FC Barcelona clinched first place in UEFA Champions League Group H following an enthralling victory (2-3) against fellow round of 16 qualifiers AC Milan on San Siro on Wednesday night. Twice Milan wiped out Barcelona leads but Xavi Hernandez’s strike clinched victory and first place in Group H for the holders.
Xavi Hernandez’s 63rd-minute strike put an end to an exciting San Siro spectacle and earned the European champions a deserved victory. Milan had twice equalised, Zlatan Ibrahimovic scoring against his former employers after Mark van Bommel’s own goal and Kevin-Prince Boateng cancelling out Lionel Messi’s first-half penalty early in the second period. Yet they must settle for a runners-up seeding in the 16 December draw.
“The lads played a pretty good game tonight. In matches like this it is easy to make mistakes, but our performance was important for our morale and also to gauge where we are compared with other teams. If we had played differently I would have been less satisfied” Massimiliano Allegri, Milan coach told uefa.com after the game.
Josep Guardiola, said in his turn: “We competed well. We wanted to finish top of the group so that we have the opportunity to rest [ahead of the game against Real Madrid CF on 10 December]. (…) We played a great game. We took risks while attacking. We had a lot of the play and many chances but this is the San Siro and when you come to play at a stadium like this you start thinking beforehand about taking out an attacker and defending a bit more. At the end we opted to play the way we did”.
In Group G Shakhtar bowed out of Europe after surprisingly succumbing (0-2) against FC Porto. Denied by the woodwork in each half, Shakhtar succumbed to a composed finish from Hulk and a Razvan Rat own goal in the final 11 minutes.
Mircea Lucescu, Shakhtar coach told uefa.com: “I have to say sorry to our fans for the results we’ve recorded in this Champions League. We made quite a good start in the first match in Porto, but after we let in the second goal and lost two players because of red cards, it all went completely wrong. We couldn’t do anything right. That was the case today as well; we had an advantage in terms of ball control and scoring chances. We hit the post twice and if we could only score, the match would have been totally different. There are years when luck is just not on your side”.
Other results on Wednesday night in the CL Groups: Zenit – APOEL 0-0; BATE – Plzen 0-1; Arsenal – Dortmund 2-1; Leverkusen – Chelsea 2-1; Valencia – Genk 7-0; Marseille – Olympiakos 0-1.