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Draws for Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United allowed two English Premier League teams to clinch first place in their UEFA Champions League groups, while a win at Benfica allowed Bundesliga side Schalke to do the same in Group B. Barcelona had already won Group D, but a convincing victory for FC Copenhagen saw the Danish champions to secure the group's other knock-out stage spot.
Those five clubs will be joined by Valencia, Lyon and holders Inter Milan in the tournament's knock out round, with the group stage ended for four groups today:
Tottenham Hotspur had the lead three times at Dutch champions Twente, with an own goal and two Jermain Defoe tallies taking them to one goal leads. Each time their hosts responded, first through Denny Landzaat, then Roberto Rosales, and finally Nacer Chadli. Twente, who had proven difficult throughout group stage, earned a point from Tottenham with a 3-3 draw.
That point was enough to earn Spurs first place after a depleted Inter Milan side lost 3-0 at Werder Bremen. Goals by Sebastian Prodl, Marko Arnautovic and substitute Claudio Pizarro gave the Germans their first victory of group stage while leaving the holder one point behind Spurs.
Schalke has stumbled throughout the Bundesliga season, but today's 2-1 win in Lisbon keeps them top of Group B with 13 points, safely holding of Lyon, who were drawn 2-2 at Stade Gerland by Hapoel Tel Aviv. Schalke got goals from Jurado and Benedikt Höwedes, with Luisão's late goal for Benfica proving consolation. Lyon needed a late goal of their own from Alexandre Lacazette for preserve a draw with Hapoel, who missed out on Europa League thanks to their late capitulation.
Manchester Untied gave up their first goal of the tournament, a first half tally for Pablo Hernández. In the second period, Anderson put hom a rebound of a Park Ji-Sung shot, giving United a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford, sealing first place in Group C. Valencia stays second.
Rangers and Bursaspor were already locked into third and fourth before they met today, but with Sercan Yildrim's late equalizer of Kenny Miller's opener, the Turkish champions got the first point in their Champions League history. Rangers head to Europa League with six points.
Barcelona got goals from Andreu Fontàs and Victor Vázquez, exercising a demon from last year by defeating Rubin Kazan, 2-0. Rubin had knock-off Barça at the Nou Camp in last year's group stage. Like last year, the Russian club heads for Europa League with a third pace finish.
That means FC Copenhagen has moved into the knockout stage, defeating Panathinaikos 3-1 in Denmark. Pana finishes group stage winless, accumulating only two points after being one of the pre-tournament favorites to go through to the knock-out stage with Barcelona.
It's been an active day from Anderson, the Manchester United midfield putting in his best shift of the season. A scoring chance in the first half fell victim to some pedestrian finishing, but pouncing on a rebound in the second, the Brazilian midfielder has drawn United even with Valencia.
The chance came in the 62nd minute, with a rocket shot from 22 yards out by Park Ji-Sung barely being kept out. Unfortunately for Los Che, Anderson was there to play the rebound, putting the ball back from 8 yards out to bring United even, 1-1.
If the current score hold, Manchester United will win Group C with 14 points. Furthermore, if the match is won by Valencia, 2-1, the Spaniards will go through on away goals scored in matches between the two sides, Valencia winning that tiebreaker 2-1.
As of now, that scenario is not in play, with the current 1-1 giving United first place, should it hold.
They did it last year, so there's no reason to think the holders can't overcome a second place, group stage placing this season. That necessity is looking more and more likely for Inter Milan, with the Nerazzurri having gone down two goals to Werder Bremen.
The goal came in the 49th minute, building on Werder's first half goal from Sebastian Prodl. Hugo Almeida, from wide on the right flank, swung a ball for his strike partner Mark Arnautovic. The Bremen forward took the cross on the volley, beating Paolo Orlandoni for the Germans' second goal.
Werder Bremen came into today's match winless, having already clinched last place in Group A. Against a Inter Milan team decimated by injury, the Germans look set to salvage some semblance of pride, with Inter rarely threatening their hosts.
Elsewhere: Copenhagen has all but sealed second place in Group D, going up 2-0 on visiting Panathinaikos while Barcelona's taken a 1-0 lead over Rubin Kazan at the Nou Camp. Copenhagen came into the day with a one point lead on Rubin, but with Jesper Gronkjaer's 50th minute conversion from the spot, Denmark's champions look set to advance to the knockout stage. Barcelona's goal came from Andreu Fontas, the defender's second with the club.
