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UCL Wrap: Mohamed Salah breaks Liverpool record; Real, Gladbach advance

Mohamed Salah pounced on a loose back-pass to run through from near the halfway line and poke the ball through the legs of the goalkeeper for his 22nd goal in the UEFA Champions League,.

By: AP | Updated: December 10, 2020 2:37:43 pm
Mohamed Salah celebrates scoring a goal with teammates. (Reuters)

Mohamed Salah eclipsed Steven Gerrard as Liverpool’s top scorer in the Champions League by netting after 55 seconds — another club record — in a 1-1 draw against FC Midtjylland on Wednesday.

Salah pounced on a loose back-pass by Alexander Scholz to run through from near the halfway line and poke the ball through the legs of the goalkeeper for his 22nd goal in the Champions League,.

Already qualified as Group D winner, Liverpool rested a number of key players — though Salah played the whole game — and Midtjylland capitalized by taking the game to the English champions in the second half.

After Evander struck the crossbar with a fierce shot, Scholz earned Midtjylland the second point of its first ever group-stage campaign by converting a 62nd-minute penalty following a foul on Anders Dreyer by Liverpool goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher.

Both teams had goals disallowed in final minutes, Midtjylland for offside and Liverpool for a handball against Sadio Mane. It was not the best advert for video technology, with long delays over three second-half goal incidents contributing to eight minutes of stoppage time.

Highlights:

The awarding of the penalty was contentious, with referee Francois Letexier having blown for a free kick for offside as Dreyer was brought down. VAR advised the official to go to the pitchside monitor and the Frenchman subsequently awarded a spot kick from which Scholz scored.

Midtjylland finished in last place, five points behind Ajax, which lost 1-0 to Atalanta on Wednesday as the Italian side joined Liverpool in the last 16.

Real Madrid and Gladbach advance

Real Madrid Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema celebrates after scoring against Monchengladbach. (AP)

After a difficult group stage, Real Madrid found its familiar swagger to easily avoid an early elimination from the Champions League.

Borussia Mönchengladbach, though, had to endure a few nervous minutes before being able to celebrate reaching the knockout stages for the first time in the Champions League era.

Karim Benzema scored two first-half goals as Madrid beat Mönchengladbach 2-0 on Wednesday to win Group B. But the German team held on to second place thanks to a 0-0 draw between Shakhtar Donetsk and Inter Milan in a match that finished several minutes later in Italy.

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Gladbach players huddled by the bench after the match in the Spanish capital to watch the end of the game in Milan. A goal by either team would have kept the German club from advancing, but the players erupted in celebration when the final whistle was blown and their spot in the next round was secured.

“We were all nervous watching the other game on the iPad, but the joy was enormous when the final whistle went,” Gladbach captain Lars Stindl said. “This was our worst game of the group stages, but we’ve made it to the next round. We deserved to based on past performances.”

Highlights:

Gladbach players sang and jumped together for a few moments near midfield to celebrate at the empty Alfredo Di Stéfano Stadium in Madrid.

“I watched on after I got subbed off, but watching it as a whole team it was a wonderful moment,” Gladbach midfielder Christoph Kramer said. “Moments like that live long in the memory. It was absolutely incredible and the joy was uncontainable.”

Marseille out of Europe as Aguero scores in 3-0 City win

Sergio Aguero returned from his latest injury to score a poacher’s goal in Manchester City’s 3-0 win over Marseille in the Champions League on Wednesday, a result which ended the French club’s hopes of a third-place finish and Europa League qualification.

Making just his fifth appearance of an injury-hit season, Aguero scored 11 minutes after coming off the bench when he poked in a close-range finish in the 77th after Marseille goalkeeper Steve Mandanda only parried out a header from a corner.

That added to a clinical strike by Ferran Torres in the 48th and Raheem Sterling added a third in 90th as City — already qualified as the winner of Group C — finished on 16 points from five wins and a draw. That’s the most points City has earned in a group-stage campaign.

Highlights:

Marseille started the night in last place and needed to better the result of Olympiakos, which hosted Porto, to beat the Greek team to third spot and keep alive its European campaign.

