Milan, Marseille through, Arsenal made to wait


PARIS, November 24, – AC Milan and Marseille reached the Champions League last 16 on Tuesday, but Arsenal's hopes of joining them are in the balance following a shock defeat at Sporting Braga.

Seven-time champions Milan were made to work hard before emerging from their trip to Auxerre with a 2-0 victory that secured second place in Group G behind Real Madrid.

The French side had procured all the clear-cut chances until Zlatan Ibrahimovic blasted Milan ahead in the 64th minute, with substitute Ronaldinho curling home in injury time to complete the victory.

"We were under heavy pressure at the start of the match and we felt a little bit trapped inside our penalty area, but everything finished well," said Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri.

Real made sure of top spot in the group and continued their unbeaten record in this season’s competition by thrashing Ajax 4-0 in Amsterdam.

Karim Benzema broke the deadlock by side-footing into the roof of the net in the 36th minute, with full-back Alvaro Arbeloa doubling the Spanish side’s lead with a long-range rocket just before half-time.

A second-half brace from Cristiano Ronaldo, the second a penalty, set the seal on a comfortable victory, but Real had Xabi Alonso and Sergio Ramos sent off for two bookable offences late on.

Both players received their second cautions for time-wasting and will now miss Real’s final group game at home to Ajax.

French champions Marseille had earlier secured their place in the knockout round with an impressive 3-0 win at Spartak Moscow.

Beaten 1-0 in the reverse fixture in September, Marseille had to win to make sure of second place in Group F and they assumed control of proceedings in the 18th minute through a smart turn and finish by Mathieu Valbuena.

Valbuena’s France international colleague Loic Remy made it 2-0 nine minutes into the second half, before Brandao fired into the bottom-right corner to rubber-stamp Marseille’s progress.

Spartak saw Brazilian striker Welliton dismissed between Marseille’s second and third goals after an altercation with OM centre-back Souleymane Diawara.

"It is important for the club," said Marseille coach Didier Deschamps.

"I am a very, very satisfied coach this evening, both with how we played and the result."

In the other group fixture, a youthful Chelsea side came from a goal down to win 2-1 at home to Slovakians MSK Zilina and preserve their 100 percent record in this season’s competition.

Two late goals from Matheus saw Arsenal slump to a 2-0 defeat at Braga that means Arsene Wenger’s side must beat Partizan Belgrade in their final group match to be sure of reaching the next stage.

Arsenal had a strong penalty appeal turned down after Carlos Vela went down in the penalty area under a challenge by Alberto Rodriguez and within minutes Mateus had scampered through to put the hosts ahead.

The Brazilian striker crashed home his second in injury time, and Arsenal’s disappointment was compounded by the sight of captain Cesc Fabregas limping off with an apparent hamstring injury.

"What is the fifth official doing if he can’t see that?" said Wenger of the penalty incident.

"It’s an absolutely useless system. Other than that, it was a difficult game against a team that used all the tricks to slow the game down."

Shakhtar Donetsk won 3-0 at Partizan and are now virtually assured of a place in the next phase.

Roma produced the performance of the night to come back from 2-0 down to beat last season’s beaten finalists Bayern Munich 3-2 at Stadio Olimpico.

Two goals from in-form Mario Gomez had put Bayern on course for victory, but well-worked strikes by Marco Borriello and Daniele De Rossi drew Roma level before Francesco Totti netted the winner with an 84th-minute penalty.

Roma now trail already-qualified Bayern by three points in Group E and will progress if they avoid defeat at CFR Cluj, who lost 1-0 at Basel, in their final group game.