With Internazionale struggling in Bremen, today's match in Enschede is looking increasingly meaningless. That doesn't mean it lacks for entertainment, with Twente and Tottenham Hotspur trading goals in the first 11 minutes after half time. Now in the 60th minute, Twente and Spurs are drawn 2-2.
The second half's goal started with Spurs and Jermain Defoe. The Tottenham striker, still returning from early season ankle problems, was the recipient of a pass from Aaron Lennon, the substitute winger cutting a ball back from the right side. Defoe came onto the ball and beat Sander Boschker two minutes into half, giving Spurs a temporary lead.
Ten minutes later, a brilliant header from Roberto Rosales equalized for Twente. Rising onto a cross from the left flank, Rosales powered a ball to Heurelho Gomes's left post from 14 yards out, leaving the score tied 2-2.
In all likelihood, though, this match does not matter. Inter Milan is trailing at Bremen, meaning Spurs can take first place regardless of the outcome in Enschede. Twente is already locked into third.
The final round of UEFA Champions League group play is underway, with Group C ready to change leaders, should results hold. FC Copenhagen is en route to the knockout stage, while Tottenham Hotspur's on track to win Group A in their first Champions League appearance.
And early and unfortunate own goal from FC Twente was pulled back not once but twice from Denny Landzaat, with his second attempt from the spot counting after the initial score had been called-off. Spurs go to halftime drawn with the Dutch champions 1-1, with Jermaine Jenas having tobe replaced early by Aaron Lennon after suffering an apparent injury.
In Bremen, Werder has converted from a corner kick, sending Inter Milan to half down 1-0. Inter has a chance to jump Spurs for Group A's first place, but Rafa Benitez's injury-riddled team is on course for second place. Last year, Inter lost their group to Barcelona en route to winning Champions League.
Jurado has put Schalke up on Lisbon, putting Portugal's champions at risk of missing out on Europa League. For that to happen, Hapoel would have to win at the Stade Gerland. Lyon has taken the Israel champions to halftime scorless. If results hold, Schalke would win the group, coming into today's matches with a one point lead over OL.
Pablo Hernández became the first player to score against Manchester United in this year's Champions League, beating Ben Amos near the half hour mark to give Los Che a 1-0 halftime lead. Wayne Rooney has gone closest for United, hitting the post, while Nani, Dimitar Berbatov and Park Ji-Sung have also had scoring chances.
Rangers are ahead 1-0 in Bursa against Bursaspor, the day's only dead rubber. Rangers are locked into third place, while Bursa is hoping to avoid the ignominious distinction of going without a point through group play's six rounds.
Barcelona and Rubin Kazan are scoreless at halftime at Camp Nou in a match that means nothing to the Spanish champions. Rubin would need a win and some help from Panathinaikos to advance, but with the Greek champions trailing 1-0 in Denmark. FC Copenhagen in on track to join Barcelona in the tournament's knockout round.
Werder Bremen have yet to win in this year's Champions League, part of a disappointing campaign that's seen them eliminated from even Europa League contention after five rounds. As such, today's match with Internazionale is for nothing but pride, but that may be enough motivation against a depleted Inter side that's has to start midfielder Esteban Cambiasso in central defense.
Those deficiencies may have led to Sebastian Prodl, in the 29th minute, heading Werder in front. Converting a corner kick, Prodl ran onto an out-swinging ball from the right of goal, meeting it near the spot. The center half power the ball down toward the middle of goal, giving Werder the lead.
Inter needs to out-perform Tottenham Hotspur today if they're to win Group A, but with Spurs drawn 1-1 at Twente, the Nerazzurri need two goals or help from the Dutch champions to jump Tottenham. With few first choice players in his team, Rafa Benitez may be looked to survive the match as much as win it.
Valencia has taken the lead on Manchester United just part the half hour mark, becoming the first team to score on United in this year's Champions League. Pablo Hernández, beating Ben Amos through the goalkeeper's legs, gave Valencia a lead in the 31st minute at Old Trafford.