Porto won 2-0, but Olympiakos finished ahead of Marseille courtesy of a superior head-to-head record.

Bayern finish unbeaten in group with 2-0 win vs Lokomotiv

Defending champion Bayern Munich finished its group stage unbeaten with a comfortable 2-0 win over Lokomotiv Moscow in the Champions League on Wednesday.

Goals from Niklas Süle and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting saw the hosts finish with 16 points from six games in Group A. That’s seven points more than Atlético Madrid, which secured second place with a 2-0 win at Salzburg. The Austrian team needed a win against Atlético to progress to the knockout stage and will have to settle for a Europa League place after finishing third in the group.

Bayern was already assured of top spot after four games, and its 15-match winning run was ended by Atlético in their 1-1 draw on the fifth matchday.

Highlights:

Coach Hansi Flick opted to rest star striker Robert Lewandowski, who had a minor muscular problem after the team’s 3-3 draw with Leipzig in the Bundesliga on Saturday.

Canadian youngster Alphonso Davies made his first start since recovering from an ankle injury sustained on Oct. 24.

Last-place Lokomotiv had the best chance in a lackluster first half but Leon Goretzka got in to block François Kamano’s shot minutes before the break. The Bayern midfielder then got up to lead a counterattack, but it ended with Thomas Müller shooting wide.

Bayern improved in the second half after Serge Gnabry came on for Müller. Süle’s header from a corner was stopped by Guilherme, who also did brilliantly to deny Gnabry.

Inter, Shakhtar out of CL after 0-0 draw

Inter Milan and Shakhtar Donetsk were both eliminated from the Champions League after drawing 0-0 at San Siro on Wednesday in their final group game.

Inter’s Lautaro Martínez went closest when he hit the crossbar early on but the Nerazzurri became the only Italian team not to progress. Atalanta advanced earlier Wednesday, joining Juventus and Lazio in the round of 16.

Inter failed to make it out of the group stage for the third straight year. But coach Antonio Conte, who has been in charge for two of those campaigns, seemed to blame refereeing decisions more than his players.

“Throughout this Champions League campaign we have not been fortunate with referees and the VAR,” Conte said. “Inter was not respected if you go back and look at all the situations that were not checked.”

Inter is out of all European competition after finishing bottom of the group, while Shakhtar will go into the Europa League. The Ukrainian side finished level on points with second-place Borussia Mönchengladbach but had a worse head-to-head record.

Atlético beat Salzburg 2-0

Yannick Carrasco scored late to seal a 2-0 win for Atlético Madrid’s at Salzburg on Wednesday that sent the Spanish team into the Champions League knockout stage.

The Belgian forward’s 86th-minute goal ensured Atlético finished second in Group A, seven points behind defending champion Bayern Munich, which defeated Lokomotiv Moscow 2-0 at home at the same time.

Salzburg, which finished third in the group, needed a win against Atlético to progress to the knockout stages at the Spanish side’s expense.

But Atlético relied on luck at times as Mergim Berisha and Enock Mwepu both struck the post for Salzburg.

Berisha set the tone for the game when he struck the post in the second minute.

The home side maintained its early pressure and Dominik Szoboszlai – reportedly a winter target for the likes of Leipzig and Real Madrid – drew a good save from Jan Oblak in the 16th.

Marcos Llorente went close as Atlético finally responded in the 24th, and the visitors went on to score through Mario Hermoso in the 39th.

Atalanta beat Ajax 1-0 to progress

Substitute Luis Muriel put Atalanta into the knockout stage of the Champions League on Wednesday, scoring in the 85th minute to secure a 1-0 win over 10-man Ajax and clinch second place in Group D.

As Ajax pressed forward in search of the victory it needed to progress, Remo Freuler won the ball in midfield and quickly passed to Muriel who rounded goalkeeper André Onana and slid the ball into the net.

The goal came shortly after teenage midfielder Ryan Gravenberch was sent off following a second booking.

Atalanta finished two points behind Liverpool in Group D. The English champion was already assured of top spot before it was held to a 1-1 draw at Midtjylland. Ajax finished third in the group and has to settle for a Europa League spot.

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