Champions League roundup: Half of knockout round set

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<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/soccer/players/diego-perotti/" data-ylk="slk:Diego Perotti">Diego Perotti</a> and Edin Dzeko celebrate Perotti’s goal against FK Qarabag that sealed Roma’s knockout round place. (Getty)
Diego Perotti and Edin Dzeko celebrate Perotti’s goal against FK Qarabag that sealed Roma’s knockout round place. (Getty)

The penultimate day of the Champions League group stage promised to offer very little drama. Manchester United had all but secured the top spot in Group A. Paris-Saint Germain and Bayern Munich were more or less set as the winner and runner-up, respectively, in Group B. Roma merely had to beat Qarabag to join Chelsea in the knockout round from Group C. And only a Barcelona loss to Sporting could upset the apple cart in Group D.

In the end, there were no upsets. There was no late drama. But a few favorites were forced to sweat.

At halftime of eight simultaneous games, Roma remained locked in a stalemate. Atletico Madrid and Chelsea did, too, meaning Atleti was one goal away from beating Roma to second-place.

Meanwhile, Bayern had scored two first-half goals against PSG, and needed just two more to swipe first place. CSKA Moscow was in front at Old Trafford, meaning the battle for second place in Group A between CSKA and FC Basel was on.

But in the second halves, many of the games exploded into life, and order was restored. A quick-fire Man United double sent CSKA crashing out. Basel claimed second place with victory at Benfica. Kylian Mbappe’s early second-half goal in Munich scuppered thoughts of a sufficiently heavy Bayern win. And Diego Perotti’s goal in Rome put to bed Atleti’s knockout-round hopes.

Atleti did hold on for a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge, meaning Roma won the group over Chelsea on the head-to-head results tiebreaker. Here’s what the first half of the knockout round looks like:

Group winners: Manchester United, PSG, Roma, Barcelona
Runners-up: FC Basel, Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Juventus

The second half will be decided Wednesday. Manchester City, Besiktas and Tottenham have already confirmed their participation as group winners. Real Madrid will go through as a runner-up. The final four spots will be claimed by some combination of Liverpool, Sevilla, Spartak Moscow, Shakhtar Donetsk, Porto and RB Leipzig.

Elsewhere, Celtic lost 1-0 to Anderlecht, but finished third (on three points) and will head to the Europa League. Joining it in the Europa League round of 32 will be Atletico, CSKA and Sporting CP.

Lukaku incites Man United comeback

Heading into Tuesday’s match, Romelu Lukaku had scored just one goal for Manchester United since the end of September. United’s win didn’t so much matter for the team as a whole, but it mattered for Lukaku, whose equalizer spurred the comeback from a goal down to a goal up:


When Mourinho pulled the big Belgian striker off the pitch in the 74th minute, the two shared an extended embrace on the sidelines. Both player and manager know that player needs to find his goal-scoring form for the Red Devils to hit their stride. Perhaps Tuesday was a sign of things to come.

PSG holds on against Bayern

The Bavarians won 3-1, but needed to win by four goals to make up for a 3-0 drubbing in Paris back in September. Robert Lewandowski and Corentin Tolisso had them 2-0 up at halftime.



But Mbappe eased PSG’s worries early in the second half:


Tolisso would add a third in the 69th minute, but Bayern ran out of time, and could face a difficult Round of 16 draw.

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Henry Bushnell covers soccer – the U.S. national teams, the Premier League, and much, much more – for FC Yahoo and Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Question? Comment? Email him at henrydbushnell@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @HenryBushnell.

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