The chance came after a turnover from Michael Carrick ten yards into the United midfielder's own half. The ball was picked up by Alejandro Domínguez who, racing to the edge of his box, rolled a left-footed pass to an oncoming Hernández, entering the box even with Amos's left post. The United `keeper raced off his line to cut down the unneeded angles, with Hernández beating him between his legs.
If this result stands, Valencia will finish even with United at the top of Group C and win the group on overall goal difference, one of the last tiebreakers. Should United win or draw, the Red Devils would win the group.
Tottenham Hotspur have returned Twente's gift, with Benoit Assou-Ekotto's 20th minute hand ball leading to Denny Landzaat's 22nd minute goal, pulling the hosts even, 1-1. An own goal from Twente in the 12th minute had given the hosts a dour start to the match, but with a little more drama than we normally see from a spot kick, Twente has equalized.
The drama came when the penalty kick was ordered retaken after Landzaat had converted the first. The referee judged that
Landzaat unnaturally stopped his run-up during a mid-approach hesitation a Twente player has encroached through the arc. The kick, originally put to Heurelho Gomes's right, was ordered retaken. Landzaat covered down the middle as the Spurs `keeper dove to his left.
Spurs need to out-perform second place Internazionale to secure Group A. Coming into the day in first place, Tottenham is trying to stay atop their group and avoid being drawn against the group winners come the Round of 16. With Internazionale in Bremen to take on Werder, Spurs need only get as many points as the tournament's holder to keep their spot atop Group A.
Elsewhere: Copenhagen, who can clinch second place in Group D with a win, has taken the lead on visiting Panathinaikos. Martin Vingaard has given the Danes a 26th minute lead. Rubin Kazan, playing in Barcelona, could overtake FCK with a win and a Copenhagen draw or loss, but with that match scoreless, Rubin is one step closer to Europa League.
Disaster has struck for Twente, with Tottenham Hotspur the beneficiaries. A backpass from defender Peter Wisgerhof rolled to `keeper Sander Boschker took a small wobble as the goalie attempted to play it. The ball skipped over the `keeper's foot and into net, giving Spurs a 1-0 lead in Enschede in the teams' UEFA Champions League match.
Tottenham can clinch first place in Group A with a win over the Dutch champions, who they beat earlier in the tournament when the teams met at White Hart Lane. Through the match's first 12 minutes, the teams had engaged in a long feeling out period before Boschker, normally Twente's back-up whiffed on Wisgerhof's pass.
The score will go down as an own goal for the defender, though there is little doubt as to who bares the responsibility. Now 20 minutes into the match, Spurs carry their gifted 1-0 lead.
Elsewhere: Rangers have taken a 1-0 lead in Bursa, with Kenny Miller putting the Scottish champions up on Bursaspor. Schalke has gotten an early lead in Lisbon, with Jurado putting Benfica down one in the 19th minute. Schalke clinches Group B with a win.
The final round of the UEFA Champions League group stage will lead people to concentrate on "dead rubbers," but rather than dwell on nuances of the format or regrets that you're not getting Mega Club FC versus FC Super Team, let's look for the drama. At the top, groups A, B, and C are still up-for-grabs, even if it's top two teams have been identified, but considering the likes of Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Chelsea and Real Madrid have already clinched their groups, the difference between first and second place is already pronounced. Win your group, you'll be drawn against the second place finishers. Slip - as Manchester United and Spurs can still do - and your Round of 16 life becomes problematic.
Between potential group wins and Europa League qualification, there is only one true dead rubber on Tuesday, which is not to say some matches aren't more meaningful than others. Matches in Lisbon and Manchester will have the most significance, while the race at the top of Group A, which will play out in Enschede and Bremen, may be more compelling, with a first time Champions League entrant looking to relegate the holders to the second pot:
All matches start a 2:45 p.m. Eastern time. Thank the WIkipedia community for the tables.
|Group A ||Pld||W||D||L||GF||GA||GD||Pts|
Matches: Twente versus Tottenham Hotspur; Werder Bremen versus Internazionale.
The two hosts have their futures set. Werder, hosting Inter, is out, and embarrassingly so considering they were expected to challenge Tottenham for second place. Spurs have put those low expectations behind them, fighting for first at Twente, the Dutch champions having nothing but fame to gain from the match.
