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UEFA Champions League: Liverpool and Ajax reach last 16, Paris Saint-Germain denied at death


Liverpool and Ajax maintained their perfect records in the Champions League this season to qualify for the last 16 on Wednesday, while a Paris Saint-Germain team missing Lionel Messi was held by RB Leipzig. Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool blew Atletico Madrid away in a whirlwind at Anfield, with Diogo Jota and Sadio Mane scoring in the first 21 minutes to secure a 2-0 victory over opponents who finished with 10 men. Atletico’s Brazilian defender Felipe was sent off for a foul on Mane before half-time as the 2019 Champions League winners made it four out of four Group B wins.

Liverpool are now guaranteed to be at the top of the group, with seven points ahead of Porto with two games left, while Atletico are still one point back in third place.

“You earn a lot of money to win Champions League matches. The first target was to get through this group, but we did it with two matches left,” Klopp told BT Sport.

“I did not expect that we would be through after four games, but the boys did it and it is really well deserved.”

Porto drew 1-1 with AC Milan as Chancel Mbemba’s own goal at San Siro canceled Luis Diaz’s early opening for the Portuguese team.

It was a first point in the group for seven-time former European champions Milan, who retain a slim chance of reaching the knockout stage in their first appearance in the competition since 2013-’14.

Haller on fire

Ajax continued their amazing run in Europe this season by coming from behind to win 3-1 against 10-man Borussia Dortmund, while Sebastien Haller scored his seventh goal in just four Champions League appearances.

A Dortmund team that missed the injured Erling Haaland sent Mats Hummels off the field hard before the half-hour mark after he moved into Ajax’s Brazilian wing Antony.

However, English referee Michael Oliver awarded Dortmund a penalty kick for a foul on Jude Bellingham after a VAR review, and Marco Reus switched from 12 yards out.

Still, Ajax equalized in the 72nd minute when Dusan Tadic pulled in at the back post to press.

Ivory Coast’s striker Haller then hit Antony’s crossbar and became the first player to score in each of his first four Champions League matches since Haaland in 2019.

Davy Klaassen scored the victory with another Antony assist at half-time, meaning Erik ten Hag’s Ajax have scored 14 goals in all four games so far in Group C.

“We want to irritate Europe’s elite teams. We are not saying we are favorites, but nobody wants to get Ajax in the draw,” Ten Hag told broadcaster DAZN.

Ajax will go through with Dortmund or Sporting Lisbon, the Portuguese team strengthening their hopes by crushing Besiktas 4-0.

Pedro Goncalves scored twice in the first half, including a penalty goal, while Paulinho and Pablo Sarabia also struck for Sporting.

Besiktas, who sent Brazilian midfielder Souza away, are eliminated.

Messi missed PSG’s trip to Germany due to injury, and without him Mauricio Pochettino’s side came from behind to take the lead before conceding a late penalty and drawing 2-2.

Christopher Nkunku kicked Leipzig up front before Andre Silva was awarded a 12th minute penalty.

Kylian Mbappe set up Georginio Wijnaldum to equalize halfway through the first half and the Dutchman scored another header before the break, the goal standing despite the initial offside mark.

However, a Presnel Kimpembe error was noticed after a VAR review in the last minute and Dominik Szoboszlai pushed from the spot to make it 2-2.

“We are disappointed, but our goal remains to win the group and qualify,” said Pochettino.

Benzema gets Real’s 1000th goal

Leipzig are eliminated despite the draw, while Manchester City move above PSG to the top of Group A thanks to their 4-1 home win over Club Brugge.

Phil Foden’s opening was canceled out by a John Stones own goal, but Riyad Mahrez, Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus all scored for City in the second half.

Real Madrid are two points ahead of Inter Milan at the top of Group D after Karim Benzema scored twice in a 2-1 victory over Shakhtar Donetsk.

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Benzema’s opening bat was Real’s 1,000th European Cup goal and the Frenchman got the winner after Fernando Shakhtar equalized.

Inter won 3-1 against sheriff Tiraspol, with Marcelo Brozovic, Milan Skriniar and Alexis Sanchez all on target in the second half before Adama Traore pulled one back.

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