Four of the eight 2022/23 Champions League groups are now complete after the first half of matchday six was played out across Europe on Tuesday night.
Some clubs already knew that they have a space in the knockout stages in the New Year, but not everything was assured and even some of those that had already secure progression still had top spot and therefore a last 16 seeding to play for.
Liverpool had to wait for late goals to beat Napoli at Anfield, but it went some way to exacting revenge for a heavy defeat at the Estadio Diego Armando Maradona earlier in the competition.
Both Liverpool goals were very similar, headers from corners that were saved and turned in on the rebound, with Mohamed Salah and Darwin Nunez respectively reacting quickest.
Liverpool needed to win by four goals to displace Napoli at the top of the standings. But while they failed in that mission, it will boost confidence to inflict a first defeat of the season on the Italians.
Only a huge win would have been enough for Rangers to finish third ahead of Ajax and keep their European season alive in the Europa League. In the end, the Dutch giants secured a win to ensure Rangers didn’t even register a single point across six games.
The game was over for a long time after Steven Berghuis and Mohammed Kudus each scored inside half an hour. James Tavernier at least threatened to make it interesting by converting a late penalty, only for Ajax to almost instantly go 3-1 up instead.
Bayer Leverkusen did enough to get into the Europa League knockout stages by holding competition surprise package Club Brugge to a 0-0 draw in Germany.
Brugge were already going through to the next phase of the Champions League whatever happened here. But what was to play was who would finish third and at least remain alive in Europe. Leverkusen did that by taking a point and capitalising on Atletico Madrid’s defeat.
Champions League finalists in 2014 and 2016, and Europa League winners in 2010, 2012 and 2018, Atletico Madrid won’t play any more European football this season.
The damage was already done in terms of not progressing in the Champions League – just one win from the previous five games meant a place in the top two was impossible. But defeat to Porto, who scored twice in the first quarter of the match and won the group, ended it all.
Bayern Munich completed a perfect run in the Champions League group stage with a 2-0 win over Inter at the Allianz Arena. That made it six wins from six for the Bavarian giants.
Goals in either half from Benjamin Pavard and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting decided the contest, with both teams already assured of a place in the last 16 at Barcelona’s expense.
Barcelona could finish no higher or lower than third in the final group standings. That meant that Europa League football was always the next step for the fallen giants, regardless of this result.
But Barcelona did sign off with a degree of style, even if Czech outfit Viktoria Plzen made them work for it. Ultimately, two goals from Ferran Torres, one from Marcos Alonso and another from Pablo Torre were key to a victory in which Viktoria’s Tomas Chory also scored twice.
Tottenham emotions were all over the place in the south of France. Defeat would have meant dropping out of the Champions League and potentially out of Europe altogether. But even after falling behind in the first half, Antonio Conte’s team still prevailed.
Clement Lenglet got the goal that put Spurs into the last 16 as a point would have been enough whatever happened elsewhere. A win, however, made sure of top spot in the group when Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg scored a second goal deep into stoppage time.
Europa League holders Eintracht Frankfurt are going to the Champions League knockout stages after finishing the group stage with back-to-back wins over Sporting CP and Marseille.
Sporting actually still had it all to play for themselves and took the lead accordingly through Arthur. The Frankfurt goals didn’t come until later, when first Daichi Kamada and Randal Kolo Munai turned it around.