Leicester City’s Cham­pi­ons League dreams still aflame

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Sport Starts Here -

PARIS — Leicester kept their Cham­pi­ons League soc­cer dreams aflame on Tues­day night, cruis­ing into the last 16 with a 2-1 win over Bel­gium’s Club Brugge, where they were joined by Real Madrid — but not a crest­fallen Tot­ten­ham.

Join­ing the hope­ful debu­tants and the hold­ers on the night were Ju­ven­tus, Bayer Lev­erkusen and Monaco.

They join last year’s run­ners-up Atletico Madrid, Arse­nal, Paris Saint-Ger­main, Bay­ern Mu­nich and Borus­sia Dort­mund, who had al­ready booked their tick­ets to the knock­out phase with two group games to spare.

Leicester’s suc­cess saw the Foxes ad­vance as Group G win­ners in their maiden sea­son in the event, giv­ing a ma­jor fil­lip to Clau­dio Ranieri’s side, who are just two points above the do­mes­tic drop zone. “We’re on an­other jour­ney. I don’t know where, but we’re ex­cited!” Ranieri said af­ter­wards.

Re­fer­ring to his side’s poor league form the Ital­ian added: “Maybe we have been more con­cen­trated in the Cham­pi­ons League. Now the group is won, (it’s) im­por­tant to come back in the (English) Premier League.”

Shinji Okazaki net­ted af­ter just five min­utes and a Riyad Mahrez penalty made it 2-0 be­fore Jose Izquierdo notched a se­cond-half con­so­la­tion for Brugge.

“We wanted to fin­ish first in the group. It wasn’t easy today but we did it,” said Foxes’ Al­ge­rian star Mahrez.

As Leicester cel­e­brated, Tot­ten­ham in con­trast saw their ad­ven­ture in Europe’s top club com­pe­ti­tion come to a grind­ing halt af­ter a 2-1 loss at Monaco, who won Group E in the process.

Spurs had a let off when their French keeper Hugo Lloris saved Radamel Fal­cao’s early spot­kick.

But quick­fire goals from Djib­ril Sidibe and Thomas Le­mar just af­ter the break, sand­wich­ing a Harry Kane penalty, did for the Lon­don­ers. In the same group Bayer Lev­erkusen drew 1-1 at CSKA Moscow to take the Ger­mans into the knock­out stages fol­low­ing Spurs’ loss.

Kevin Vol­land put Lev­erkusen ahead af­ter 16 min­utes be­fore Is­raeli in­ter­na­tional Bi­bras Natcho lev­elled.

Spurs will host CSKA in a fi­nal game whose out­come will de­cide who goes into the Europa League. In any case, ‘home’ ad­van­tage at Wem­b­ley Sta­dium has hardly shone on Mauri­cio Po­chet­tino’s side, given that they suc­cumbed to de­feats by Monaco and Lev­erkusen.

Kane said those games sank them. “I’m gut­ted. We wanted to go far but it is some­thing we will have to deal with.

“We will look back and say it was the home games were we should’ve been bet­ter,” the striker told

Hold­ers and 11-times win­ners Real Madrid joined 1997 cham­pi­ons Borus­sia Dort­mund in qual­i­fy­ing from Group F af­ter a 2-1 win at star man Cris­tiano Ron­aldo’s for­mer club Sport­ing Lis­bon.

Raphael Varane gave the “meringues” the lead be­fore Adrien Silva net­ted a spot-kick for the Por­tuguese only for sub­sti­tute Karim Ben­zema to pop up with the win­ner for Real. The Spa­niards suf­fered a huge in­jury scare, how­ever, just 11 days be­fore fac­ing Barcelona in La Liga as Welsh star Gareth Bale ex­ited with an an­kle in­jury shortly af­ter half­time. “We knew it would be com­pli­cated, but we got the three points,” said Real coach Zine­dine Zi­dane, who won the 2002 ti­tle as a player for the Span­ish giants and then as coach last May.

“When you con­cede a goal you can think it will be tough but we con­tin­ued to play and re­sponded and fi­nally had our re­ward with Karim’s goal,” Zi­dane told

Dort­mund se­cured the group win with a game to play af­ter swat­ting Poland’s Le­gia War­saw 8-4 – a record goalfest for a Cham­pi­ons League en­counter.

The Ger­mans be­came one of an elite clique to notch five goals in a sin­gle Cham­pi­ons League half hav­ing led 5-2 at the in­ter­val. Marco Reus scored a hat-trick and Ja­panese star Shinji Ka­gawa net­ted a brace as Dort­mund ran riot.

Two-time cham­pi­ons Ju­ven­tus are through af­ter de­feat­ing pre­vi­ous Group H lead­ers Sevilla, Europa League cham­pi­ons for the past three sea­sons, 3-1 in Spain.

Clau­dio Marchi­sio with a penalty, Leonardo Bonucci and Mario Mandzu­cic scored for the “Old Lady” of Turin af­ter Ni­co­las Pareja had put Sevilla ahead early on. — BBC Sport

Clau­dio Ranieri

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