While things are a little muddled in Groups A-D, the outlook in the other four groups in the UEFA Champions League is a little more defined, for the most part.
Barcelona were in pole position to qualify, and with their 2-2 draw away to Lyon, not only seal a place in the round of 16 but top spot in Group E.
Lyon, who started Wednesday a point behind Rangers for second, got off to the start they didn’t need, as Andres Iniesta put Barca ahead in just the third minute.
However, the Ligue 1 powers shook off that early haymaker and equalized minutes later through Juninho.
Lionel Messi put Barca on track for the win with a strike on 58, but Juninho would end up snaring Lyon a point, with a little help, scoring from the penalty spot with 10 minutes remaining.
With Lyon only managing a draw, Rangers could have all but booked a place in the knockout round with a win over pointless VFB Stuttgart in Germany on Tuesday. But, they were unable to capitalize, as the Bundesliga side played their part as spoiler to full effect, with Ciprian Marica’s 85th minute strike giving Stuttgart a 3-2 win.
So, heading into Matchday 6, Rangers and Lyon are both on seven points, with Walter Smith’s side having the edge on goal difference (+1 to -2). They will decide who joins Barca in the round of 16 (and who falls into the UEFA Cup) at Ibrox in two weeks’ time, with the goal clear for Rangers – a draw puts them through. As for Lyon, they will have to go for the win, and with the French pushing forward, the Rangers defense will be put to the test by a stout attack, but they will certainly have their own share of chances to put the situation beyond doubt.
It’s all been decided in Group F, where Manchester United and Roma will go through, and Sporting will take a spot in the UEFA Cup.
United went into Tuesday night as the only side in the competition with a perfect record, and after easily disposing of Dynamo Kiev twice, were looking to keep it going at Old Trafford.
But, after a bright opening start by the home side, it was Sporting who went ahead in the 21st minute. But, the Portuguese side were unable to extend their advantage, which they would rue in the end. Carlos Tevez equalized just after the hour mark, and then, in injury time, Sporting were dealt the lethal blow by someone whose talents they helped nurture. Cristiano Ronaldo has come a long, long way since he came to United in the summer of 2003, and his former side got a first-hand demonstration of the scoring touch he’s developed, as he blasted home a free kick to deliver United a 2-1 win.
The win kept United’s unbeaten, untied start going and sealed top spot in the group. The second spot was sealed by Roma, who, like United, made easy work of Dynamo Kiev, with three goals in the first 36 minutes on the way to a 4-1 victory. Christian Panucci opened the scoring in the fourth, with Mirko Vucinic recording a brace to help seal Roma’s place in the knockout round.
In Group G, Inter and Fenerbahce faced off with top spot at stake, and after the Turkish side stood firm for more than a half, a trio of goals in the final 35+ minutes handed the Serie A champions a 3-0 victory.
That result sealed qualification and the top spot for Inter. The second spot will be decided by Fenerbahce and PSV, who gave themselves hope going into Matchday 6 with a 1-0 win away to CSKA Moscow.
Fener are still in second with eight points, and remain in the best position to advance with Inter, as they play host to CSKA on the final matchday, whereas the Dutch champions, who have seven points, welcome Inter, who may well be playing a depleted side since they have nothing to play for. PSV will need to take all three points in their clash, but that won’t be good enough unless CSKA can get a result in Turkey.
In Group H, Arsenal entered their tie at Sevilla looking to remain unbeaten in all competitions, and struck first in the 11th minute. But, Seydou Keita’s goal 13 minutes later made it 1-1, and in the 34th, Luis Fabiano gave the La Liga side a valuable 2-1 lead.
Arsenal couldn’t find a way back in the game, and with time winding down, their fate was sealed as Freddy Kanoute struck from the penalty spot in the 89th minute to seal a 3-1 win.
With the win, Sevilla go through to the round of 16 and have top spot in the group, with 12 points. Arsenal, who had already sealed their place in the knockout round, are now second on 10.
In the other match in the group, Slavia Prague sealed a place in the UEFA Cup with a 78th minute goal overturning an early deficit and securing a 1-1 draw with Steaua in Romania.