Barcelona & Leipzig into next stage; Liverpool not yet

Messi scored in his 700th appearance for Barcelona. Credits: Quality Sport Images/Getty Images
Messi scored in his 700th appearance for Barcelona. Credits: Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Holders Liverpool are 1 point away to qualify for the Champions League knockout stage. Still, if they lose against Salzburg two weeks from now, Klopp’s squad might be in for a shock.

On the other hand, joining Tottenham, Manchester City and Real Madrid, who qualified yesterday, is Barcelona and Leipzig.

The ‘Blaugrana’ won convincingly against Borussia Dortmund and secured the top spot in Group F. The Germans had a dramatic extra-time equalizer, that secured them their first knockout stage ever.

The 4th match week of Champions League ends with 8 teams qualified for the round of 16. Spurs, City, Real, Barcelona, Leipzig, along with Juventus, PSG and Bayern Munich who made it already 2 weeks ago.

This Wednesday groups E, F, G and H were in action, with plenty of goals and incredible moments. Take a look.

Group E

Liverpool 1 x 1 Napoli

The current winners of the Champions League, Liverpool, will have to wait 2 more weeks to get into the next stage. For the second time this season, Napoli was a tough nut to crack and the Reds dropped points again.

In the away match at San Paolo, Liverpool debuted with a 2×0 defeat. Now, they were able to split the points, but due to Salzburg’s victory, there is still the possibility that they might not qualify.

Napoli has been struggling on Serie A table so far, being in 7th place at the moment, while Liverpool is cruising the Premier League. Well, the Italians seem to have their priorities sorted out as they once again surprised Liverpool with an early lead.

Besides the rumors that say Mertens is leaving Napoli in January, the Belgian keeps delivering. He found himself completely alone in front of Alisson, after a wide run through the right flank and he finished it sublimely.

Liverpool complained that Van Dijk had been fouled in the minutes that preceded the goal, by Mertens himself, but the VAR review approved the goal. Throughout the first half, they applied pressure, but Napoli’s aggressive approach blocked any of Liverpool’s attempts.

Yet, when Liverpool’s blistering attacking was uninspired, it was Dejan Lovren who stepped in. The Croatian center-back jumped higher than the Napoli defense during a corner and leveled the game.

The game ended with a 1×1 draw, putting Liverpool 1 point away from the next phase. However, if Salzburg causes an upset, Liverpool risks being out of the competition.

Adding to this scenario, Fabinho got injured in the first half after a collision with Lozano and he might be out for the next games. Trouble for Klopp?

Genk 1 x 4 Salzburg

The Austrians of RB Salzburg keep unstoppable in this season’s Champions League, with their wonderkid Erling Haaland scoring in all group stage matches. They battered Genk once again, after already winning them at home 6×2.

Patson Daka and Minamino took Salzburg to half time already with a comfortable lead of 2×0. In the second half, Hee-Chan Hwang scored for the 3rd time in this season’s competition, with an assist from Haaland.

The Belgians got some leverage with 5 minutes to go, through Mbwana Samata. The Tanzanian has 3 goals in UCL, despite Genk having not won a single game so far.

Well, if you thought Haaland was not scoring this time… you were wrong. In the 87th minute the Norwegian prodigy calmed the Salzburg’s fans, netting his 8th goal in 5 Champions League games.

With 27 goals in 19 games, across all competitions, the 19-year-old is showing off why most clubs in Europe are preparing a bid on him.

The result defined that Genk is eliminated from all European competitions, with Salzburg securing at least a place in Europa League. However, they can still get into the round of 16 if they defeat Liverpool at home.

Group F

Barcelona 3 x 1 Borussia Dortmund

Two coaches who have been scrutinized in the last months for their results, Valverde and Favre, went head to head in the matchday 5 of Champions League.

Still, the match was at the Camp Nou, where Barcelona has not lost in any competition yet (7 victories and 1 draw) and the ‘blaugrana’ had a convincing exhibition to secure their place in the next round.

Favre’s lineup raised some questions as he started the game with two usual fullbacks (Hakimi and Guerreiro) as wingers and Reus alone as forward. It did not work very well, as Barcelona explored the flanks and exposed the fragilities of Dortmund’s defense.

Still, in the early minutes, Hakimi forced Ter Stegen to a super save. In the rebound Umtiti, who replaced the suspended Pique, cleared the ball in the line.

Barcelona answered almost immediately with a goal, with Messi setting up Suarez, but the Uruguayan was ruled out for offside. Minutes later, same combination, but this time the goal was legal, was Suarez slid the ball through the legs of Burki.

The chemistry between Barcelona’s 9 and 10 produced another goal before the end of the first half. This time Suarez served Messi, who scored on his 700th appearance for Barcelona.

Barcelona tripled their lead when Messi, once again, set up Griezzman to run and finish. The Frenchman, who came on to replace the injured Dembele, scored his first Champions League goal this season.

Jadon Sancho scored a consolation goal for Dortmund, but the Germans ended up defeated. They need to win the next match and wait for Inter to slip, in order to go through. Barcelona secured the passport to the next stage and the first place in the group.

