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Real, Arsenal and Man. United make CL knockout phase
by Ian Plenderleith, November 26th, 2008 7AM
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[UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE] On a night of few thrills, all eight knockout phase places were decided by the end of Tuesday's fifth round of play in Champions League Groups E to H. Joining Juventus, which secured its place three weeks ago, are Real Madrid, Villarreal, Manchester United, Porto, Arsenal, Bayern Munich and Olympique Lyon.

Any cynic looking at the Group E standings before kickoff might have predicted that Manchester United and Villarreal, both six points clear of Glasgow Celtic and Aalborg, might have played to a 0-0 tie to secure qualification, and so it turned out. United dominated the game and had the better chances, with Cristiano Ronaldo hitting the crossbar for United in the first half. But neither team really exerted itself, except for Joan Capdevila, red-carded for a studs-high tackle on Ronaldo nine minutes from time.

Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson said that teams were now "systematically fouling" Ronaldo, and praised the referee for dismissing Capdevila. "The referee was very fair and strict with both teams," said Ferguson. "Capdevila may not have got that red card in England so there is a different interpretation of the physical aspect of the game in European matches."

Celtic took the lead at Aalborg just after halftime through a rare away goal, headed in nicely by Barry Robson. The Scots then missed a number of chances to clinch the win before Caca leveled with a dipping shot from 25 yards, and Celtic defender Gary Caldwell put through his own net three minutes from time to give the Danes their first win of the group campaign, and a place in the knockout round of the UEFA Cup as the group's third-placed team.

Celtic manager Gordon Strachan rued both his team's missed opportunities and its defensive lapses. "It was there to be won but our inability to keep a clean sheet has been our downfall," he said. "We had great chances but I did think that one goal would have been enough, as I didn't see any real threat to us. That's why it's so disappointing."

In Group F, Bayern and Lyon convincingly moved through, Bayern swatting aside winless Steaua Bucharest 3-0 on a pair of goals from Miroslav Klose and a strike from Luca Toni. Lyon ended Fiorentina's slim hopes with a 2-1 road win on first-half goals from Jean Makoun and Karim Benzema. Despite a headed goal from Alberto Gilardino just before halftime, Fiorentina could have few complaints -- Lyon hit the crossbar three times, twice from Juninho free kicks.

Lyon coach Claude Puel said his team's performance, which took it to the knockout stage of the competition for the sixth successive year, was its best of the season. "It was a big match, a quality European match," he said. "Winning on the road, in this fashion, it's perfect."

In Group G, Arsenal scored three minutes from time on a beautifully taken goal by substitute Nicklas Bendtner, who controlled a long free kick from Cesc Fabregas on his chest before finishing on the run with his left foot. Fabregas cheekily, and illegally, took the kick while the ball was moving and the referee's back was turned. "It was a great goal," said Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. "A fantastic ball first from Fabregas, good control and a fine finish. I'm very happy for Bendtner. He was a bit disturbed recently with a lack of confidence, but that will help give him confidence."

The defeat consigned Kiev to the UEFA Cup provided it takes a point from its final game against Fenerbahce, which fell at home Porto on a brace of goals from Lisandro Lopez. A deflected consolation strike from Colin Kazim-Richards was Fenerbahce's only response. Fenerbahce will take the UEFA Cup place if it can win at Kiev in two weeks. Meanwhile, Porto will host Arsenal to decide first place.

Just the one goal in Group H, and it was scored by Raul for Real Madrid at BATE Borisov to see his side safely through to the round of 16 behind Juventus, which tied 0-0 at Russian champion Zenit St. Petersburg. Zenit takes the UEFA Cup slot, BATE is out.

Group E
Villarreal 0 Manchester United 0
Aalborg 2 (Caca, Caldwell OG) Celtic 1 (Robson)
Standings: Man. United (9 points), Villarreal, (9), Aalborg (5), Celtic (2).

Group F
Fiorentina 1 (Gilardino) Lyon 2 (Makoun, Benzema)
Bayern Munich 3 (Klose 2, Toni) Steaua Bucharest 0
Standings: Lyon (11 points), Bayern (11), Fiorentina (3), Steaua (1).

Group G
Arsenal 1 (Bendtner) Dynamo Kiev 0
Fenerbahce 1 (Kazim-Richards) Porto 2 (Lopez 2)
Standings: Arsenal (11 points), FC Porto (9), Dynamo Kiev (5), Fenerbahce (2)

Group H
Zenit St Petersburg 0 Juventus 0
BATE 0 Real Madrid 1 (Raul)
Standings: Juventus (11 points), Real (9), Zenit (5), BATE (2)



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