Inter will be hoping for a sign of inexperience from Tottenham, but having won only one in six domestically, the Nerazzurri have greater worries. For instance, they're not actually very good right now.
Given Rafa Benítez's injury list, we're unlikely to see an uptick in form. Inter will be without (deep breath) Wesley Sneijder, Lucio, Julio Cesar, Maicon, Walter Samuel, Dejan Stankoivc, Coutinho, Joel Obi, Diego Milito and Cristian Chivu. Yeesh - how is going to play?
In contrast, Werder is relatively healthy. They'll miss Naldo but the rest of their major contributors are maybes at worst.
Tottenham are still without Younes Kaboul, Rafael van der Vaart, and Ledley King, though none of those absences will loom as large as Bryan Ruiz's. Twente's best player is out until mid-January with a knee injury.
|Group B ||Pld||W||D||L||GF||GA||GD||Pts|
|Hapoel Tel Aviv||5||1||1||3||5||8||−3||4|
Matches: Benfica versus Schalke; Lyon versus Hapoel.
Schalke is bearly out of the drop in to Bundesliga but can clinch this group with a win in Lisbon. Benfica's loss last round in Tel Aviv means they need a result to advance, though that assumes Hapoel can get points at the Stade Gerland.
Considering last year's Israel representative failed to get a point, Hapoel's practically trail blazing, though that doesn't mean they can get a result in Lyon, particularly with OL experiencing a minor resurgence. Expect Claude Puel's side to get three and force Schalke to win in Portugal.
The only major injury in Group B sees Lyon without Yoann Gourcuff, the French international suffering with a knee injury just as he was starting to show glimpses of his 2008-09 self. While OL is also without Cesar Delgado, they are getting Jeremy Toulalan and Cris back. Health won't be an excuse.
|Group C ||Pld||W||D||L||GF||GA||GD||Pts|
Matches: Manchester Untied versus Valencia; Bursaspor versus Rangers
Rangers' trip to Turkey is the day's only dead rubber, though Bursaspor will be remiss not to get their first Champions League win against the Scottish champions. During their first appearance in this competition, Bursa's put together one of the more ignominious campaigns in Champions League history. A point against an already Europa-bound Rangers will remove them from the debate of the worst UCL teams of the modern era, a discussion that's (probably inappropriately) limited to the teams that get no points.
Meanwhile, Valencia goes to Old Trafford, with the only thing separating these two sides is United's 1-0, second round win at the Mestella. That would hint Manchester United is favored in this one, but with Alex Ferguson's squad selection for Champions League group stage, it's hard to have too much confidence in the Red Devils. Ferguson's developed a habit of playing half a team at this stage of the competition, and while he started a strong team in Valencia, a draw being as good as a win might have the Untied manager planning for Monday's visit from Arsenal.
A half-team from Manchester United may meet a corresponding crew from Los Che, who have a handful of injury concerns ahead of today's match. David Navarro, Manuel Fernandez, Mehmet Topal and Jeremy Mathieu are all out, and with Valencia slumping out of the top four in the Primera Division, Unai Emery is facing a shift in priorities ahead of his England sojourn.
|Group D ||Pld||W||D||L||GF||GA||GD||Pts|
Matches: Barcelona versus Rubin Kazan; Copenhagen vs. Panathinaikos
It would have been nice if Rubin Kazan's return to the Nou Camp meant something for both teams, but given Barcelona's Group D partners, it wasn't meant to be. Barça clinched the group last round in Athens, increasing Rubin's chances to take second from Copenhagen. Those odds are still slim, however, given they need three in Cataluyna and Panathinaikos's first win of the tournament. Barring that (estimated) 40-to-1 shot coming home, Rubin's set for another trip to Europa League, a spot they've already been assured.
With Russia's season over, Rubin's alleviated of the Europe-domestic juggling act. Barcelona, however, will use today's match as a chance to rest the likes of Xavi, Daniel Alves, Pedro and David Villa. At least.
|A||Twente||Tottenham Hotspur||2-1, Spurs|
|Werder Bremen||Internazionale||2-1, Werder|
|Lyon||Hapoel Tel Aviv||2-0, Lyon|
|C||Manchester United||Valencia||1-0, United|
|D||Barcelona||Rubin Kazan||2-0, Barcelona|
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