Slavia Praha 1 x 3 Inter Milan

After allowing a late comeback in the last matchday, against Dortmund, Inter were obligated to win the following game in Prague. They did so, taking away the dream of European football for the Czechs, but they will need to win against Barcelona to book their place.

Inter had a masterclass exhibition from former Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku, who scored and assisted twice. The Belgian setup Lautaro Martinez for his first goal and saw his own goal being disallowed minutes later, for a penalty claim on the other side.

Tomas Soucek leveled the match, converting the penalty kick and the draw would last until the 10 last minutes of the game. A miscalculated exit from the goal, left the keeper of Slavia Praha in shambles, as Lukaku was faster and cleared his way into the goal.

Two minutes later, Lukaku was in the spotlight again, as he made a superb curled assisted to Lautaro Martinez to score his second.

The Belgian forward still had time to put another one in the back of the net, but once again the VAR ruled it as illegal. 1×3 for Inter, their second victory in the group stages and in two weeks they will need to do it again against Barcelona, to guarantee the passage.

Group G

RB Leipzig 2 x 2 Benfica

Having only been in the Champions League twice in their short history, Leipzig qualified now for the first time for the knockout stages. They rescued a point in the compensation minutes against Benfica, throwing the Portuguese definitely out of the Champions League group stages.

Benfica for the first time in this campaign was actually the most dangerous team throughout the game and broke the deadlock in the first 20 minutes. Taarabt with the cross, Upamecano failed the interception and Pizzi scored.

Pizzi was close to the second before the halftime whistle when his effort hit the crossbar.

Then in the second half, the Liga NOS table leaders doubled their lead. Klostermann slipped, leaving Carlos Vinicius with an open road to the finish.

Seemed like the game was wrapped up and even more when Mvogo, who replaced Gulacsi as Leipzig’s goalkeeper, due to a head injury on the Hungarian, had to stretch to save what would be a banger.

Raul de Tomas tried a lobbed shot from the midfield, but the Swiss goalie was ready to stop it.

Then in extra time, Leipzig ended Benfica’s hopes. First Forsberg converted a penalty, due to a clear foul of Ruben Dias on Schick. 3 minutes later, the Swedish nodded in the equalizer, after a cross from Werner.

Benfica is out of the Champions League and will need to win for at least 2 or more goals against Zenit to get into Europa League.

Zenit 2 x 0 Lyon

Fighting for the second ticket of the group to get into the knockout stages, Zenit hosted Lyon and denied the French side the possibility of qualifying. In St. Petersburg, Zenit showed dominance and the result postpones the decision to the next match week.

The Russian team got in front after the half-hour, when Sardar Azmoun tried a chipped shot. His effort hit the post, but in the aftermath, he was brought down by Anthony Lopes and VAR signaled a penalty.

Dzyuba had no hesitations and scored the first goal of the evening. Ozdoev later on second half sealed all the 3 points for the home team.

Lyon will need to win against Leipzig in the next matchday and hope for a slip of Zenit against Benfica. For the Russians, a victory against the Portuguese is enough.

Group H

Valencia 2 x 2 Chelsea

Chelsea had quite a match 3 weeks ago when they faced Ajax in a thrilling 4×4. Now their opponent was Valencia, who had defeated the Blues in the opening match at Stamford Bridge. Lampard’s men had the chance to get into the pole position to the knockout stage if they collected all 3 points.

The adventure at Mestalla started well, with Pulisic setting up Kovacic with a blistering run. The Croatian allowed Cillessen to a stupendous save.

Despite a great start, it was Valencia who went ahead first, after Rodrigo found Carlos Soler all alone in the box. The Spanish midfielder just had to tap it in.

However, just 1 minute later, Kovacic redeemed himself with a well-placed effort from outside the area.

Then in the early minutes of the second half, a chaotic mess in the area resulted in Pulisic sliding the ball through Cillessen. The first Champions League goal with Chelsea for the American.

Valencia did not give up and had a penalty in their favor. Parejo failed to convert, allowing Kepa to defend. Yet, they were quite fortunate when Daniel Wass’s cross had a sudden twist and surprised the Chelsea stopper.

The Spanish side could have secured a victory if Rodrigo hadn’t failed an open net situation. Chelsea will play their cards against Lille and a victory is enough to send the Blues to the next stage.

Lille 0 x 2 Ajax

Ajax was on a perfect campaign in the group stages, until their double fixture with Chelsea, where they got a single point. A victory against Lille was fundamental if they expected to go through.

They made sure that they would enter with the right foot when Hakim Ziyech scored with 2 minutes on the clock. The pass was from Tadic, with the Moroccan scoring his 3rd Champions League goal of this edition.

In the second half a signature Ajax move. Ziyech cut inside, curled the ball to Promes who showed up in the left post to double the lead.

Ziyech would score his second later in the game, but VAR ruled it out for handball. Ajax needs a single point to go through and they will face Valencia next.

What was the best match of the week 5 of Champions League for you? Click here to check the current standing and the top scorers of the competition.

About Jorge Costa 90 Articles
Jorge Costa is a freelance journalist, with a Masters Degree in Journalism and Communication, through the University of Coimbra, Portugal. He specializes in sports and soccer in particular.

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