Times Colonist

Barcelona, AC Milan into Round of 16

- BOB BENSCH

Barcelona beat Viktoria Plzen 4-0 to qualify for the round of 16 in soccer’s Champions League and send AC Milan into the knockout phase.

Lionel Messi scored three goals last night for defending champion Barcelona, which moves atop Group H with 10 points from four of six matches. AC Milan has eight points after a 1-1 draw at BATE Borisov, guaranteei­ng the Italian team at least a second-place finish in the group.

“There was a lot at stake from the match as we already knew the result from AC Milan’s encounter before we started so it was important that we won,” Messi said on UEFA’S website.

Barcelona and Milan, who have won a combined 11 European Cups, are the first teams to secure a berth in the round of 16. The top two in each of the eight groups advance, with the thirdplace teams dropping into the second-tier Europa League.

Arsenal and Chelsea missed the chance to advance by drawing Monday night. The Premier League rivals still lead their groups, as does APOEL Nicosia, which beat Porto 21.

Messi’s hat trick in Prague gave him a tournament-leading five goals this season. Plzen’s Marian Cisovsky was red-carded in the 22nd minute for a foul on Messi. Messi converted the resultant penalty kick for his 200th goal for Barcelona and scored again just before half time. Cesc Fabregas made it 3-0 in the 72nd minute and Messi completed his hat trick in second-half stoppage time.

Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes set a club record of 877 minutes without conceding a goal in posting his ninth straight shutout.

In other action, Zlatan Ibrahimovi­c gave seventime champion Milan a 22nd- minute lead in Belarus before BATE’S Renan Bressan scored from the penalty spot 10 minutes after the break.

Chelsea failed to secure a place in the next round by drawing 1-1 with Genk in Belgium.

Ramires gave the visiting team the lead in the 26th minute. Genk goalkeeper Laszlo Koteles then saved David Luiz’s first- half penalty and Jelle Vossen tied it in the 61st minute.

“We had fantastic opportunit­ies to win the game, but it just didn’t happen,” Chelsea manager Andre Villas-boas, whose team beat Genk 5-0 at home two weeks ago, told Sky Sports. “We came out of here with a draw so not everything is negative but we could have been better.”

Chelsea extended its lead in Group E to two points over Bayer Leverkusen, which lost 3-1 at Valencia.

Arsenal also failed to clinch a top-two spot after being held to a scoreless draw at home by Marseille. The Gunners lead Group F with eight points, one more than the French team.

“We had to work hard for this point,” Arsenal defender Thomas Vermaelen told Sky Sports. “They’re a good side.”

German champion Borussia Dortmund is third in the group with four points after beating Olympiacos 1-0 on a goal from Kevin Grosskreut­z.

Gustavo Manduca scored in the final minute as APOEL Nicosia beat Porto to stay atop Group G. The goal came a minute after Hulk scored with a penalty kick to tie the game.

Ailton also scored from the penalty spot in the first half for APOEL, which has eight points. Zenit St. Petersburg is a point behind APOEL after beating Shakhtar Donetsk 1-0 on a goal by Nicolas Lombaerts in first-half stoppage time.

 ??  ?? Porto’s Kleber, left, fights for the ball with APOEL Nicosia’s Paulo Jorge during their Champions League Group G soccer match at GSP Stadium in Nicosia Tuesday.
Porto’s Kleber, left, fights for the ball with APOEL Nicosia’s Paulo Jorge during their Champions League Group G soccer match at GSP Stadium in Nicosia Tuesday.

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