giants, who had to settle for a place in the Europa League.

Subhankar mondal
Sports Pundit staff writer @subhankarjourno
A football journalist who lives and breathes the game. Has extensive experience in the industry

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