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Bayern, City into last 16, United wait

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MANDZUKIC-PILSENPARIS, France, November 5 – Holders Bayern Munich and English side Manchester City became the first teams to qualify for the knockout stages of the Champions League on Tuesday.

Bayern made heavy weather of beating Viktoria Pilsen 1-0 while group rivals City reached the knockout stages for the first time, after flopping in the group stage the last two seasons, with a 5-2 thumping of CSKA Moscow in Manchester.

Bayern coach Pep Guardiola, whose side equalled the Champions League record of nine successive wins set by Barcelona back in the 2002/03 season, was satisfied despite the unconvincing display exemplified by yet another poor first-half performance.

“We have taken all the points we could in the four games, which shows how strong we are,” said Guardiola.

City got the better of CSKA with a Sergio Aguero double and a hat-trick from Alvaro Negredo, with manager Manuel Pellegrini saying: “It is the first step, but it’s an important one as the team has not qualified before. We have done that now.”

Real Madrid came close to joining them but having gone 2-1 up in Turin against Juventus they were pegged back to 2-2 with a goal by former Athletic Bilbao striker Fernando Llorente the Italian club’s saviour.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s opener for Real, Gareth Bale got their other, took him level for the all time total of goals scored in the group phase with eight.

The result leaves Real needing a result at home to Galatasaray, who lost 1-0 away at FC Copenhagen, later this month to assure themselves of a place in the Last 16.

“Take our foot off the gas at the Bernabeu against Galatasaray? No, the only way forward is to keep up the pressure and win,” said Real boss Carlo Ancelotti.

For his Juventus counterpart Antonio Conte there was much to be pleased with even if his side are bottom of the table, a point off both Galatasaray and Copenhagen.

“It’s a positive result and seeing how much the players put into this game against a team like Real Madrid really satisfies me,” he said.

Former French champions Paris Saint Germain, who Ancelotti left for Real at the end of last season, also missed out on claiming their place in the Last 16 as they were held to a surprising 1-1 draw at home to previously pointless and goalless Belgian outfit Anderlecht, who the French side had thumped 5-0 in their match a fortnight ago in Brussels.

In the end with the restive PSG fans booing their side, who nonetheless extended their unbeaten start to the season in all competitions, it was Swedish star Zlatan Ibrahimovic who grabbed them a point for the hosts after they briefly trailed.

PSG coach Laurent Blanc was like the club’s fans similarly dissatisfied with the performance, though, they can seal their second successive knockout spot with a draw at home to Greek side Olympiakos later this month.

“We were too average to win the game,” said Blanc. “I sincerely feel that, had we not equalised within five minutes of their goal, we might well have lost.”

While City won with something to spare — though their defence looked shaky at times and could be exposed against tougher opposition — their city rivals Manchester United laboured to a 0-0 draw at Real Sociedad, who gained their first point of the campaign.

Robin van Persie summed up United’s frustrating evening hammering his second-half penalty against the post, though, Ashley Young looked to have dived to win it in the first place.

To cap it all United’s Belgian international midfielder Marouane Fellaini was sent off in the closing stages.

They still lead their group by a point but both Bayer Leverkusen and Shakhtar Donetsk, who drew 0-0 in Ukraine, are lurking.

However, United manager David Moyes, who has had a tough start to his reign after replacing the legendary Alex Ferguson, said he was happy with their position.

“We are in a healthy position, you want to be top of the group and that is where we are,” said Moyes

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